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Pinoy Screen Legend : Bella Flores – Philippine Cinema’s Queen of Mean

Bella Flores – Philippine Cinema’s Queen of Mean

Bella Flores is the epitome of mean and jealous stepmoms, cruel and ambitious madams and diabolic yet seductive other women that so often flood movies and soap operas. Her signature shrill, iconic menacing stare and overpowering performance in movies and on TV made her the one and only primera contravida of Philippine show business. Since the 1950’s, Flores has appeared in hundreds of movies and television shows and she held the bragging rights as the only actress to have slapped all movie queens of the Philippine cinema, herself a screen goddess in her own right.

Remedios Papa Dancel was born February 27, 1929 in Sta Cruz, Manila, to Emilia Papa and Matias Dancel.

Bella attended Cecilio Apostol Elementary School for her elementary education and proceeded to Arellano High School and Roosevelt College. She attended Far Eastern University for her college, although she dropped from her class during her sophomore year to pursue a career as an actress.  her first movie was Balaraw (1950) with Premiere Productions.

In 1950, she screen tested for Sampaguita Pictures and eventually won a four-year contract. In 1951, Flores got her breakthrough when she was cast as Tessie Agana and Boy Alano’s the cruel stepmother in Roberta (1951), a smash box office hit that broke record at that time. A far razed the entire studio at that the time and it went almost bankrupt until Roberta’s success lifted the studio’s financial prospects.

But the best thing that ever happened to Bella was that the strength of her character in that film enabled her to carve an image in the movie world. Her shrieky voice, signature, fiery stare, and bombastic acting made the country’s lead screen villain. Bella’s acting is recognized to this day as a watershed image that typified how a contravida should act.


Following Roberta, Bella was cast in a series of films that utilized her contravida image. She was featured in Bernardo Carpio (1951), Batas ng daigdig (1951), Rebecca (1952), Kerubin (1952), and Ang Asawa Kong Amerikana (1953).

When her stint in Sampaguita ended, Flores freelanced from one movie studio to another. Her image as an iconic villainess, still a hit among producers, directors, and the moviegoers, especially.

Flores won the Filipino Academy of Movie Arts and Sciences (FAMAS)best supporting actress award for _Kaibigan ko'ng Sto. Niño (1967)_. She was also nominated by FAMAS for Kilabot sa Makiling (1959), and Mga batang yagit (1984).

Her craft did not pass unnoticed. In fact, the movie industry much appreciated her performances that she easily won best supporting actress awards for Kaibigan ko’ng Santo Nino (1967) from the Filipino Academy of Movie Arts and Sciences and for Dugo ng Bayan (1973) during the Olongapo Film Festival. The Film Academy of the Philippines also honored her with the Lifetime Achievement Award in 1989.

Bella was proud to have slapped all movie queens. She quipped:“Lahat ng movie queens,  nasampal ko. Sila Gloria (Romero), Amalia (Fuentes), Susan (Roces), si Nora (Aunor), naku, ang dami.”

In fact, so harsh was her screen image that Nora Aunor’s fans wanted to her kill. That was during the height of the Superstar’s fame when fanatic followers even threw stones and pinched her.  “They didn’t know that I was kind to Guy.  Kasi nakikita nila, inaapi ko si Guy sa pelikula. Hinabol ko pa ng plantsa ‘yan eh,” she said in an interview with Gypsy Baldovino.

While Bella never achieved a top leading status, she was quick to admit that “no actress ever fazed her.” 

While she was a solid fan of Lolita Rodriguez and Charito Solis, the undisputed drama empresses of Philippine movie, she revealed that she always did her best to match their acting.

Pero maski si Lolita, nilalabanan ko talaga. Talagang binibigay ko capacity ko.  Kay Charito, hindi rin ako umurong,” she said.

Bella was married to Nestor Reyes, a detective police officer. The couple had one child, Ruby Rose Arcilla.

In 2012, her daughter revealed Bella’s worsening condition. In fact, she had been suffering from diabetes and Alzheimer’s Disease. Flores’ health was still robust until she accidentally slipped at her home. She lost her ability to walk after undergoing hip surgery.

She passed away quietly on May 19, 2004. Her daughter and her close friend, singer Imelda Papin was beside her. 


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