When 97-year old Mona Lisa (bornGloria Lerma Yatco on 22 June 1922)died last Sunday, 25 August, the entire local movie industry mourned the passing on of one of the great actresses of all time.
She was the favorite of the late National Artist for Film Lino Brocka who directed her in several films, including Insiang with Hilda Koronelthat earned for her A Best Supporting Actress at the 1977 Metro Manil Film Festival. She was also with Nora Aunor in Eddie Garcia’s Atsay in 1978. She was in many other films when she returned to acting in the 70s after a long hiatus since 1952 with her last movieBuhay Alamang (Paglukso’s Patay), a remiere Productions movie with Fred Montilla (then a Sampaguita Pictures’ star) and Premiere’s Anita Linda.
At the time of her eath, according to her granddaughter Celine Fabie, Mona Lisa was suffering from Alzheimer’s disease.
“We had a difficult time taking care of her,” Mona Lisa’s granddaughter told the press at the wake of the actress at Loyola Memorial Park in Parañaque. “She didn’t want us taking care of her. She was the family’s breadwinner, I was told, since she was 15 years old. When she had Alzheimer’s she kept on talking about money, as if we had saved a lot of money. She would keep on reminding us to pay this and that, and when I arrive from somewhere the first thing she’d ask if I was paid.”
“She wasn’t used to being cared of. She lived to care for her family, so she had no concept of other people taking care of her,” the grandaughter added. “She led such a colorful life.”
Mona Lisa’s last public appearance was on 22 July 2013 during the launch of her biography written by Celine herself.
At that time, the actress was still physically able but she refused to be seen in public, according to Celine, a theater actor who appeared in Himala alternating with singer Aicelle Santos.
Mona Lisa was last seen in theaters in 1998 in the film, Mother Ignacia: Ang Uliran.
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He came into her life at a time when having a boyfriend was the farthest thing from her mind.
When PEP.ph (Philippine Entertainment Portal) interviewed her in 2016, the then-single Kris said, "Wala akong time. Gusto ko muna magpayaman. Siguro naman, hindi ko siya kailangang hanapin. Kusa siyang darating."