ONE of the country’s premier actresses and theater pioneers, Natividad “Naty” Crame-Rogers, died on Feb. 2. She had just turned 97 in the last week of December 2020.
Her maiden name was famous enough; the military camp Camp Crame bore her grandfather General Rafael Crame’s name. But she made her own mark on the stage and screen.
Her best known role was playing the spinster Paula in Lamberto Avellana’s 1965 screen adaptation of Nick Joaquin’s play A Portrait of the Artist as a Filipino. She came to the role well prepared, having performed it onstage in Avellana’s stage production for the Barangay Theater Guild. She worked with multiple theater groups through the years including UP Repertory Company, the Metropolitan Theater, and Tanghalang Pilipino. In her younger days, she had played Jose Rizal’s hapless lover Leonor Rivera in the play The Love of Leonor Rivera by Severino Montano, a role she played often for many years.
Younger audiences might remember her as one of the hermanas in the Cultural Center of the Philippines’ (CCP) screen adaptation of Noli me Tangere.
A profile uploaded on her alma mater St. Scholastica’s College’s website lists her many achievements. These include a 1994 Cultural Center of the Philippines Gawad Award in Theater, and a National Commission of Culture and the Arts (NCCA) Centennial Award for Women. She was also credited for establishing the University of Santo Tomas (UST) Graduate School Academic Theater, and establishing the St. Scholastica’s College Children and Teachers’ Theater. In 2016, she was the subject of the book Naty Crame Rogers: A Life in Theater, written by Amadis Ma. Guerrero.
Born in Manila on Dec. 23, 1922, she was the daughter of a teacher, Espectacion Cabezas, and a musician-composer, Ramon Crame. She married retired Colonel Joe Rogers. After graduating high school at St. Scholastica’s, she went on to study at the University of the Philippines (UP) where she earned a bachelor’s degree in philosophy and letters. Under a Fulbright scholarship, she earned a Masters of arts degree in speech and drama education at Stanford University, then took further graduate courses on Children’s Theater and Television at the University of California in Los Angeles.
An educator, “she introduced drama in education in Philippine schools,” notes the CCP Encyclopedia of the Arts. “Long affiliated with the Philippine Normal College (PNC), she began the undergraduate specialization in drama and speech so that school could run classroom drama and organize Children’s Theater organizations in their own communities,” it says.
She also founded the Amingtahanan Sala Theater, where plays were performed in her living room.
In an interview in the Philippine Star titled “For Naty Crame Rogers, all the world’s a stage” by Edu Jarque, she said, “As an actor and as a dramatist, the world is my laboratory. I watch and observe people.” — JL Garcia