Stella Strada started her movie career in a very high note in 1983 in Seiko Films’ Kirot. She was Seiko’s top honcho Robbie Tan’s prized contract star. She was making one blockbuster movie after another. Movies like Puri, Angkinin Mo Ako, Hanguin Mo Ako sa Putik, Kriminal and Sex Education were all sensational hits.
In the latter part of her life, Stella’s movie career took a nosedive as less and less film offers came her way, as she decided not to do any bold movies. She became so depressed that she was reportedly went into drugs. She even hired a new manager to supervise her career. On December 28, 1984, she committed suicide together with her confidant. Both were found hanged. The sad story shocked the whole movie industry. Her death has been shrouded with mystery as police authorities were trying to piece the evidences together.
Despondency and drugs may have led bold star Stella Strada to take her own life yesterday morning. Strada apparently hanged herself inside her bedroom with Rene, an old friend whose full identity remained unknown to the police. She was known to have been resorting to illegal drugs in periods of depression. She is known to have attempted suicide several times by slashing her wrists. Police investigators raised the possibility that Strada and Rene were high on drugs when they committed suicide. They said the bodies will be autopsied for traces of drugs in their system but the results of the autopsy may not be available until after the New Year holidays.
Emma Ordinario, a housemaid, found Strada, Suzette Bishop in real life, and Rene hanging from nylon cords. Police said Ordinario knocked at the door to wake up Strada but no one answered. After a few minutes of banging on the door with no response from the actress, the housemaid decided to use a duplicate key. Strada’s neighbors at 327 Jose Abad Santos st., San Juan, then heard the screams of the hysterical Ordinario. Rthe police recovered an unsigned suicide note which read: “Mommy, walang nagmamahal sa akin at walang nakakaintindi ditto. Mahal ko kayong lahat. Isang bagay lang ang hinihiling ko. Pakisunog ninyo lahat ng gamit ko at walang ititira.” Ordinario confirmed that the note was in the actress’ own handwriting.
Strada was reported to have been depressed lately because of dwindling movie offers. It was reported that after her successful films like Angkinin Mo Ako, Kirot, and Puri, she became a born-again Christian and decided not to accept any more bold roles. The offers dwindled after that. Ernie Garcia, who co-starred with her in Angkinin Mo Ako said Strada was a loner. He said that during their shooting of the film, Strada covered her arms with bandages, apparently because she had cut her wrists in one of several suicide tries. “I hate to say this,” Garcia said, “but I think she had suicidal tendencies. Too bad because she was a very talented actress.”
Police investigators yesterday went to town with their theories on the deaths of bold star Stella Strada and her makeup artist that ranged from the bizarre to the ridiculous. So much so that many sympathizers of the bold star were openly wondering if the investigators are not deliberately muddling the investigation “to keep the limelight on them, for a while, at least.” One such theory holds that Strada and her makeup man, identified as Rene Mas, a 26-year-old native of Zamboanga who was residing at Road 29, Cogeo subdivision, Antipolo was a case of murder-suicide. Some investigators were quoted by media men as saying Strada and Mas did not die together— they died one after another, thus suggesting that one killed the other before committing suicide.
Another theory holds that Mas was, in fact, not just as “alalay” or confidant of Strada but a “live-in” lover. The investigators who suggested this took note of stories that even the father of Strada objected to such a relationship to a point that last Wednesday, he went to Strada’s apartment and scolded her for it. This may have caused despondency for both Strada and Mas that eventually led them to commit suicide, the investigators with this theory said. While the common belief now is that Strada and Mas committed suicide— they were found hanging by nylon cords inside Strada’s apartment in San Juan— investigators refused to confirm or deny this theory. They have also reportedly refused to show to Strada’s and Mas’ relatives the “suicide note” purportedly written by Strada before her death. The note was not signed but Strada’s maid confirmed it was written in the bold star’s own penmanship.
There are also reports that Strada left behind a tape recorder of her inner thoughts, frustrations and her goodbye to relatives. The tape is now reportedly in the keeping of Strada’s relatives but the police refused to confirm or deny this too.
Meanwhile, bits of stories about Strada’s unhappy childhood surfaced yesterday from people who claimed to have known her way back. All the stories confirmed speculations that her sad life, her addiction to drug and craving for love that was never satisfied led her to take her own life. One such story, said that she was sexually abused at the tender age of 9 and that she apparently has never shaken off the trauma. Another had it that she was in and out of jail on vagrancy charges. Still another was that she was really hooked on drugs that at one time, she was arrested and policemen found a syringe in her bag along with some drugs. Tell-tale scars on her arms seemed to bear the “drug use” stories.
But most of those who worked closely with her in the movies spoke highly of her and her talent for acting. One of them was Perla Bautista who played the role of Strada’s mother in her first and last films. “Mabait siya at malambing. Para sa akin, she was a misunderstood kid. Simple lang ang gusto niya at wala siyang kibo kung bago ka lang niyang kakilala. Matahimik at sof-spoken siya,” Bautista said. The first movie they made together was filmed for two weeks in Jalajala, a town by the Laguna lake. “Nakilala ko si Stella nang husto roon, pati na si Rene,” she recalled. (Rene is the same Rene Mas who committed suicide with Strada). “Malapit si Stella kay Rene pero sa aking palagay, hindi niya boyfriend ito. Hindi at ease si Stella with other people, lalo na sa crowd. Kung may mga taong hindi niya kilala, kumakapit siya sa braso ni Rene dahil parang security blanket niya ito.” Bautista believes Rene is just a close cofidant of the bold star. “Natural lang sa mga artista na magkaroon ng someone na at ease sila. Naniniwal si Stella na hindi siya mahal ng mga taong nakapaligid sa kanya. At si Rene lang siguro ang nag-uunawa sa kanya,” she said. When Strada was making Matamis ang Nakaw na Tubig in Lucena City with Perla, the actress was quite open with her screen mother. “Naging makuwento na siya sa akin,” Bautista said. Dahil homebody nga siya, naglilibang siya sa Betamax sa kuwarto niya. Sabi niya nga sa akin, nagsasawa na nga raw siyang manood ng Betamax at nag-aalaga na lamang ng mga pets sa bahay. May aso siyang mahal niya, may mga pusa at goldfish pa yata. She kept her emotions a lot to herself. I had still to see her to really let go then, “Bautista said. According to Bautista, Strada wanted to give up bold roles and try her hand at serious acting. “Siguro kayak o na.” Iyan ang sinasabi niya noon at nagtatanong nga siya ng mga pointers sa akin at napapansin ko she was really serious to make good at acting. Optimistic naman siya sa pagtanggap ng tao sa kanya bilang isang serious actress.” When they made Kirot, Strada had no boyfriend, Bautista said. “Pero close siya kay Edgar (Mande) dahil pareho silang matahimik.” Still two years later when they were in Lucena for that last film, Strada confided to Bautista some intimate things. “But nothing about boys in particular, she now recalls
Her friend Claudia Zobel died a year earlier from car crash.