Beyond the meme: Remembering Jaclyn Jose

Beyond the meme: Remembering Jaclyn Jose
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The famous Filipino meme of a woman eating street food with tears glistening in her eyes is a familiar image for those who casually scroll down on their feed, but this sad and poignant scene from the movie “Ma’ Rosa” is what cemented Jaclyn Jose’s (who played the film’s eponymous role) legacy as one of Southeast Asia’s finest actors.

Directed by Brilliante Ma. Mendoza, the film made waves in the Cannes International Film Festival in which Jose bagged the coveted award of Best Actress on May 22, 2016, winning against some of the industry’s most formidable actresses such as Isabelle Huppert, Marion Cotillard, Juliette Binoche, Ruth Negga, Charlize Theron, Sonia Braga, Kim Min-hee and Sandra Hüller.

This historic moment is not to be overshadowed by Jaclyn’s immense talent and incredible career in the Philippines. Other than being the first Filipino and first Southeast Asian to win Best Actress, also known as Prix d’interpretation Feminine at the Cannes International Film Festival, Jose already has more than several accolades under her belt. A powerhouse in the Philippine cinema, she has starred in many critically acclaimed movies such as “The Flor Contemplacion Story,” “Patay na si Hesus” and “Kalel, 15.”

Her legacy as one of the Philippines’ most revered and talented actresses is unparalleled to any of the Filipino actors in the business, so it came as an icy shock when she was pronounced dead on March 3, 2024, at the age of 59. The breaking news caused seismic waves of shock and disappointment as people on social media mourned the death of the veteran actress whose acting prowess was a force to be reckoned with.

Jaclyn was born Mary Jane Santa Ana Guck in Angeles, Pampanga. Her mother was a Filipino who worked as a bar singer while her dad, whom she never met, was a German-American who was a member of the US Armed Forces and was stationed at Clark Air Base. Due to the poverty that she endured along with her mother and five siblings, Jose sold bibingka. But due to low sales, she eventually ventured into the world of show business and the rest is history.

Jaclyn Jose’s performance in “Ma’ Rosa” was masterfully done and executed. Deviating from the usual formula of characters having their climactic moment in which actors could showcase their craft at its best, Mendoza said that Jose’s consistency in portraying the character throughout the film was the highlight of the movie. Playing the role of the matriarch and meth dealer in the movie, Jaclyn’s signature calm, subtle yet incredibly powerful performance as a poor woman living in the shanties, desperately trying to make ends meet by selling drugs as a sideline, is one for the books.

The actress also starred in various Philippine drama series such as the Filipino remake of “Marimar,” “Mula sa Puso,” “Zorro,” “Magpakailanman,” and so many more. In each acting role that she took, she always made a lasting mark on not only its viewers but also on the Philippine entertainment industry.

Beyond the meme lies the story of an incredible actress who knows how to tell a story through the power of acting and Jaclyn Jose has embodied that to a tee. She was more than a celebrity. She was one of the industry’s most talented and most respected actors, who poured her heart out in the shoes of every character that she had worn.


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