Film, Theater, and Television Actor, Theater Director, Writer, and Educator
August 9, 1930 – February 1, 2022
Rustica Cruz Carpio was a theater, film, and television actor, theater director, author, and teacher.
She was born in Paombong, Bulacan to Leon Jose Carpio and Maria Sol Cruz. She was only ten years old when she started singing in public, singing operetta in her hometown. She studied at Paombong Catholic School and Arellano High School. Carpio then obtained the following degrees: associate degree in commercial science, with honors, from Philippine College of Commerce (now Polytechnic University of the Philippines or PUP); BA English, magna cum laude (1953) from Manuel L. Quezon University (MLQU); MA Education, major in speech education (1956), New York University (with support from a Fulbright grant and International House scholarship); and PhD Literature, meritissimus (1979) from the University of Santo Tomas.
She first gained international notice when as a college student she became the youngest member and singer of the First Filipino Entertainment Troupe sent by the Philippine government to Korea in 1951, where they performed for the Philippine Expeditionary Forces to Korea (PEFTOK) and other United Nations armies. The battleground “Rustie Hill” was named in her honor and was adopted in the war maps of Korea.
Carpio taught at the Philippine College of Commerce (now PUP), 1953-1954 and 1956-1957; Teachers Seminary of America in New York, 1956; MLQU, 1958; Far Eastern University (FEU), 1957-1967; Pamantasan ng Lungsod ng Maynila (PLM), 1967-1984; and PUP since 1984.
She was dean of student affairs at PLM, 1978-1983, where she founded the bachelor’s program in mass communication in 1968. At PUP, she was the inaugural dean of the College of Languages and Mass Communication, and served as dean of its graduate school.
A talented actor, she appeared in various roles on stage: in Macbeth as Lady Macbeth, 1958; The Love of Leonor Rivera as Leonor Rivera, 1959; Shadow and Solitude as Gabriela, Rigodon as Tita, and Reunion as Maya, all in 1960; New Yorker in Tondo as Kikay, 1962; and Go Rider as Annie, 1974.
She acted for Barangay Theater Guild in Rejection, 1960-61, and The Blue Tie and A Portrait of the Artist as Filipino, both in 1960. In the mid-1970s, she was seen in Teatro Pilipino’s Bayan-bayanan (Little Country), 1975; and Tiyo Vanya (Uncle Vanya), Paano Man ang Ibig (As You Like It), and Ang Abaniko (The Fan), 1976.
In 1983, she was leader, director, and principal actor of Sining Silanganan’s performance tour of the People’s Republic of China.
Carpio directed plays for MLQU, FEU, PLM, and Angeles University, and for private organizations.
She appeared in many television programs, among them Si Tatang Kasi, and Mrs. Milyonarya, both in 1971; Ang Makulay na Daigdig ni Nora, 1979; Flor de Luna and Panagimpan, both in 1981; Dear Teacher, 1992; Momay, 2010; Amaya and 100 Days to Heaven, both in 2011; Wako Wako, 2012; Aryana, 2013; and Magpakailanman, 2015. She also appeared in the made-for-TV movie Noli Me Tangere, 1993, produced by the Cultural Center of the Philippines.
Carpio’s appearances in movies included National Artist for FIlm Ishmael Bernal’s three works namely Nunal sa Tubig, 1976; the romance-drama Walang Katapusang Tag-araw, 1977, and Mahal Kita, Walang Iba, 1992.
From 1976 to 2019, she appeared in some 40 films, among them Katas ng Langis (1976),
Waywaya, Don’t Cry for Me Papa, Moral, and T-Bird at Ako, all in 1982; Karnal, 1983; Ma’am May We Go Out?, 1985; Shake, Rattle & Roll V, 1994; Totoy Mola, Damong Ligaw, and Rizal sa Dapitan, all in 1997; Ang Panday 2, 2011; and Circa, 2019.
She served as board member of the Movie and Television Review and Classification Board (MTRCB) from 1996 to 1998, under chairman Jesus Sison. She also worked at the Videogram Regulatory Board (VRB) from 1998 to 2000.
Carpio wrote several books including Hermogenes Ilagan (2000); Readings in Literature (2001); Literature Is Life and Tilamsik ng Plastik (2003); The Shanghai of My Past and Other Essays (2005); Crisscrossing through Afro-Asian Literature (2006); and Shuttling from Stage to Screen (2008). According to Fulbright Philippines, as a scholar she published more than 200 articles and received a Don Carlos Palanca Memorial Award for Literature.
She won Best Actress (shared with co-star Anita Linda) for Lola at the Gawad Urian and Las Palmas Film Festival in 2010, and at the Fajr Film Festival in Iran in 2011. She also won Best Actress for Ano ang Kulay ng mga Nakalimutang Pangarap? (tie with Vilma Santos) in the 2014 Golden Screen Awards, and received the FAMAS Lifetime Achievement Award in 2010 and the PMPC Star Awards for Movies Lifetime Achievement Award in 2014.
She received many other awards for her teaching, acting, and work in theater, arts, and culture.
At the age of 91, Carpio passed away at her home in Imus, Cavite due to complications from old age.
Before the pandemic, a tribute screening of the muti-awarded film Lola was held at the Far Eastern University, where Carpio, also known as “Tita Rustie” to her students and colleagues, served as executive director of the president’s Committee on Culture and the Arts.
Nenet Galang-Pereña, writing for Philippine Star, called her a “cerebral, compassionate and caring lady,” adding that while Carpio never married and had no children, what made her a legend was “her heart that beat for bestowing comfort and concern to those she loved.”
A former student from FEU, Kriztine Rosales-Viray, shared an anecdote on her Facebook: Una kitang nakilala noong naging teacher kita noong college sa Drama and Theater Arts. Ikaw ang unang nagbukas ng pintuan ng teatro sa akin. Ipinakilala mo sa akin ang mga dula ni Wilfrido Ma. Guerrero at ginawaran mo pa ako ng Best Actress award sa pagganap ko ng role ni Doña Pilar sa Basketball Fight. Nag-date pa tayo noon kasama si Meldith Tomagan sa Barrio Fiesta sa U.N. Avenue Sabi mo, libre mo sa job well done namin. Mas naging malapit ako sa iyo noong nagkasama tayo sa play na Calamba 1888. Ikaw si Doña Teodora at ako naman ang stage manager. Sobrang haba ng run ng show natin. Kaya sobrang nakilala kita. Palagi mo akong pinapagalitan kasi di ako kumakain ng gulay. Pag sabay-sabay tayong nagla-lunch, lalagyan mo ng gulay o prutas ang pinggan ko, tapos babantayan mo kung kakainin ko ‘yon. Ako rin ang tagabigay ng linya mo mapa-during show man or rehearsal kapag nakakalimutan mo na ang lines mo. Pero sobrang bilib ako sa ‘yo, kasi kahit alam kong wala ka na sa script, mali na lines na sinasabi mo, ang acting mo, sobrang nakakabilib pa rin. Hindi mo nga kailangang magsalita, iyon lang umiiyak ka on stage, sapat na. Tunay kang Best Actress, Mam!
Carpio’s grandniece Mitchie said she helped many people through the years, sharing what she had with those in need: “Ang dami po niyang natulungan kahit hindi din naman sobra-sobra ang kakayanan, at hindi siya nanghinayang.”