school, church, or charity could function without them? What business, government agency,
or NGO could carry on effectively without the willingness of its members, sometimes, to
volunteer for something extra? So it is a rare person who does not do so, from time to
time. But it is a rare person indeed who volunteers with the zeal and single-minded
purpose that Rosa Rosal does, and has done for fifty years, at the Philippine National Red
Born Florence Lansang Danon in 1931, Rosa Rosal enjoyed a simple and happy childhood in
Manila. She began working early, first as a radio announcer during the war and afterwards
as a doctors secretary. A beauty at sixteen, she was spotted by a movie producer.
Kamagong in 1947 was her first film and the beginning of a stunning career. (Prudently,
she also earned a diploma in commerce at night school.) At first a femme fatale, she
became a fine dramatic actress. In 1955 she was named Best Actress for Sonny Boy. And just
a year later she starred in the award-winning classic, Anak Dalita.
As a teenager, Rosal formed the habit of volunteering at the hospital. One night, a young
girl was brought in who had fallen from a five-story building. She was in a coma. Through
the Red Cross, Rosal managed to find blood for a transfusion and then watched as the
girls eyes fluttered open again, to life. The wonder of it led her, in 1950, to
register as an official volunteer for the Blood Program of the Philippine National Red
Cross. Through all the years of stardom that followedand all the years, too, of
quiet personal tribulationthis became her lasting commitment.
As a Red Cross volunteer, Rosal pioneered in mass blood-donating campaigns and persuaded
other celebrities to join in. She mobilized the armed forces and citizen cadets for annual
blood drives. She urged the Red Cross to establish regional blood centers and to operate
laboratories where anyone, rich or poor, could have their blood tested. She led in
procuring the Philippines first refrigerated centrifuge and the equipment needed to
screen blood for the AIDS virus. With her own money, she refurbished the blood-giving room
at Red Cross headquarters, prompting other donors to renovate the laboratory and blood
bank. Indeed, she has been a tireless fund-raiser. During the bloody coup of 1989, Rosal
appealed for blood over the radio and courted danger by personally delivering emergency
supplies to city hospitals.
Today, Rosa Rosal is a PNRC governor and chair of the Red Cross Blood Program, which she
has long since come to personify.
Rosal long ago abandoned the sensation-driven world of movies for family-oriented roles on
television. She pioneered in public service programs such as Damayan, through which many
thousands of people have received urgently needed assistance. In this and in myriad other
and often personal ways, Rosals good deeds have spread far beyond the Red Cross.
Today, her legions of beneficiaries include victims of illness and catastrophe; abused
overseas contract workers; disadvantaged youth and women; and victims of rape, incest, and
family violencenot to mention the young people she has educated at her own expense
and the many babies, once unwanted, who now have loving adoptive parents, thanks to her.
Rosal admits she is relentless when moved to act. "I am a doer and a fighter,"
she says, "but without stepping on anybodys toes." She has found
fulfillment in her life of service. To her grandchildren, she says, she has only her good
name to bequeath. "Pass it on," she tells them.
In electing Rosa Rosal to receive the 1999 Ramon Magsaysay Award for Public Service, the
board of trustees recognizes her lifetime of unstinting voluntary service, inspiring
Filipinos to put the needs of others before their own.