Cancer claims Shirley Gorospe, 73

Filipino-Portuguese actress Shirley Gorospe is gone. She died July 9 in Los Angeles, a day after turning 73. Reports say she succumbed to brain tumor and lung cancer complications.

Named after the child star Shirley Temple, the Eurasian actress, known for the charming way she mangled Tagalog in her ‘balikbayan’ roles, was widowed in 2002 when husband, actor Zaldy Zshornack, passed away from diabetes complications.  They were together 44 years, one of the few enduring couples in Philippine showbiz. They were married three times.

A 2002 interview with Philippine Star revealed what the couple was really like away from the cameras. While she shared Zaldy’s “ultimate passion” for golf, Shirley also turned to baking for a hobby.

“You should try my Amaretto Cake – it may look simple, but it tastes heavenly.” She said her cake won a baking contest in Alabang.

The couple recalled their serendipitous meeting at the Manila International Airport in 1956. Both were in agreement: It was love at first sight.

The Hawaii-born Shirley – father is Ilocano and mother is Portuguese – was just crowned Miss Philippines of California, and one of her big prizes was to visit Manila.

“The flight was on Northwest Orient Airlines via Anchorage, Alaska and Tokyo, Japan for refueling. If I recall correctly, it took all of 36 hours. Can you imagine being on a flight that long? I sleep like a baby on airplanes so all I did was eat and sleep and sleep and eat. Upon arrival in Manila my relatives I have never encountered before, members of the press and well wishers with flowers met us. What a reception! I was just 17 and traveling alone. It was a beautiful, wonderful experience. Oh yes, let me tell you this is when I met Zaldy Zshornack, the movie actor. Little did I know he would be my future husband,” she said.


In another interview, she said her impression of Zaldy then was a person who was both cocky and a softie at heart: “ ‘Mayabang,’ but he was very nice and very friendly.”

In two years, they were filming their first movie together, “The Sweethearts,” in Los Angeles. They co-starred in numerous romantic comedies in the 1950s to 1960s.

The two went back and forth from Los Angeles to Manila and beyond during their marriage. Sometimes their children, Garizaldy and Geno, went home with them. Traveling around the world became another one of their favorite past-times in their retirement. Shirley worked for the Bank of America in L.A.

Rome was their favorite city.

The couple filming in Hong Kong.

“Rome is simply beyond compare, utterly unbeatable. It’s historically rich and architecturally beautiful. Most importantly, we both feel so very close to God whenever we are in the city,” said Shirley.

Shirley’s favorite museum was the Museo del Prado in Madrid. She was in awe having viewed Francisco Goya’s “The Naked Maja” there. Zaldy loved the Metropolitan Art Museum in New York.

The romantic classic “Cleopatra,” starring Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton, was Shirley’s most memorable film. For Zaldy, it’s “Somebody Up There Likes Me,” a biopic about boxing legend Rocky Graziano.

Popular entertainment columnist Ricky Lo compared the Shirley-Zaldy love team to Sandra Dee and Troy Donahue or Elvis Presley and Ann Margret. They were a wholesome couple whose screen reputations were untainted by any scandal.

But probably unknown to many, Shirley revealed to Lo how the loving marriage had hit a rough patch after five years. This was the time when Zaldy was frequently in the Philippines doing one movie after another. Shirley filed for divorce in the U.S.

“It was too much already,” she told Lo. “Too much womanizing.”

But Zaldy won her back with sincerity and persistence. When the pair reunited in the U.S., Shirley said he tore up the divorce papers. They were inseparable from that time on.

“I relented. Why shouldn’t I? I loved him,” she said.

Shirley Gorospe starred in at least 15 movies, many of them opposite her husband. Among the most memorable are “Be My Love,” “Shirley, My Darling,” “You’re My Everything,” “Outside the Kulambo,” “Tipin,” and “Pitong Gatang.”


  1. Adell Maria wrote:

    I love reading your quality posts.

  2. Nigel Richards wrote:

    She’s had a good life. May she rest in peace.

  3. Wilma Ressa wrote:

    Very nice nostalgic piece.

  4. Nancy R. wrote:

    Thanks for the share!

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: