Iconic actress Bella Flores passes away Sunday, May 19 at the age of 84
MANILA, Philippines - No other year in recent memory seems to compare to 2012 in terms of the number and caliber of Pinoy artists who have moved on to the great beyond.
Of course, any single loss of life is a basis for grieving.
But to have lost in a matter of months the likes of some of the country’s greatest filmmakers, our most famous humorist, a prime mover of accessible theater, esteemed yet unassuming musicians and a most kick-ass rock vocalist — all due to natural causes — is cause for bafflement as much as for sadness.
The men and woman alphabetically listed below may be part of “only” a dozen, yet the varying magnitude of their work and radiance of talent are so substantial that their respective demise remain weighty and felt to this day.
Prominent or obscure, rife with achievements or ripe for prolific careers, their departures diminish us.
Yet we remain heartened by the work they left behind — and wish for strength and comfort for the loved ones who survive them.
1. Marilou Diaz-Abaya, film director, 57
Abaya did not just helm close to 20 widely shown movies (Moral, Brutal, Jose Rizal and Sa Pusod ng Dagat among them) and a few more that were in the works, and direct short-lived yet superb TV programs (Public Forum and Sic O’Clock News).
She likewise helped erase any notion of directing as being an exclusively male domain.
Her relative youth when she succumbed to complications of breast cancer on October 8, 2012 belies a rather extensive output that speaks of her effective mix of skill, tenacity and aplomb.
And her legacy is not strictly cinematic but also institutional, by way of the Marilou Diaz-Abaya Film Institute & Arts Center.
2. Celso Ad Castillo, film writer-director, 69
A sense of notoriety had long been appended to direk Celso Advento Castillo, mainly for the provocative likes of Tag-ulan sa Tag-araw (Monsoon Rain in the Summertime) which touched on incest, and the sex-spiced ilk of Nympha, Burlesk Queen and Isla.
But the Laguna native, the most recent casualty on this list following his November 26, 2012 heart attack, was not limited to flicks with wet-T-shirt chicks — and even his adult-oriented oeuvre did have meaning and élan to them.
Starting out as a komiks writer then a scriptwriter of two James Bond spoofs, Castillo went on to pen and direct Asedillo, in the process launching what would become lead star Fernando Poe Jr.’s iconic, gunslinger hero.
Ad Castillo got to direct over 60 films, some of which he himself had written, including Ang Pinakamagandang Hayop sa Balat ng Lupa (The Most Beautiful Animal on the Face of the Earth), and Patayin Mo sa Sindak si Barbara (Frighten Barbara to Death).
Prior to his death, the legendary helmer was at work on a new horror movie and an autobiography.
The man whom prolific film critic Noel Vera tags as PHL cinema’s poet laureate and who had been branded as an “enfant terrible” is now something else altogether: a truly terrible loss.
3. Bodjie Dasig, singer-songwriter, 48
Darius Delphin Dasig, whose career was clipped by cancer on March 13, 2012, had such an ability to depict oceans of emotional dilemma, as witness the two dozen or so love songs whose music and/or words he authored for others (such as clean-cut singers Ariel Rivera and Richard Reynoso’s “Ayoko Na Sana” and “Maaalala Mo Pa Rin Ako,” respectively) or for himself (e.g., his whimsical breakthrough “Ale” and Bodjie’s Law of Gravity’s “Sana Dalawa ang Puso Ko”).
If not for mortality, Dasig, who had been married to fellow skilled songwriter and sometime singer Odette Quesada for almost 20 years, could have well written a c’est la vie lament about missing his own 49th birthday by just 3 months.
We can instead be content with the thought that his playful queries in “Ale” (“Nasa langit na ba ako?” or “Am I in heaven yet?” and “Mama, kayo ho ba si San Pedro?”or “Are you St. Peter?”) are now happily answered.
4. Ronnie Dizon, keyboardist-arranger, 36
The youngest person on this list, Ronaldo B. Dizon had a considerable following as member or sessionist for alternative rock bands such as Blue Ketchup and Ronin, the fun-loving ’80s cover band The Ronnies, and for former 6cyclemind vocalist Ney Dimaculangan.
Dizon, who died in his sleep last August 4, was said to be the epitome of a hardworking, in-the-background musician, one who busied himself as a keyboardist and arranger yet, or in the process, as his brother Paul put it on Facebook, “was able to touch the lives of so many people.”
5. Dolphy, actor-producer, 83
No other deceased Filipino was immensely mourned for this year than the country’s King of Comedy. (A close exception: former DILG Secretary Jesse Robredo.)
Dolphy, née Rodolfo Vera Quizon, was, after all, a Filipino household name across generations, having entertained through his vaudeville shows, his hundreds of movies and his thousands of TV episodes across 6 decades.
Despite how uneven his body of work or his much-publicized life was, the man whose long fight with severe pneumonia ended on July 10, 2012 did one basic thing on-camera all his life: make the Pinoy everyman, -woman and -child laugh.
Such was his success that the nation exalted him at every turn, climaxing in the clamor for our granddaddy of comedy to be officially declared a National Artist.
But he did one basic thing off-camera all his life, too, one suggested by the title of his biographical coffeetable book Hindi Ko Ito Narating Mag-isa: Stay humble and quiet.
All the better to relish the audience’s laughter.
6. Tony Espejo, theater director-producer, 63
He was not exactly an academician but Espejo, who passed on June 21, 2012 due to complications stemming from an earlier heart attack, deserved to be called a dean.
As the founding artistic director of the now-35-year-old Gantimpala Theater (née Bulwagang Gantimpala), once the Cultural Center of the Philippines’ resident drama company, Espejo is credited for having brought theater to educational life and out of its highbrow trappings, especially with his “four classics” renditions of Florante at Laura, Ibong Adarna, Noli Me Tangere and El Filibusterismo.
If “All the world’s a stage” per Shakespeare’s As You Like It, Espejo may as well have coined that “The stage is the world,” given his lifelong work in mounting plays and musicals written by National Artists for Theater or Literature or by playwrights penning adaptations of Pinoy folklore and fairy tales.
As a result, Espejo’s career of at least 3 decades has led to lifetime-achievement honors from the Aliw Awards, the Philstage Awards and the National Commission for Culture and the Arts before his mortal curtain call.
7. Roger Herrera, bass player, 80
Herrera was not just an elder statesman among jazz players and aficionados; he had also been acclaimed as one of Asia’s best bassists, compared as early as the 1960s to legendary bass men Ray Brown and Charles Mingus.
The career of “Mang Roger,” who lost a bout with pneumonia on November 14, 2012, began in the jazzy ’50s and lasted all the way to his more contemporary pop and jazz sessionist gigs for Richard Merck, Lea Salonga and Sharon Cuneta, among others.
In between were stints at the Monterey Jazz Festival, onstage jams with the likes of the Duke Ellington Band, and membership in Lito Molina’s Jazz Friends and his own Roger Herrera Band. And he is said to have played on even despite his advancing age.
All told, Herrera was a reputable bassist with much respect for music and was thusly respected by his peers and collaborators in return.
8. Eddie Munji III, musician-arranger, 57
Munji is an example of a musician who is little-known to the average person but whose work is known far and wide.
The man, who yielded to a massive heart attack on November 18, 2012, was predominantly an arranger of numerous pop hits for Apo Hiking Society, Ryan Cayabyab and others, including FM radio smashes like “Mahirap Magmahal ng Syota ng Iba” (“It’s Hard to Love Someone Else’s Gal”) and “Panalangin” (“Prayer”), the post-EDSA revolution anthem “Handog ng Pilipino sa Mundo” (“The Filipino’s Gift to the World”) and the 1979 Metro Pop music fest entry “Umagang Kay Ganda.”
(The latter translates as “Such a Beautiful Morning”; as Jingle chordbook alumnus Romy Buen noted on the magazine’s Facebook group page, that’s Munji playing the guitar for the song’s gentle, daybreak intro before Ray-An Fuentes and Tillie Moreno start singing).
Beyond his pop efforts, Munji was a jazz disciple, going so far as arranging Pinoy folk songs such as “Salidumay” and “Bahay Kubo” (“My Humble Hut”) into wondrous fusions of jazz and rock, which got compiled into his 1978 album Pinoy Jazz Volume 1.
Through it all, Munji was content to be in the backdrop.
Just like any avid music fan, he must have preferred to let the music fill his and our ears and speak for him ― opting to tune in than to show off.
9. Mario O’Hara, writer-director-actor, 66
O’Hara remained many things at once to the very end: prolific, reclusive, unassuming, underrated.
The Zamboangueño succumbed to leukemia complications after a full life through theater, radio, film and television. He had stayed immersed in work, avoided interviews and even left this world quietly: Just as the nation was updated daily about Dolphy’s health, O’Hara suddenly went proverbially offstage for good on June 26, 2012 with hardly any fanfare or notice.
To paraphrase from The Usual Suspects, just like that, he was gone.
O’Hara, who reportedly nixed the chance to migrate to the USA, gave so much of himself to his homeland by way of his talent and tenacity, producing over 40 big- and small-screen efforts that either have had countless viewers or barely gotten seen.
He could make mainstream hits and unconventional films alike without sacrificing his flair for plainspoken realism and high-flown artistry.
One either saw his work (such as Lovingly Yours, Helen, Flordeluna, the former Holy Week staple Marcelino Pan y Vino on TV, Tatlong Taong Walang Diyos or Three Godless Years in cinemas or on video) or did not know their existence (the films Babae sa Breakwater, Sisa). Either way, O’Hara would simply soldier on, as if on a mission to constantly feed the aesthetic beast within him.
He is revered among his colleagues and critics, they who know that there is more to him than even his writer-actor tour de force for Lino Brocka’s Tinimbang Ka Ngunit Kulang (You Were Weighed and Found Wanting) and his script that led to Brocka’s Insiang (which O’Hara triumphantly resuscitated as a play in 2003 and ’07).
Proving that there’s no rest for the talented, O’Hara was busy putting together the musical Stageshow, which turned out to be his swan song.
Of all the venerable artists on this list, O’Hara, as the aforesaid Noel Vera would aver, is arguably the greatest of them all, and is inarguably the most accomplished of all.
Not only would O’Hara the artist not be found wanting if weighed, the notoriously shy master would not be “wanting” any attention anyhow.
10. Geneviere “Bong” Pascasio, vocalist, 42
Of all the folks listed here, Pascasio has got to be the naughtiest, thanks to the sarcastic or salacious tunes he wrote and sang as lead vocalist-guitarist of the rock band Grin Department.
With his Grin mates, Pascasio, who died of colon cancer on November 10, 2012, was among a slew of hopefuls who arose during the alternative rock heyday of the 1990s.
The band yielded mostly jokey, tambay-rock hits such “Miss U,” “Picture Mo, Inday” and “Syota ng Lahat” (“Everybody’s Girlfriend”) via at least 3 albums and a greatest-hits compilation — endearing them to adolescents and others during the grunge-and-Eraserheads years who found pleasure and affinity with the singer-composer’s middle-class, teenage musings.
11. Karl Roy, vocalist, 43
His fans and peers might balk at the comparison but Roy, a stroke survivor who succumbed to cardiac arrest on March 13, 2012, is akin to 2012 American Idol runner-up Jessica Sanchez: a relatively small person with a big voice.
Unlike girlie-sweet Sanchez, though, Roy was far from coy.
The dude with the skinny, heavily tattooed frame was a frenetic, livewire act, able to out-Lenny Kravitz himself whenever his first band Advent Call rendered something like “Are You Gonna Go My Way?”
From his debut as the frontman of that New Wave-era group to his funky, “Yugyugan Na” (“Time to Shake”) salad days with P.O.T. to his inadvertent finale via the rock supergroup Kapatid, Roy was not just a singer but a spectacle — a professional and a trooper who appeared to allow his vocal cords and frail body to be a bona fide vessel for musical and visual loudness.
Listen to Karl Roy and POT's 'Yugyugan Na' here:
12. Anthony Taylor, film director, 70
Taylor (real name: Federico Cattel Gargantilla) directed some 11 movies, including two 1978 releases: his debut Maiinit na Labi, Nag-aapoy na Dibdib (literally: Hot Lips, Burning Chest), which he also co-wrote, and his remake of Mars Ravelo’s komiks staple Dyesebel, with Alma Moreno in the mermaid role previously played by Edna Luna and Vilma Santos.
The filmmaker, who gave in to cardiac arrest on July 4, 2012, forged ahead as a “steamy” director, what with skin flicks like Unang Gabi, (“First Night”) Climax and, his 1989 directorial finale, Lady L.
He also had small acting roles in Macho Dancer, Sibak (Midnight Dancers) and the Kris Aquino-Rene Requiestas caper Pido Dida: Sabay Tayo, and hosted a graveyard-shift radio show on DWIZ.
All told, kinky movies might never be in vogue again, which makes direk Anthony “Taylor”-fit for his own kind of immortality. - Rappler.com
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