year-end stories

Newsmakers who died in 2021

Michael Bueza

This is AI generated summarization, which may have errors. For context, always refer to the full article.

Newsmakers who died in 2021

Lawrence Chongson of the UE Red Warriors. UAAP


Here are some of the Filipinos who made the news and left their mark in 2021

MANILA, Philippines – The country lost many icons and personalities in 2021.

Among them are a former Philippine president, political bigwigs, sports pioneers and Olympians, businesspersons, showbiz icons, media people, an iconic eagle, a hero dog, and other notable newsmakers.

Here are some of those Filipinos who had made the news and left their mark, for good or – in the case of high-profile convicts in this list – for bad.

Heinrich Abad, 29
Professional e-sports player
Considered one of the best Dota 2 players, Abad once topped the solo ranked matchmaking rating leaderboards of Southeast Asia.
Kieth Absalon, 21
Football player
A UAAP juniors Most Valuable Player, Absalon passed away following a roadside explosion in his hometown Masbate City while biking with his family.
Jose Abueva, 93
Former president, University of the Philippines system
Abueva served as UP president from 1987 to 1993, and chancellor of UP Diliman from 1990 to 1991.
Resurreccion Acop, 73
Representative, Antipolo City
Representing the city’s 2nd district in Congress, Acop succumbed to complications brought by COVID-19.
Melo Acuña, 64
Journalists and news viewers remember Acuña for his steady presence in the pandemic-time Malacañang briefing, where he asked questions that could shape the day’s news agenda.
Vergel Aguilar, 74
Former mayor, Las Piñas City
He served as the city’s mayor for 18 years, from 1995 to 2004, and from 2007 to 2016.
Wencelito Andanar, 73
Special envoy to Malaysia and former interior undersecretary
He is the father of Presidential Communications Secretary Martin Andanar.
Benigno Aquino III, 61
Former Philippine president
The only son of democracy icons former senator Benigno “Ninoy” Aquino Jr. and former president Corazon Aquino, Noynoy served as president from 2010 to 2016.
Herminio Aquino, 72
Former vice governor and representative, Tarlac
An uncle of Ninoy Aquino, Herminio was a 2004 vice presidential candidate. He chaired the political party Aksyon Demokratiko before his death.
Ronaldo Aquino, 58
Mayor, Calbayog City, Samar
Aquino is the second mayor of Calbayog City to be murdered while in office in the span of a decade.
Marvin “Ate Shawee” Martinez, 45
Ate Shawee impersonated the “megastar” Sharon Cuneta.
Sister Fidelis Atienza, 102
She is credited by her congregation as the “mastermind” behind the famous Good Shepherd ube jam of Baguio City.
Zeneida Quezon Avanceña, 100
Human rights advocate
She is a daughter of former president Manuel L. Quezon.
Edmundo “Ato” Badolato, 74
Basketball coach
Badolato etched his name in Philippine basketball lore as he transformed the Red Cubs into a dynasty, leading San Beda to 16 NCAA juniors championships.
Ludovico Badoy, 69
Former executive director, National Historical Commission of the Philippines
Badoy was also a former mayor of Cotabato City.
(Photo from NHCP website)
Priscilla Baltazar-Padilla, 63
Former Supreme Court associate justice
Padilla served in the judiciary for more than two decades, but she was active in the Supreme Court for only a month. Appointed in July 2020, she was already on leave by the end of August. Padilla’s early retirement, due to physical disability, was approved in November.
Ramon Barba, 82
National Scientist
He was conferred the National Scientist award in 2014.
(Photo from NAST website)
Carmen “Baby” Barredo, 80
Theater actress
Barredo is best known as the “Grand Dame of Philippine Theater.
(Photo from Repertory Philippines website)
Heber Bartolome, 74
Singer and songwriter
The folk rock icon’s most beloved work is 1978’s “Tayo’y Mga Pinoy,” a protest song about one’s love of country and the denouncing of Western influences.
Genebert Basadre, 37
Basadre won a gold medal in the 2005 Southeast Asian Games.
Sister Mary Rosario “Chayong” Battung, 78
She was the inspiration behind the movie Sister Stella L., starring Vilma Santos.
(Photo from Facebook page of Religious of the Good Shepherd, Philippines-Japan)
Father Joaquin Bernas, SJ, 88
Member, 1986 Constitutional Commission
The noted constitutionalist was also the dean emeritus of the Ateneo Law School.
Reynaldo Berroya, 74
Administrator, Light Rail Transit Authority
Berroya became LRTA administrator in 2017. He was also a former police intelligence chief during the Arroyo administration.
Janet Bordon, 66
Bordon was a popular lead actress in the late 1970s and 1980s.
Angel Cacnio, 90
Cacnio was a renowned visual artist famous for his vivid paintings of Philippine culture and heritage – from historical events, local traditions, to nostalgic scenes from his hometown in Malabon.
Douglas Cagas, 77
Governor, Davao del Sur
Cagas, who succumbed to COVID-19, served as governor of the province from 1987 to 1992, 2007 to 2013, and from 2016 until his death.
Restituto Calonge
Vice Mayor, Mabuhay, Zamboanga Sibugay
Calonge was shot dead near the municipal hall.
(Photo from Facebook page of Ang Probinsyano Party-list)
Richard Cambe
Former chief of staff of Senator Ramon Revilla
Cambe was convicted for plunder in the pork barrel scam while his principal was cleared by the anti-graft court.
Rogelio Casurao, 66
Vice chairman, National Police Commission
First appointed to Napolcom in 2016, Casurao was an “instrumental” official in police and local government reform, said the DILG.
Jacinto Cayco, 96
Cayco represented the country in the 1948 London Olympics. He also twice competed in the Asian Games, and was a double-gold medalist in 1951.
Lawrence Chongson, 57
Basketball coach
Chongson was the former head coach of the University of the East Red Warriors in the UAAP.
Emilio “Nonoy” Chuatico Jr., 55
Basketball player
Chuatico helped Ateneo de Manila University win its first UAAP basketball championship in 1987. He was also captain of the victorious Philippine team in the 1991 Southeast Asian Games.
Haydee Coloso-Espino, 83
She was a three-time Asian Games gold medalist in the 1950s. Coloso-Espino also competed in the 1960 Olympics.
Naty Crame-Rogers, 98
Theater icon
The daughter of jazz musician Don Ramon Crame, she was immersed in theater well into her age, and continued to teach and direct plays. She later formed the Philippine Drama Company-Sala Theater.
Christopher Cuan, 46
Mayor, Libungan, North Cotabato
Cuan and his driver were killed by an unidentified gunman.
Christine Angelica Dacera, 23
Flight attendant
Dacera was found lifeless in a Makati City hotel bathtub after a New Year’s Day party. The resolution of her case was a rollercoaster ride.
Luke Dacula, 72
Basketball player
Dacula played in the inaugural PBA game in 1975.
Erasmo Damasing Jr., 86
Former congressman, Cagayan de Oro City
Damasing served in Congress from 1992 to 1998.
Celso Dayrit, 70
Former president, Philippine Olympic Committee
He was also a former commissioner of the Philippine Sports Commission.
Bert de Leon, 74
TV director
Since the 1970s, Bert has directed TV shows like Eat Bulaga, Iskul Bukol, and Okay Ka, Fairy Ko. His latest works include the GMA sitcoms Bubble Gang and Pepito Manaloto.
Cesario “Jun” del Rosario, 62
The award-winning journalist worked for ABS-CBN and later CNN Philippines.
(Photo from Facebook page of Center for People’s Media)
Arlyn dela Cruz, 51
Journalist and filmmaker
Dela Cruz was a longtime correspondent-at-large for the Philippine Daily Inquirer. She also directed the award-winning film Maratabat, which was inspired by the Maguindanao massacre.
Ruby Nicole “Colette” dela Cruz, 46
Her father named the famous Colette’s buko pie of Laguna after her. But Colette blazed a path of her own later on, co-founding Hiraya Bakery with a former colleague.
Claire dela Fuente, 63
Known as “Asia’s sweetest voice” and the “Karen Carpenter of the Philippines,” Dela Fuente first came into the OPM scene in the 1970s.
Renee “Alon” dela Rosa, 61
Dela Rosa composed the OPM hit “Pusong Bato.
(Screenshot from Alpha Records Youtube video)
Carmen “Nanay Mameng” Deunida, 93
Urban poor leader and activist
Nanay Mameng devoted her life to the struggle of country’s marginalized.
Didagen Dilangalen, 67
Former representative, Maguindanao
He was representative of Maguindanao’s first district from 1995 to 2004 and from 2007 to 2010.
Rafa Dinglasan, 53
Basketball player and coach
Dinglasan was the team captain of the De La Salle Green Archers in UAAP when they won the team’s first championship in 1989, and won in again in 1990.
Neil Doloricon, 63
The prolific visual artist was praised for his strong, politically-aware themes, painting society’s ills – from land tenure, unfair labor, dehumanizing practices, contractualization, society’s class struggles, militarization in rural areas, and displaced families.
(Photo from Doloricon’s Facebook page)
Raymond Dominguez
Car theft convict
Dominguez was sentenced to 17-36 years in prison in 2012 for carnapping and homicide.
Macario Duguiang, 72
Former governor, Kalinga
Duguiang was the province’s governor from 2001 to 2004.
(Photo from Facebook page of Saint William’s Cathedral – Tabuk City)
Aldrin Paulo “Dunoo” Pangan
Professional e-sports caster
Also known as “Kuya D” to his colleagues and fans, Pangan is best known for his energy and partnership with fellow caster Marlon “Lon” Marcelo.
Ruben Ecleo Jr., 61
Parricide and graft convict
He served as congressman of Dinagat Islands from 2010 until he was dropped from the rolls in 2012 due to his parricide conviction.
Salvador Enriquez Jr., 87
Former budget secretary
Enriquez served as budget undersecretary under Corazon Aquino, and then budget secretary and later finance secretary under Fidel Ramos.
Jose Jaime “Nonoy” Espina, 59
The esteemed journalist was a former chairman of the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines.
Father Eliseo Fernandez, 53
Father Leo was the parish priest of the Santo Tomas de Villanueva Church in Badian, Cebu. He was among the casualties of Typhoon Odette in December.
Tony Ferrer, 86
The veteran actor who famously played “Agent X-44” was once known as the “James Bond of the Philippines.”
Father Roque Ferriols, 96
Professor, Ateneo de Manila University
Father Ferriols is a renowned Ateneo professor who pioneered the teaching of philosophy in Filipino.
Anastacio Francisco, 69
Softball player
He is one of the country’s best pitchers during the 1970s and 1980s, when the Philippines was one of the top softball countries in the world.
Fu Yabing Dulo, 106
National Living Treasure
Fu Yabing Dulo was one of the two master designers left of the Blaan mabal tabih – the art of ikat weaving.
(Photo from NCCA official website)
Romeo Gacad, 62
Gacad is a multi-awarded Filipino journalist, a two-time Pulitzer prize finalist and a three-time nominee.
Pablo Garcia, 95
Former governor and representative, Cebu
The Garcia family patriarch was a three-term governor of Cebu, from 1995 to 2004.
Rodolfo Garcia, 77
General manager, Metro Rail Transit Line 3
Garcia was a retired police general who was appointed to manage the MRT-3 line in 2017.
(Photo from DOTr)
Oscar Garin, 80
Mayor, Guimbal, Iloilo
The Garin patriarch was also the province’s 1st district representative from 1987 to 1998 and from 2001 to 2004.
(Photo from Wikimedia Commons)
Jose Luis Martin “Chito” Gascon, 57
Chairperson, Commission on Human Rights
Appointed in 2015 to lead the CHR, Gascon fought to uphold the rule of law amid President Duterte’s bloody drug war.
Tomas “Buddy” Gomez III, 86
Former press secretary
He served as Corazon Aquino’s press secretary from 1990 to 1992.
Wally Gonzalez, 71
He was the guitarist of the legendary rock group Juan de la Cruz Band.
James Gordon Jr., 73
Former mayor, Olongapo City
Gordon first served as congressman of the first district of Zambales from 1995 to 2004 before becoming mayor of Olongapo City from 2004 to 2013.
(Photo from Gordon’s Facebook page)
Andrew Gotianun Jr., 69
Vice chairman, Filinvest Land
Gotianun was “instrumental in growing the Filinvest group into the multifaceted corporation it is today,” said the real estate conglomerate.
Berty Guanzon, 76
Football coach
Guanzon coached the Philippine Air Force football team and the national women’s football team.
(Image from Shutterstock)
Jose Gullas, 87
Former representative, Cebu
Gullas served the 1st district of Cebu from 2001 to 2004.
(Photo from UVFDG’s Facebook page)
Michael Gutierrez
Mayor, Lopez Jaena, Misamis Occidental
Police say Gutierrez was shot by a sniper during a party with local politicians before Christmas Day.
Douglas Hagedorn, 76
Former representative, Palawan
Hagedorn served the province’s 3rd district from 2013 to 2016.
(Photo from House of Representatives website)
Rafael Hechanova, 93
Basketball player
Hechanova played for the Philippine team in the 1952 Helsinki Olympics. Before his death, he was the the oldest living Filipino Olympian.
Leticia “Apung Lolet” Hizon, 84
Hizon founded the famed tocino maker Pampanga’s Best in 1967 with her husband Angelo.
Crispulo Julio “Jun” Icban Jr., 85
Editor-in-chief and publisher, Manila Bulletin
Icban was the Manila Bulletin’s editor in chief for the past 18 years, and in 2020 was concurrently named its publisher. He served the newspaper for 47 years.
Raymund Isaac, 59
Through his work, Isaac has photographed some of Philippine showbiz’s biggest stars.
Amman Jalmaani, 72
The Sulu swimmer represented the Philippines thrice in the Olympics: in 1964, 1968, and 1972.
Dante Jimenez, 68
Chairperson, Presidential Anti-Corruption Commission
Jimenez is also the founding chairman of the Volunteers Against Crime and Corruption.
(Screenshot from RTVM video)
Bree Jonson, 30
The contemporary artist known locally and abroad was found dead in a La Union resort. Her companion and boyfriend Julian Ongpin was entangled in her case, but police later declared he was no longer a person of interest.
Kabang, 13
The hero dog saved two girls from a road accident in 2011.
(Photo by Don Preisler/UCDavis via Kabang the Hero Dog Facebook page)
Joseph Laban, 40
Film director
Laban directed films such as Baconaua (2017) and Nuwebe (2013).
Edgar Labella, 70
Mayor, Cebu City
While Labella had served in government for over 30 years, he was only in his first term as mayor of Cebu City.
Darussalam Lajid
Mayor, Al-Barka, Basilan
Lajid and a security aide were killed while Akbar Mayor Alih Salih and another aide were wounded in an attack in Zamboanga City.
Domingo Landicho, 81
Writer and professor
Mang Domeng is a renowned writer, playwright, academic, and actor. He helped shape Philippine literature through the years.
(Photo from Likhaan: UP Institute of Creative Writing’s Facebook page)
Rey Lapid
Lapid founded the R. Lapid’s Chicharon & Barbecue.
Jeci Lapus, 68
Acting Administrator, Local Water Utilities Administration
Lapus also was Tarlac’s 3rd district representative from 2007 to 2013.
(Photo from LWUA official website)
Celia Diaz Laurel, 93
Theater actress
The veteran stage actor and wife of former vice president Salvador Laurel was honored with a Natatanging Gawad Award in 2016 by the Gawad Buhay Awards.
(Photo from Laurel’s Facebook page)
Danilo Lim, 65
Chairperson, Metropolitan Manila Development Authority
Years before heading the MMDA, Lim figured in attempts to oust the Gloria Arroyo administration.
Reuben Lista, 73
Former commandant, Philippine Coast Guard
The retired admiral served as the 16th PCG commandant from 2001 to 2003.
Ricky Lo, 75
Entertainment columnist
Lo is best remembered as a long-time entertainment writer with his own column, “Funfare,” in The Philippine Star.
(Photo from Lo’s Facebook page)
Princess Tarhata Alonto Lucman, 94
Former governor, Lanao del Sur
Lucman is the first Muslim female governor of the province.
Bienvenido Lumbera, 89
National Artist
Lumbera, who was named National Artist for Literature in April 2006, is known for his theatrical works, as well as his poetry collection Likhang Dila, Likhang Diwa.
Arturo Luz, 94
National Artist
Luz was named the National Artist for Visual Arts in 1997.
Noemi “Mahal” Tesorero, 46
The lovable comedian rose to fame in the 1990s, standing out for her short stature.
Erineo “Ayong” Maliksi, 82
Former governor and representative, Cavite
Maliksi had been in public office for over 40 years.
Mauricio “Moying” Martelino, 86
Sports executive
Considered one of the pillars of Philippine sports, Martelino held multiple leadership roles, most notably as secretary-general of the Asian Basketball Confederation (now called FIBA Asia).
Josephine Medina, 51
Table tennis player
Medina won a bronze medal in the 2016 Rio Paralympics.
(Photo from International Table Tennis Federation)
Father Eliseo Mercado Jr., 73
Mindanao peace advocate
Mercado played a role in brokering a ceasefire between the government and the MILF in 2000.
Recto Mercene, 77
Mercene is best known for capturing the iconic photo of former senator Ninoy Aquino’s bullet-riddled body on the tarmac of the airport where he was assassinated in 1983.
Manuel “Manoling” Morato, 87
Former chairman, Movie and Television Review and Classification Board
He also once served as chairman and board member of the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office.
Hans Mortel, 47
Comedian and TV host
Mortel co-hosted the TV5 talk show Face to Face with Amy Perez.
Jonel Nuezca, 47
Former cop and convicted murderer
Nuezca shot and killed a mother and son in Tarlac in December 2020 over a neighborhood dispute. The shooting was caught on video.
Clarence Paul Oaminal, 51
Former chairperson, Dangerous Drugs Board
Oaminal served as undersecretary and vice chairman of the DDB from 2008 to 2010.
Mike Ochosa, 55
Sports analyst
Ochosa served as analyst and commentator for several sports events, including the fights of boxing icon Manny Pacquiao.
Orestes Ojeda, 68
He is perhaps best remembered for his role as a security guard whose wife has an affair with a younger man in the erotic film Scorpio Nights.
Gary Olivar, 68
Former presidential spokesperson
Olivar was one of the country’s foremost economists, and, until his death, served as a fellow of the Foundation for Economic Freedom.
Emil Ong, 84
Former representative, Northern Samar
Ong was a three-term congressman of the 2nd district of Northern Samar, serving from 2007 to 2016.
John Henry Osmeña, 86
Former senator
The senator from Cebu served from 1971 to 1972, 1987 to 1995, and 1998 to 2004.
(Screengrab from Toledo City video)
Lito Osmeña, 82
Former governor, Cebu
Osmeña was the governor of Cebu from 1988 to 1992. He ran for vice president in 1992 and president in 1998 but lost.
Royette Padilla, 58
Royette was part of the Padilla showbiz dynasty, the son of actor Roy Padilla and actress Eva Cariño.
Pag-asa, 28
Philippine eagle
Considered a conservation icon, Pag-asa was the first Philippine Eagle bred and hatched in captivity through artificial insemination.
Elly Pamatong, 78
Perennial presidential aspirant
Pamatong has repeatedly filed his candidacy for president in multiple elections, but he is always deemed a nuisance bet.
Jose P. Perez, 74
Former Supreme Court associate justice
Perez is fondly called the homegrown justice because he worked at the SC all his life, starting out as a technical assistant fresh out of the UP College of Law, until he was appointed justice in 2009 and retired in December 2016.
Leopoldo Petilla, 88
Former governor, Leyte
The Petilla patriarch served as governor from 1992 to 1995.
Ricardo Po Sr., 90
Business tycoon
Po was the founder and chairman emeritus of food company Century Pacific.
Nelly Restar, 82
Track and field athlete
Restar participated in the 1964 Tokyo Olympics.
(Photo from PSC’s Twitter account)
Ruben Reyes, 82
Former Supreme Court associate justice
Appointed by President Arroyo, Reyes served in the Supreme Court from 2007 to 2009.
(Photo from Supreme Court PIO Twitter account)
Jude Sabio, 57
He filed a complaint against President Rodrigo Duterte before the International Criminal Court in 2017, only to withdraw it three years later.
Abdul Sahrin, 70
Deputy Chief Minister, BARMM
A member of the Bangsamoro Transition Authority Parliament, Sahrin was the secretary-general of the Moro National Liberation Front.
(Photo from BARMM official website)
Antonio Sanchez, 71
Rape and murder convict
The former Calauan, Laguna, mayor was in prison for the 1993 rape of a college student, and the double murders of the same student and her friend.
Adelina Santos-Rodriguez, 101
Former mayor, Quezon City
She was the city’s first woman mayor, serving from 1976 to 1986.
(Photo from Quezon City Government website)
Leopoldo Serantes, 59
Serantes delivered an Olympic boxing bronze for the country in the 1988 Seoul Games.
Edwin Sevidal, 49
Sevidal, known by his call sign Radyo Patrol 37, was a longtime ABS-CBN employee who later became head of the network’s radio news gathering arm.
(Photo from Sevidal’s Facebook page)
Carmelito “Shalala” Reyes, 61
Comedian and radio personality
The renowned comedian co-hosted and starred in multiple TV shows, including GMA-7’s Walang Tulugan with the Master Showman and ABS-CBN’s Banana Sundae.
Adelino Sitoy, 85
Secretary, Presidential Legislative Liaison Office
The government says Sitoy was “instrumental” in the passage of critical legislative reform measures of the Duterte government.
Corazon “Dinky” Soliman, 68
Former social welfare secretary
Soliman further institutionalized the Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program (4Ps) under the administration of Benigno Aquino III.
Eliseo “Brother Eli” Soriano, 73
Christian preacher
Soriano was the leader of the religious group Members Church of God International, and was best known as host of the church’s long-running television program Ang Dating Daan.
Bishop Jose Sorra, 91
Former bishop of the dioceses of Virac and Legazpi
Prior to his passing, Sorra was the oldest Roman Catholic bishop in the country.
Francisca Susano, 124
Susano is considered the oldest living Filipino prior to her death.
(Photo by Marchel P. Espina/Rappler)
Jan Catherine Sy, 29
Assistant vice president and project director, SM Development Corporation
Sy is the eldest of the three children of Henry Sy Jr., son of the late tycoon Henry Sy.
Ramon Sy, 91
Vice chairman, Asia United Bank
Sy, also the chairman of Apex Mining Company, is considered a pillar of the banking industry.
Vicente Sy
Convicted drug lord
He was one of the witnesses against jailed opposition Senator Leila de Lima.
Dither Tablan, 23
Collegiate judo athlete
A two-time UAAP Most Valuable Player, Tablan helped the University of Santo Tomas judokas win four straight league championships.
Bienvenido Tantoco, 100
Business tycoon
Tantoco founded the Rustan Group of Companies.
Nestor Torre Jr., 78
Entertainment writer, former TV host and director
Torre’s career in the entertainment industry spanned over five decades.
Reynaldo Umali, 63
Former representative, Oriental Mindoro
Umali served the province’s 2nd district from 2010 to 2019.
Luis Villafuerte Sr., 86
Former governor and representative, Camarines Sur
The career of the Villafuerte patriarch and Camarines Sur political kingpin spanned five decades.
Mary Christine Villarete, 64
Villarete once held the Philippine record in the 100m and 200m backstroke.
(Image from Shutterstock)
Ma. Amelita Villarosa, 78
Former representative, Occidental Mindoro
Vilarosa was the House of Representatives’ first woman deputy speaker. She served in Congress from 1998 to 2000 and from 2004 to 2013.
(Photo by Pecto Camero/House of Representatives PRIB)
Delfin Wenceslao Jr., 77
Chairman, DM Wenceslao & Associates
Wenceslao, a licensed real estate broker, was also an ex-president of the Philippine Constructors Association.
Victor Wood, 75
Wood was known as the “Jukebox King of the Philippines” in the 1970s.
(Photo from Wood’s Facebook page)
Jerome Yenson, 24
Baseball player
Yenson was part of the Philippine baseball team that helped the country win gold in the 2019 Southeast Asian Games.
Yu Yuk Lai
Convicted drug lord
She was convicted in 2001 but had apparently continued to run her illegal drugs empire even behind bars.
Victor Ziga, 75
Former senator
The senator from Albay served from 1987 to 1992.

Note: Unless otherwise stated, photo credits are in the Rappler story linked to the person in this list.

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Michael Bueza

Michael is a data curator under Rappler's Tech Team. He works on data about elections, governance, and the budget. He also follows the Philippine pro wrestling scene and the WWE. Michael is also part of the Laffler Talk podcast trio.