By RICA AREVALO
When I was writing the screenplay of ICU Bed #7, I already had in mind Eddie Garcia to play the stubborn, alcoholic patriarch. I did not know him personally. I had no connections to lure him to act in my debut film.
Raymond Red’s Anino, a short film about a desperate photographer who lost his camera was the first Filipino film to win the Palme d’Or at the 2000 Cannes Film Festival. Tito Eddie’s screening time was a little less than five minutes but his presence was overwhelming. During the first Cinemalaya Philippine Independent Film Festival 15 years ago, I had to take a risk. I sent a copy of my script to this Hall of Famer. I got his number from Raymond and contacted him. I remember our conversation. He said: “If I like the script, I will get in touch with you.” After a few days of waiting, he called my mobile and said, “When are we shooting?”
During the first Cinemalaya Philippine Independent Film Festival 15 years ago, I had to take a risk. I sent a copy of my script to this Hall of Famer. I got his number from Raymond and contacted him. I remember our conversation. He said: “If I like the script, I will get in touch with you.” After a few days of waiting, he called my mobile and said, “When are we shooting?”
It was so easy working with him. When I told him his hair had to be in his natural salt-gray look, he didn’t have any qualms. He would come on the set one hour before his call time, ready with his lines, bringing his costumes and props. He even invited our production designer Katrina Villa-Herman to his house so she could choose from his wardrobe .
In 2004, on the night we were shooting at the Seamen’s Hospital in Intramuros, Manila, his good friend, Fernando Poe Jr. passed away. We had to inform him while he was on the hospital bed after a dramatic scene. We prayed together, and slow, quiet tears flowed in his eyes. He finished all his scenes that night even though we knew he was carrying a heavy burden of losing his greatest friend. Eventually, he became Cinemalaya’s first winner of Best Performance by an Actor.
He continued doing award-winning independent films. He returned to Cinemalaya in the 2012 Directors’ Showcase acting in Jun Lana’s Bwakaw. Tito Eddie played Rene who comes out of the closet after seven decades! The comedy-drama film showed his range as a lonely gay man and his compassion to his ill, stray dog, Bwakaw. He had a chance at love with Sol, the neighborhood tricycle driver. As an actor, he was brave enough to have a kissing scene with Rez Cortez. In earlier interviews, he mentioned that “it was just a job.”
Last year, Tito Eddie starred in Benedict Mique Jr.’s ML as a retired Colonel who believed that he was still living during the period of the Marcos dictatorship. He scared the Millennial audience with his glaring eyes, quiet stance, and violent streaks that kept you literally at the edge of your seat.
He let us experience the torture and trauma of Martial Law. It is only he who can pull that kind of senile, violent acting on the big screen. He bagged his third Best Actor Balanghai trophy in his all-out shocking tactics over Tony Labrusca whom he kidnapped and tortured in his basement.
At 90, he never stopped acting. Coming from the older generation of stars, he was proper, well-disciplined, and a hard working person. He taught the new generation of filmmakers how to be decent. He led by example. It was humbling, and over the years, he would call and ask what I had been doing. He would text congratulatory messages and hope that we could work together again. The last time we saw each other was during the opening of QCinema International Film Festival where he had an entry, Hintayan ng Langit, directed by Dan Villegas (now streaming on Netflix). We shared the same table and updated each other’s careers. That was how he was with the people he worked with. He never forgets.
He is a gem in this industry.