The Butcher | Eddie Garcia: A winner till the end

PHOTOS: @bcbench on IG

PHOTOS: @bcbench on IG

Was Eddie Garcia a sentimental choice among the members of the Manunuri ng Pelikulang Pilipino?

Garcia, who fought for his life for 12 agonizing days at the Makati Medical Center after a tragic accident on the set of an upcoming teleserye, was adjudged best actor (for ML) in the 42nd Gawad Urian held last Tuesday at the UP Film Center.

So did the Manunuri members vote for him for sentimental reasons?

The answer is absolutely NO.

The accident, which took place while on location for GMA’s new soap opera Rosang Agimat, happened on June 8. Exactly a week earlier, on the 1st of June, the Manunuri members had already selected him as their winner for best actor.

I can even share with you how the voting went and why Garcia won best actor. Whew! I swear winning the award wasn’t a walk in the park for him. The race for best actor was particularly tough this year. There were so many good roles for lead actors and each one of the nominees was deserving of the award. Garcia, in fact, had a double nomination. The other one was for Hintayan ng Langit.

Unlike in most other award-giving bodies where the judges merely cast their ballots, the Manunuri members go through a tedious and bloody deliberation process in coming up with their choices.

In the initial round of the best actor competition, Garcia actually tied with Dingdong Dantes who was nominated for Sid & Aya: Not a Love Story. Dantes was excellent in last year’s Seven Sundays. But here in Sid & Aya, he gave an even better performance – quiet, consistent and fluid. It was a marvelous job worthy of an Urian award.

But during the subsequent deliberations, Eddie Garcia’s multi-layered and contrasting depiction of an ex-military official and family man won out in the end. Only an actor of Garcia’s caliber can masterfully portray such complicated role like that one in ML. In a large chunk of the film, he is the torturer from hell – ruthless and without soul. But at the same time, he is also shown as a patient, loving and gentle grandfather. 

Garcia could have camped it out in his portrayal of his ML character. He could have been “Manoy” there, but he resisted the temptation to do so – knowing full well that ML is a very serious film about martial law abuses and the evils of dictatorship.

Of course, Garcia had played bad guy parts in many of his other films in the past. But here in ML, he seemed to have been possessed by his character – like it truly got under his skin.

After several discussions therefore, it was decided by the Manunuri members that the best actor trophy should go to Eddie Garcia for ML.

By the way, another nominated actor who also put in a very good fight in the Urian best actor contest was Dante Rivero for Kung Paano Hinihintay ang Dapit-hapon.

Eddie Garcia’s ML victory was not his first Urian. The Manunuri members truly looked up to him as one of the finest artists in Philippine cinema. In fact, he had been nominated many times over in the Gawad Urian. In 1996, he was this close to winning the Urian for Bakit May Kahapon Pa, but lost to Tonton Gutierrez. He finally won four years later – for Death Row.

In 2006, he was given the Natatanging Gawad Urian – the highest honor – for his contributions to the Philippine movie industry.  

His third Urian trophy was accepted by his ML director Benedict Mique, Jr., who – not surprisingly – became very emotional as he read a message from the family.

Getting somebody to accept the award on his behalf was a major undertaking that had to be carefully planned over the weekend. 

The truth is, Garcia’s accident affected the Gawad Urian presentation in a big way. The original plan was to make him present the Natatanging Gawad Urian to Gloria Sevilla. He was the perfect choice for three reasons: 1) He is a former recipient of that award. 2) He has the stature and seniority. 3) He was going to be there anyway as a nominee (of course, he wasn’t supposed to know he was going to win).

On June 3, two days after it was decided that he was going to be the best actor winner, I called up book author/talent manager/broadcaster Noel Ferrer to help us cast the Urian program lineup. I told him to please contact Eddie Garcia and request him to attend the Urian rites not just as a nominee, but also to present the trophy to Gloria Sevilla.

Five days later, before noon of June 8, I called up to Noel to follow up on Garcia. Noel said that it was the birthday of Biboy Arboleda, one of the creative brains behind Ang Probinsiyano. Biboy was throwing a party that evening and Garcia was sure to be there. Noel was going to catch him in that gathering to invite him personally – which is actually the most proper thing to do.

Less than four hours later, I got a text message from Noel informing me of the accident. The first thing I did was whisper a prayer for Eddie Garcia’s quick recovery. After that prayer, I gathered my thoughts and hoped against hope that he was going to recover in time for the Gawad Urian. I had no idea then how serious the accident was.

With him still unconscious in his hospital bed it became a concern as to who would accept his award. Bibeth Orteza Siguion-Reyna, told me she was going to talk to Garcia’s long-time partner, Lilibeth Romero. Bibeth is their dear friend and she has access to the family. 

I thought it would have been ideal to have Lilibeth there at the Urian since she always accompanies Garcia to awards presentations and it seems like she is his lucky charm. 

Last Sunday, Bibeth and I were again in touch. She said that much as Lilibeth would want to attend the Urian rites, she couldn’t leave Garcia’s side, especially not in those critical times. Of course, I understood that perfectly well. In a way, it was also a good decision since Lilibeth for sure would not have a moment’s peace in that very public event.

In the end, it was decided that Benedict Mique would be the perfect person to  represent Garcia at the rites. Shortly after the Urian awards program, a photo circulated on social media and it tore at the hearts of most netizens. There in the picture was Garcia’s hand – still clutching a rosary – but “touching” the Gawad Urian trophy. 

I felt very sad. In my head, I imagined how Eddie Garcia would have relished the experience of being there on the Urian stage - being cheered by an adoring crowd – and delivering his acceptance speech ... straight from the heart as always.

The 42nd Gawad Urian was meant to be a happy occasion. And it was in great parts. But we all went home with a tinge of sadness in our hearts. Our best actor winner should have been there with us – celebrating and being joyous  - and not in some cold hospital room fighting for his life.

He died two days later.

Tito Eddie, while I mourn your passing, I simply console myself with the fact that you are now in peace. From the Manunuri, I hope you enjoy your best actor award as our send-off gift. 

In true Eddie Garcia fashion, even in your last breath, you are a winner.       

 

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