DEATH comes at the most unexpected time and place. A lot of people are scared even with just the thought of death. To counteract this particular fear, the secret is always to be prepared for the eventuality of death. In other words, just make yourself a part of the Lord everyday of your life. I am doing this. And I think my dear departed friend Walter Markova did this too.
Walter Markova Dempster Jr. was undeniably a part of showbiz—the stage and the movies. He worked in the backstage of vodabil or stage show theaters like Inday , the Manila Grand Opera House and Gala . He was also a make-up artist in the film industry during the 70′s, in numerous films that starred the funnyman-turned politician Chiquito.
Walter’s life story was made into a film by RVQ Productions which was directed by Gil Portes. Dolphy and his sons Eric and Jeffrey Quizon played the role of Markova, a Filipino gay who was raped by Japanese soldiers during the occupation. The singular role won for Dolphy, Eric and Jeffrey the best actor award in an international film festival.
Walter was the remaining member of a once happily family. His father, an optometrist from Jamaica married an Ilongga, Pilar Palacio. Pilar, after her husband’s death in Iloilo , brought all her children to Manila . After the death of his mother, Walter lived on his own doing odd jobs.
He served as caddy at the golf links in Intramuros, a laundry man for some Ateneo boys and sold kakanin in the streets of Manila . He befriended a beauty shop owner, Bobbit, where he learned to cut ladies hair and to manicure their nails. Through Bobbit, Walter became the make-up artist of Gala theatre, Inday theatre and the Manila Grand Opera House. Then a movie production hired him for a movie starring the late Chiquito. Through his earnings as a make-up artist, Walter was able to send his nephew Bobby through college. He now works as a driver in Japan.
Walter had enough money then for all his needs but through the years and during his old age, Walter lost everything, including his lovers. I have already written the second part of the Markova biopic, which is about his lovers and his endless search for love.
Walter escaped death twice. He was shot by one of his lovers Until his death, the bullet remained lodged in his chest. The second time was when he figured in a car accident in Pasay . Walter stayed in the hospital for almost a month. His friend Bernie Barbosa of Samar took care of him in the hospital. None among his relatives took time to watch over him.
In December of 2004, at my insistence, Walter finally agreed to have his cataract operated on at the Hospital ng Maynila . No relative, even those who live in Angono, Rizal, came to help finance his medication. Again, because I consider him as a close friend, I looked after him and took care of his medications and other expenses. After the operation, he developed prostate trouble and was forced to stay there for more than a week. Again, there was no financial help from his relatives, not even from his nephew who was then still working in Japan.
Then came his third accident and this one proved fatal for Walter. At past nine in the evening, a group of bikers from Tarlac in exhibition in Intramuros sideswiped him while he was walking on his way home along Sta. Lucia street near the ruins of San Agustin church.
I still remember being with Walter watching the Wow Philippines shows put up by the Department of Tourism in Intramuros. For three consecutive years, we became a fixture in such shows which highlighted songs, dances and other cultural exhibitions from the different regions of the archipelago. We met there everyday, enjoyed the shows, made friends with the regional representatives and dancers, and savored their delicious foods and kakanin especially the Muslim representatives from Sulu. Walter enjoyed the shows which according to him reminded him of his life as a dancer during his youth and his stint at the theatres. It was also in I ntramuros where I interviewed Walter for the second part of his life story. I called it The Loves of Markova, about an endless search for love.
Saturday morning of June 24, 2005, I was awakened by a call from Japan. Bobby broke to me the news of Walter’s untimely death. For at least half an hour, I was in a state of shock. I started calling up show biz friends. I realized early on that the funeral services would entail expenses which I might not be able to handle alone. But a stroke of luck happened when his nephew Bobby came home from Japan.
From June 25, 2005 up to his burial on July 2, I stayed in the house in Las Pinas, going home to Quiapo at four in the morning to get some sleep and returning in the afternoon to attend to everything relative to his wake and funeral as his nephew told me I should manage. And the pain started after the funeral. A text from Walter’s niece in Tarlac, not mincing words, told me I have no right to fuss over her uncle’s wake and funeral. For days, she kept pestering me with text messages. Her last text message explicitly asked me to spare her some amount of money of whatever was left for the funeral expenses or budget. I told her that Bobby was in charge of collecting contributions.
Text messages then stared coming from Hong Kong accusing me of pocketing the money and even threatened to kill me if I kept the money. Messages of insult, of degradations and threats– that was what I got for helping and serving a friend. They were literally calling me names I could not swallow. I decided to ignore the messages since I did not steal any money from them. After all the help, the support, the sleepless nights, the sacrifices I had rendered for the sake of Walter, this was what I got.
I never told them that Walter wanted very much to put up a foundation for the elderly gays in the country. This was the main reason he was insistently pestering me to look for a producer who could finance our project and what he said would be his last hurrah, The Loves of Markova . The money he would have received for his story was really intended to finance the foundation for elderly gays. I already have a name for such an institution– The Good Samaritan for Elderly Gays. I knew it was a fitting remembrance for a colorful gay, one of the pioneers for the liberation of the third sex.