By Vince Ragay
After the media-spawned national grief has subsided and as tears become rare, we can look at FPJ’s death with a clearer view — as history. Personal memories form the primary foundation of history. One need not have queued up to view FPJ’s remains to be counted as part of that recent colossal box-office show. We had ample supply of eyewitnesses who gave their thoughts and feelings of the wake and burial as well as of the man himself while he walked among us.
In truth, FPJ’s death served only as the final backdrop to his illustrious career as a matinee idol and as an aspiring politician. Many more were the demanding moments of romance, pathos, sacrifice, gallantry and triumph he went through in his various portrayals of men who lived many lives. He had but one life yet to millions of his fans, he seemed like he had lived a million lives. That he would no longer provide them a vision of his virtual greatness was the heartbreaking thought that moved thousands to trek with him on his final journey. Yet his ultimate life as a would-be president would remain etched in the minds of friends and foes alike. The revelation of his saint-like generosity would even turn around the minds of journalists and politicians from their misguided perception of his ability and sincerity to lead our nation as Chief Executive. It seems, his greatness did not only begin and end in reel life but climaxed his real life.
Our lack of awareness of the goodness of others may either make us hungry paupers who might have been benefited by the withheld alms, or proud mockers who might have been silenced by our ignorance. One is reminded of Solomon’s proverb: Now there lived in that city a man poor but wise, and he saved the city by his wisdom. But nobody remembered that poor man . ( Eccl. 9:15 ) Like frogs immersed in gradually boiling water, we may sit smugly, ignorant of the greatness that abounds around us. Or worse, we croak with glee ignorant of the coming disaster in our aimless lives.
FPJ, of course, was far from “poor and wise”. He certainly was rich and committed some foolish deeds (like we all do). The question that comes to mind is: Did he save the film industry from annihilation by his leadership? Perhaps. Or more to the point, could he have saved our country from poverty and corruption? We will never know now.
But as Solomon also wrote: For who knows what is good for a man in life, during the few and meaningless days he passes through like a shadow? Who can tell him what will happen under the sun after he is gone? ( Eccl. 6:12 ) Who knows what will happen to the film industry post-FPJ? Who knows what will happen to the Philippines minus-FPJ? We know that he served the film industry tirelessly to uplift the welfare of the unnamed and the uneducated. He also served society quietly to alleviate suffering. Finally, he had wanted to serve our country valiantly as a clean politician.
FPJ, I believe, was not deluded as to his role as would-be president. He had been around the common people to know what they needed. And he had been around the powerful and privileged to know what they were doing and were capable of doing. His greatness lies in the fact that he resolved to fuse his artistic ideals with the moral realities of our times.
We had never had a true artist who served as president. One who has dedication not only for his or her craft but also for our social, political and economic needs. In short, one whose soul comprehended the totality of life and its meaning. (Erap never came close to qualify.) Not one excelled in music, visual and performing arts or literary arts. For only those who can fathom the language of the human soul can rise above the mediocrity of existence to lift others up to the excellent deeds of the human spirit. (Rizal would have filled the shoes. Still, his example suffices to give us a deathless inspiration.)
FPJ, as a few will claim, never outgrew his desire to please his fans and became a prisoner to their image of him. Thus, the argument goes, he did not produce real art. And so it follows, he was not a true artist. That may be so. But human art is not the absolute standard for the accomplished life, no matter how much importance we give to the National Artist Award. Nor is it the only beacon of the enlightened life many so eagerly pursue.
Life is the art itself. To live it well is to live art. Living well is living art. Hence, to live one’s life according to the call of greatness is the highest ideal. Perhaps we stand in awe at the spectacle of FPJ’s death not just because we perceive greatness in his work but also in his dreams for our people. We render honor to the memory of his greatness as well as to the greatness of those he left behind. That is, his wife, his political ally, his stunt-double and his fan.
Greatness does not die with us. Like a babe, it inherits life and grows until it is ready to pass it on. Like the sun giving life every new day. Like food renewing our strength with each new meal. Like air energizing our body with every breath. Without the legacy of greatness we die as a people.
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Vince Ragay is a Civil Engineer who is engaged in building design and construction in environmental projects. He is also a creative writer and song composer. Feedback to this article can be sent to