The year was 2004, months after the national election. The movie industry was in a continuous free fall into a bleak future. And to add insult to injury, something really terrible happened.
The incident was best described by a song’s refrain which goes…
Someone just killed Mister Santa Claus.
For personal gain, a crazy cause.
Christmas will surely be sad this year
For Santa Claus is not around, oh, dear.
I was at the lobby of the Film Academy of the Philippines office when a veteran movie industry worker came by. As he casually mentioned what had happened, I couldn’t restrain myself from asking too many questions.
According to DR, they – movie industry workers – were at their usual haunt at the FPJ compound for a presumed Christmas party for everyone who cared to attend. For those who do not know, generosity was the middle name of Fernando Poe, Jr.
Food was abundant and drinks were overflowing. Of course, there was San Miguel beer, the favorite drink of the host. It would be an exciting night, DR assumed for he and his friends were deep in thought on how much cash gift “The King” would give them.
It was no secret, among FPJ’s circle, that it was his wont to hand out cash to everyone who stayed with him until after midnight. And this habit of “The King” gave inspiration to drinkers and non-drinkers as well to stay on (in the party).
The presence of non-showbiz personalities was noticeable. DR surmised that perhaps The King and the politicians were discussing the election protest for the elections were held just in the middle that year.
Inside the casket during the wake at Sto. Domingo church
It was a great battle fought by FPJ outside the movie screen. After leading in the tally for a few days, FPJ trailed the victor by a million votes. But even in defeat, FPJ showed his gallantry by not resorting to dirty tactics.
DR and his friends were enjoying the affair when suddenly everything went quiet. FPJ was holding his head, with a face manifesting of unbearable pain. His beer bottle was on the ground, broken and the contents spilled.
It was like a scene in a movie shooting. But this time, the director was Makati Mayor Jojo Binay who was directing the crowd to give way while Congressman Chiz Escudero was supervising in getting FPJ to the vehicle.
Everyone seemed stunned, according to DR. It seemed that there was something amiss in the script and it appeared that the shoot would be done so soon except that no one was shouting “pack up.”
As the convoy left for the hospital, DR and his friends continued with the feasting although somberly now. They were hopeful that the host was just brought to a clinic and would come back soon. FPJ never let them down.
Mourners during the wake at Sto. Domingo church
But the afternoon turned into dark and the night progressed, leaving DR and his friends as only the few people remaining in the aborted party. They only left when they got word that FPJ was in the ICU of the nearby St. Luke’s Medical Center.
Asked why they lingered, DR replied with sincerity and obvious sadness, “ Hinihintay kasi namin yung Pamasko. Siguradong naka-atado na ang envelope para sa amin. Nagtataka nga kami kung bakit hindi naipamudmod.”
Such mentality may have added to the burden of The King such that he tried to fight against his fate. On that night of December 11, 2004, Fernando Poe, Jr. slipped into a coma and would never wake up again.
The fatal stroke was caused by a clot in the brain. The cerebral thrombosis resulted in multiple organ failure. With the family’s decision to forgo with a surgery in futility, FPJ passed away on December 14.
The long line of mourners in Sto. Domingo Church in Quezon City was an attestation of the man’s greatness. Even in the coffin, so many fans were admiring the handsomeness of the actor, director, scriptwriter, producer, and friend of everyone.
The burial would go down in history as one of the most attended. FPJ’s favorite white horse pulled the carriage bearing his coffin. Crowd estimates, including the burial and wake, reached 2 million.
MTRCB Chair Grace Poe Llamanzares flanked by husband Neil and the late Direk Boots Plata
As a post script, we heard so many heroisms and acts of generosities by The King not only from the ordinary people in the street but also from co-actors like Ramon Zamora and Berting Labra.
Chancing upon former jockey Boying Guerra a.k.a, Jockey Boying in Antipolo church, we learned that Susan Roces gave to him FPJ’s prized horses. And for the punchline, Boying was now living in Beverly Hills, Antipolo, courtesy of The King.
As Grace Poe Llamanzares have said it, “Ayaw na ayaw ni Mama ang mga kabayo ni Papa. Yan ang pinagseselosan niya talaga.” Incidentally, Madam Grace is now the chairman of MTRCB (Movie and Television Review and Classification Board).
Ronald Allan K. Poe may have been the best president that the Philippines never had.
Comments to this article can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org
Your FEEDBACK can be posted at www.filmacademyphil.org/forum/