The task of writing about friends one has lost—specially colleagues in the film industry with whom one had worked with in crafting movies in the immediate or the decades-long past—is nobody’s cup of tea. But one had to deliver a final and fitting paean to each of them who left us last year.
Last week, we wrote a brief article on Ramon N. Bautista—RNB to most and Pareng Mon, to this writer and other friends. As I have mentioned, there were two other comrades who passed away in 2005—director-scriptwriter-line-producer Poch Bautista and musical scorer Boy Alcaide.
Director Poch was another kumpadre. Both of us were members of the Contemporaries, a grouping of directors, actors, assistant directors, scorers and other film industry workers, who gathered together after a hard day’s work to drink and exchange notes on how vibrant the films industry was then. The group’s hangouts were Mikko’s, just across the Magnatech Studio on Scout Borromeo, or the Ihaw-Balot Plaza, also across Magnatech.
Frequently present in these drinking sessions were Jesse Ejercito, actors Paquito Diaz and Bobby Talabis, directors Fyke Cinco, Baby Navoa, Rudy Meyer, Joey del Rosario, Charlie Ordonez, Jett Espiritu, Romy Suzara, Bobby Santiago, Norman Daza and Ruben de Guzman, editor-turned-directors Boy Vinarao and Augie Salvador, assistant-directors or production managers Jojo Lapus and Roger Vivero, musical scorers Jimmy Fabregas and Boy Alcaide, and effects men Danny ‘Antique’ Salvador and Jun Martinez.
What one distinctly remembers about Poch was his indefatigable stamina. When Herminio ‘Scarf’ Bautista was the president of the Kapisanan ng mga Direktor ng Pilipinas (KDPP), Poch was literally running everything through Scarf’s proddings.
Poch whipped up Christmas parties for the KDPP almost-singlehandedly. Bowling tournaments. Out-of-town seminar-workshops. The electoral college for the Film Academy awards. On the side, he was also an officer of the FAMAS.
Poch’s home turf was Baguio. He was the production manager of Isang Bala, Isang Buhay, my follow-up project for Viva Films after Eagle Squad. It was the first team-up of Bong and Dawn Zulueta. We shot for several days in Baguio and we didn’t encounter any problem for our locations. We were literally leap-frogging all over the Pines City for our outdoor locations. We also shot in a nightclub, a gymnasium and the then still standing Hyatt hotel (later devastated by an earthquake). The shooting also brought us to as far up north as Laoag, including several sequences at the Ilocandia hotel. So Poch was working even before and after shooting, moving all over the place to follow up the availability of locations, the arsenal of firearms we had to borrow from the camp armories, the talents we had to summon way back from Manila (at least those who had speaking lines as we had to make do with locally-based extras), etcetera, etcetera…
Poch would confer with me during actual shooting, reasoning he could not trouble me with mushroom problems (those that unexpectedly cropped up in the night) while I was resting in between shoots. We finished Isang Bala, Isang Buhay without a schedule-jarring hitch.
For several years, Poch disappeared, working as a personal assistant to Vice-Mayor Herbert Bautista in City Hall.
Early last year, Poch sought me out at the FAP office at the Octoarts building. He was whipping up a superhero project, SuperJuan, to star Vice-Mayor Bistek. He explained Ambassador Roy Seneres would help him produce it. He told me he had to raise some money in case his wife should undergo an operation. But as early as then, he was complaining that he had problems in his food intake. I advised him to have a medical check-up as well.
I waited for developments about SuperJuan. News of his death in a Baguio hospital had overtaken all his plans. He succumbed to stomach cancer. It was too late when he learned he was afflicted. My reaction was: God, it was too early for him to go gently into that good night.
Pareng Mon (RNB) passed away on Christmas Day because of a kidney transplant that failed. On Dec. 28, 2005, or halfway between Christmas and New Year, Boy Alcaide suffered a fatal heart failure.
I worked just once with Boy A. He scored my MMFF 1990 film Baril Ko ang Uusig, a Ronnie Ricketts starrer for Lea Productions. But we were constant companions inasmuch as he was a true-blue Contemporaries member too. And when most of us gravitated to the Sampaguita Pictures compound when the Film Academy held office there, Boy A. was among those who were always on hand and were among the first to enlist in Jesse Ejercito’s Plaza Higad drinking club.
Plaza Higad is the rectangular area infront of the Sampaguita studios main building where Dr. Perez’s galaxy of actors and actresses through the years had left their handprints on cement for posterity. Jesse had a standing order after office hours for Ariel, our resident messenger and handyman, to set up a table or two and several chairs where the group could discuss current events and the latest rumors about showbiz over bottles of beer or brandy. There was a certain time of the year then that the trees bordering the rectangle teemed with higad. The tables and chairs were eventually transferred to the space in front of the FAP offices under the building’s awnings.
Boy A. was a fixture in this motley group that also included the carry-overs from the Contemporaries. He was the silent listener, putting in his five-cent worth of an opinion only rarely. But he was generous with his laughter, cracking up even at the corniest jokes from our companions. I remember Boy A. as a genial, jovial, ever-smiling movie co-worker, ready to please and easily pleased.
When President Joseph took over the reins of government, Jesse helped Boy A. get a seat at TESDA as one of those okaying auditioning singers and performers wanting to work abroad, specially Japan.
Plaza Higad ceased to be the group’s hangout. We later moved over to Tito Tito’s on Connecticut street, still within the Greenhills area.
Boy A. soon got so immersed in his TESDA duties, our meetings became rare and far in between. But there was always a text message from him to Jesse that life for him had become all about auditions, auditions and more auditions.
We still saw each other in chance encounters, specially at SM Fairview as we both live near this commercial hub. He was always with his family for a weekend outing, possibly to see a movie, eat outside or just go plain malling.
Then when the FAP came around, we saw each other at the UP Film Center to screen films contending for awards. Judging his peers was one happy task for Boy A. and he diligently went about it. He treasured his award for best musical scoring for Trudis Liit in 1996 and always gushed that being judged by one’s peers and winning was the ultimate high. He always served as both citer and voter under the Academy’s new three-tiered process in choosing the year’s best.
As the year ended, with the Academy preparing to go full throttle in its award-giving responsibilities, we expected to see Boy A. in attendance for the screenings again. But that was not to be. Three days before New Year 2006, Boy A. wrote his last coda.
We surely miss Boy A. as we miss Pareng Mon and Pareng Poch. Indeed, we will always remember 2005 as the year that plucked out prematurely three of our own close film buddies and transported them to that yonder place where all of us are bound to go anyway. (Next week: Awards, Milestones and Scandals)