The birth anniversary of FPJ this year was supposed to be the launching of the official website of Fernando Poe, Jr. In fact, the domain name www.fpj.com.ph was already paid up for two years. Unfortunately, for unexplained reasons, the website construction was not pursued and the project remains pending until this day.
And to commemorate FPJ’s birthday on the 20th of August, here are some snippets (for the pleasure of my father who had requested me to remember FPJ on his birthday this year. My 80-year old father left for the U.S. last month but he vowed to monitor the FAP website for his requested article).
The chosen topics are Generosity and Horse Racing.
“Shooting kami nun sa Tarlac, naku, take note, ang daming NPA dun, ha?” said Direk Bootse, a.k.a. Boots Plata who was lucky to direct Fernando Poe, Jr. in a movie. “Eto na, may dumating na dalawang jeepney na puro lalake ang sakay. Nagbabaan yung mga lalake at pumunta sa amin. Armado lahat, high powered pa. Tapos napansin kong kasunod ng mga lalake sina …” Direk Bootse hinted that the armed men were actually bodyguards of Jimmy Tadeo and Crispin Beltran who came down from the mountains upon learning that FPJ was shooting a movie in the vicinity. The activists didn’t mean harm albeit they approached FPJ to beg for an artesian well.
In another location shoot somewhere in the slum areas near Jusmag in Quezon City, Boots Plata noticed a pretty teenage girl approaching FPJ during a break. The girl engaged FPJ in an intimate talk of mostly whispers then the girl left and FPJ didn’t clarify what it was all about. On the last day of shooting in that location, the teenage girl again appeared but this time she was accompanied by an old man seated on a wheelchair… a brand new wheelchair obviously sponsored by FPJ.
Grace Poe-Llamanzares with Boots Plata
“Masyadong generous si Ronnie regardless kung kilala nya o hindi,” continued Boots Plata. “Minsan yan magugulat ka na lang dahil may darating na tao para magpasalamat. Hindi namin alam na nabigyan na pala nya ng tulong yung mga taga-roon. Kaya nga suwerte ng lugar pag dun nag-location si Ronnie kasi talagang naaambunan sila ng grasya. Sa dami ng kuwentong ganyan, palagay ko hindi mo kayang isulat sa isang libro, hindi talaga kakasya.”
Ramon Zamora, a former popular movie star, claimed closeness with FPJ. Even during FPJ’s last weeks, Ramon was blessed with financial assistance to repair his dilapidated house. And out of gratitude, Ramon gifted FPJ with so many kilos of longanisa which FPJ refused. That assistance was supposed to be a secret between Ramon and FPJ but, “Wala na siya ngayon, eh ano kung magalit siya, basta gusto kong malaman ng mga tao kung gaano kalaki ang naitulong ni Ronnie sa akin,” said Ramon Zamora.
Berting Labra has his own say on the subject matter. “Nung nasa loob ako (in prison), panay ang padala ni Ronnie ng pera. Syempre panay naman ang tanggap ko kasi paano naman akong makakapagpasalamat eh nakakulong nga ako, di ba? Eh di ganun nga, padala siya, tanggap ako. Huli na nang malaman ko na yung messenger – yung tagadala ng pera sa akin – kalahati pala ang kumisyon!” FPJ was so trusting with people thus it was common for him to fall prey to opportunists. Incidentally, it was FPJ who christened Berting Labra with the pet name Ting-A-Ling.
From the accounts of Felix Dalay, “Napakadaling hingian ni Ronnie, kahit anong dahilan mo siguradong hindi ka mapapahiya. Minsan nga matatanong mo sa sarili mo kung saan nanggagaling ang pera kasi hindi nga mabilang ang nabibigyan nya. Mahirap na lang magsalita pero ang daming nakaloko dyan nung election. Meron akong alam na nakadale sa kanya ng milyon. Yes, twelve million ang naloko kay FPJ pero hindi na lang kumibo yung tao. Sabi gagamitin sa kampanya pero wala naman.”
Indeed, FPJ’s generosity was legendary as related by all of the movie industry people who were witness to his kindness. But few may know that Da King loved horses so much that most of his race horses were named after Grace.
“Grabe si Papa pagdating sa horses,” confessed Grace Poe. “Imagine, nasa hospital ako nun after giving birth to my son tapos dumating siya. Pero bago lumapit sa akin, nakita na may TV sa hospital room, ayun, nag-detour sa TV. Binuksan agad and when he learned na may cable connections… inilipat sa racing channel tapos nakalimutan na ako,” Grace was serious despite a giggle. Figuratively speaking, to get FPJ’s attention, all you have to do was dangle a racing program in front of his face.
Grace with husband Neil Llamanzares
“Naglagay na nga ng tayaan sa bahay namin, sa phone lang, pwedeng tumaya. Para kahit palagi lang sa bahay si Papa at least nae-enjoy pa rin niya ang hobby nya. Pero sa totoo lang, yan ang hate ni Mama.” Susan Roces was jealous of the horses as if the hobby was eating away FPJ’s quality time for the family. But since Susan loved FPJ so much, there was no word of opposition heard from Susan although her actions sometimes speak louder than words. “Kaya when Papa passed away, ipinamigay ni Mama ang mga horses. At ominous nga yung mga names ng two horses kasi Great Year saka First Of All eh.” The race horses were actually inherited by Boying Guerra, FPJ’s loyal horse trainer.
Most of FPJ’s horses belong to the elite who ran in special and high stakes races. The most popular of his horses was Graceful Lady, a female horse that racked up so many victories. Aside from racehorses, FPJ was also fond of the horses he used in film shooting. His favorite white horse led the funeral march for FPJ.
Felix Dalay acted as a technical adviser to FPJ in the presidential campaign. “Nung kampanya sa probinsya, kitang-kita ang pagod ni Ronnie. Eh hindi naman biro yung maglibot at kumamay sa mga tao. Hindi ba’t nagsugat nga ang kamay nya? Kaya sa hotel o kung saan siya tutuloy sa gabi, mauuna na ko dun para ayusin ko ang TV. Ginagawaan ko ng paraan para malagyan ng cable para pag-retire niya gabi, ayos na, karera lang ang katapat.” Despite the hectic campaign schedule, FPJ looked refreshed the next morning whenever he was able to watch the races the previous night.
Grace attested that FPJ considered horseracing as a real sport and not really for gambling. He liked the challenge of choosing the winner and, most of all, he loved the thrill and the delight of seeing his horses win. Betting or the amount of his bets was never an issue since FPJ was a wise bettor, meaning he bet nor for the money but for the enjoyment only.
During the shooting of Isusumbong Kita Sa Tatay Ko, bannered by FPJ and Judy Ann Santos, the crowd was a bit unruly. The scene to shoot was Judy Ann entering the scene to complain to FPJ about a problem. It was a tricky sequence because of the punchline where FPJ would be shown to be washing clothes. And when the take was aborted for the second time due to the unruly crowd, FPJ remarked, “Bibilang ako ng one to twenty, pag di pa ko nakunan… pack up na ko.” And true to his words, when Direk Bootse came back after reprimanding the crowd, FPJ was nowhere to be found. And on second thought, Direk Bootse realized that it was a Sunday and there was a big race. On the next day, FPJ reported to the set as if nothing had happened except for his mischievous smile, making it obvious that he had just wanted to watch the races of the previous day.
Ironically, despite being the most colorful and most famous personality in the horse racing industry, there is no race named after FPJ until now. I wonder who’s going to spearhead a move to have a Fernando Poe, Jr. Trophy Race. Definitely not Susan Roces, I can bet on that!
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