(Reprinted from the 25th Luna Awards souvenir program)
When Fernando Poe Jr. was still the acknowledged action king of Philippine cinema—a position he never relinquished throughout his film career—there were several action princes that were shooting projects one after another simultaneously with Da King during those halcyon days of local cinema.
One of them was Rudy Fernandez (more fondly called as Daboy) who will be one of the two recipients of the Fernando Poe Jr. lifetime achievement award to be bestowed by the Film Academy of the Philippines in this year’s silver anniversary of the Luna Awards.
Daboy was, in effect, a witness to the long reign of FPJ as the undisputed king of local cinema. Daboy declares: “Throughout his career, he was the king. I think it will be hard for any action star to aspire to be like him. Not in our generation. Or the next generation. Or the generations after…”
He adds they were lucky their careers also zoomed during the FPJ era which accounted for several decades and only ended at his untimely death in 2004. For they, he is referring to action stars Bong Revilla Jr., Lito Lapid, Jinggoy Estrada (now all senators), Edu Manzano, Ronnie Ricketts (both actors’ guild presidents like Da King and Daboy), Philip Salvador, Cesar Montano, among others.
He describes FPJ as the lead comet who towed them along with him to bring local cinema to unprecedented heights. He was always there to lead us, unselfish and caring for our own individual careers, Daboy emphasizes. He adds that FPJ was a quick-draw in giving advice when one of us suffered a snag or a downturn in his career.
As Daboy describes it, Da King really became their role model, specially in the way he handled and ran his film career.
Daboy remembers that FPJ once talked to him about the way his career was going then. Kuya Ron—as they were wont to call FPJ—used metaphors about something closed to his heart, horse-racing. Kuya Ron described Daboy as the patient and steady ‘hinete’ or jockey, steering his horse (meaning career) in a deliberate and sure-fire rhythm.
As Kuya Ron described this: You have the right pacing, erap. Steady lang. Hindi nagmamadali pero hindi naman nagpapa-iwan. Mahirap yung banderang kapos. You will always be there. And you will reach the finish line in your sweet and sure pace. Daboy explains that Kuya Ron meant that Rudy Fernandez will really make it.
According to Daboy, Da King was a pacesetter, pioneer and ground-breaker in almost everything. He had the foresight and made sure he accomplished his plans. He was the first actor of his generation to put up his own production company, FPJ Films.
“FPJ Films started it all. Eventually I set up Reflection Films. Bong has his RRJ Films. Jinggoy has his Millenium Films and Maverick Films. Almost every other action stars after us did the same,” Daboy recounts.
FPJ was also the first to demand the TV and video rights for films he starred in even though they were made by other producers. He had rightly predicted that his accumulated body of films would someday be sold in bulk to the television stations for a large amount of money. Just this year, the right on some 200 FPJ films were bought by ABS-CBN though these same films had been previously aired in the FPJ sa GMA series several years back.
Kuya Ron once again enabled us to demand the TV and video rights for my films, Daboy explains. He adds that FPJ was always thinking ahead.
“Pero ang nakaka-believe kay Kuya Ron, he always take the welfare and well-being of his colleagues and filmworkers into consideration. He was the second president of the actors’ guild after Robert Arevalo. He was succeeded by Paquito Diaz then I took over for three terms. Edu and Ronnie followed before Kuya Germs and finally, Mayor E.R.,” Daboy says.
He admits that he was not really that close with his Kuya Ron, unlike Ipe Salvador who cut his teeth in acting at the FPJ compound. “We rarely call each other. But there were times that he sent things, like kesong puti or some native delicacies he bought when he had location shootings up north or in Mindanao,” he recounts.
But one thing that Daboy treasures most about Da King is the fact that the latter was the one who gave the break to LT (Lorna Tolentino) as a child actress. “Nagkaron ng search for the young girl who will play the role of the young Susan Roces in Divina Gracia. Napili si LT among some 1,000 girls who auditioned for the role,” he clarifies.
He says that he often jokes LT that she is really a batang FPJ too. And she is proud about that, he adds.
Daboy says that as much as possible he tried to reciprocate Kuya Ron’s concern and advice. When FPJ ran for president, Daboy says he hit the campaign trail during breaks in his TV taping.
“Napuntahan ko ang Ilocos, ang Southern Tagalog, and almost all the sorties in Mindanao, nasamahan ko. I was always in tandem with Jinggoy who even had me fetched by helicopter. It was one way of giving back something for all the things Kuya Ron had done for us,” Daboy says.
Therefore, Daboy regards it a big honor to receive the FPJ lifetime achievement award. He had already won two best actor trophies from the Film Academy for Batuigas: Pasukuin si Waway in 1984 and Birador in 1998 but he says that this new award will really hit him in the heart. “Para na ring galing kay Kuya Ron ito. It is a recognition that must be well-treasured.” Daboy smiles.—Jose N. Carreon