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Eddie Garcia: In memoriam

The entertainment industry of the Philippines has an obsession with giving titles to its most bankable stars: titles that have become synonymous with the actors or actresses themselves. Superstar. Star for All Seasons. Megastar. Diamond Star. King of Comedy. The King. Earlier generations may also recall The Great Profile. But in an industry filled with kings, queens and stars, Eddie Garcia took a humble title—taken from his character’s name from a movie—and made it a legend bigger than himself: Manoy.

And today, the entertainment industry has lost its biggest brother, an actor and director who lent his name and talent to over 600 films in the span of 70 years, all of which are testaments to his longevity. A passionate artist with a strong, disciplined work ethic that built his reputation as the most prolific actor on the silver screen, whose appeal has endured for generations. (A Reddit thread from October 2018, about his photo on the cover of Esquire Philippines, ended up being more of a tribute page about him than about the photo itself.)

He was a long-time student of his craft, having been cast into Siete Infantes de Lara (his first film, in 1950) without any acting experience. And through the years, he strived to become a better performer, for any role he accepted is, in his words, “the best recommendation for your next film.” And Garcia never permitted himself to be typecast as an action star: he has taken roles in comedy and drama films as well, including Lino Brocka’s Tubog sa Ginto, which he said was his favorite performance (as a closeted gay man). He also immersed himself behind the scenes, shadowing directors, cinematographers and editors, before going on to direct over 30 films himself. For both his work in front and behind the camera, he has won numerous awards, even receiving an Urian for Best Actor before he died.

He himself was long considered a contender for being the next National Artist. Whether this honor will be given to him remains to be seen. But whether or not he earns that honor, he can rest contented that he has worked with and learned from six of the eight National Artists for Cinema, the exceptions being Lamberto Avellana and Kidlat Tahimik.

READ MORE: Eddie Garcia on his third Cinemalaya film ML (Martial Law)

More than his artistry, he has also been known for having a strong, focused work ethic, an attribute that younger generations can learn from regardless of their industry. His punctuality is the stuff of legends, almost always being the first person to report for duty on set; hence, the famous quip “you do not make Eddie Garcia wait”. (We at Cinema Bravo have been a witness to his punctuality. At the press conference for “Rainbow’s Sunset”, we arrived at the venue an hour earlier. To our surprise, Eddie Garcia also arrived just a few minutes after. The press con itself started one hour late, but Manoy was gracious throughout, gamely answering questions and posing for photographs.)

He also avoided complaining or critiquing his workmates, preferring instead to follow his directors’ instructions and doing his very best, however small the role is. As a director, he refrained from reprimanding his cast and crew, and instead focused on getting everyone’s job done, and done right. Perhaps more than the awards he has received, his fellow film workers now remember him more for his grace, his chivalry and his humility. It is not surprising then that in an industry rife with rivalry and politicking, Eddie Garcia has virtually no critics or enemies.

Until the very end, he believed that he should never retire, preferring to work for as long as his health permitted. We lost him, yes, while doing what he loved best, in an accident that he did not deserve. Who knows how many more films and TV shows he could have done. How many more awards he could have won. How many more audiences would have looked forward to his formidable performances and Instagrammable one-liners.

And in his passing, we have lost an even bigger star than the film industry’s kings and queens. A true legend in his own right whose body of work has transcended three or four generations of movie audiences.

Because however the kings and queens of cinema come and go, there can only be one Manoy.

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