His name was so familiar as many of our friends would mention him every now and then. For years, I’d hear how good an artist he was, how well he made caricatures and what a kind person he was.
I finally met him around 6 years ago. An American mestizo, he was tall and stocky— a mutual friend once commented that he looked every inch a friar. When he spoke, it became obvious that indeed, he was a benevolent soul as he could speak in the gentlest tone even as his guffaws were as loud as thunderclaps on a calm, moonless night.
Gilbert “Gibet” Torres was a pioneer animator. He is also the creator of Chuckie and a few other characters on familiar products. He was the artist Jose W. Diokno preferred. He was also a teacher and was a student for even a longer period—a student of the arts and of life itself. I remember the way he described his wife Arcie and how he knew she was the one he would marry when he first saw her at the top of the stairs of their office building. As it turned out, they were going to be working at the same unit!
Though my husband knew him since their college days, Alex, a mutual friend, introduced us. Alex, George (another mutual friend) and I taught at the same university in Manila. When Alex and I reconnected, we all got together and spent hours talking about anything and everything.
For a few years, we would meet around New Year in Chinatown. After a sumptuous lunch, we would walk and the three of them would discuss the Noli Me Tangere and would attempt to point out where Capitan Tiago’s house or some other structure the book mentioned would have stood. Sometimes, we would look at old buildings and they would explain to us the characteristics of the architecture at the time the buildings or churches were built.
We would spend afternoons at our dining table with coffee and more stories, mostly about historical figures, heroes— those the general public knew and some, our own. There were times when we would meet at DZUP where George had a show and I would hear the same discussions we always had, but mostly about music.
Our last such get-together was at the UP Lagoon early this year. Arcie was not always able to join us, but this time, she did. We brought my brother along as they had all gone to the same boys’ elementary and high school (except for George). That was the last time I saw him in that mood—slightly thinner, perhaps, but with the same jolly spirit.
That is how I would like to remember this friend who was like an older brother to me. He would tell me ever so gently to be more understanding of others, sometimes sharing some observations, little disappointments and hurts. There were times when he was like a teenager, reminiscing their courtship days. Other times, he was a proud father and lately, a grateful lolo.
Though I would not say that I took him for granted, I always thought he would always be around and we would always have those engaging conversations. I should have known that when we visited the Lumads outside the UP DCMT complex, it would be one of the last times we would be together. He had just been released from hospital and he decided to go home earlier than usual.
Last week, as I prepared for a group report we were to present that day, I happened to see Arcie’s post, asking for prayers. By lunch time, I heard about the Supreme Court decision on the Libingan Ng Mga Bayani, immediately followed by a short message posted by Gibet’s daughter. He was gone.
There are many other stories to tell about him and what he did for others. His achievements were the drawings and the art works he created, the lessons his students learned, the friendships that grew because he was always there to listen and understand, and most of all, his family.
I am so grateful to have had Gibet as a friend. And I am even more grateful to Arcie and their family for having shared him with us.
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