MANILA, Philippines – (4th UPDATE) Veteran director Marilou Diaz Abaya succumbed to breast cancer on Monday night. She was 57.
Her son David Abaya informed Star Cinema that Abaya passed away at 6:45 p.m. at the hospital.
"We are deeply saddened by the passing of one of our dearest friends and mentors Direk Marilou Diaz Abaya," Star Cinema said in a statement.
"Her Star Cinema family will forever feel her loss. She was one of our pillars and we will forever be indebted to her for her contributions to the industry," the statement added.
Diaz-Abaya, who graduated from Communication Arts from the Assumption College in 1976, is considered among the country’s finest directors – male or female – with a body of work that includes more than 20 films and television shows.
She has won numerous directing awards from the Gawad Urian, the Film Academy of the Philippines, FAMAS, Star Awards and the Catholic Mass Media Awards.
In 2001, Diaz-Abaya was awarded the Arts and Culture Prize of the Fukuoka Asian Culture Prizes, which praised her body of work for "harmoniously blending entertainment, social consciousness, and ethnic awareness."
"(Her work) has won acclaim both in the Philippines and abroad for its high level of artistic achievement. It is an ideal manifestation of the artistic culture of Asia, and so is most deserving of the Arts and Culture Prize of the Fukuoka Asian Culture Prizes," it added.
Diaz directed her first feature film, “Tanikala,” in 1980. But her follow-up movies, “Brutal,” “Moral,” “Karnal” and “Alyas Baby Tsina” quickly established her reputation as one of the country's most exciting filmmakers.
Her most famous movie is arguably the biopic “Jose Rizal” with Cesar Montano as the national hero, released in 1998 in time for the country’s centennial celebrations.
This marked the start of her successful collaboration with Montano, who starred in her succeeding movies, “Muro Ami,” about the problem of dynamite fishing; and “Bagong Buwan,” which addressed the conflict in Mindanao.
Montano said the Philippine movie industry has lost a "rare gem."
In a statement after learning of Diaz-Abaya's death, Montano said: "This is a very, very sad day for us and the movie industry. We lost not only a dear friend and family but also a rare gem in the industry."
"Direk Marilou fought the good fight. She will always be remembered for all her contribution to the industry and the excellence by which she rendered all those," he added. "She will always be an inspiration."
Diaz-Abaya's last movie was last year’s “Ikaw Ang Pag-ibig,” released by Star Cinema.
Born on March 30, 1955 in Quezon City, Diaz-Abaya took her Master of Arts in Film and Television from Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles, and also pursued post-graduate studies at the London International Film School.
She also founded the Marilou Diaz-Abaya Film Institute and Arts Center, a film school based in Antipolo.
She is married to cinematographer Manolo Abaya and is the mother of rocker Marc Abaya.
According to Arlington Memorial Chapel, a wake will held for Abaya at the Ateneo de Manila University, where she was a filmmaking instructor.