Portrait of Eddie Garcia by Tropicana Studio, circa 1950s.
Culture Movies

The public and private lives of Eddie Garcia

To his fans, he was an actor with great style and humor. To the women he worked with, he was a ladies man and a flirt (he taught Elizabeth Oropesa the art of the screen kiss!). To his son, he was “a very caring and loving father.”
Isidra Reyes | Jun 23 2019

At 4:55 PM Thursday, the 20th of June, 2019, Philippine cinema lost one of its revered treasures. After 12 days in deep coma, which followed a fall on the set of his latest teledrama, Eddie Garcia made his final curtain call. For almost two weeks, the actor’s fans were one in storming heaven and social media with outpourings of love and prayers for his recovery. And according to those around him in his last days, he put up a valiant fight to the end, sustained by love and support from family, colleagues, friends, and admirers. His unprecedented 70-year career as one of the country’s most versatile, gifted, hardworking, loved, and multi-awarded actors and directors gave Garcia that aura of immortality and invincibility. He outlived most of his contemporaries and it seemed, for a while there, he would outlive us all.

More on Eddie Garcia:

Growing up in a farm 

He was born Eduardo Verchez Garcia in Juban, Sorsogon on May 2, 1929, the eldest child of Antonio Garcia, son of a Captain in the Spanish Army and a Kapampangan from Macabebe, Pampanga who settled in Buhi, Camarines Sur. His mother is Vicenta Verchez, from Juban, Sorsogon. Eddie had four siblings: Mila, Efren, Menchu, and Santiago. Santiago would later become an Assistant Director to Fernando Poe, Jr. 

As Eddie once recounted in an interview with Emmie G. Velarde: “(I)grew up in a farm, running after chickens, watching the chickens lay their eggs, swimming in a nearby river when the summer heat made the farm animals too lazy to play with (me)...When I was a child, my mother required all of us to be at the dinner table at a certain time. I almost always followed this, because she blew up a storm whenever anyone disobeyed. All my playmates weren’t worth my parents’ displeasure. I knew how to follow rules as a kid.”

After spending his elementary years at the Sorsogon Elementary School, he was sent to San Beda College in Manila where he finished high school and spent three years in college working towards attaining an A.B. Psychology degree. 

 

Joining the army 

He would have wanted to become a lawyer but his plans were derailed when he was drafted into the Philippine Army in 1946, joining the Philippine Scouts, a unit of the Philippine Army which was assigned to the United States Army Philippine Department. Eddie was stationed in Okinawa, Japan and served with the occupation forces thereat. 

In 1947, President Harry Truman disbanded the Philippine Scouts as an official element of the U.S. Army and was finally disbanded in 1948. 

According to Eddie, in an interview with Ricky Lo in 1984,he was ready to return to Okinawa to enlist as a CID agent. With his good record in the Philippine Scouts, the Provost Marshall was to recommend him to go to an officers’ school in the U.S., but fate had other plans. To honor his contributions for his service to the Philippine Military, the Philippine Military Academy Marangal Class of 1974 adopted him as one of its members.

 

The first audition 

It was in 1949, after serving with the Philippine Scouts, that Eddie embarked on his movie career. As he recounted to Ricky Lo in the same interview, he was staying with his aunt, Pilar Verches Yrastorza, whose house was just across Sampaguita Pictures. He would watch film shootings from the window of his aunt’s house. Eddie Romero, who was then doing a picture with Mario Montenegro, saw him and encouraged him to try the movies.

Just then, Manuel Conde advertised his search for seven new faces to play the sons of Duke Busto de Lara (Manuel Conde) in his spectacular swashbuckling costume epic, ​Siete Infantes de Lara (1950), ​produced and directed by Conde himself​.​

“He was staying with his aunt, Pilar Verches Yrastorza, whose house was just across Sampaguita Pictures. He would watch film shootings from the window of his aunt’s house.”

Among those fortunate to have been chosen for the project were Montenegro, Johnny Monteiro, Jaime Castellvi (uncle of actor Romano Castellvi), George Sanderson (who later joined the U.S. Navy), Jose Martinez, Albert Madison (brother of actress Elvira Reyes), and Eddie.

Still photo from Manuel Conde’s Siete Infantes de Lara (1950), Eddie Garcia’s first movie, where he played one of seven sons of the Duke Busto de Lara played by Manuel Conde. Source: CCP Encyclopedia of Art, 2nd ed.

His father and siblings approved of his becoming an actor. By then, his mother had already passed away (she did so in 1948), while Eddie was still stationed with the Philippine Scouts in Okinawa.

After four movies with LVN Pictures, Eddie was signed up by Sampaguita Pictures in 1950 as an exclusive contract star for 14 years. He became the studio’s resident ​contravida. So effective was he as a villain that he recalls being hit on the head with an umbrella—at the film premiere in Life Theater— by an irate elderly movie fan of Gloria Romero after watching him attempt to molest the virginal movie queen onscreen. 

Among his most memorable movies for Sampaguita Pictures were ​Gilda(1956), Taga Sa Bato (1957), Sino Ang May Sala(1957), Condenado(1958), Kamandag(1959), Tanikalang Apoy (1959). It was in Sampaguita Pictures where he honed not only his craft as an actor but his exemplary professionalism. 

It was also during his Sampaguita Pictures days when he began to reap acting awards, winning the FAMAS Best Supporting Actor nod for three consecutive years:Taga Sa Bato (1957), Condenado(1958), and TanikalangApoy (1959). ​

 

Yes, direk

In 1961, Sampaguita Pictures gave him his first directorial assignment, ​Karugtongng Kahapon, ​based on a story by Clodualdo del Mundo serialized in Tagalog Klasiks. The WWII epic starred Montenegro again, as well as Rita Gomez, Ric Rodrigo, Marlene Dauden, Carlos Salazar, and Rosa Mia. 

Eddie Garcia in his directorial debut, Karugtong ng Kahapon (1961). Source: Video 48

According to Eddie, in an interview with Remy Umerez in 1979, even during his Sampaguita days, he was already dreaming of directing. He gave himself fifteen years to accomplish it, but got his break in only 11 years.

After the expiration of his 14-year contract with Sampaguita Pictures, Eddie became a freelancer. He worked in films by independent producers, among which were Emar Pictures’ Ito Ang Pilipino (1966), ​starring Joseph Estrada and directed by Cesar “Chat” Gallardo, for which he won his fourth FAMAS Best Supporting Actor award​; ​and Patria Adorada (1969)​, also from Emar, again co-starring Joseph Estrada, but this time directed by Augusto Buenaventura. Patriawon him his fifth FAMAS Best Supporting Actor award. This was followed by Roda Film Productions’ NuevaVizcaya (1973) ​co-starring Zaldy Zshornack, Vic Vargas, and Eva Reyes and directed by Pablo Santiago, for which Eddie won his sixth FAMAS Best Supporting Actor award. Among his other significant movies from this era were Armando Garces’ ​De Colores(1969)​, where he played a repentant cursillista; and Lino Brocka’s ​Tubog Sa Ginto (1971​), a movie he was particularly proud of where he played an outwardly respectable family man whose homosexual relationship with his driver destroyed his marriage and the love and respect of his family. 

In 1969, Eddie won his first FAMAS award as Best Director for ​Pinagbuklod Ang Langit​, which starred Luis Gonzales and Gloria Romero as President Ferdinand E. Marcos and First Lady Imelda R. Marcos. The movie was shown the year President Marcos sought a second term as Philippine president and won.

FAMAS Best Actor awardee, Eddie Garcia, with Best Actress awardee, Charito Solis at the 1968 FAMAS Awards Night on the cover of Pilipino Magazine, 7 May 1969. Source: Rain Virgino, Manila Nostalgia

Even when he was already a multi-awarded actor and director, Eddie had a pragmatic approach towards his career and his choice of roles. In the early 1970s, when bomba movies were making a killing at the box office, he did not hesitate to drop his pants and go with the flow. Thus in his colorful and eclectic filmography can be found such titles as ​Erotika​(1970), ​HuwagKangMakiapid(1971)​, ​Udyok(1971), ​and ​BatutaniDrakula(1971)​. He was also “King of Sex Comedies,” and in 1984 alone, made six such sex comedies in a row: ​May Lamok Sa Loob ng Kulambo, May Daga Sa Labas ng Lungga, Atsay Killer, Mahilig, and Matukso Kaya Ang Anghel?

Nor was he particular about his billing. In his interview with Remy Umerez in 1979, he quipped: “I act primarily for money. Personal satisfaction comes secondary...I don’t make a fuss about billing. Even if they don’t put my name, okey lang sa akin. Even if your name is as big as the screen, that is not what people will remember, but your performance.”

 

Life and death

Not much was known about Eddie’s private life at the time. He was married with three children and lived at 628 Paraiso Street, San Juan, at his wife’s ancestral home. 

Eddie Garcia with his son, Erwin, bonding in a family affair. Source: Erwin Garcia

According to his only surviving son, Erwin, his father met his mother, Lucilla Scharnberg, a beautiful German-Cebuana mestiza born on 29 November 1927, at a barn dance at El Deposito, San Juan. They had three children: Eduardo “Eddieboy” Jr., Erwin, and Elizabeth whose nickname was “Lisa.” Of the three, only Eddieboy followed his father’s footsteps but his movie career was nipped in the bud. After being introduced as Eddie Garcia, Jr. in N.V. Productions’ ​Super Gee(1973) ​with Nora Aunor in the title role as a motorcycle-riding superheroine, Eddieboy perished in a motorcycle accident, leaving behind his wife, Aida, and two children, Elaine and Eduardo IV. 

Still photo from Super Gee (1973) starring Nora Aunor in the title role. Shown was Eddie “Eddieboy” Garcia, Jr., Eddie’s eldest son who would die soon after in a motorcycle accident. Source: Erwin Garcia

Eddieboy’s death greatly affected Eddie. When asked by Ricky Lo what was the biggest tragedy of his life, he answered: “When my son, my junior and my eldest, died in a motorcycle accident. He was only 22. It happened in the 1970s. It was painful. I got over the pain by keeping myself busy. I felt a little guilty because the motorcycle was my gift to him. But that is life.” 

The tragedy did not end there. He lost his wife to cancer and his daughter, Elizabeth, to heart attack in 1996. In 1985, the family home in Paraiso Street, San Juan was razed by fire and with it Eddie’s memorabilia and family photos.

Asked how Eddie was as a father, Erwin mused: “He is a very caring and loving father. He would always ask what I like to eat even when he was shooting on location... When I was nine years old, I always (went) with him in all his location shootings and (accompanied) him to target range shooting every weekend with my Kuya Eddieboy.” Erwin was a bright kid, a First Honor student at St. John’s Academy in San Juan where he grew up.

Eddie’s 90th birthday celebration with Lilibeth and family last 2 May 2019. It was his last. Source: Peewee Lagman Lapid

Eddie pursued his career with relentless passion and dedication, with 653 acting credits and 37 directing credits to his name. He would sometimes make five movies at the same time. During the 1970s and 1980s, he was perennially the “Busiest Star of the Year,” averaging around twenty films a year. In 1975, he made a record-breaking thirty films. And in all those years, he never stood up a shooting and would usually be the first on the set, way ahead of his co-stars.

To keep up with his busy work schedule, he took care of his health through regular exercise, a healthy diet, regular doctor’s check-ups, taking health supplements and vitamins, and getting at least six hours of sleep at night. He had no night life, didn’t indulge in hard drinks, didn’t smoke (he quit cold turkey in 1971). He did everything in moderation: “Moderation, moderation in everything. I don’t abuse myself,” he revealed when asked about the secret of his health.

During the 1970s and 1980s, he was perennially the “Busiest Star of the Year,” averaging around twenty films a year. In 1975, he made a record-breaking 30

In his seven decades in Philippine cinema and television, Eddie worked with the best directors in some of the finest movies he has made: Ishmael Bernal for ​Pagdating Sa Dulo​,Lino Brocka for ​Tubog Sa Ginto, Eddie Romero ​for ​Ganito Kami Noon, Paano Kayo Ngayon ​and ​Aguila, ​but he is best remembered for his films with Director Danny Zialcita: ​Palabra de Honor, Ang Kabiyak, ​and ​Nagalit Ang Buwan Sa Haba ng Gabi.

In more recent years, he deviated from mainstream action, drama, and comedy movies and gave some of his most textured and heartfelt performances in so-called “Indie” movies, among which were​Anino, ICU Bed # 7, Fuschia, Bwakaw, Mga Kuwentong Barbero, Rainbow Sunset, and Hintayan Ng Langit.

For a wide audience, he kept his presence felt in teleseryes. He was the unsinkable Don Emilio Syquia and Señor Gustavo Torralba in the long-running ABSCBN prime time series, Ang Probinsyano. He has likewise starred opposite Vice Ganda in two of Star Cinema’s biggest phenomenal comedy hit movies: ​The Unkabogable Praybeyt Benjamin ​and ​The Amazing Praybeyt Benjamin,​ incredibly as Vice Ganda’s macho general grandfather out to straighten his swishy ​apo.

FAMAS Best Supporting Actor 1958 awardee, Eddie Garcia, with Best Supporting Actress awardee, Marlene Dauden and Best Actress awardee, Rita Gomez. Source: movie-industry.blogspot.com

Beautiful women

In his long career, Eddie Garcia had the privilege of being paired with the most alluring actresses in Philippine Cinema. And they all had a high regard for his professionalism, his passion for work, his selfless generosity as a performer, his camaraderie, and for being a perfect gentleman.

Elizabeth Oropesa, who worked with Eddie Garcia in at least twenty movies including their first, Nueva Vizcaya,and Eddie’s very last,​ Circa(2019), ​has only fond memories of him. “I did many movies with Manoy Eddie. I met him in the ‘70’s. The one I remember the most is the box office movie produced by Papa Jessie Ejercito. It was my first solo (starring role), (Ishmael Bernal’s)​ Mister Mo, Lover Boy Ko(1975). It was in the theaters for three months!

“Manoy Eddie protected me and guided me ever so gently in all our love scenes. He taught me the technical aspect of how to kiss in the mouth without distorting one’s nose. He had class. I will miss our banter in Bicol. I will miss our little Bicolano secrets that would always make him laugh out loud. I will miss his golden laughter. I will miss his James Bond voice. I have lost the last of my three kings: Fernando Poe, Jr., Dolphy, and Eddie Garcia. I terribly miss them! They must be guffawing while hanging out in heaven, ​Mabalos tabi amigong maray Manoy Eddie!”

​Multi-awarded actress, Liza Lorena, who appeared in movies co-starring and directed by Eddie has vivid memories of the actor, too: “I met Eddie when I was 10 years old at the Sampaguita . I was with my mom and my Tita Pat who was the GF (girlfriend) then of Director Armando Garces. I found him very nice. I have made a lot of pictures with Eddie. Two are memorable to me. He played my husband in ​Dear Heart,​ directed by Danny Zialcita, and Magdusa Ka, w​hich Eddie directed. As an actor, he was very professional, friendly and very charming. But as a director, he was very strict. He won’t spoil you. He will be missed...because we are not ready to lose him. I won’t mention na lang his mischievous antics because he can be very funny! And a big flirt!”

“He taught me the technical aspect of how to kiss in the mouth without distorting one’s nose. He had class.”

The beautiful actress, Pilar Pilapil, who did at least fifteen movies with Eddie, remembers Eddie as very much a ladies man: “Eddie was a woman’s man in his younger days and everybody’s friend, a cool regular fellow. As an actor he was quite adventurous in going about his roles. As he got older he became an even better actor.” 

She recalls that Eddie had taken a liking to her but because she was in a relationship then, he did not pursue the courtship. Though over 20 years apart in age, their onscreen chemistry was very much evident in the movies they made together. Father and daughter, husband and wife, illicit lovers, adversaries, they’ve played them all together, always with flair, drama, and panache.

Though he may strike people as a ladies’ man, with his debonair looks and gentlemanly ways, Eddie has been in a relationship with his great love, Lilibeth Lagman Romero, for 33 years now. And he has been embraced by Lilibeth’s children, Congressman Mikee Romero and Architect Nikki Romero, as their stepfather, and by Lilibeth’s siblings and their families as their own. As written by Lilibeth’s niece, Rina: “They were each other’s worlds for 33 years. My aunt is a strong-willed and feisty lady. He was a charming and patient gentleman. Auntie Lili may seem tough to many but when the world crumbles, Tito Ed was her source of strength and support. He’d be there, quietly holding her hand and that would be enough.”

Eddie Garcia viewing his portrait in the Love Local Exhibit by Bench. Source: Miguel R. Pastor

In her eulogy last Friday, the first night of the wake for Eddie, which was held at the Heritage Park, movie queen Susan Roces paid tribute to Eddie’s kindness and his loving relationship with Lilibeth: “​Mahal ng lahat sa industriya si Eddie Garcia. Wala pa ata akong nakitang nasa pelikula--crew, director o artista-- na may masamang sinabi tungkol kay Eddie...At sa gabing ito, napatunayan ko kung ano talaga ang dahilan na si Eddie ay naging masaya hanggang sa kanyang pagtanda—o hanggang sa kanyang eternal youth. Dahil sa iyo” —referring to Lilibeth—“sa iyong mga anak, at kamag-anak, bukod sa pamilya ni Eddie, na binigyan siya ng punong-puno at busog na busog na pagmamahal. Dahil sa Inyo. Salamat.” 

Maraming Salamat, ​Manoy Eddie! You shall be greatly missed!