Santos and Poe in 1979 at the FPJ Studios in Del Monte Avenue. Photo courtesy of Simon Santos

The life lessons Da King taught me

This fan looked beyond the celluloid image and found the essential Fernando Poe Jr. On the occasion of the action king's 16th death anniversary, Simon Santos shares why his love for FPJ runs deep 
ANCX Staff | Dec 15 2020

Most people know Simon Santos as the man behind the West Avenue video rental store Video 48 and the blog of the same name, a repository for Filipino movie ads and pictures from as early as the pre-war years. But did you know he is also a big FPJ fan? 

”I think I was nine nang isinama ako ng tita ko na manood ng sine sa Avenida,” recalls the now 68-year old. It was a double program screening and one of the featured movies was “Markado” (1960), the action star’s first jab at the Pinoy Western. “Tumatak sa murang isipan ko ang bilis ng kamay ng bidang lalaki sa paghawak ng sandata at ang galing niyang makipagtunggali at makipagsuntukan sa mga kalaban niya,” says Santos, answering ANCX’s questions in writing. “Simula noon, hinangaan ko na ang pangalang Fernando Poe, Jr.” 

Unlike the stereotypical fan’s way of expressing admiration, there’s something quite modest and very dignified about Santos’ approach to showing his appreciation for his idol. It goes beyond the fascination for the star's celluloid image and a weakness for his films. It’s like a man looking up to another man’s achievements from a distance, along with the way he’s approached life. 

The book Santos gave FPJ was a collection of his movie ads from 1955 to 2003. Image from Simon Santos

“I love FPJ both as a person and as an actor/producer/director,” says the movie fan. “Marami siyang natutulungang mga tao na hindi nababalita noon and you get to know all his good deeds after his death.” FPJ was a great actor, he says, citing his Famas Hall of Fame distinction. He was also a good producer, adding that his FPJ Productions has been one of the longest-running film outfits. He was a great director, too, both as D’lanor and Ronwaldo Reyes, his pseudonyms. Santos, being a collector and archivist, also admires Da King’s foresight when it came to film preservation. “Naipreserve niya halos lahat ng mga pelikula na ginawa niya.” 


Young fan

But of course like any young fan, Santos went through the phase of collecting movie ads from newspapers and magazines. It was a good thing his father was a peryodista—the famed artist and cartoonist Mauro Malang Santos—assuring the young Simon a constant supply of periodicals to cut images from. “Uso pa noon ang spiral notebooks at doon ko dinidikit ang lahat ng mga ads na aking nakukuha,” he recalls. 

He would have wanted to visit the action star on movie sets but many of his films were shot in faraway locations. “Sa Ilokos ang kadalasan, kaya walang pagkakataon makadalaw,” the QC resident remembers. “Merong mga pagkakataon nakikita ko siya nang malayuan pag nagshu-shoot siya within the FPJ studio sa Del Monte."

But he was able to have closer encounters with Da King over the years. On one of them, around the time of the 2004 election season when Mr. Poe ran for president, Santos gave his idol a custom-made book entitled “A Comprehensive Look: FPJ Movie Ads (1955-2003)” of which he only made two copies. He kept the other one for himself after asking Poe to sign it. “The book is fully illustrated with movie ads, articles, photos, which I painstakingly compiled since the 60s." 

A moment with Da King at the height of the 2004 presidential campaign. Image courtesy of Simon Santos

The book has six chapters, each representing a decade in Da King’s career. ”As he browsed and lifted the pages, he randomly mentioned some movies and made some comments," Santos recalls of that afternoon. "The movie ‘Dakilang 9,’ he said, released in the 60s was produced because of the success of a Western film, 'Magnificent 7' starring Steve McQueen. He also cited a film, 'Los Lacuacheros' made in the 50s, saying, ‘Wala kaming ginawa dyan sa pelikula na yan kung hindi maglakad ng maglakad lang hanggang sa huli.’”

Their first and only other encounter was way back in ‘79 at the FPJ compound, a meeting made possible by a director-friend, Teodorico Santos or Ka Ikong, who directed Poe in the 50s and 60s, in films such as ‘4 Valientes,’ ‘Saan Mang Sulok ng Daigdig,’ and ‘At Sila’y Dumating.’ “I told him, in Tagalog, that I have been his fan for the longest time, dating back in the early 60s,” Santos recalls of meeting Poe. “FPJ, in his usual typical stance, just smiled and grinned and blurted out jokingly, ‘Huwag kang maingay, tumatanda tayo niyan.’”


Aguila and some 

Every FPJ fan has a favorite FPJ movie and Santos' just happens to be Eddie Romero’s “Aguila,” the epic family saga structured on a son’s search for his missing father. It is considered the best Fernando Poe Jr. film and one of the most ambitious movies ever made in local cinema. ”Inilalarawn dito si FPJ bilang isang totoong tao—mabait matapang, mapusok, marupok, nagkakasala, nagkakamali, nagpapatawad.” The opposite of a god, is probably what Santos is saying. In a way, a departure from the star's usual underdog-becomes-hero or underdog-gets-his-vengeance silverscreen persona. 

The fan recalls a line from one of these characters, specifically the role of legendary gunslinger Daniel Barrion in “Ang Lalaki, ang Alamat, ang Baril” from 1978: “Huwag mong gawin sukatan ang baril sa katapangan ng isang tao,” Barrion tells a child. “Ang baril ay parang kasangkapan lamang. Maaring gamitin sa kabutihan o kasamaan. Ang sino man magpadala sa kapangyarihan ng baril ay unti-unti nababaon sa sariling karahasan hanggang hindi na siya makabangon at tuluyan na mawasak ang nalalabing kabutihan at karangalan ng kanyang pagkatao. Kaya lagi mong tatandaan, ang baril ay isang mabuti at masunuring alipin nguni’t masama at malupit na panginoon.” 

It sounds like one of the many lessons men learn from other men they look up to, men who are wiser, been through more of life's ups and downs. Which brings us to the many other lessons Santos has learned from his idol through the years, stuff that didn't exactly come from the actor's incarnations on celluloid. “Ang masasabi kong pinakamalaking impluwensiya ni FPJ sa akin ang pagmamahal niya sa kaniyang ina at mga kapatid,” the movie fan says, bringing up Poe’s very challenging adolescence. Fernando Poe Sr., the famous actor, you see, passed away when FPJ was only 12, leaving the junior to step up to the plate of being man of the house. 

The younger Poe was 15 when he made his first movie, ‘Anak ni Palaris’ (1955) which didn’t do so well in the box office. He went through the process of playing bit roles, supporting parts, even stunt doubles until the right project and the right time came: ‘Lo’Waist Gang’ in 1956, his launching movie. It became a big hit, sparking his serious, unstoppable rise to fame. 

“Nagpursigi siya sa buhay niya, pinagtapos niya ng pag-aaral lahat ng mga kapatid,” says Santos. “Lahat na tagumpay sa buhay niya ay naging inspirasyon at ehemplo sa akin at naging hamon para labanan ang mga pagsubok na dumadating sa buhay ko.”

iWantTFC FPJ Playlist will feature Remastered FPJ Movie titles for free and for a limited time only, from Dec 14-19. The iWANTTFC Featured Remastered Titles include "Agila ng Maynila," "Ang Alamat ng Lawin," "Ang Padrino," "Dito sa Pitong Gatang," "Isang Bala Ka Lang Part 2," "Pakners," "Umpisahan mo at Tatapusin ko," "Ayos na…Ang Kasunod."