Karate king of Philippine movies dies

By BOY VILLASANTA, abs-cbnNEWS.com

Posted at Feb 11 2009 11:14 AM | Updated as of Feb 11 2009 07:34 PM

Roberto Gonzales (second from left) with erstwhile Hong Kong karate superstar Meng Fei (extreme right), former husband of Elizabeth Oropesa, with two friends.

Karate King of Philippine Movies Roberto Gonzales died of a heart attack on February 5. He was 66.

Gonzales’s body lies in state at his friend’s house in Tandang Sora, Quezon City.

“Maliit kasi ang pasilyo papunta sa bahay namin kaya nagprisinta ‘yong kaibigan niya na dito na siya iburol,” partner Rose said.

Gonzales had sired two children with his former house help Rose - Rhoda, third year, and Bobby, first year high school.

“Eighteen lang ako no’n nang pumunta sa kanilang bahay sa Project 6. Ako ang nagtatrabaho sa kanyang bahay. May pera pa siya no’n. Hanggang sa nawalan na siya ng girlfriend. Ako ang naiwan. Ako ang nag-alaga sa kanya hanggang ngayon,” confessed the now 40-year old common-law wife.

The former debonair karate expert, who introduced self-defense in the local movies in the tradition of Bruce Lee, had seven other kids with three women. He had three children with former leading lady Rina Imperial, who is now based in the United States, and two each with non-showbiz women.

“Nag-reunion nga ‘yong mga anak niya sa burol no’ng isang gabi,” chuckled Rose.

‘He died poor’

He used to be Fernando Poe Jr. and Joseph Estrada’s rival at the tills during the late 60s and early 70s. There was even a time that Gonzales had surpassed the combined box-office receipts of both Estrada and Poe’s movies.
 
He was famous and rich but, somewhere along the way, he lost his popularity and his millions. Gonzales died poor.

Years before he succumbed to second heart attack last week, friends said he was like a beggar asking for alms from his colleagues in the film community.

“Nakakaawa talaga si Betong,” said comedian Amay Bisaya, referring to Gonzales’s pet name. 

There were no more movie offers except for occasional screen appearances. But the talent fees were still not enough to feed his family.

“Pero ang ipinanghihingi niya ng pera araw-araw sa kanyang mga kaibigan ay para sa kanyang dalawang anak na estudyante,” said dubber, actress and line producer Olive Madridejos.

Although interment has been scheduled on Sunday, Gonzales’s family has yet to look for additional money for funeral expenses.

Senators Ramon “Bong” Revilla Jr. and Lito Lapid, who are also actors, have already sent flowers. His family said hopefully financial donations would follow.

“Pag nagkakasakit noon si Betong, sina Bong at Lito ang nagbibigay sa akin,” said Rose.