Mely Tagasa, best remembered for her decade-long role as the strict but endearing professor Miss Tapia in "Iskul Bukol," has passed away, her family announced Saturday morning.
The screen veteran, who would have turned 83 on April 16, had been comatose for a week after suffering a stroke. She was "weaned off her respirator" Thursday, according to her daughter Gina, in a "tough and painful decision" for their family.
"We accept," Gina wrote in a personal Facebook post prior to Tagasa's passing, cited here with permission. "We leave everything to the good Lord. If He wills her to continue enjoying a quality life at 83, then a miracle is bound to happen. If He decides to take Mommy home with Him, Eternal Life in Heaven awaits."
Gina is one of Tagasa's four children.
Becoming Miss Tapia was "serendipitous" for Tagasa, she told Inquirer in a 2017 interview. A scriptwriter prior to "Iskul Bukol," Tagasa had originally intended to submit her work to an agency, which happened to be auditioning, at that time, a role for a TV adaptation of the comic strip "Baltic and Co.".
With her hair in a bun and wearing glasses, she was instantly recognized by the comic strip creator, Roni Santiago, as the love-lorn and often-angry professor Miss Tapia who would complete the cast. In a stroke of luck for Santiago, Tagasa already had prior experience as an actress -- a radio talent to be exact, starting when she was 17.
In 1977, Miss Tapia's crossover appearance from "Baltic and Co." to the just-launched sitcom "Iskul Bukol" became a hit, and since then she had been a regular character in the series.
Tagasa became a staple on Philippine television for 15 years, as "Iskul Bukol" enjoyed one of the longest runs of a local sitcom. That series, starring the now-iconic trio of Tito Sotto, Vic Sotto, and Joey de Leon, also spawned four films -- most recently the 2008 reunion flick that re-visited the lives of Wanbol University graduates.
Fittingly, that film was one of Tagasa's last onscreen appearances -- a swan song of sorts with the same character she'd mastered for over a decade and made a household name.
Following her well-loved portrayal of Miss Tapia, Tagasa continued working in showbiz -- behind-the-scenes. She carried on her past work as a writer, and later as a producer.