Eddie Garcia passes away at 90

Leah C. Salterio, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jun 20 2019 05:18 PM | Updated as of Jun 21 2019 06:43 PM

Eddie Garcia poses with his trophy after winning the People's Choice award at the 7th Asian Film Awards in Hong Kong on March 18, 2013. The Asian Film Awards, organised by the Hong Kong International Film Festival and held annually since 2007, are aimed at showcasing the region's movie talent. Philippe Lopez. AFP

MANILA -- (UPDATED) Multi-awarded actor-director Eddie Garcia passed away on Thursday at 4:55 p.m. after suffering from a neck fracture, a hospital confirmed. He was 90.

He tripped and fell while shooting a TV series for GMA Network last June 8 and had been in critical condition. He was officially diagnosed with a severe cervical fracture and was placed on "do-not-resuscitate" status last June 15. 

"We join the entire Filipino community in praying for the soul of Mr. Garcia and his dearly beloved family and friends," the Makati Medical Center said in a statement. 

Garcia left behind an impressive and unforgettable legacy in a showbiz career that spanned nearly 7 decades, with over 600 films to his name as an actor and film director. 

His death came just days after he was awarded the Gawad Urian for best actor for his role as a delusional military officer who tortures students in the 2018 Cinemalaya movie "ML." 

Eduardo Verchez Garcia was born on May 2, 1929, in Juban, Sorsogon. His parents were Antonio Garcia and Vicenta Verchez.

Garcia spent his early years in Juban. After World War II, he was stationed as a military policeman in Okinawa, Japan.

He was part of the occupation troops of the Philippine Scouts with the US Army for 3 years. 

However, in 1949, President Elpidio Quirino disbanded the troops. Garcia would have wanted to re-enlist for the US Army, but he got sidetracked and joined the movies instead.

A man named George Sanderson convinced him to try out as one of the talents for director Manuel Conde, who was developing a swashbuckling film, “Siete Infantes de Lara.”

There were about 40 who were screen-tested and after 10 days, Conde chose 7 and the good-looking Garcia was one of them, along with Sanderson. The others were Mario Montenegro, Johnny Monteiro, Albert Madison, Terry Campillos, and Jimmy Castelvi.

Eddie Garcia and Susan Roces from the movie Maruja released in 1967. Lea Productions

Since then, there was no turning back for Garcia. While he really wanted to become a soldier when he was younger, Garcia was destined to face the cameras.

Garcia remembered how they were made to practice discipline on the set in Sampaguita Pictures. They were instructed to be always punctual. If the call time for the shoot was 8 a.m., the actors had to be on location at that time.

Garcia recalled how one actor often lost his weekly allowance because the latter was always late. Punctuality was strictly observed and the actors were fined every time they were late.

DIVERSE ROLES 

In his early years, Garcia portrayed villain roles – from a robber to a rapist to a killer. When people hated him for the bad-boy role that he did, Garcia knew he was effective in his portrayal.

To him, that was a “bonus,” as he asserted that filmmaking was simply a job. An actor is only good as his last job and when he makes it to his next assignment, that’s the best recommendation he can get.

Philippine cinema industry leaders (from left) Rodolfo Quizon, Fernando Poe Jr., and Eddie Garcia link hands while marching on the Philippine Senate in Manila, 20 January 2003. The actors protested the planned imposition of a 10-percent value added tax (VAT) on their services. Joel Nito, AFP

Aside from essaying villain roles, Garcia was also known for his comedy-action films punctuated with his humorous lines.

He was known never to be selective with the roles offered to him. From a priest to a rebel, from a closeted person to a loud, cross-dressing gay, Garcia portrayed every part proudly.

Versatile and enduring, hero and anti-hero, comedy, drama, and even action, Garcia attacked minor or major roles with equal fervor.

Acting was his profession. Known for his versatility onscreen, Garcia never got tired. Being on the set invigorated him and he worked in showbiz for 7 decades.

Neither did he have qualms about billing. To him, as long as his name was spelled correctly, that was the only thing that mattered.
    
In 2018’s Cinemalaya entry, “ML (Martial Law),” Garcia played a retired Metrocom colonel with a slight dementia. At the helm was Benedict Mique.

Actor Eddie Garcia answers questions during the press conference of the movie ML (Martial Law). Screengrab/ABS-CBN News

In the 2018 Metro Manila Film Festival (MMFF) award-winning entry, “Rainbow’s Sunset,” Garcia portrayed a senator who had a gay romance with Tony Mabesa. The film was directed by Joel Lamangan and written by Eric Ramos.

Movie poster on Rainbow’s Sunset released by Heaven’s Best Entertainment

Ramos felt honored that he got to work with Garcia. "He was the epitome of professionalism," Ramos said. "He was all praises for the script of 'Rainbow's Sunset.' He told me it was one of the best scripts that he had come across in his whole career."

For his part, Lamangan said, "He is a great actor. He is the epitome of the word professionalism."

They worked in many movies together, not just in "Rainbow's Sunset." He directed Eddie Garcia in "Blue Moon," "Mano Po," "Death Row," and "Fuschia," among others.

In 2012, he headlined a Cinemalaya entry, “Bwakaw,” where he played yet another gay role under the direction of Jun Lana.

Acting was not Garcia’s only profession as he also excelled in directing memorable films.

In 1961, Garcia made his directorial debut in “Karugtong ng Kahapon,” starring Mario Montenegro, Rita Gomez, Ric Rodrigo, Marlene Dauden, Carlos Salazar, Rosa Mia, and Zeny Zabala.

Garcia was best remembered for Nora Aunor’s “Atsay” (1978), Sharon Cuneta in “P.S. I Love You” (1981), “Forgive and Forget” (1982), “Cross My Heart” (1982), “Friends in Love” (1982), and “Kailan Sasabihing Mahal Kita” (1985).

Garcia also megged memorable Vilma Santos starrers like “Palimos ng Pag-ibig” (1986), “Saan Nagtatago ang Pag-ibig” (1987), and “Imortal” (1989), as well as Dina Bonnevie in “Magdusa Ka” (1986), “Kung Aagawin Mo ang Lahat sa Akin” (1987), and “Kung Kasalanan Man” (1989), and Lorna Tolentino in “Abakada Ina” (2001).

He was the only individual inducted in 3 categories in the FAMAS Hall of Fame: Best Actor, Best Supporting Actor, and Best Director.

Photo from vide048.blogspot.com

Earlier, he was the only actor to win 3 consecutive Best Supporting Actor FAMAS Awards – “Taga sa Bato” (1957), “Condenado” (1958), and “Tanikalang Apoy” (1958).

Meanwhile, Garcia won the Urian Best Actor award from the Manunuri ng Pelikulang Pilipino in 2000 for “Death Row.” The following year, the Natatanging Gawad Urian was bestowed upon him.

Garcia earned his first international film acting award at the 55th Asia-Pacific Film Festival in December 2012 for lead actor in “Bwakaw."

He maintained a healthy lifestyle through exercise, vitamin supplements, and a healthy diet of fish and vegetables, with occasional meat. He read books and practiced shooting that took him to Fort Bonifacio, Valenzuela, and as far as Cagayan de Oro, Cotabato, and Cebu.

According to his granddaughter Elaine, Garcia had three children — actor Eddie Boy, who died in a motorcycle accident in the '70s; Elizabeth, who died of heart attack in 1996; and Erwin, the only surviving child, aged 64. Garcia has seven grandchildren, including Elaine.

In the 2004 presidential elections, Garcia and ace comedian Dolphy campaigned for late actor Fernando Poe, Jr. However, just like Dolphy, Garcia was never lured or tempted to dip his hat into the political ring.

Movie star and opposition candidate Fernando Poe (left) huddles with his campaign staff, former comedian, Senator Tito Sotto (right) and film star Eddie Garcia (2nd from right) after meeting local leaders in Zamboanga City 19 May 2004. Christian Donio, AFP

He played the roles of mayor, senator, generals, and colonels, some even in true-to-life flicks.

Who can forget his role as a philandering husband in comedy flicks like “May Lamok sa Loob ng Kulambo” (1984) or “May Daga sa Labas ng Lungga,” (1984) opposite former Miss Universe Gloria Diaz? Both films were megged by Danny Zialcita.

Poster of 1984 movie “May Lamok sa Loob ng Kulambo.” Essex Films

Many portrayals were marked, if not memorable. However, the roles ended as soon as Garcia detached his character from the glare of the film cameras.

The actor took many vitamins, from A to Z, daily as part of his health regimen. His secret? He did everything in moderation. He never retired from acting. While he did slow down in making movies or acting in teleseryes, Garcia never left the business.

Had he remained in the US Army, Garcia attested he could have fought in the Korean war or if he survived it, he could have joined the Vietnam war. Or he could have been killed, too.

Eddie Garcia for "ML" wins Best Actor during the awards ceremony for Cinemalaya 14 in Pasay City on August 12, 2018. Mark Demayo, ABS-CBN News

Aware that he couldn’t avoid death, Garcia had long prepared for his demise. He never wanted to be seen inside the casket. From his deathbed, he wanted to be cremated immediately.

No obituary, no wake. His ashes would be spread on the sea, at Manila Bay. That, too, was instructed early on to a pilot friend.

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