(UPDATE) Mel Chionglo, the critically praised director and screenwriter best known for working on dramatic films, has died. He was 73.
Film Development Council of the Philippines director Liza Diño-Seguerra, confirmed the news Saturday.
“He was always very cool.”
That was how multi-awarded scriptwriter Ricky Lee remembers Chionglo, for whose films he wrote many screenplays. Lee wrote the story and screenplay for Chionglo’s directorial debut, “Playgirl” (1981), starring Gina Alajar. From there, it was more than three decades of creative collaboration between the two.
“I think he really mentioned my name to his producers,” Lee happily bragged. “That was why up to his last film project last, we were working together.”
On Thursday morning, Lee recalled he received a phone call from Chionglo, who told him about the film they were about to do for Regal Films. “Mel told me to write a script for a new dramatic film,” Lee said. “He was excited about working with Mother Lily (Monteverde) again as his producer. They work well together, maybe because they are both Chinese”
That was a long phone call he had with Chionglo that Thursday morning, Lee remembers. “We even talked about his film, ‘Lucia’ (1992), with Lolita Rodriguez and Gina Alajar. The script was written by Lino Brocka. Mel was planning to ask Leo Katigbak to restore the film.”
Lee remembers Chionglo in the countless film festivals abroad that they graced together, like the Toronto Film Festival, which they both attended for “Sibak: Midnight Dancers” (1994). They also went to Berlin for “Lagarista” (2000), the first major film of Piolo Pascual.
“Inside the plane, Mel was always uneasy because he couldn’t smoke,” Lee shared. “On the set of his movies, he rarely got mad. He was often on one side, always smoking. I believe until his last day, he was smoking.”
Lee wrote the screenplay in a number of films that Chionglo directed, including the director’s last directorial assignment, “Deliver Us” (2016), that topbilled Allen Dizon, Aiko Melendez and Eddie Garcia.
In 2013, Lee wrote the screenplay in Chionglo’s “Lauriana,” starring Bangs Garcia, with Allen Dizon and Victor Basa. Also in “Bente” (2009) about the mysterious disappearance and killing of journalists and activists,“Twilight Dancers” (2006) and “Burlesk King” (1999), among others.
Born in Lucena City, Quezon in 1946, Carmelo Chionglo graduated from the Ateneo de Manila University with a Bachelor of Arts in Humanities degree. From 1966 to 1976, he studied acting and directing at the New York Academy of Theatrical Arts under Lee Strasberg and Stella Adler. At the same time, he also worked while in school.
When he returned to Manila in 1976, Chionglo started as a production designer in director Mike de Leon’s “Itim (The Rites of May)” (1977) starring Charo Santos and “Kung Mangarap Ka’t Magising” (1978) with Christopher de Leon and Hilda Koronel.
Chionglo also wrote the screenplay for Lino Brocka’s “Wake Up, Maruja” (1978) with Susan Roces and “Ina, Kapatid, Anak” (1979), with Lolita Rodriguez, Charito Solis and Rio Locsin.
Also in Ishmael Bernal’s “Salawahan: (1979) starring Rio Locsin, Eddie Romero’s “Aguila” (1980) with Fernando Poe, Jr. and Laurice Guillen’s “Kasal” (1980) with de Leon and Koronel.
In 1981, when Chionglo felt he was ripe enough to work at the helm of a movie, he made his directorial debut in Regal Films’ “Playgirl.” That started his illustrious directorial career that undoubtedly gave him made him respect in the industry and made him reap a number of awards.
He worked with a number of respected performers including Dina Bonnevie in “Anak” (1982), Maricel Soriano in “Summer Holiday” (1983), “I Love You, I Hate You” (1983) and “Babaeng Hampaslupa” (1988), Susan Roces in “Nasaan Ka Nang Kailangan Kita” (1986) and “Paano Kung Wala Ka Na” (1987)
Chionglo also acted in “Ang Anak ni Brocka” (2005), written and directed by Sigfreid Barros Sanchez, with Gina Alaja, Phillip Salvador, Bembol Roco and Jaclyn Jose as his co-stars.
Meanwhile, veterans in the Filipino film and TV industry took to social media to mourn the late director's death.
The Director's Guild of the Philippines also mourned his demise.
-- With a report from Leah C. Salterio