Veteran actors, directors remember fond memories of Tony Mabesa

Jervis Manahan, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Oct 07 2019 11:19 AM

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MANILA -- In the world of Philippine theater, no name "scares" younger artists more than Tony Mabesa.

Known for his tough love and strict discipline during rehearsals, Mabesa has raised generations of student theater actors and actresses who eventually made their own illustrious names not just in theater but also in the big and small screens.

On Sunday night, industry stalwarts, former and current students, and friends visited the wake of the late director to remember their fond memories of Mabesa.

“Siya ang kauna-unahang director na pinagalitan ako on stage. Artista na ako ‘non, then I did a play. Talagang pinagalitan niya ako ‘non. Sinabihan niya ako in front of many people na never laugh on stage. ‘Yun ang fondest memory ko sa kanya. Talagang dinibdib ko 'yun. I always take it by heart,” recalled actress Cherry Pie Picache.

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Veteran film director Andoy Ranay, who is behind blockbuster films "Diary ng Panget" and "Talk Back and You're Dead," was also mentored by Mabesa.

“He was my first teacher sa directing. I couldn’t forget what he told me na ginagawa ko hanggang ngayon, na half of a director’s job is done when you cast great actors. I always treasure that and I keep that to myself. Lagi ko ginagawa everytime I cast my actors.” said Ranay.

“Everytime I see him, kahit saan, everytime I go to UP to watch plays, lagi niya ako ino-offer-an ng dala-dala niyang fruits. Lagi ako sinasabihan na 'o, Andoy, kumain ka na ba? Etong fruits o.' Always he’s proud of me, of what I have become after being his student” he added.

Harlene Bautista, who also started her acting career in Dulaang UP, recalled funny moments during rehearsals. 

“Dati may role ako, ginawa na 'yun dati ni Eugene Domingo tapos nung ni-restage na, ako na sa role. May scene na maghuhubad. Maliligo na. Nung isang rehearsal, tinry namin 'yun na hubad, walang bra. Ta's sinabihan niya ako na mag-bra na lang. Sabi niya 'di bagay sa 'kin.” she said in jest.

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Also seen at the wake were comedian John Lapus, award-winning actress Candy Pangilinan, and theater director Alex Cortez.

Mabesa passed away doing what he love. His latest play "Fuente Ovejuna" is set to be staged in UP next month. 

His most notable contribution in his seven-decade career is establishing Dulaang UP and the UP Playwright Theater, the premier university’s official theater arm.

As a director, Mabesa brought world classics in Dulaang UP. His recent works include “Six Characters in Search of an Author” and “The Duchess of Malfi.” He has more than 170 shows to his name.

The legendary director might have passed away, but his legacy lives on.

“It’s always the discipline, when you work on stage, the craft, those were the things I learned from him. Kaya naman 'yun din ang pinapasa namin from the younger generations. 'Yung discipline, you hone it, you work for it, you do your homework,” said Picache.

“He’s always been like that saming anak niya sa theater. Siya talaga tatay namin. Siya second father namin lahat,” Bautista added.

Aside from directing theater productions, Mabesa also starred in some films.

His latest work was the film "Rainbow Sunset," where he played the character of Eddie Garcia’s lover. He won the Best Supporting Actor award for that role.

Mabesa, 84, passed away Friday night in the company of family and friends.