A glorious night for Gloria Romero
STARBYTES - Butch Francisco () - June 22, 2004 - 12:00am
In the many, many years I’ve been sitting on top of the Urian show (from the Manunuri end), this most recent one – held last Saturday night at the AFP Theater – gave me the least headache. Unlike in the past when prima donna performers would threaten to walk out of a production number, every Urian participant this time behaved like an angel. Solutions were always at hand even before a production problem would crop up.

Even the last-minute cancellation of the children’s choir that was going to back up Jolina Magdangal was easily remedied because a choir is a choir and every school and parish has one and it was not really that difficult to find a replacement. In fact, by the time casting director Jojo Gabinete told me about this minor kink, they already had half solved the problem.

I guess it also helped that Manunuri and our TV producer, Mr. Antonio Tuviera’s APT Entertainment, are already on our third year of partnership and we already know what to expect from each other.

And since majority of the APT Entertainment people are from Eat Bulaga and know how to run a good show without panicking, our pacing was relaxed. My communications with the ever-reliable Malou Choa-Fagar, who was over-all in-charge of production, were mostly by phone and we hardly sat down to meet and discuss the details of the program.

When I went over the script of Noel Ferrer, the one and only item I agonized over was whether or not I should delete that portion that mentions our chairperson Dr. Gigi Javier Alfonso’ joining the Binibining Pilipinas (she was semi-finalist and Miss Talent) in the past. (I’m not saying what year. Just ask Yogi Dominguez.) It was three o’clock in the morning when I was reviewing the Urian script of Noel and I thought it was perfect and I didn’t want to touch it so I let that item go. Of course, Gigi was needled endlessly about that during our post-awards dinner later at the Pen.

On the night of the Urian, the tiangge in Greenhills where I was coming from made it impossible for me to get to the AFP Theater early enough to trouble shoot last-minute problems. Mercifully, there was none and most of the nominees were already there when I got to the venue.

My first concern was Ms. Gloria Romero. I knew she would be there early. When I found her, she was seated in the middle row almost at the back of the orchestra section. Former Manunuri Mario Bautista (who came with lovely and brainy wife Vicky) later gave me a light scolding for not providing a more appropriate seat for our Natatanging Gawad Urian recipient (she came with Sampaguita Pictures matriarch, Mrs. Azucena Vera Perez and Mrs. Nina Tarnate). Gloria Romero, however, is one movie queen who would rather not call attention to herself. She said she was perfectly happy in her seat and was set to enjoy the show from there.

Checking out the rest of the theater, I saw Best Actress nominee Katherine Luna of Babae sa Breakwater dressed fabulously. For a while, the buzz was that she was going to win the lead actress race. They got the information wrong – although she too gave a wonderful performance in the film. But the winner was a few seats away – Cherry Pie Picache (for Bridal Shower) lovely in a red terno and if I’m not mistaken, she must be the first Urian winner to accept the award in our national costume.

When the program began, it was already a little past eight and in no time at all, hosts Janno Gibbs, Michael V. and Pia Guanio were already entertaining the audience with their non-stop humor even during the breaks.

Then it was time to crown the Natatanging Gawad Urian winner. No less than the great Dolphy (himself a Natatanging Gawad Urian recipient) read the tribute to Ms. Gloria Romero who, with her queenly bearing, was literally made to walk down a red carpet rolled out especially for her. In her extremely heartfelt acceptance speech, she thanked her dearly departed parents, Mr. and Mrs. Pedro Galla but in her excitement forgot to mention her daughter Maritess who was then supervising a big function at the Celadon Restaurant in Eastwood and I think even her grandson Christopher. ("If you were in my position that time," she would later point out to Maritess at home, "you would have forgotten too.")

A few minutes into her speech, tears were already streaming down Gloria Romero’s cheeks and this prompted the still dapper Dolphy to give her his handkerchief which was part of his fashion accessory. (At home, Maritess who caught the proceedings on TV also cried hearing her mother’s speech.)

Then, it was time to hand the Best Supporting Actor trophy which went to Albert Martinez (for Magnifico) who came with his lucky charm, wife Liezl. It was at this point when I remembered that Gloria Romero was up for another award (Best Supporting Actress for Magnifico). She didn’t know she was going to win of course.

When I looked her up, she was being hounded by autograph seekers and a stream of movie fans wanting to have their pictures taken with her. From where she was, she had to descend several steps and it was a long way down and I remembered she has vertigo and may just collapse (add to that the excitement of winning) on her way to accepting her second award for the night. With mighty speed, I ran toward her and I found her trembling. We finally made it to the stage and there she gave another acceptance speech.

No doubt, Gloria Romero was the most glorious winner that night. Ganda ng lola mo–as Ricky Reyes so aptly coined.

Even in the beauty and glamour department–and no offense to the other beautiful actresses that evening–I dare say that Gloria Romero at 70 is still the fairest and loveliest of them all.

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