I remember Tito Pinggoy
STAR BYTES - Butch Francisco () - March 17, 2011 - 12:00am

He was my Tito Pinggoy and he was dear to me.

But we didn’t have any blood relation whatsoever. How I wish — if only for the genes.

Stranger still was the fact that we never got to meet in person. At least, not when he was alive.

Tito Pinggoy was 1950s matinee idol Armando Goyena (born Jose Revilla), who passed away at age 88 last March 9 at the Cardinal Santos Medical Center.

Ricky Lo already paid him a most wonderful tribute in his Funfare Update last week. But I’ll never forgive myself if I didn’t give him my own goodbye piece — my own way of thanking him for that brief, but most precious time we spent together during the early part of 2002.

Unknown to a lot of people — no, not even his children, who are beloved friends to me — Tito Pinggoy and I became phone pals. Everything must have started after I gave him very positive reviews for Yamashita: The Tiger’s Treasure. Since the Revillas are of the finest breeding, I wasn’t surprised anymore when soon after he was on the phone thanking me for the kind words — all of which he richly deserved. He got my landline number from second daughter, Tina, who — along with hubby Serge Valencia — had been a friend for, heaven knows, how long.

That phone call lasted for about an hour or so. I will not swoon over today’s big names — maybe because I knew them from their humble beginnings and had become familiar with them. However, I am an ardent fan of the stars from yesteryear: To this day I still relish in my head having come face to face with the late great Katy dela Cruz more than a decade ago — when she was still in her early ‘80s.

And Armando Goyena was a huge LVN Pictures icon. I seized the moment and while I still had him on the line began asking him question after question about the good old days of Philippine movies. He willingly obliged, of course, but was surprised that I was all ears. Generations after them, he said, were hardly interested in senior stars. He was correct. We are a nation that does not care for people and events of the past, which is why we are still saddled with the same problems all these decades. We don’t learn from history and though we constantly change the names of our streets (done mostly through lobbying from remaining relations) to honor eminent Filipinos, we don’t bother to read up on their lives.

My communications by phone with Tito Pinggoy continued because I sought him out when I decided to write about the Pacific War to mark another anniversary of the liberation of Manila from the Japanese oppressors in February 1945.

After that interview, we would call up each other on the phone for no specific reason — just to say hi. I still specifically remember getting his calls or me ringing him up in that telephone that also doubled as a fax machine to send my columns to this paper. Although that contraption still works, I had retired it since I now get by through e-mail. We’d usually talk from 3 to 4 p.m. — with the afternoon sun scorching my face through the glass balcony door.

When I felt I had already earned his trust as a friend, I boldly asked him the answer to a question that had always intrigued me since I read the LVN book that will forever remain valuable for film research. One of the entries there stressed how Armando Goyena was so professional and lost his patience only twice: Once when he was made by his leading lady to wait for hours on the set. When the actress finally arrived, he promptly removed the makeup on his face and left.

The book didn’t name the female star and so I remained curious all those years regarding her identity. It wasn’t all that easy getting the info from him, but he finally blurted it out. The gentleman that he always was, he quickly pointed out that the actress had a most valid reason for being tardy: She had a sick child who didn’t want mommy to go.

He also made me promise not to print the name of the actress and I am not breaking my word even if he is gone. But I did put down in writing some of his stories from the past.

As always, he’d call to say thank you after reading my article on him and his LVN experiences in this paper. Was I always taking down notes every time we’d talk? He wanted to find out. When I said no, he marveled at what he described as my retentive memory. Everyone close to me knows that, but I’m also getting older and I feel I am beginning to lose it.

And then our communications stopped. It was only later that I discovered he already had Alzheimer’s disease all that time we were phone pals. In fact, that had already been diagnosed even when he was still doing the Yamashita movie.

The family only found out about the Alzheimer’s when he began calling up his children four times a day asking the same question. Once, he told Tina that he saw her Mom, the former Paquita Roses, crossing the street in a green duster. The famous beauty that Tita Paquita was had already passed away a couple of years then and never in her lifetime would she be caught dead wearing dusters.

Tito Pinggoy was promptly brought to the doctors in St. Luke’s in Quezon City and memory specialists confirmed the children’s fears.

But why was he always coherent and lucid with me during all our talks? Tina later explained that people afflicted with Alzheimer’s at some point always remember — very vividly — events from the very distant past, but would be clueless regarding the present.

His condition worsened in time, but the Revilla kids will always be thankful to the good Lord that their father was never violent, which is typical with most other patients with Alzheimer’s.

What the Revilla siblings probably do not know is that their father every so often told me how fortunate he was to have been blessed with such good children. Each time I would ask him how he was doing, he’d tell me: “I stay with Maritess (she is simply Tess to family) and she’s taking good care of me. She’s a wonderful daughter.” Maybe so that his other kids won’t get jealous — and to be fair, he would always add: “All my children are very good to me and I’m lucky to have them.”

I saw for myself how much the Revillas loved their father on the night their Dad won his first FAMAS Best Actor award — for the Yamashita film. I was watching that on TV and from the Aliw Theater where the event was held was one row of beautiful Revilla sisters (only son Johnny must have been seated toward the end to give the girls the best seats). When his name was announced winner, I howled with joy along with them even if I was in my living room and they couldn’t hear me.

That night was truly a triumph for Tito Pinggoy. In the ‘50s, he had been nominated for a trilogy where he played three different characters. Since the organizers said that they were looking for one solid, but single performance in a particular film that weakened his chances of winning. It broke his heart, but wife Paquita assured him that he will get his FAMAS one day. Sadly, she was no longer around when he got his Best Actor trophy at age 78 — after more than four decades since he quit the movies.

That FAMAS trophy was on display when he was lying in state at the Santuario de San Antonio in Forbes Park last week. It stood proudly along with other memorabilia in front of his closed casket.

When the children decided to take a look at him resting peacefully during the early hours of Saturday — when his remains were cremated — I saw him in the flesh for the first time in my life. He looked handsome and dignified in a dark suit with a grey tie, clutching a rosary in his hands. Finally, we met.

Tito Pinggoy, I promise you will be among the first on that side of the departed I will call and alert when it is my time. Hopefully, I get to be in the same place where you are — up there.

I’d also want to thank again your wife for that sandwich she thoughtfully sneaked in for me at the CCP years and years ago. I know it’s always been a no eating policy there. But if it was an elegant woman like Paquita Roses Revilla who ruled that no one around her should go hungry, then polite society ways can go hang. I thought that was so kind and gracious of her.

Yes, Tito Pinggoy, when I go I look forward to spending eternal time with you and Tita Paquita. That is if only to savor your graciousness that I now hardly feel anymore among the citizens of my harsh, present world.

ALWAYS ARMANDO GOYENA BEST ACTOR BUT I MDASH PAQUITA PINGGOY STILL TIME TITO
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