The ageless Eddie Garcia
Pablo A. Tariman (The Philippine Star) - April 30, 2011 - 12:00am

Manila, Philippines - In his 80s, Eddie Garcia is as busy as when he first started in the movies.

He is still active doing teleseryes and in the latest Marilou Diaz-Abaya film, he plays a very approachable monsignor and spiritual adviser to a family in the brink of spiritual crisis.

He still loves to guest on television such as this one where he recalls his life and career while sharing his favorite recipe on Spoon.

For the record, he has logged more than 300 films and bagged more than 20 acting and directional awards.

He has played father to Susan Roces, Amalia Fuentes and Tessie Agana in the ’60s and the ’70s but in the ’80s and the ’90s, he’s husband and lover of local filmdom’s young and sizzling sex goddesses.

Everything about him embodies what he has been known for in showbiz in the last 60 years — well-groomed, punctual, relaxed, the epitome of Mr. Cool and a gentleman of the first order.

He doesn’t speak much more than state the obvious but his sense of humor is contagious. Someone asks him what kind of women excites him but he replies with a smile that says it all: Women are to be safeguarded, not to be talked about.

He keeps a disinterested profile in the face of such provocative discussion on sex and women even as his smiles betray familiarity with the erotic subject. In his book, what he does and relishes in private should remain private — should remain private and there is no compromising on that matter.

And yet, he is one person who can deliver jokes referring to the anatomy of his own gender. Remember those lines probably adlibbed here and there in most of his movies such as “Baka tulog pa si Manoy” or “Baka magising or magalit si Manoy” which inevitably causes hilarious laughter in the movie houses.

Just a few years back, he was paired from time to time with younger leading ladies. He opined: “Although I am flattered being paired with young women in most of my movies, I’d rather not take advantage of that movie pairing. Baka mapagkamalan pa akong cradle-snatcher. I know what’s comfortable for me and what will turn off movie audiences.”

But offhand, he comments, “I’ve always liked mature women.” He lets off a smile as someone remarks, “Is it because they are the so-called tried and tested?”

Generally, this is how he deals with movie offers. “Before I consider the part, the role has fit to me. That’s the first consideration. But since I’ve been doing action flicks for sometime, I avoid familiar stories. A new offer should not duplicate the role I’ve done in the past. It should create something unique and the action scenes should be believable. After the financial terms are done with, I never make it a point to meddle in the casting. But I do make suggestions when other members of the cast don’t quite match the roles they are playing.”

When one examines the role Eddie has done in the last two decades, one realizes that he is one action star who has tried every role in the book that other actors identified with the action genre would not dare touch.

Some years back, I saw an old film of his, Paru-parung Buking on TV where he played a closet queen director whose take home stud was played by Ricky Davao.

“When I see some of my old movies on television, I watch them when my schedule allows it. It’s a good nostalgia trip. At least I re-live some of the kagaguhan na pinaggagagawa ko at some points in my career,” he chuckles.

Again, it’s the challenging roles that come to his mind when asked about that parts he can label unforgettable.

Probably his most memorable was his role as the closet queen patriarch in Lino Brocka’s Tubog Sa Ginto in the early ’70s.

When the role was offered to him by Brocka, he had no qualms accepting it. “It was a very unusual role that comes once in an actor’s lifetime. What I particularly liked about the part was the role is not the caricature of the Filipino gay. The parts often played in the movies are the beauty parlor type and the town-screaming faggot. In the role, nobody knows I was gay because I was married, I have a teenage son (played by Jay Ilagan) and I have a respectable job. It was when I started looking for pick-up boys that my gayness comes to the fore. It was Mario O’Hara who played my lover.”

Eddie intimates he researched quite a lot to prepare for that Brocka assignment. “I asked my gay friends about what gives way to a fag even if they looked macho.”

Like it or not, the role in the 1972 Brocka movie was far more substantial than his foray into the Paru-Parung Buking mould.

But obviously, Eddie is one actor who will try everything to explore his acting possibilities.

In his acting lifetime, he has played swashbuckling priest, closet father, gay director, aggrieved police officer and a small-town priest on Darna.

His joining the movies came by accident.

In the late ’40s, he was with the Philippine Scouts with stints in Okinawa and was about to go on another assignment with the US Army when his aunt told him Sampaguita Pictures was looking for new actors.

Recalls the actor: “The movie was Siete Infantes de Lara and they needed seven guys for the part. There were 40 of us who applied and I got one of the seven parts.”

That successful movie audition ended his tenure as Philippine Scout where he worked for close to three years. For his first movie role, he was paid P300.

“Of course, I had ambitions to work behind the camera but I told myself I’d spend 15 years as an actor and then turn to movie directing later. It came sooner than I thought after 12 years in 1961 — when I directed Mario Montenegro, Rita Gomez and Marlene Dauden in Karugtong Ng Kahapon.”

For that first directorial chore, he was paid P5,000. Born a Taurus (May 2) and a native of Juban, Sorsogon, Eddie says there is nothing earth-shaking about his life worth exploring for movie projects. “People born under the sign of Taurus are probably the most passive people on earth,” he avers.

One manifestation of his Zodiac sign is the sober way he goes about his part as actor and director. He keeps his cool in cases of tardiness of some co-actors; he doesn’t berate staff when some props are missing or if the technical crew is unusually delayed setting up equipment. “I think being sarcastic about it all works better,” he points out. “Like when a flower vase is missing in one scene, I’d tell someone, ‘Maghanap nga kayo ng flower vase na marunong maglakad papunta rito para matapos ang eksenang ito’ and before you know it the propsman comes with the required item. When I was directing one movie, it took forever to set up the equipment and rather than shout, I told the crew, ‘Maghanap nga kayo ng tukod sa araw para hindi tayo abutin ng gabi dito. Baka bumaba iyan hindi pa tayo tapos’ and then they’d hurry up.”

In his early 80s, Eddie has no set formula for active and healthy living except the ones he does to this day.

“I still jog regularly, I do my work-outs, I stick to a diet of fish and vegetables and of course I take some supplemental vitamins.”

Done with the main course and ready for coffee, Eddie is ready to talk about his generation vis-à-vis the emerging one.

“What our generation and the new generation have is a proliferation of talents,” he says. “The younger action stars I have worked with are intense lot and they are wonderful assets to the movie industry. It is how we treat our professions that our generation and their generation differ. I am not saying all of them fall under this category. But some of them have many extra-curricular activities, some of them are too relaxed. In my case at this phase of my career, I still follow that dictum, ‘Never rest on your laurels.’ I still want to learn something new every day. But the bottomline which probably explains what you call my staying power is that I don’t shortchange my audience. You just have to give them their money’s worth. The minute your films start flopping in the box-office, boy you have to work doubly hard to regain that audience patronage. Box-office failure has a way of telling you something.”

Still, Eddie’s presence in the industry remains baffling as he continues to make exceptions rather the rule in tinseltown.

Until lately, he used to drive his own car but somebody close to him suggested that he give it up specially if he is in the middle of a punishing movie schedule.

He is the only one without a booking or media manager or even the equivalent of a hired publicist. “I think I can personally handle my career better. I don’t want misunderstanding usually created by third parties.”

An autobiography is out of the question and even suggestions of the important highlights in his life and career the actor tosses to the wind. “Let other people decide what makes my life interesting,” he says.

Talk of living all over again and trying another life.

Eddie takes a long breath and says. “If a new life is offered to me, I’d probably explore a full military officer’s life interrupted in my younger days by a movie career.”   

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