Christopher: Pain is part of my life

Rogelio Constantino Medina - The Philippine Star

MANILA, Philippines - He grew up in a world of klieg lights. During LVN Films’ heyday, his parents Lilia Dizon and Gil de Leon, occupied spots in producer Doña Narcisa Buencamino de Leon’s stable of entertainment personalities. Eldest sister Pinky preceded him in staking out a niche in local moviedom while his youngest sister Lara Melissa also made a name for herself in showbiz-ness.

We are, of course, talking about ABS-CBN’s Dahil Sa Pag-ibig actor Christopher de Leon, current board member of the second district of Batangas, whose cinematic achievements have made his name synonymous to dramatic acting.

Director Lino Brocka discovered him in 1974 via the critically-acclaimed Tinimbang  Ka Ngunit Kulang, which was produced by the late Sen. Raul Roco and which had multi-awarded LVN dramatic actress Lolita Rodriguez in the title role. But Christopher, or Boyet as he is fondly called, stole the thunder from her and other veterans in the movie.

“To get my part in that film, I underwent a series of rigid tests. The very first time I faced the camera, I had seven takes. I felt numb,” vividly recalled Boyet to me.

He was awarded the FAMAS Best Actor trophy for his performance in Tinimbang  Ka Ngunit Kulang. It was an early tribute to his talents, and a sneak preview of things to come.

The astounding success of his movie debut was followed by a deluge of offers, most of which he could not reject.He lists among his unforgettable movies Gerardo de Leon’s Banaue (where he first co-starred with Nora Aunor who would later become his wife), Eddie Romero’s Ganito Kami Noon... Paano Kayo Ngayon? (where he won FAMAS Best Actor award in 1976), Agila and Batu-Bato sa Langit... ang Tamaan ay Huwag Magagalit, Mario O’ Hara’sTatlong Taong Walang Diyos (which got Nora Aunor her first FAMAS Best Actress award), Mike de Leon’s Kung Mangarap Ka’t Magising (with Hilda Koronel), Kakabakaba Ka Ba? and Hindi Nahahati ang Langit, Ishmael Bernal’s Broken Marriage (with Vilma Santos), Ikaw ay Akin (which won him an URIAN Best Actor award from Manunuri ng Pelikulang Pilipino), Relasyon (with again Vilma) and Sinasamba Kita (with Vilma, Lorna Tolentino and Phillip Salvador), Lino Brocka’s Maging Akin Ka Lamang (which won for Lorna the Best Actress trophies from the Star and Film Academy of the Philippines awards), Maryo J. de los Reyes’ Kapag Napagod ang Puso (with Snooky Serna), and Laurice Guillen’s Magkano ang Iyong Dangal? (with Zsa Zsa Padilla and Princess Punzalan), among others.

It is interesting to note that Christopher prepares extensively for his roles in movies. In Tatlong Taong Walang Diyos, where he enacted the role of a World War II Japanese soldier who fell in love with a Filipino woman (played by Nora), he flew to Japan to have a full understanding of the character he was going to assume.

He said, “I tried to visit a military camp in Japan but the only thing I saw was the camp’s wall. I also observed the Japanese immigration office.”

He did not encounter any serious problems, except for the language barrier. “Naiiyak na nga ako dahil pang-apat na araw ko na roon (I almost cried because it was my fourth day there), but nobody still understood what I was saying. So I was forced to learn Nihongo.”

He continued, “I also learned the samurai’s way of life. When I came back, I consulted my father Gil about his experiences during the Japanese period.”

He learned so much about that time in Philippine history that he even found a mistake in the script. One of the supposed props in the movie was a US-type jeep which the Americans introduced only after the Liberation.

“There was an argument then whether that kind of jeep existed before the return of General Douglas MacArthur to the country,” he elucidated with a glint in his eyes.

He still has fond memories of Tatlong Taong Walang Diyos. He even volunteers the fact that noted director Peque Gallaga played a doctor in the said film.

As a boy, Christopher spent his kindergarten days at the Immaculate Heart of Mary College, a Catholic school in Sta. Mesa, Manila. He transferred to Aquinas School in San Juan, Metro Manila, then again to St. Martin de Porres School where he completed his elementary education. He got his high school diploma from the University of the East High School. After that, he took up business administration at the University of the East, but later shifted to fine arts, major in advertising, at the UE Ramon Magsaysay. 

His entry into showbiz finally forced him to drop out of college during his second year.

Nevertheless, he has never stopped educating himself. He admits he is laking kalye (street smart), but he is not ashamed of it. It, in fact, gave him the wealth of experiences he needs as a well-rounded actor.

He also admits to me that he misses his barkadas, director Edgar Mortiz and the late Jay Ilagan and Johnny Delgado, especially when they would bond together during the defunct Goin’ Bananas on ABS-CBN.

I vividly remember during the taping of that defunct TV show, Christopher remarked to me that, “Nagtataka ako. Nahihiwagaan ako kung bakit ganito (I am amazed. I find it mysterious as to why this way).” He seemed to be puzzled that time.

Later, I often saw Christopher in the Oasis of Love’s Catholic charismatic fellowships. He was there searching for himself and reading the Holy Scripture with fellow workers in the entertainment industry.

“Pain is a part of life. All of us undergo ups and downs, errors and trials. But these things help you to become a better and stronger person,” concluded Christopher Strauss de Leon, his real name, with a sweet, contented, wide smile.









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