Saying goodbye to Celso Kid, the genius & the man
LIVE FEED - Bibsy M. Carballo (The Philippine Star) - December 7, 2012 - 12:00am

Since we got to know Celso Ad. Castillo, at his best and his worst years, we were not prepared for the solemnity of a wake in his home in Siniloan, Laguna, nor even the way his leaving is being celebrated. We knew him as Celso Kid, the messiah of Philippine movies! We were sure he would see to it that his passing would be heralded by fireworks in the evening sky, an outdoor screening of his famous works, a replay of his recent ventures into acting and nonstop alcoholic drinks for everyone. This would have been the perfect farewell to this completely unpredictable messianic wonder of the film world.

What we got was a different picture. Before we could leave for Laguna, Celso’s younger brother Jhon, assistant director in his many films, called for a move to Loyola Commonwealth where his body was on view for two days before cremation and a return to Siniloan. If the Kid was directing his own funeral, he certainly had mellowed through the years.

As a child growing up in Siniloan, Celso was drawn to his father Dominador’s calling as a writer, who helped him publish his own magazine and go into directing at age 28 when he hit the big time with Nympha and Asedillo with Fernando Poe Jr. in 1971. The movie was cited one of the best in the ’70s, with FPJ winning the FAMAS Best Actor trophy.

It was in the ’70s when we met him when he made his masterpieces: Burlesk Queen marking Vilma Santos’ graduation from box-office queen to true artist of the cinema, Pagputi ng Uwak Pagitim ng Tagak, Ang Mahiwagang Daigdig ni Pedro Penduko, Tag-ulan sa Tag-araw, Ang Pinakamagandang Hayop sa Balat ng Lupa, Aliw-iw, the Susan Roces classics Maligno and Patayin Mo sa Sindak si Barbara, and more FPJ films Esteban, Sto. Domingo and Ang Alamat.

 It was in Pagputi, said to be his greatest film, that we stayed the longest on location and witnessed his weirdest, most eccentric behavior. Romy Vitug, one of the best cinematographers in the ’70s, remembers Pagputi as his first movie with the Kid. After meeting him, Celso started talking about the film plot. He talked for days, while Romy listened for days over bottles of beer. When time came for the first day shoot in Majayjay, Romy asked for a script. Celso replied, “We have been talking for days and you ask me for the script? That’s your script.”

Bembol Roco who was unprepared resented his “pa-mood” style. “It was traumatic for me. We didn’t become friends throughout the filming,” Bembol told us. But Celso had his favorite actors who accepted his peculiar ways like Joonee Gamboa and Roldan Aquino who came to the wake, and Lito Anzures now deceased. Isabel Rivas was an early visitor in Siniloan. She said, “We know he lived a life on the edge. But Celso was a friend to the end. I owe him 90 percent of my career in show business. I hope he now has found peace.”

Christopher Ad. Castillo, his eldest who arrived at the wake after an absence of some seven years from the Philippines, was witness to this period of the ’70s and ’80s and the flowering of Celso’s genius, followed by experimentations in every genre. Every Celso follower had his own favorite — Paradise Inn with Vivian Velez where even nature cooperated with the effects he wanted; the lyrical social drama Ang Alamat ni Julian Makabayan with Charo Santos; Uhaw na Dagat which cast Isabel Rivas with the original wet-look girls Gloria Diaz and Elizabeth Oropeza; Return of the Dragon with Ramon Zamora tagged the best Filipino kung fu film; Bakit May Pagibig Pa, a first-ever duology by Ishmael Bernal of Nora Aunor and Christopher de Leon, and Celso’s story with Alona Alegre and Romeo Vasquez.

Since then, Celso had been through many life-changing experiences. He went to Malaysia and discovered Islam. He has finished a tell-all book Celso Ad. Castillo: An Autobiography and His Craft.

He had unfinished works like The Diary of Vietnam Rose produced by and starring Liz Alindogan. Hearing of Celso’s death, Liz has given word that she would want Chris to finish the movie.

Celso’s personal life was an open book for all who knew of the women in his life. The names of his three families and their children were posted on his casket and all were represented at the wake. After talking to both Susan and Ophelia at the wake, we had a clearer picture of the man beyond the bravura.

Chris who is expected to continue Celso’s legacy wrote on Facebook: “As I sit here and pen this missive…I always think back (to the time) he explained to me the reason why our family broke apart. He told me that he made the hardest decision of his life. He had to choose between his art and his family and he chose his art…I have never begrudged my father for what he did. I have never questioned his love for us…No one should ever have to make those kinds of decisions.”

Definitely, Celso Ad. Castillo the maverick must be remembered not only for his dedication to his art, but also as the good person that he was.

(E-mail the author at


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