Sampaguita night: Tears & laughter for Kuya Germs

Nathalie Tomada - The Philippine Star

MANILA, Philippines - There were tears and laughter as contemporaries of German “Kuya Germs” Moreno from his Sampaguita days gathered last Tuesday night to pay tribute to the Master Showman.

The final night of Kuya Germs’ wake at the Mt. Carmel Church in Quezon City became a bittersweet reunion of Sampaguita Pictures stars. One of the last times a similar gathering took place, it was also at the surprise birthday party for the well-loved showbiz icon in October 2015. Kuya Germs passed away last Jan. 8 at the age of 82.

Among the fellow Sampaguitans who came were Gloria Romero, Daisy Romualdez, Romeo Vasquez, Baby O’Brien with daughter Rina Reyes, Robert Arevalo, Barbara Perez, Boots Anson-Roa with lawyer husband King Rodrigo, Pepito Rodriguez, Eddie Gutierrez, Marita Zobel and even former Sen. Ramon Revilla Sr., who’s rarely seen in public, was also present at the wake.

Marichu “Manay Ichu” Vera-Perez Maceda said that what she greatly admired about Moreno was his sense of loyalty. Her parents, Dr. Jose R. Perez and Azucena “Mama Nene” Vera-Perez — the owners of Sampaguita Pictures — signed up Moreno in the early ‘60s.

She said that whenever Moreno had the chance, he never failed to thank those who helped him when he was just starting out in showbiz — from his humble beginnings as a janitor/curtain-raiser at Clover Theater in Sta. Cruz, Manila, to eventually getting his movie break as a comedian from the Vera-Perez couple.

Moreno never grew tired of telling it “over and over” in showbiz events that one time Manay Ichu requested him not to mention it anymore “kasi nakakahiya na but he said, ’wag mo akong pakialaman,” she fondly recalled. “I think that’s one of the traits why he was so well-loved. Marunong siyang tumanaw ng utang na loob.”

Director Maning Borlaza related that he first met Moreno when he was still a scriptwriter for Sampaguita. At that time, Borlaza was tasked to come up with scripts for Stars ‘66, a group of acting newbies (the precursor of ABS-CBN’s Star Circle and GMA 7’s StarStruck) that Doc Perez was then building up.

Borlaza recalled being instructed to incorporate comedic relief into the scripts “because ‘we now have German Moreno,’ Doc Perez said. ‘Let’s build him up. Gagawin natin siyang next to Dolphy.’ That was how German and I became close.”

Off-screen, Kuya Germs provided comic relief as well, and a running joke among his friends was his real age. His ready answer to all those who asked about it was, “Same as yesterday.”

Borlaza said that in the years he knew Moreno, his age was a well-kept secret. In one of the films they did together, a little on-set accident happened. When they brought him to the hospital for a check-up and the doctor routinely asked for his age, Borlaza recalled Moreno as saying, “‘Basta 28 ako ngayon,’ although at the back of my mind, I was thinking, ‘I’m also 28 but I believe he’s older than me.’

 “Five years later, when I was 33, German invited me to his birthday. (A group sang to him and asked) how old are you? German said, ‘Eto nga eh, tumanda na ako, sumayad na ako sa eksaktong line of 3, 30 na ako (I’ve finally grown old, I’ve hit the line of 3, I’m now 30.’) So, I became older than him na. It became a running gag (that he was younger than me). 

“Last November, I turned 80. So ngayon, German, sorry ha, but na-publish na sa lahat ng dyaryo na 82 ka,” Borlaza quipped. 

Romero, for her part, last worked with Moreno two years ago on the GMA 7 soap Niño. The veteran actress, who’s also the godmother of Moreno’s son Federico, revealed that Moreno never brought a wallet with him but would place wads of bills in his pocket so that he could easily pull out cash for whoever needed some financial help.

In their conversations during long taping hours, Moreno told Romero that his only prayer was to have a longer life because he wanted to help more young people reach their showbiz dreams. As a “star-builder,” Moreno had introduced and mentored countless of showbiz hopefuls through his GMA shows That’s Entertainment, Germspesyal, GMA Supershow and his latest, Master Showman: Walang Tulugan.

“I could not believe he’s gone,” Romero said.

Apparently, Kuya Germs always had an eye for those who could be big stars even when he was still a “nobody.” According to Vasquez, who got a job from Moreno as curtain-raiser when he was a youngster so he could watch Clover shows for free, Moreno encouraged him to become an actor.

Romualdez and Gutierrez, on the other hand, also thanked Kuya Germs for giving their own children, Tina Paner and Ruffa Gutierrez, respectively, their showbiz break via That’s Entertainment.

Boots is grateful to Kuya Germs for giving his “time, talent and treasure” to the Movie Workers Welfare Foundation (Mowelfund), which she heads. Her special affinity with the TV host-comedian also emanates from the fact that Kuya Germs (whose real family name is Molina) got his screen name after Boot’s father, the actor Oscar Moreno.

Sabi niya, nauna na si Oscar Moreno sa akin sa Sampaguita, sikat na siya baka sumikat din ako,” Boots recalled the piece of trivia from one of the talks of Kuya Germs. “Very humbly he said before that he would hitch his wagon on (the status of) Oscar Moreno without probably realizing that years and years after, through his charity, generosity, talents and loyalty, he would outshine and out-Moreno my father. I’m so proud of that.”

Apart from the former Sampaguita stars, younger actors from different networks paid their last respects to Kuya Germs last Tuesday night, only proving that his impact and influence spanned generations and transcended network wars. Spotted were Vhong Navarro, Jong Hilario, Michael V., Joel Torre, Snooky Serna, Elizabeth Oropesa, Carla Abellana, Maine Mendoza, among others.  

Before the Sampaguita night, a Holy Mass was celebrated by Lingayen-Dagupan Archbishop Socrates Villegas, who revealed that the Shrine of Our Lady of The Rosary in Manaoag (now a Minor Basilica) was a “grateful beneficiary of the kindness of Kuya Germs.”

He added, “He wasn’t just an entertainer, he was also a teacher. Hindi niya sinarili yung biyaya na binigay sa kanya ng Diyos. Those who teach others in goodness will shine like the stars for all eternity.”

As a poignant and fitting gesture that only a forever star deserves, Kuya Germs was given a standing ovation and cheers of “Bravo!” during the tribute.

His interment is set today at Loyola Memorial Park in Marikina City. Photos by Ver Paulino




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