Direk Gil M. Portes: Immortalized by his body of work that starred the industry’s biggest actors

Gil will be sorely missed
Ricky Lo (The Philippine Star) - May 26, 2017 - 4:00pm

MANILA, Philippines - “I will miss direk Gil!”

That sentiment expressed by Ricky Davao is shared by industry people who were shocked to learn Wednesday morning that multi-awarded director Gil M. Portes was found dead at his rented room in Quezon City by his landlord who was wondering why Gil hadn’t been coming out of his room.

The industry will be a bit quieter minus Gil’s booming voice that, at full volume, could  reverberate in all corners of the room, especially when he was trying to stress a point in a heated debate about showbiz issues.

“When you are with direk Gil,” continued Ricky (who won Best Actor for Gil’s film Saranggola), speaking in the present tense, “there’s never a dull moment. He always has a new story to tell…stories and ideas for film. He’s a great storyteller. He makes you laugh and then he’ll make you think. He seriously discusses ideas. He’s a great travel companion. He loves to learn and experience different cultures. I’ve learned a lot from him. I will miss direk Gil!”

Gil is an international director in more senses than one. He’s probably the only Filipino director who shot films in different parts of the world — Wanted Wives (Charito Solis was cast in it) in Hong Kong, Miss X (starring Vilma Santos) in Amsterdam, Carnival Queen (starring Alma Moreno) in Rio de Janeiro, and Merika (starring Nora Aunor) in New York. (Nora was in another Portes movie, Andrea, Paano Ba Ang Maging Ina?)

“Masipag siyang direktor,” said Vilma (who was also directed by Gil in I’ll Never Say Goodbye, produced by Wilson Tieng’s Solar Films inspired by the hit song of Nonoy Zuñiga who was Vilma’s leading man. “It was Ian Veneracion who played my son. Masayahin at ma-kuwento si Gil. Dapat lang siyang pasalamatan sa contribution at pagmamahal na binigay niya sa movie industry. Will pray for the repose of his soul.”

Nonoy Zuñiga: “My fondest memories of Gil were with our good friend Andre Ricafort with whom we would go out of town for gigs or just plain simple lakwatsa. We could talk for hours about any subject.”

Ian Veneracion: “I was six years old when I did that movie. All I remember is that direk Gil was masaya sa set.”

Alma (Carnival Queen) agreed with Ian: “Pinaramdam niya na family kami sa set at hindi magkakatrabaho. He was very strict, very professional.”

Ricky Lee did about 10 films with Gil, starting with the 1979 documentary Pabonggahan (featuring Pepe Smith and Juan de la Cruz, Sampaguita and others).

One of Gil’s classic works was the award-winner Sa Piling ng Mga Sugapa, starring Mat Ranillo III, which chronicles the real-life exploits of the late Manila Times reporter Rod Reyes who penetrated a drug den disguised as an addict.

“Gil is very articulate and convincing,” said Ricky. “He could get tickets, passes, anything. We were marching with the dancers in Rio de Janeiro while shooting Carnival Queen. He got us inside the eskaparates in Amsterdam for Miss X. Ang joke namin sa kanya, he could sell the Statue of Liberty.”

It was Joel Lamangan, one of Gil’s dearest director friends, who rushed to the East Avenue Medical Center where Gil’s body was kept in the morgue while waiting for family members to claim it. Gil’s wife Telly and their sons Carlo and Justin are expected to arrive from New York where they are based (while he remained in the Philippines mainly for his passion for filmmaking). Joel was with Bibeth Orteza and Armand Reyes (who assisted Gil in most of his films).

Recalled Joel, “When we were sharing stories of film that we would make, he was such a good storyteller that I got so carried away by his beautiful personal stories and I would forget the details of my own stories. He got irritated and accused me of being unfair. I tried to remember details of my personal film stories. He was so generous and gave comments on how my story could be as exciting as his. Gil is a generous artist. He will surely be missed!”

Close friends Ronald Constantino, Ethel Ramos and I fondly called Gil The New Yorker from Pagbilao, the town in Quezon where he was born and where he shot many of his films including such landmark works Miguel/Michelle, Gatas: Sa Dibdib ng Kaaway, Mulanay, Saranggola, Mga Munting Tinig (titled Small Voices, starring Alessandra de Rossi, when distributed internationally by Columbia Pictures), Markova (for which Dolphy won Best Actor and Best Actress at the Brussels International Film Festival) and his last two recently-shown films, Moonlight Over Baler and Hermano Puli. He was negotiating for a film about the barrio doctor who was killed before he died at, as reported, 71. He graduated with a Philets (Philosophy & Letters) degree from UST.

Gil’s family arrived yesterday and will soon announce the venue of the wake and date of burial.

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