As a young actor, Don Ramon charmed his leading ladies with his killer smile (plus his dimples; bottom photo shows him in a 2003 STAR interview): ‘How do I want to be remembered? As an honest person, a simple man...a good father to his children. Just that.’
Photos from the collection of celso de guzman caparas
The Action Star with smiling eyes
FUNFARE - Ricky Lo (The Philippine Star) - June 29, 2020 - 12:00am

Former Sen. Ramon Revilla Sr. passed away at home surrounded by his family at 5:20 Friday (June 26) afternoon, five days after he was discharged from the hospital where he was confined after suffering from a stroke that led to three heart failures and rendered him semi-comatose. Then, like the agimat-gifted characters he immortalized in his films, he woke up and spent Father’s Day with his family Sunday (June 21) last week.

“It was our most memorable Father’s Day ever,” said his daughter, Andrea “Andeng” Bautista-Ynares, Antipolo City Mayor.

Ramon will be buried beside his wife Aurora at the family-owned Angelus Memorial Park in Imus, Cavite. As of this writing (Saturday afternoon), date of interment hasn’t been announced yet.

Light moment at the ICU after the ventilator was removed. Ramon told his son, Sen. Ramon “Bong” Revilla Jr., “Bigay ko na sayo agimat ko.” Bong politely refused. “Hindi po,” he told his dad. “Iyo po ‘yon, eh.” Then, they laughed together.

“I am my biggest trophy,” former Sen. Ramon Revilla Sr. told The STAR with undisguised confidence, smiling as his eyes turned into slits like they did in those old Sampaguita movies that paired him with the likes of Gloria Romero (Kurdapya, Cofradia, Mr. Kasintahan, Bim Bam Bum, etc.), Myrna Delgado (Recuerdo, Matandang Pa-Charming, etc.) and Lolita Rodriguez (Binibining Kalog, Liku-Likong Landas, etc.) “I am a survivor,” added the Action Star with Smiling Eyes.

An understatement. Don Ramon (as he was fondly called by friends) said that several years ago he was given an Ulirang Artista Award by the Philippine Movie Press Club (PMPC), recognizing his sterling record as an actor and not to mention his successful transition from showbiz to politics. He lived a “fruitful” life, survived by 42 children (confirmed) and not, according to his daughter Mayor Andeng, 81 as widely reported. All 42 are accounted and provided for.

Discharged from the hospital after more than two weeks of confinement, former Sen. Ramon Revilla Sr. spent Father’s Day with his family at his Cavite home. Five days later, he passed away at 93. This photo was taken during another family gathering.
Photo from the family album

Don Ramon did survive the trials of life, including a first stroke almost two decades ago, aspiration pneumonia, a heart surgery and yet another stroke (last May 31 when he suffered breathing difficulty and was brought to the hospital) that proved to be too treacherous for a 93-year-old.

According to that old STAR interview, although Don Ramon had been in the public eye for decades, not many people knew what he was really like behind the scenes — you know, how he was as a boy dreaming of stardom, how he was a father and what legacy he wanted to leave behind. Aside from Andeng and Bong (who retraced his dad’s journey from showbiz to the Senate), other offspring also joined politics like Cavite Rep. Strike Revilla and grandson Cavite Vice Gov. Jolo Revilla.

Here are excerpts from that tell-all, no-holds-barred interview, kicked off with Don Ramon recalling that he was the youngest among 10 children raised by a mom who reminded him to avoid bad influence.

“I was only one-and-a-half-years old when our father died, so it was our mother, whom we fondly called Nanay Andeng, who brought us up by herself,” he reminisced. “She was a disciplinarian; ayaw niya ng bastos na ugali. I remember the time when my barkada passed by our house shouting and laughing out loud. My mother pulled me aside and told me, ‘Don’t be like them, ha!’ She warned me against going out with that kind of company.”

Have you always wanted to be in showbiz?

“I’ve always been a movie addict. Not a week would pass without me watching a movie at Imus Theater, a small neighborhood moviehouse. If the movie was drama, I’d cry inside the moviehouse. But I preferred action movies.

“After graduation, my parents gave me a capital to put up my own gasoline station. Cool na cool ako n’un, very macho-looking. I was stripped down to the waist; I knew I had a good body and I was proud of it. I was at my gasoline station when a movie producer and a director saw me and asked if I wanted to be an actor.

“The producer was Cortes Quilatan of CorQui Productions at ‘yung kasama niyang direktor ay Martillano ang apelyido. They were location-hunting. I was so happy with their (movie) offer that I gave them the gasoline for free. They gave me a calling card. A few days later, I sought them out in their office at a big building in Sta. Cruz, Manila. I was introduced in one movie. Not long after, I was rediscovered by Doc Perez (The Starmaker of Sampaguita Pictures).”

(His real name was Jose Acuña Bautista. He used Gallardo Acuña as screen name. Gallardo was the name of his nephew; Acuña his mother’s surname. Doc Perez changed it to Ramon Revilla.)

How were you different from other Sampaguita actors like Ric Rodrigo, Oscar Moreno and Luis Gonzales?

(Blushing)

“Well, pilyo sa chicks, eh, so Mommy (Dolores) Vera would always call me to her office to reprimand me. Palagi akong nasasabon. Malapit sa akin ang mga artistang babae. At that time, basta lumalapit sa akin, eh, pinapatulan ko naman, so Mommy Vera would always scold me. I must admit that when I was young, medyo may kapilyuhan ako sa babae.”

You quit showbiz after only a few movies and you joined the Bureau of Customs (1965-1972).

“My friends were working at the Customs, some of them as secretaries and some as policemen. It was not easy getting a job at the Customs; you needed a padrino to get in. It was then Auditor General Pedro Jimenez who recommended me. He was my kababayan, also a Caviteño, and he told me that I was lucky because he hadn’t recommended anybody yet. I worked as Senior Intelligence Officer. Hindi na ako nagdaan sa pagiging private; official kaagad ako.”

(After several years, Ramon returned to showbiz in 1972, this time as a producer whose first project, Nardong Putik, was a huge hit....tubong lugaw, as they called it...followed by more starrers about folk heroes, Pepeng Agimat among them, that cemented his image as an action star.)

Do you really have an agimat (amulet)?

(Smiling enigmatically)

“Oh, yes, I have. It was given to me by a relative of Nardong Putik.

(No further elaboration.)

Your agimat really works wonders for you.

(Smiling widely)

“Maybe. Who knows?”

Where’s your agimat now?

“I have passed it on to my son Bong.”

(Trivia: Bong has used it in some of his movies. He was introduced in Dugong Buhay with his dad as lead actor.)

Did you give it to Bong because you wanted to (temporarily) quit showbiz and join politics?

“Not really. Bong asked for it.”

How are you as a father?

“I never spare the rod and spoil the child. You can ask Bong. Strict ako; a disciplinarian. I disciplined them not with a sinturon but with buntot-page. I try to give my children the best education I can afford. I tell them, ‘Study hard, study well, because education is the best thing I can give you; if you don’t study well, you’ll end up the loser, not me’.”

The usual clinching question: How do you want to be remembered?

“As an honest person, a simple man. Somebody who became an actor and then a Senator. A good father to his children. Just that.”

(E-mail reactions at rickylophilstar@gmail.com. For more updates, photos and videos, visit www.philstar.com/funfare or follow me on Instagram @therealrickylo.)

RAMON REVILLA
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