Remembering the good times with Cherie Gil

Baby K. Jimenez - The Philippine Star
Remembering the good times with Cherie Gil
Veteran actress Cherie Gil passed away last Aug. 5 after a brave battle with cancer. She was 59.

MANILA, Philippines — I remember way back in the late ‘60s (?), when I was just starting to cover entertainment, I got a call from veteran co-scribe Doug Quijano (he was ahead of me in the media by three years, I think).

D: “Are you free tonight?”

B: “Yes, naman, but not till the wee hours of the a.m.”

D: “Eddie Mesa and Rose Marie Gil are inviting us for dinner at their home, sumama ka na. They want your presence, ha. Kwento, kwento (now called chika-chika) lang.”

We had some photos taken (but now I cannot find them, will post if...).

So I did, there we were. We were close to this couple, the parents of Michael de Mesa, Mark and Cherie Gil — they’re the Eigenmanns. Eddie then was the Elvis Presley of the Philippines. Rosemarie started her career as Premiere’s Sta. Rita de Casia. I didn’t know this clan would later be the largest family of A1 screen performers.

We were shocked at the sudden tragic exit of Cherie and it made us chat with good friends who shared their stories.

Let’s hear what they say.

Lloyd Samartino: “Problem Child in 1980 was Cherie’s launching film and I was chosen to be her leading man. We had an interesting experience on that film, directed by Elwood Perez. I was blown away by Cherie’s guts in executing her spoiled brat role and our love scenes, too. We also had her mom Rosemarie Gil playing her mother in the film which added to the reality of their scenes. If anything, that film cemented our lifelong friendship and my admiration for the actress in her. She went on to bigger and better things in her career and we worked on several soaps. Cherie is an actress of the first calibre, a rebel, an intellectual. This cancer diagnosis caught all of us by surprise and I will always miss her sharp tongue and wit. There’s no one like her in my generation. Soar with God now Cherie!”

Hazel Orencio: “When we went to Berlin for Hele sa Hiwagang Hapis, all nine of us were there — Piolo, John Lloyd, Tito Bernie, Cherie, Angel, Tita Susan Africa, Joel Saracho, Alessandra de Rossi and me. It was so much fun, and just like in a Lav Diaz set, it felt like we were all equal…

“Cherie was the group’s fashionista. Alex and Tito Bernie would always tease her. But when all of us saw Meryl Streep on stage and even after the party, she was not Cherie Gil, the fashionista anymore; she was Cherie Gil, the fan girl. I had never seen her that happy before. Her face, her expressions, everything in her was lighting up. I don’t even remember if she even touched her food; she drank wine for sure and when she got drunk, she took a photo with Clive Owen. I would say she was the giddiest among us.”

Joel Torre: Cherie was family to me.

Joel Torre: “Cherie was family to me. She would say I am an adopted Eigenmann and I told her she was an adopted Ilongga with the Ilonggo Mafia. She is one of my beloved co-actors. We shared a lot of screen time together as well as happy times.”

GR Rodis: “I managed her singing career for a short time after her Champoy TV program. I would tease her son Jay that his mom and I parted ways because of him. She was pregnant with him when we were doing a two-week gig in Indonesia with Marco Sison and the 8th of Sept. band. She was so cranky, being difficult, because she was pregnant but none of us knew. Maybe she didn’t even know at the time, so I resigned as management but soon we reconnected as friends. I even stayed with her when she was married to Rony Rogoff and lived in New York. She was ultra-talented and matured into a generous warm human being who will be missed.”

Maritess Gutierrez, only child of Juancho Gutierrez and Gloria Romero, says Cherie was a ‘generous friend.’

Maritess Gutierrez, only child of Juancho Gutierrez and Gloria Romero: “It is tough to talk about her now without shedding a tear. We practically grew up together, I am a year older and we went to the same school, St Paul’s. Our mothers usually had movies and TV appearances together and sometimes both Cherie and I would hang out at the studio — the most important reason was we needed to ask for money from our moms. Cherie was always the good friend of our entire barkada — never became a swellhead even after her popularity peaked.

“I remember one time when she disappeared for a month, I was worried. Guess what I discovered? She stayed at an inn at Sonya’s Garden, a story which was shared to me by one of the waiters when I dined there: ‘Dito po tumira si Cherie when she was going to do a play, she could not be disturbed — she made sure na she studied her role perfectly.’ Yes, she was so dedicated to her profession.

“When I was raising a child in the US, Cherie was already married to Rony Rogoff. She called and invited me to stay with them. She even asked her aide to take care of my son and my dog while she entertained me. What a generous friend. I love her.”

Anna Ylagan, daughter of Robert Arevalo and Barbara Perez: “Way before the world knew her as Ms. Cherie Gil, she was simply Cherie, our childhood playmate, our godsister. Our mom, Barbara, was her ninang. My sister Gina and I spent countless days with Cherie in each other’s houses playing either in her bedroom or in ours while our mothers played mahjong. She even dressed me in her walking doll’s clothes one time to my mom’s horror. Mind you, before I wore the dress, Cherie even ‘ironed’ it with her toy ironing board. She stopped me and said, ‘Wait, I’ll plancha it first!’ Hahaha!

“She was already a performer way before she officially entered show business. I still vividly remember her very poignant and riveting monologue in school of Guilty or Not Guilty that left everyone in awe you could literally hear a pin drop.

“Cherie and I shared so many secrets, too. Even though we were almost the same age, she was always more grown-up than I was and taught me one too many new things about life. I will never forget how she’d react when people would often make that annoying mistake of calling her ‘Cherry’ (as in ‘Uy, si Cherry Gil!’). She’d slowly turn her head and with that ‘if looks could kill’ Lavinia Arguelles stare, she’d slowly reply with, ‘It’s… Cherie.’ But on her softer, heartwarming side (which she had lots of), I still remember how she beamed with so much love and excitement when they were blessed with their new baby sister, Marnie (Marie Elaine Narciso).

“And now reality bites. Fare thee well, dear Cherie. Even back then, you were already bigger than life. Everybody is writing their own story about you. How loved you are! You have left quite a mark in your short but colorful life. Go with God in the place He prepared for you in His beautiful mansion up there. What a wonderful reunion you must be having with Ralph. Tight hugs, Tita Rose, Tito Eddie, Michael, Marnie and the Eigenmann and Rogoff children. May the good Lord comfort you and bestow His wisdom upon you to see you through this very difficult time.”

Barbara Perez: “Cherie, as a child had always been a presence in my home like one of my girls. I would always hear her giggling with the girls in the other room. And during school days, they would carpool. They grew up together to be bright young women each in their own respective fields. Every time Cherie would be asked to speak before a show, she would always mention that I am her ninang, most especially if I am in the audience. I wanted to say more but this is so hurting. I cannot anymore. Sometimes, you wish these girls didn’t have to grow up so that they would be spared from hurting and getting sick!”

Gina Alajar (left) directed Cherie as the kontrabida in the GMA series Onanay (opposite Nora Aunor, right): ‘She was a gem… We had a very good working relationship.’
Photos from Baby K and Cherie Gil’s Instagram

Gina Alajar (Gina is the ex-wife of Cherie’s brother Michael de Mesa): “My treasured memory of her is when she acted in Onanay, a drama that I directed where she was the main kontrabida against Ms. Nora Aunor… such a versatile actress! Kapag meron akong binigay na idea sa kanya, mag-iisip siya ng kaunti, yun pala nag-iisip siya kung paano niya gagawin. She had taray moments sa production, but I didn’t mind it as long as she was delivering… Sabi ko nga, ‘Kahit magtaray si Cherie for whatever reason, may karapatan siya kasi pagharap nya sa camera, brilliante ang ibibigay niya sa kanyang audience.” She was a gem.

“We had a very good working relationship that after Onanay, she had to act in a segment sa Starstruck na kaeksena niya ang mga contestant… Medyo nagkaroon ng problem and hindi ko madi-direct ang segment but she said that kung hindi ako ang director, hindi na lang nya gagawin. That was the sweetest gesture she did for me and my whole team.

“Then pandemic came and she had an offer to do Legal Wives, but it meant lock-in tapings. She called me and asked me kung OK ba ang lock-in taping. I assured her that everything was fine and she had nothing to worry about kaya ginawa niya ang project. These are small things to last a lifetime.”

We all love and miss Cherie.

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