MANILA, Philippines—Sampaguita Pictures actor Luis Gonzales, best remembered for portraying the late president Ferdinand Marcos in two biopics released in the 1960s, passed away Thursday night due to complications arising from pneumonia.
He was 81.
Gonzales, Luis Mercado in real life, acted in more than 100 movies, most of which were under Sampaguita and costarred leading lady Gloria Romero in the 1950s.
He played Marcos in the political propaganda movie “Iginuhit ng Tadhana” in 1965 and in the drama film “Pinagbuklod ng Langit” in 1969.
Romero, who played First Lady Imelda Marcos to his Ferdinand, recalled that they could only start shooting at Malacañang after office hours at 6 p.m. and wind up at 6 a.m. the next day.
In spite of the unusual working hours, Gonzales would remain cheerful, Romero said. “He was a jolly fellow. He was always joking around and he loved dancing,” she told the Inquirer.
Batangas Governor Vilma Santos said Gonzales portrayed her father in her first movie “Trudis Liit” in 1963. Then a child star, Santos also played little Imee in the two Marcos movies.
“I was very young then and it was amusing to see and tour the Palace with him,” Santos said. “He really made a big mark in Philippine movies. I will be praying for the repose of his soul and for strength for his family, too.”
Ilocos Norte Governor Imee Marcos remembered Sampaguita producer Jose “Doc” Perez auditioning other actors, but in the end it was Luis’ voice that landed him the role. “In a nation of tenors, he and my dad were the only two baritones,” she said. “We were very fond of him and listening to him [on the set], I sometimes thought he was my father.”
Another Sampaguita star, Liberty Ilagan, described Gonzales as “a wonderful person … full of life and wit. There was never a dull moment with him. He will surely be missed.”
Actress Boots Anson-Roa, head of the Movie Workers Welfare Foundation Inc. (Mowelfund), related that his late father Oscar Moreno and other Sampaguita colleagues fondly called Gonzales palengke because “he was a live wire. He always sparked animated conversations.”
Sampaguita movie queen Amalia Fuentes added that palengke was also in reference to his surname Mercado, which is Spanish for market.
Roa and Fuentes made a movie with Gonzales, Elwood Perez’s “Isang Gabi, Tatlong Babae,” in 1974.
Perez, then a newcomer, recalled watching the late actor on and off cam. “I was often starstruck on the set, but observing how Luis and Amalia switched on and off from their real selves (as old friends) to their screen characters (as husband-and-wife) made me ponder my own role as director,” he said.
“He grew up in Tondo,” Fuentes said. “When we see each other, he’d holler, greeting me from far away.”
The last time Fuentes, Perez and Gonzales worked together was in the 1997 film “Reputasyon.”
“I’d often see him talking on the phone with his wife Vina (Concepcion),” Fuentes recounted. “He’d tell her what would happen on the set, while his wife would relate to him the Mills & Boon novels she read. They had great chemistry.”
Gonzales is survived by his wife and three children.
Cremation was scheduled Friday, followed by a three-day wake at the Santuario de San Antonio, Forbes Park, Makati. Interment is on Monday, 2 p.m.