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Marilou Diaz-Abaya: A director to the very end

By: - Reporter
/ 11:43 PM October 11, 2012

MARILOU Diaz-Abaya, left, with Sari Dalena during an interview for a documentary on Ishmael Bernal Photo courtesy of Sari Dalena

Like the meticulous director that she was, Marilou Diaz-Abaya had planned her four-day vigil and burial, according to  her son Marc.

“That was our joke— that she was directing until the end. She wanted the ceremonies to be simple. She left everything up to the Jesuits to carry out her instructions. I guess she didn’t want me, my brother (David) and dad (Manolo) to be stressed,” Marc told the Inquirer during his mom’s wake at the Gonzaga building chapel in the Ateneo de Manila University compound in Quezon City.

Abaya, who succumbed to cancer on Oct. 8, lies in a white coffin enclosed in fiberglass and with brass trimmings. It is surrounded with arrangements of white daisies, anthuriums and orchids. She wears an off-white dress that she bought in January 2011, and a matching bandana.


She will be laid to rest tomorrow at the Loyola Memorial Park in Parañaque City after the 8 a.m. mass at the Jesu Chapel inside the Ateneo compound.

Abaya had asked friends to give— in lieu of flowers— cash donations to scholars of the Sacred Heart Novitiate in Novaliches, Quezon City; Mother of Good Counsel Seminary in San Fernando, Pampanga; and the Minor Seminary of the Archdiocese in Pampanga.

Media representatives covering the wake were prevented from taking photos and videos inside the chapel, which opens daily at 6 a.m. and closes at 12 midnight. Masses will still be

ACTOR Cesar Montano at the wake on Tuesday night

celebrated today at 6:55 a.m., 12 p.m., 6 p.m. and 8 p.m.

Students from the Marilou Diaz-Abaya Film Institute and Arts Center (MDAFI) had a presentation on Thursday night. A necrological mass is scheduled at 8 p.m. tonight.

“Many people want to help out; we’re very grateful,” said Marc. “Everyone wants to say something in homage to her. We’re preparing the program in such a way that everyone would get a chance.”

He added: “It’s comforting that people close to her are all here. What’s tricky is that not everybody was ready to see her go. Let me assure them that when she went, she was all right.”

Abaya was diagnosed with breast cancer in January 2007. Her health improved in 2008, but the cancer returned the following year. It went into remission again in 2010 and recurred in 2011.


Moments with Bernal


Marilou’s son Marc Abaya at the wake on Tuesday night

The award-winning writer and director was “lively, energetic and talkative” during her last on-cam interview in August, according to documentarist Sari Lluch Dalena.

Abaya had agreed to the interview, which was for a documentary on her colleague Ishmael Bernal, despite her worsening condition. During the shoot, in Abaya’s condominium unit in Mandaluyong City, the director happily recounted unforgettable moments with Bernal.

She looked “very beautiful” in a black button-down shirt and a pink bandana, Dalena told Inquirer.

“Her memory was very sharp; she gave a lot of input,” said Dalena’s husband Keith Sicat, codirector of the docu titled “Walang Dulo, Walang Himala.”

Sicat continued: “We noticed that all the important phone numbers were written in big, bold characters on a notepad next to her phone. She had told everyone what to do in the event of the worst scenario.”

Dalena related: “Aside from discussing her relationship with Bernal, she talked about herself and her work. I took it as an opportunity to ask about her passions and loves. It was a very long interview.”

Present during the shoot was one of Abaya’s best friends, writer Ricky Lee.

Sunshine Cruz

“She was in high spirits,” recalled Sicat. “She didn’t want to say good-bye. She walked us to the elevator, though her doctor had advised her not to leave her room.”

Dalena continued: “I told her I still wanted to discuss her trilogy— ‘Karnal,’ ‘Moral,’ ‘Brutal.’ Those were my favorites. She said I should come back for a brainstorming. Sadly, this will not happen now.”

A “preliminary interview” took place at Abaya’s film school in Antipolo City in early August, Dalena said. “But we recorded only her audio.”

Present during that meeting were Lee and National Artist for Literature Bienvenido Lumbera.

ABS-CBN executive Malou Santos said Abaya sold the rights to MDAFI to the Kapamilya network shortly before her death.



“We were scheduled to meet her on Oct. 16 to plan a series of lectures. The network will now take over,” she told the Inquirer, adding that ABS-CBN film production arm Star Cinema was set to produce two films based on scripts by  Abaya and Lee.

Ricky Lee

“I have yet to see the drafts,” Santos said, referring to the scripts for a biopic on the artist Juan Luna and a drama about Maria Rosa Henson, the first Filipino woman to tell her story as a comfort woman in World War II.

Santos, who first met Abaya in 1982, said she considered the director her friend and mentor. “I respected her because she was not only a brilliant director but also a great teacher. I learned so much from her, about movies and life. I will really miss her.” Santos was one of a few friends that Abaya had asked to be around during her last hours on Monday night.

Abaya was admitted into the St. Luke’s Hospital in Global City, Taguig, Friday morning last week, said Marc. “It was then that we found the cancer had

MALOU Santos

spread to her bones,” he said. “On Saturday, her doctors told us she could go anytime. We had long known of her condition; still we felt it happened too quickly.”

Marc said Abaya tried to communicate with the family to the very end. “We said all that we needed to say to her, and so did everyone who mattered the most to her— they were there,” Marc added.

photos by arnold almacen

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TAGS: Entertainment, Marilou Diaz-Abaya, obituary, Philippine Cinema
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