All the world’s a stage for character actor Soliman Cruz. Or is it?
Social networking sites are abuzz with news that the awarded film, TV and theater actor is suffering from schizophrenia as a result of drug dependence. Witnesses say Cruz is often seen walking along Roxas Boulevard in Pasay City, talking to himself. Another source says Cruz temporarily resides at an art gallery in Singalong, Manila.
Cruz’s story drew widespread interest when it was aired on GMA 7’s “Kapuso Mo, Jessica Soho” in mid-December. He was shown being examined and evaluated by psychiatrist-psychologist Randy Dellosa, whose “actual diagnosis” was that Cruz had “methamphetamine dependence and also probable schizophrenia.”
The news story got a lot of flak, mostly from Cruz’s friends who posted their thoughts on Facebook.
On her FB page, actress Angelina Kanapi said Dellosa “violated doctor-patient confidentiality” when he agreed to air Cruz’s session with him. “That psychiatrist should be sued for malpractice,” Kanapi added. “And this network…maybe somebody should drive a stake through [its] heart.” GMA 7 is called the Kapuso network.
Reacting to that post, actress Madeleine Nicolas wrote: “I told Sol (Cruz’s nickname) to be careful about TV interviews…He thanked me for warning him…I am wary about posts on personal stuff on people in FB. When it starts trending, it is picked up by TV. We have to be careful even if we mean well.”
Kanapi said it was possible that Cruz had no idea what he was getting into. “For all we know, he was expecting help [so viewers would] realize he’s back on track. Actors [like us] need to work.”
Curiously, another awarded actor, Ronnie Lazaro, suspects the whole scenario is one big, elaborate performance for Cruz, his long-time friend.
Lazaro told the Philippine Daily Inquirer by phone on Friday: “The people who know him are quietly laughing along with him. I know Soliman very well. In the past, we did a lot of performance art on the streets and in some art galleries. Sol is a really fantastic artist. He knows what he’s doing. ”
Even so, Lazaro said, “I always try to talk Sol into changing his ways. We have what you may call a love-hate relationship. We’ve performed together in many projects. I could never turn my back on him, but right now, I can’t join him. I think he’s actually happy with what’s happening right now.”
Raymond Red, director of “Himpapawid”—for which Cruz won the 2009 Urian Best Supporting Actor award— believes there’s “a deeper reason for what is happening to Sol.” Red and Cruz have been friends for over three decades, since they were classmates at the Philippine High School for the Arts (PHSA) in Los Baños, Laguna.
“Sol has a strong personality. He’s very passionate about life and his art,” Red told Inquirer. “His whole life is one big performance. While it’s true that he is going through something depressing right now, the people close to him do not consider this as something negative. This is not at all surprising.”
(Cruz broke up with his wife, actress Roence Santos, a few years back. They have two daughters—Tala and Pintig.)
Red said it was very likely Cruz’s decision to live on the streets. “It’s not like he doesn’t have a choice. He isn’t a palaboy, like he was depicted in the [GMA 7] story. Should he ever need help, all of us, friends of his, would surely come to his rescue. Sol is just like that.”
The indie filmmaker insisted that Cruz wasn’t merely trying to call attention to himself. “He was living his life privately and quietly when people began talking about him in social networking sites. He had done that before. [This particular incident] just got magnified because of TV and the Internet.”
Red’s conclusion: “The bottom line here is that Sol agreed to be interviewed. More than the comments about the program, what’s important was Sol’s views about [his experiences on the streets]. When he said yes to that interview, maybe he failed to consider certain aspects of news reporting.”
In a statement sent to Inquirer, GMA 7 said, “‘Kapuso Mo, Jessica Soho’ came across Mr. Soliman Cruz’ story through a post by a follower of the program’s Facebook page…There were discussions about his plight and many wished that help be extended to him.”
This, said the statement signed by Butch S. Raquel, consultant for corporate communications to the network’s chair and CEO, motivated the “KMJS” team to ascertain Cruz’s situation.
In the course of the “KMJS” interview with Cruz, the statement added, “he told us that he wanted to see his psychologist-psychiatrist, Dr. Randy Dellosa. We arranged [the meeting], as he requested.” Before documenting their conversation, Raquel said, the team sought permission from Cruz and Dellosa, “who both agreed.”
The network continued to facilitate efforts to help Cruz after the story was aired, Raquel pointed out.
Filmmaker Siegfried Barros Sanchez is sure that airing Cruz’s story was “well-intentioned.” He says people reacted negatively only because the program aired Dellosa’s diagnosis. “The doctor implied that Sol was a drug addict and had gone crazy. Bagsak na nga sinisipa pa (he’s down and still gets kicked around),” said Sanchez, who worked with Cruz in three films —“Lasponggols,” “Ang Mga Kidnaper ni Ronnie Lazaro” and “Huling Biyahe.”
For Cruz’s colleague, actor Pen Medina, people working in the media are “always on the lookout for controversy —it’s part of their job. Whether or not the story was good depends on the message that it tried to convey. Was it about drugs and its ill effects? Did the viewers learn from it? Was Sol under the influence when interviewed?”
Medina, who admitted that he didn’t catch the show, raised the issue of whether Cruz signed a waiver or written consent. “We all have to consider this first before we react,” the actor said. “Another question is whether or not the story was made to appear controversial.”
Sanchez said he started noticing changes in Cruz’s behavior while they worked on “Huling Biyahe” (2012). The director recounted: “The crew got scared of Sol because they would see him talking to himself. Sol said he was hearing voices in his head. What was puzzling to me was that when the camera started rolling, Sol was OK—he knew his lines well. A schizo can’t just snap back to his normal self.”
In the final analysis, the director added, “Only Sol can help himself. All of us have become addicted to something or gone crazy at some point. I guess Sol is just braver than most of us because he chooses to acknowledge these emotions. It’s hard to understand what goes on in the minds of artists.”
Sanchez recalled a story he heard from filmmaker Jon Red, Cruz’s former classmate in PHSA: “For his thesis, Sol acted like a crazy person for a whole school year. Sol was so convincing, that people refused to talk to him.”
His present situation is simply Cruz’s way of coping with depression, Sanchez is convinced. “It’s really his daughters that Sol is worried about. Whenever he comes upon some money, he spends an entire day with them.”
In any case, Medina stressed, Cruz needs to be rehabilitated. “He should change his attitude toward life if he wants to recover.” He echoed Lazaro’s thought: “For all we know, he’s enjoying this—kanya-kanyang trip lang ’yan.”
“It’s not Sol’s intention to attract attention to himself,” Sanchez reiterated. “I think this is a stage play with Sol as writer, director and actor. It’s the best play of his life, because all of us, his audience, are attentively watching, wondering what will happen next.”
Raymond Lee, indie screenwriter and producer said, with a tinge of reverence: “We just worked with Sol on the shoot of ‘Juana C. The Movie.’ He was [always] on time and terrific in his scenes. He wasn’t crazy, just crazy good.”