Julio Diaz the fighter is back
From all indications, Julio Diaz has remained just as plucky and fiery—as if the stroke he suffered last April didn’t happen at all.
Recently, Cannes-winning filmmaker and longtime friend Brillante Ma. Mendoza posted the actor’s photo online; the caption read: “Julio’s back.”
From his home in Bulacan, Julio visited the Inquirer office in Makati last week, for an interview on “Maratabat,” which won best international film at the People’s Film Festival in New York.
Arlyn de la Cruz, “Maratabat” director, related that the acclaimed actor refuses to use a cane. “But he admits that it’s pretty useful in the MRT, because people let him take a seat during rush hour.”
“I commute,” Julio told the Inquirer. “I can move around. There’s nothing wrong with me. Other stroke survivors are paralyzed for months. Not me. I feel very blessed.”
His quick recovery is nothing short of a miracle, he said.
He credits his “second life” to God. “You should always trust in Him. Imagine, a vein burst in my brain,” he volunteered. “The most important message I got from being sick is that God will never turn His back on us.”
While in the hospital, he was reminded of the poem, “Footprints in the Sand.” “Every line is meaningful to me. At my lowest point, there was only one pair of footprints in the sand…that was because God was carrying me. God is good.”
He likened the health crisis to a blessing in disguise. “This is a new beginning for me,” he asserted.
In the past, he was involved in all sorts of controversies and shenanigans, he conceded. All that is a thing of the past. “Wala na ’yong mga kalokohan na ’yon (I’ve given up those foolish things),” he said. “Once you make a promise to God, you better keep it. It would be embarrassing to go back to your old ways.”
Julio said he saw proof of His goodness in the many colleagues who went out of their way to help raise P1.3 million for his medical expenses. “Sina Coco Martin, Robin Padilla, Vivian Velez, Jaclyn Jose…” The list is long and inspiring.
That Jaclyn won best actress for “Ma’ Rosa” in Cannes and “Maratabat,” best international film in New York, are constant sources of joy for Julio.
“I’m very proud and happy for Arlyn and Jaclyn,” he remarked. “In spite of what happened, I got to witness their victories.”
Julio, Brillante and Jaclyn have been collaborating for decades…“since the 1980s.” “Four of my films with Dante (Brillante’s nickname) went to Cannes: ‘Serbis,’ ‘Kinatay,’ ‘Taklub’ and ‘Ma’ Rosa,’” he recounted.
Arlyn was supposed to cast Julio in her next movie, “Pusit.” “It would’ve been his first time to play a cross-dresser. But he got sick,” Arlyn noted. (Jay Manalo took over the part.)
“As an actor, Julio is very perceptive. He knows how to listen and he values moments, conversations, time spent together,” Arlyn said.
While Julio was in the hospital, his ex-wife Maricel, daughter Carrie and mother-in-law Marita Zobel (an LVN star in the 1950s) came to visit.
“It has been 14 long years since my daughter and I were last together,” he owned up. “We need to make up for lost time.”
He said he’s planning to call her soon—perhaps to set a date for Father’s Day?
“But I don’t really believe in Father’s Day,” he quipped. “The concept of Father’s Day was just invented by businessmen. Every day should be Father’s Day.”
He is raring to act again and is awaiting clearance from his doctor. “I can’t do anything too demanding and heavy, though. I’m still on the road to recovery,” he pointed out.
He is set to take a stress test soon, to determine if he can go back to work. But if you ask Julio, he’s more than ready: “I want to keep busy, and I also need to earn for my maintenance medicine,” he said, laughing.
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