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Don Escudero, award winning production designer in films, dies

/ 01:35 PM July 13, 2011

MANILA, Philippines – Award-winning production designer Don Escudero passed away on Monday night, after a two-year battle with cancer, longtime friend, writer-director Jose Javier Reyes said Wednesday.

He was 55.

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Reyes recalled that Escudero was surrounded by family and friends in his final moments at the Medical City. “I was at his bedside. . . when he returned home,” Reyes related. “It was a beautiful passing.”

Reyes recounted that he and Escudero had been friends since Grade Five in La Salle Greenhills.

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“We remained close all throughout high school and college,” he said. “It was Don who introduced me to [filmmaker] Peque Gallaga and that was how I got to do the screenplay of ‘Oro, Plata, Mata.’”

Reyes wrote the script and Escudero was production designer (with Rodell Cruz) of the 1982 film directed by Gallaga.

Gallaga noted: “Don created worlds of both fantasy and grim reality with a logic and beauty that surpassed anything our movies were capable of. He was one of the industry’s finest production designers.”

Gallaga, Reyes and Escudero won awards for their work in “Oro.”

“Don was always beside me in the important moments of my life,” Reyes recalled. “In 2000, we attended the Berlin Film Festival (for my movie “Live Show”) and marched down Mendiola (when “Live Show” was X’d by the Censors).”

Reyes described his friend’s death as “painful.”

“Before Google, there was Don. When I wanted to know something, I just asked him. He knew everything,” Reyes said.

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“In jest, we called Don a walking encyclopedia,” another longtime friend actor-director Manny Castañeda concurred. “He was a renaissance man: an artist, historian, gourmand, connoisseur.”

Castañeda recalled that they had to be in their “best behavior” whenever Escudero was around. “We had to be prim and proper, which was so very hard to do, especially for me.”

Escudero started in the biz as an assistant, working with such masters as Lino Brocka (“Gumising Ka, Maruja”), Ishmael Bernal (“Ikaw ay Akin”) and Mike de Leon (“Kung Mangarap Ka’t Magising”).

In the 1990s, Escudero eventually directed his own films: “Multo in the City,” “Hindi Magbabago,” “Impakto,” “Halik,” “Laging Naroon Ka,” among others.

Ronnie Lazaro, one of the cast members of “Oro,” remembered Escudero as “a gentle person.”

“As a term of endearment, we called him a gentle giant,” Castañeda agreed.

Filmmaker Joey Romero, who worked with Escudero in “Vampira,” said: “Everything about Don was big. Not only his built, but also his laughter, ideas and generosity.” (Escudero was co-writer of “Vampira.”)

Reyes recalled that Escudero, whose full name was Placido Escudero, hosted a big birthday party last January in the family-owned plantation-resort Villa Escudero in Quezon province. “All of his friends were there and we all knew why . . . ”

It was Escudero’s fond farewell and last major production.

Wake is at the chapel of Villa Escudero until Friday. Funeral follows the memorial service on Saturday morning, also at Villa Escudero.

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TAGS: Death Notice, Don Escudero, Entertainment, Obit, People
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