Actors vow to carry on Marilou Diaz-Abaya’s legacy
MANILA, Philippines—Much-awarded director and writer Marilou Diaz-Abaya, who died on Oct. 8 after a five-year battle with cancer, was laid to rest at Loyola Memorial Park in Parañaque City Saturday morning.
“We shall continue all the good that you’ve started not just in the movies but in our lives as well,” pledged actor Cesar Montano, who described Abaya as his “personal adviser and friend” in his eulogy shortly after a necrological Mass on Friday night.
Abaya was Montano’s director in the acclaimed films “Jose Rizal” (1998), “Muro Ami” (1999) and “Bagong Buwan” (2001). He attributed to Abaya his landing the role of Capt. Juan Pajota in the Hollywood movie “The Great Raid” (2005), starring Benjamin Bratt, James Franco and Joseph Fiennes.
“I wouldn’t have landed the role if not for her training. Filming her three movies had been extremely difficult. I saw how dedicated she was to her craft. She was a perfectionist. To the people she worked with, she had so many surprises,” said Montano at the Gonzaga Building chapel of Ateneo de Manila University in Quezon City.
Source of comfort
Actress Ina Feleo, whom Abaya directed in her last film “Ikaw ang Pag-ibig” (2011), said the latter always knew how to make her cry. “I was like an instrument that she knew how to play so well,” said Feleo, daughter of Abaya’s friend and contemporary, actor-director Laurice Guillen, and the late actor Johnny Delgado.
“She was my source of comfort. She believed in me more than I believed in myself,” the actress said, adding that Abaya “fought for me to portray the lead in her last movie.”
Feleo recalled an incident when she and Abaya had a tiff while filming. “We were about to shoot a very serious scene when she called my attention for being too loud and rowdy. We sat down and she made me realize how big my responsibility was as the lead actress. I regained my senses.”
In her eulogy, Guillen described Abaya as “a generous teacher, dear friend and sister.” She revealed that Abaya and Delgado were stricken with cancer only months of each other. Delgado passed away on Nov. 19, 2009.
“She was a regular visitor of Johnny’s. She was the only member of his support group,” Guillen said.
Directing until the end
Others who spoke included journalist-sociologist Randy David and community activist and publisher Mona Lisa Yuchengco. The necrological rites preceded a Mass at 6 p.m. that was celebrated by Bishop Pablo David.
“Direk always believed that in the end, one will not be judged based on what she or he has accomplished but by how many people he has loved and loved him back,” said Feleo.
Abaya’s remains were transferred to the Church of Jesus, also inside the Ateneo compound, at 6 p.m. on Saturday. A Mass was celebrated by Archbishop Leonardo Legaspi at 8 a.m.
In a previous interview with the Inquirer, Abaya’s son Marc said his mother planned her four-day vigil and burial like the meticulous director that she was. “That was our joke—that she was directing until the end.” He shared that Abaya wanted the ceremonies to be simple and had left everything up to the members of the Jesuit Communications, where she was also a trustee, to carry out her instructions. “I guess she didn’t want me, my brother (David) and father (Manolo) to be stressed,” Marc told the Inquirer.
Abaya was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2007. Her health improved in 2008. The illness returned the following year and was gone again in 2010. It recurred in 2011.
In 2001, Abaya was awarded the Arts and Culture Prize of the Fukuoka Asian Culture Prizes. Abaya’s films have also been exhibited at festivals in Munich and Dusseldorf. Her masterpiece, “Jose Rizal,” was the closing film at the Guggenheim Museum in New York City in March 1999.
Abaya was the founder and president of the Marilou Diaz-Abaya Film Institute and Arts Center, and a film instructor of the Ateneo de Manila University. She was also 2005 Women for Peace conominee for the Nobel Peace Prize.
Abaya was brought to her final resting place by family members and friends at 12:30 p.m.
The burial was “solemn and private,” according to a blog posted on rappler.com.
“You’re the greatest teacher and mother. We will always love you,” said Marc during his good-bye speech. “Now rest and see you in time.”
He continued: “We will never forget all the lessons she taught us.”
Aside from Montano and his wife, Sunshine Cruz, Guillen, filmmaker Olivia Lamasan and actor-TV host Jhong Hilario were among those who attended the burial.
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