Eddie Garcia served the Filipino entertainment industry down to his last breath—and while this would come across as quite literal after the tragic on-set accident that then led to a spinal injury and ultimately his death at 90, we mean something that spoke of his love of his craft. In the afternoon of June 20, 2019, Eddie abandoned his body but not without leaving a legacy that not many actors can ever emulate in this century. He was a multi-awarded actor-director; in fact, he is currently the most decorated at the FAMAS Awards and the only person to be inducted in three FAMAS Hall of Fame categories—best actor, supporting actor, and best director. His directing stints have catapulted the likes of Nora Aunor, Sharon Cuneta, and Lorna Tolentino to further stardom. Of his body of work, however, Eddie—who first acted in 1949 and got his recent Best Actor Award via Gawad Urian this week—made a more relevant and impactful mark in Philippine cinema by portraying queer roles.
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The recently departed legend has been on it since he could remember, he told in a November 2018 interview with Push, with some of which bent toward the slapstick. (Contemporary Dolphy hit iconic status by tackling the comic gay-turned-straight Facifica Falayfay in 1969.) Yet, Eddie, a former policeman who always depicted the dapper, swashbuckling hero/antihero with swoon-worthy geometric features, declared he didn’t consider these character-diversifying projects a big deal.
“Pare-pareho lang naman yon, nag-iiba lang sa dinidemand ng role mo at sa magiging atake mo. Yung sa akin, normal lang naman,” he said.
Of these roles, Eddie as Don Benito in Lino Brocka’s Tubog Sa Ginto in 1971 could be recalled as perhaps revolutionary. Don Benito, a millionaire who lived the seemingly ideal life of a family man, flirted with his driver Diego (deceased would-be director Mario O’Hara) and even got on with him in bed—these sex scenes, a frightful and disturbing cinematic move at the time when homosexuality was taboo. Eddie depicted a rather macho role for a gay man, showing just how broad sexuality was at the time gender movements including second wave feminism rocked traditional social constructs. In an interview by Lito B. Zulueta, Eddie recounted Brocka reportedly telling him, “You should not make it obvious that the character is a homosexual.”
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In 2012, Manoy starred in Star Cinema’s Bwakaw; he portrayed Rene, a grumpy closeted gay man who then busied himself anticipating his death. His bleak perspective toward life turned around when he welcomed Bwakaw, a stray dog, into his home. Things became sour when Rene got rejected by his crush of a tricycle driver (Rez Cortez), all while cancer-stricken Bwakaw fought for its life. Eddie’s heart-warming performance earned him Best Actor awards at the Cinemalaya, the 7th Asian Film Awards, and the prestigious 55th Asia Pacific Film Festival. Bwakaw also got nominated at the Academy Awards for Best Foreign Language Film.
In the 2018 Metro Manila Film Festival (MMFF) entry Rainbow's Sunset, Eddie starred as Ramon, a retired politician who finally went public with his relationship with his children’s Ninong Fredo (Tony Mabesa). Ramon oscillated between his duties as a family man and those as a man in love with another man who was sick. Eddie brought home the MMFF Awards Special Jury Prize for his role in the festival’s Best Picture. Last April, he shared the Best Actor plum with Mabesa at the 52nd Annual WorldFest in Houston, Texas—the third oldest film festival in the States.
[related: Manoy’s Milestones: Why Eddie Garcia is a true entertainment icon]
Eddie Garcia has long been hailed by the Filipino showbiz industry as a private professional, whose life behind the scenes he seldom talked about. But in loud whispers through his on-cam works, he might just have conveyed his message of openminded-ness, inclusivity, and love.
“Walang problema sa akin,” Eddie, in the same Push interview, said about the LGBTQ+ community in plight. “Kung type mo yon, eh… Pinanganak kang ganun, eh, walang problema yon. Kamukha nung marriage ng lalaki saka bading, nag-asawa, okey lang yon kasi gusto nila yon, eh. No problem.”
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