Thursday, October 28, 2010

*223. PAMPANGA'S PARUL: Spectacular Stars of the Season

TWINKLE, TWINKLE CHRISTMAS STAR. A Kapampangan lass from Barrio Talang in Candaba, Pampanga spruces up their family's humble home with a homemade star lantern crafted from papel de japon, cellophane and bamboo sticks, December 1961.

Pampanga’s star shines the brightest during the holiday season, in both literal and figurative sense, as it brings out its dazzling, colorful paruls (lanterns) to light up the nights leading to Christmas. While the lantern tradition is not unique to the Philippines—Oriental countries like Japan and China are likewise famous for their lighted paper lanterns with their characteristic tassels—it can rightfully claim to be the home of the most spectacular Christmas lanterns in the world, courtesy of Pampanga.

The parols in Pampanga, like all lanterns in the Islands, started with simple, boxy paper lanterns with wooden frameworks held on bamboo poles and borne to light early religious processions, as in the lubenas of the Virgen de La Naval in Bacolor. ‘Parol” was localized from the Spanish ‘farol’ (lantern), which, in turn was derived from “Pharos”, a Grecian island along the Nile renowned for its lighthouse that came to be part of the world’s seven wonders. The lanterns soon acquired the shape of a star and even a tail, to represent the Star of Bethlehem that shone over Christ’s birthplace in Bethlehem.

For many years, the basic construction of the parol remained unchanged—bamboo sticks form the framework for the three-dimensional five pointed star, which is then covered with papel de japon of suitable color. The bamboo frames are lined with strips of foil paper to define the star and one or two tails of are added, also made from paper strips. The star can also be accentuated with foil cut-outs and circumscribed with a papered bamboo hoop. Several variations were spun-off from this basic parul, including lanterns with multiple points and, of late, paruls fashioned from translucent capiz shells, fiberglass, colored vinyl and handmade paper.

SAN FERNANDO PARUL FROM 1964, shows a star-shaped center with santan flower designs in between, circumscribed by 5-petal flowers.

But it took the people of San Fernando to re-invent the ‘parul’ , transforming them into the giant, spectacularly-lit lanterns that we know today. The advent of electricity in the 1930s solved the lighting problems of lanterns, and so artisans focused their attention in enhancing the design and size of the common ‘parul’.

The Davids from barangay Sta. Lucia, are a family of lantern-makers who were crafting ‘paruls’ as early as the 1930s. The patriarch, the late Rodolfo David, is credited with inventing the rotor, which revolutionized the design and lighting mechanisms of paruls, allowing for countless lighting possibilities and color combinations.

To maximize such attractive kaleidoscopic effects, lanterns grew in size, with the first battery-powered giant lanterns devised by David’s son-in-law, Severino, in the early 1940s. By 1958, David had perfected a new lantern design, papered with papel de japon, and now distinctively known as ‘parul sampernandu’. The flat, circular lanterns are designed with individual compartments housing a lightbulbs that light and ‘dance’ using the ingenious rotor technology devised not ny engineers, but by local craftsmen. Rotors are fashioned from barrels, which are rotated manually by a person to light the lanterns—the same principle employed by small music boxes that has rotors with embossed parts that sound off when they come in contact with the steel tines.

CLASSIC PARUL DESIGN, shows a kaleidoscope of colored patterns--curlicues, spirals, arches and mosaic patterns. Ca. 1964.

In the case of sampernandu lanterns, the electricity is activated with hairpins when they come in contact with the metal rotor. Strategically-placed masking tape on the rotor, on the other hand, cuts off the flow of electricity. This stop-and-go flow of electricity dictates the lighting pattern of the thousands of lightbulbs (some as much as 4,000 bulbs) , achieving the dancing illusion that becomes more apparent when the lighting is synched with live band music.

Today, the paruls of Pampanga, led by the sampernandu of the capital city, continue to shine brightly with the annual Ligligan Parul (Giant Lantern Festival and Contest) that has helped popularized and revitalized interest in this once-vanishing art. Leading lantern makers like Erning David Quiwa, Eric Quiwa, Roland Quiambao and Arnel Flores are at the forefront of this mision to keep the parul tradition alive.

The Kapampangan paruls have also awed audience worldwide—from Hollywood U.S.A. (where a float decorated with sampernandu lanterns won first prize in a folk festival), Thailand, Taiwan, to Austria and Spain. Always a community affair, the making of Christmas lanterns also helps to keep the flame of bayanihan spirit burning, encouraging generosity, charity, goodwill and peaceful co-existence, which are, in fact, the same messages that Christmas brings.

MASAYANG PASKU AT MASAPLALANG BAYUNG BANWA KEKO NGAN!

Sunday, October 24, 2010

*222. FOUR AND TWENTY DAYS OF CHRISTMAS

MISS DECEMBER. A Kapampangan child from the Lilles family dresses up for a Christmas school play, in a costume representing the holiday month, complete with a mask, moon, stars and a paper crown with the number 12 in Roman numerals. Ca. mid 1920s.

There’s a certain spirit in the air whenever December comes, instantly turning on the holiday mood as the sights and sounds of the season come alive everywhere: carols on the radio, lanterns on the streets, Yuletide d├ęcor in homes, and yes, the dip in the thermometer, a sure sign of the approaching Christmas season.

To a child growing up in the 60s, December will always be a month unlike any other—for it meant shortened school days, a long vacation and one or two weeks of exciting holiday activities before the actual Christmas Day. You know it's really that time of the year when our Teacher-in-Charge starts ordering us to bring out our shoeboxes of Xmas ornaments stowed in our classroom cabinet. In my elementary school days, I remember how we turned our classroom into a virtual Winter Wonderland. The centerpiece was a Christmas tree fashioned from a real tree with branches covered with lots of cotton balls.

We decorated our tree with chains made from colored paper, and cut-out figures from old Christmas cards. Glitter was made from old cigarette ‘palara’ and more generous classmates would donate five-centavo Chinese folding paper lanterns with tassels of string. Traditional star lanterns of bamboo and papel de japon were all hand-made—which, after being graded by our Industrial Arts teacher, were quickly hanged above our door.

There would also be hurriedly-practiced Christmas presentations, which consist mostly of singing carols learned from our Commonwealth era music books. We played "manitu-manitu", our version of Kris-Kringle, in which mystery benefactors gave small surprise gifts for you every day—bubble gum, a hand towel, a sachet of balitug (roasted corn kernels), a bar of Choc-nut. The identity of your donor is revealed on the day of the Christmas Party, where more gifts are given, with the best reserved for our Teacher-in-Charge.

At home, you can sense that the preparation for the big day is more frenetic, as househelps are mobilized to clean the backyard, wax the floors and scrub the wooden windows and the pasamanos (window ledge) with isis leaves. Two weeks before Christmas, my Ingkung (grandfather) would give an extra 100 pesos to my Ima for her Christmas marketing. I remember accompanying her to far away San Fernando so she could order special ‘saymadas’ (local pastry) slathered with butter and topped with grated ‘quezo de bola’. This must explain why ensaymadas are my favorite pastries to this day.

Ati Bo, my father’s former yaya and our resident cook would also be preparing the big ‘kawas’ (vats) and ‘kalderas’ (wide cooking pans) for our special noche buena (midnight meal) based on my Ima’s menu, scrubbing the copper ‘tachos’ to bring back their gleam, which she will use for cooking tibuk-tibuk. Banana leaves would be gathered from our backyard garden, cut in size and then smoked to make them supple for wrapping suman and bobotu.

Around this time too, while the adults are absorbed in their holiday chores, I would also be snooping around to see what I would be receiving for Christmas. There were years when we got ‘stateside’ gifts bought from Clark made possible by an American friend--my favorite were the stockings stuffed with mint candies, small toys, crayons and activity books. When that was not possible, my big sister would find something appropriate at Johnny’s Grocery in Balibago or in the school supply stores of Angeles like Josie’s Variety and Estrella’s. I always looked forward to receiving Classic Illustrated comic books (they cost 80 centavos back then) that featured both "stories from the world's greatest writers" and classic fairy tales. I still have a few issues saved from those past Christmases.

Children were also expected to attend religious festivities during the holidays and the ‘pastorellas’ of our church in Mabalacat were always a delight to hear. Latin hymns are sung during the 9-day Christmas masses , and the songs include “Kyrie” (in Greek, actually) , “Gloria”, “Credo”, “Sanctus” and “Agnus Dei”. Though I could not understand a word, the operatic hymns, sung by a full choir and accompanied by violins, accordion and flutes, completely enthralled me, leading me to believe that these musical pieces must have been composed in heaven. Today, the pastorella tradition lives on in Mabalacat and in a few towns like Betis and Sta. Rita.

The final prelude to Christmas happens on Christmas Eve with the holding of the kid-anticipated ‘Maytinis’—the spectacular procession of holy images—patrons of every barangay, accompanied by colorfully lit lanterns or parul. Village choirs singing “Dios te Salve” accompany the faithful as they wend their way through the main streets of the town and back to the church.

As a young boy, I could only see the procession from afar—on the other side of Sapang Balen—as our narrow street was not part of the designated ‘limbun’ route. How I often fretted those nights away! Which is why, when I was asked to judge the Maytinis competition in 2004 (yes, prizes are now being given away for the Best Lantern, Best Carroza, Best Barangay Participation, Best Choir, etc.), I did not think twice and said yes. Through the years, the level of artistry has grown by leaps and bounds, evident in the creatively-designed lanterns and imaginatively-decorated floats; I pray that the depth of devotion has grown too.

Call me killjoy, but the excitement over Christmas drops drastically for me the day after—December 26. Then I start counting 364 days all over again till the next Christmas. For another chance to bring back scenes from one’s childhood and relive honored traditions, the wait is worth it.

MASAYANG PASKU AT MASAPLALANG BAYUNG BANWA KEKO NGAN!

*221. WITNESS TO THE WEDDING: Castro-Del Rosario Nuptials

WEDDING DAY BLUES. Two Kapampangan families--the Castros of Mabalacat and the Del Rosarios of Angeles--were united in the 1949 wedding of Ecteng del Rosario and Dong Castro--my lovestruck parents. 15 May 1949.

My parents used to keep an album of their 1949 wedding, and I remember poring over the pages many times, enthralled by the pictures, the newspaper write-up and even a feature of their wedding cake, which made it to the page of a magazine. Over the years, the album just crumbled, until all we had left was half of their wedding invitation, and a fragment of their wedding announcement published in the papers. Being the self-appointed ‘family historian’, I had the good sense to save the remaining pictures in a new album, which my Mother, the former Estrella Castro del Rosario, stowed away in my late father’s cabinet.

She had always told me about that special day in her life, albeit, in bits and pieces—and photos of her show her indeed, relishing the moment, her smile full, her face beaming. It was only recently that I had the heart to go through my Mother’s stuff again, over a year since her death, leading me to find more details about that magical 15th day of May, one morning in 1949.

My mother and father had a whirlwind courtship, getting hitched three months after their chance meeting in Angeles. My mother worked at the botica-cum-gift shop owned by her doctor-brother and it was here that my good-looking Dad introduced himself to her, on the pretext of buying a tin of Vicks. To make the long story short, my mother was swept off her feet by this short, Ateneo high school drop-out, and next thing she knew, he was asking her hand in marriage. I still keep their love letters and read them every now and then. I am both amazed and amused at my father’s sugar-sweet notes, parts of which I am sure were copied from a “how to write a love letter" book and which were certainly enough to convince my mother to give her ‘yes’.

The wedding was just a family affair, but it was complete with all the trimmings of a grand wedding. After all, my father was the eldest son, a junior, no less—and a wedding of this magnitude was a privilege of his rank. In reality, however, their wedding cost so little, thanks to wise budget-cutting and planning. The wedding itself was solemnized at the San Miguel Catholic Church (Pro-Cathedral), with Rev. Fr. Pedro N. Bantigue as the officiating priest.

My mother, just 21, was given away by his eldest brother, Dr. Pablo del Rosario, as her father had passed away two years before. She wore a printed ecru satin gown with beautiful butterfly sleeves. On her head, she wore a heart-shaped headdress, which accentuated her trademark widow’s peak. She lived long enough to see her wedding gown and headdress, framed for posterity, now hanging in my living room. My mother was every inch a picture of a radiant bride on her wedding day.

On the other hand, my 25 year-old father was in an all-white Americana sharkskin suit, the style of the day for young grooms. He wore a blue printed silk necktie and a matching hanky. Unlike mother’s gown, my father’s suit did not survive, but his necktie did. I wore his necktie for my high school graduation photo; so did my brothers, who borrowed it for their formal parties. My dashing father had his hair slicked with Brilliantine and I remember him using pomade on his hair right down till the 1990s.

Maid of Honor at their wedding was my mother’s sister, Jesusa or Imang Susing. Her counterpart was Tatang Maning, my father’s younger brother, who acted as the Best Man. Standing as principal sponsors were Pedro M. Lansangan and Paz Dizon de Gomez. Among the secondary sponsors were then my mother’s brother Renato, or Tatang Ato, (Veil), Orlando del Rosario and Nila Tayag (Cord). Sonia del Rosario (my mother’s niece) and Marcelo de la Cruz (my father’s nephew) were the well-behaved Flower Girl and Ring Bearer respectively.

The Breakfast Reception was held at the Riviera, a popular restaurant for social functions. At 4 pesos per plate, the newlyweds managed to save a lot on their reception. They even had a wonderful wedding cake that had a man-and-wife cake topper under a decorated canopy. The official photographer was X’OR Studios, which presented my parents lots of photo proofs of the event for their approval. But when they were shown the bill, my parents almost fainted. They chose not to order a final set of photos but kept the proofs instead. These pictures are what they kept in their album, complete with “Proof Only” marks, stamped on their pristine white dresses.

It is interesting to note that when my mother assumed my father's last name, she just switched her Del Rosario surname with her maiden name --which was also Castro (her mother was Felicisima Castro). Some say it's a coincidence, but to my parents, it's destiny, their meeting written in the stars.

My parents were together for 49 years, and while many felt a tinge of dismay for not reaching their golden wedding anniversary, I like to believe that it is not only in the number of years that one should count love’s ways. My father was no poet like Elizabeth Browning, but he sure meant it when, just 11 days before their wedding, he wrote my mother: “Remember, my darling, an hour or two with you is just like a minute and a minute without you is like a year. I shall always be loving you, my darling, whether in sickness or in health, till the end of our lives”.

Every time I read this part, I always get "kilig to the bones". Now that's true love!

Sunday, October 10, 2010

*220. ACADEMY OF THE SACRED HEART OF JESUS, Guagua

"COLEGIO DE LAS MADRES DE GUAGUA". College of the Sisters of Guagua--was how Guagua folks referred to the Academy of the Sacred Heart of Jesus in its early years. It was run by the Religious of the Virgin Mary (RVM), a congregation founded by Mother Ignacia. Dated January 1929.

Guagua’s most regarded Catholic institution of learning is over 100 years old and is still a force to contend with in the academic community of Pampanga. Starting out as the Colegio del Sagrado Corazon de Jesus in honor of the Sacred Heart, it was founded in 1908, with the first two-storey building donated by a pious lady of means. It was put under the charge of the Sisters of the Beaterio, or known as the Religious of the Virgin Mary, the first Filipino congregation established by Ven. Mother Ignacio del Espiritu Santo.

The Sisters were supported by duly qualified teachers and emphasis was not just on academics but also in the teaching of Religion-- “to make its students devout both in faith and in practice”. By the early 1930s, the Academy of the Sacred Heart of Jesus (A.S.H.J.) touted that it was “modern in its methods of instructions and in its complete equipment, library, laboratory and dormitory". It offered Elementary and Secondary courses recognized by the Government.

The War put a momentary end to the school and, over a decade after the war’s end, a petition was filed by Mother Maria Emilia Romero, RVM, together with some school alumnae to reopen the school. The request was favorably granted by the Superior General, Mother Catalina Dychitan, RVM. The old convent beside the church was used to house the Kindergarten and elementary classes. The school also assumed a new name-- Sacred Heart Academy—when it reopened on 10 June 1956.

The High School Department reopened in 1960, which led to an increase in student population and the subsequent expansion of the school, its buildings and its facilities. A 2-storey high school building was added in 1968 and the numerous school alumnae pitched in to have a Lourdes grotto as well as the campus gate made for their beloved school. The grade school building on the church grounds however, was razed to the ground a day after Christmas in 1969. A replacement wooden structure was hastily constructed on an unused lot donated by the Cancio family in 1970, until the grade school was moved ultimately to the San Roque campus a year later.

Further expansions were started in 1988 with the addition of 10 classrooms, a library, a high school faculty room and laboratories. The Pinatubo eruption did not deter the Sisters from stopping their operations, even opening their doors to hundred of victims seeking refuge from Pinatubo’s fury. When the volcano quieted down, the administrators replaced the termite-damaged grade school building with a new one.

By then, the funds of the school were drained due to the catastrophe, but money borrowed from the RVM congregation went into the construction of a 4-storey edifice which was named as Assumption Building that had over 20 classrooms.

For the first time too, starting school year 1996-97, male students were finally accepted by the school, freshmen and sophomores only. The first graduation of male students was realized in 1999. The next year, Sacred Heart Academy was re-named “St. Mary’s Academy”, and another 4-storey building was added with state-of-the art facilities including a Speech and Computer Labs, Auditorium and the Music Department. Inaugurated in 2003, it is now known as Beaterio Building.

The journey of this revered school--from Academy of the Sacred Heart of Jesus to St. Mary’s Academy—is a long one, but throughout its history, it has remained true to its Ignacian Marian spirituality, helping build Christ-centered communities and transforming societies by molding students into leaders, dedicated to serve others.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

*219. KAPAMPANGANS AND THEIR ‘KARNABAL’ CAPERS

ClOWNING AROUND. Two young Kapampangan lads dressed up as harlequins for the annual 'karnabal' revelry in Manila. Ca. mid-1920s.

The annual Manila Carnival, first held at the Luneta in 1908, was a big national event, unparalleled in spectacle and pageantry. It owes much of its attraction to the fabulous pavilions, exciting rides and shows, the presence of regal Carnival beauties, as well as the rambunctious atmosphere created by revelers that took to the streets in fantastic outfits and costumes.

Indeed, the very first Carnival of 1908, was in fact a one big costume and masquerade ball. The grotesque dances, pageants and processions had participants masked and dressed as harlequins, clowns and allegorical figures. The pageant that involved the Occidental and Oriental royalties featured characters dressed in formal raiments of the richest variety. Following the ceremonies, the evenings were lighted up “to show costumes, masks and masquerades”, leading to the Grand Masquerade Ball of Nations.

The Fancy Dress Balls and the Costume Contests proved to be one of the more awaited events, a showcase of Filipino creativity at it most imaginative. Prizes were given to costumed participants; loving cups were awarded to the most beautiful lady’s costume, the most beautiful gentleman’s costume and to the most attractive group. The succeeding balls were a combination of both a masquerade and costume party, with the traditional unmasking happening at midnight. No one was allowed entrance unless he was suitably garbed in a costume.

Drawn to the wild Carnival atmosphere, Kapampangans took to the big city to participate in the costumed events. One notable Kapampangan joined the costumed capers of the Carnival, and he recounted his Carnival experience in his unpublished 1975 memoirs, “The Story of My Life”. Jose Gutierrez David, the future Associate Justice of the Supreme Court was just 17 when he, together with his friends, attended the country’s much ballyhooed first Carnival. He recalls:

“In 1908, the Philippine Carnival in Manila offered free rides on the train for all persons coming from the provinces who wore costumes. For lack of sufficient money for the fare, I took advantage of this offer. I donned the costume which I had used in one Spanish drama presentation. It was the costume of a Prince together with the wig and crown. I used a mask—as all other costumed participants did—so that nobody would recognize me.

It so happened that Chong (Concepcion Roque, his future wife), her father and sister Amanda boarded the same train for Manila. I learned from Chong afterwards that she had recognized me although I did not greet her. The Carnival Queen then was Pura Villanueva from Iloilo who became Mrs. Teodoro Kalaw. I stayed in Manila three days attending the festival every night. I used to see Chong in the Pampanga Pavilion. I stayed in the house of my friend surnamed Dimacale on Raon Street. I just took my breakfast there and I ate luncheons and dinners in a Chinese Restaurant, the “Panciteria Antigua: at Plaza Sta. Cruz. I ate the same food at noon and at night. It consisted of one bowl of “pancit mike” (noodle) which cost me 10 centavos and two plates of rice worth two centavos each. Fourteen centavos per meal in all. This was what all my budget could afford.

The succeeding year (1909), my friends, Zoilo Hilario, Maximo Vergara, Joaquin Gozun and I went to Manila for two days during the Carnival season, Julia Agcaoili was the Queen. We all slept in the house in Bacolor on the eve of our trip on board of one of the steamships of Teodoro Yangco plying between Guagua and Manila. The fare by boat was much cheaper than by train. We had to be on board at 6 o’clock sharp in the morning, so we had to be awake at 3 o’clock to go to Guagua, negotiating a distance of about six kilometers from our house, to be on time to catch the boat.

In Manila, we stayed in the house of a brother of my friend, Joaquin Gozun, a shoemaker or a ‘zapatero’ who was also from Bacolor and who entertained us during our two-day sojourn in Manila. Once in a while, we took our luncheon or dinner in the panciteria, Dutch treat.
The little money I had to spend in those trips to go and stay in Manila, to attend the joyous season, came from my meager (few pesos) royalty for my ‘zarzuela’, and from petty cash given by my brother Amado.”

The “Karnabal” in Manila was certainly the place to be for a ‘promdi’ teenager in search of new experiences, new thrills. Under a mask, concealed by a costume, he could be another person he wanted to be, free to give vent to his emotion and imagination, as he loses himself to the sights and sounds of an emerging nation on the road to progress—all in the ‘greatest annual event of the Orient”.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

*218. CHIQUITO: The Man Who Laughs

TO-CHIQUI 'TO!. Augusto Valdez Pangan, in real life, was not just a popular comedian who animated the silver screen with his well-known comic characters and spoofs of Hollywood movies, but also a dancer, politician, inventor, jockey and businessman. Ca. 1960s.

One movie character icon that certainly made an impression on me as a kid was this unforgettable Chinese with a long droopy moustache, called “Mr. Wong”. Before his appearance, the Chinese were portrayed unflatteringly on the silver screen, either as taho peddlers or as people with incomprehensible accents. But Mr. Wong was funny yet sagacious, distinguished but practical, a champion of the Chinese people and its traditions.

It was a role originated by a comedian with Kapampangan roots, who had always been seen as the chief rival of Dolphy for the title of comedy king. Here, finally was a performer with a fine mind and sensitivity, who did comedy for a purpose, not just for a few cheap laughs.

Augusto Valdez Pangan, or simply “Chiquito” was born on 12 March 1932 to Manuel Pangan, an executive of San Miguel Brewery and Remedios Valdez, the second of eleven children. The Pangans trace their family roots to Apalit, Pampanga, but moved to San Miguel, Bulacan and finally to Manila were “Tito” or “Gus” grew up.

He was 7 when he started performing in Manila theaters, and in one impersonation contest, impresario Lou Salvador Sr. spotted him. He gave him a role in a musical production at the Manila Grand Opera House during the Japanese regime. Only 13 at that time, Chiquito went on to delight crowds at bodabil shows at Cloverand Life Theaters, with his engaging boogie-woogie dancing. Soon, he was being called “Tito Boogista”.

Enrolled at Mapua, Gus dreamt of becoming a topnotch engineer but the lure of showbiz proved irresistible. A meeting with Fernando Poe Sr., jumpstarted his film career in the 50s, starting with Sanggano (1947), from Palaris Pictures. He was also one of the original “Lo’Waist Gang” (1956) that counted Zaldy Zshornack and Jess Lapid as members. For the next five decades, he would make movies, mostly comedies, like Atrebida, Fighting Tisoy, Mr. Basketball, Lo’Waist Gang and Og sa Mindoro (all shown in 1958). He would also star in “Sotang Bastos” (1959), a movie about professional jockeys, of which Chiquito was one. He developed a love for gambling, naming even his production outfit (Sotang Bastos Productions) after this hit movie of his.

One highlight of his long, stellar career is appearing wit Hollywood vixen Mamie Van Doren in the western comedy spoof, “Arizona Kid”, released in 1970. To make it official, Chiquito was also the first to don a Darna costume in the film “Teribol Trobol”, thus beating Dolphy for the title of the first male Darna.

In later years, the characters he portrayed would become major movie icons. Aside from “Mr. Wong” (1977) there were: the caveman “Barok” (1976), “Asiong Aksaya” (a Larry Alcala cartoon character, 1977), “Mang Kepweng” (1979), “Gorio” (1979), “Estong Tutong”, “Kenkoy at Rosing”, “ Tacio” (based on a popular comic strip, 1980), “Pete Matipid”, “Django” and “Atorni Agaton” (1990).

Chiquito married Vilma “Ely” Isidro, who was once Ramon Zamora’s dancing partner. They were just 19 and 17 respectively, and they raised seven children, Medy, Eliza, Buma (“Bukol”), Princess, Tiny, Gus and Archie. Chiquito is also credited with discovering Alma Morena (Vanessa Laxamana), a Kapampangan actress whom he introduced in “Kambal-Tuko”.

Entering politics, he was successfully elected three times as a councilor of Makati. He served briefly as the Vice Mayor of the city, and then in 1992, he ran for a seat in the Senate, but lost. He returned to the movies in 1994, teaming up with rapper Andrew E. in the blockbuster Viva movie, “Pinagbiyak ng Bunga (Lookalayk)". A spin-off TV series was rushed that same year entitled “Puno’t Bunga”. His last movie before he got sick was “Strict ang Parents Ko’, with Amanda Page.

3 July 1997 was the day the laughter died. Chiquito, the master of broad comedy and character spoofs passed away at age 65 after a courageous bout with liver cancer at the Makati Medical Center.