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The Manoy Manuals: The Enduring Case of Eddie Garcia

Eddie Garcia was one of a kind.
IMAGE Artu Nepomuceno
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In a movie industry so obsessed with cookie-cutter characters and formulaic plotlines, only a few dared to break the mold, and rarer still, kept doing so for seven decades. Among the titans of Philippine cinema, no one can be as enduring and evolving as Eduardo Verchez García.

Eddie Garcia, a dedicated soldier turned reluctant actor, quickly became the standard by which Filipino artists are measured. He was a dastardly anti-hero one moment, a redeeming action figure the next, a graying crime godfather one moment, and the fading gay icon the next. Garcia, it seemed, did not choose his roles, the roles chose him.

Garcia, despite achieving movie royalty status as early as 1974 (as FAMAS’ very first Hall of Famer), was considered by his colleagues as one of the shining examples of professionalism and the evolving pursuit for the mastering one's craft. It is a paradox, then, that what caused the unexpected end to his showbiz career was an on-set slip-up.

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Photo by Artu Nepomuceno.

But perhaps fateful accidents are written in the stars; he was, after all, an accidental actor, who would’ve chosen to stay in Okinawa for the post-war rebuilding efforts if he wasn’t dragged by a peer to audition for a Michael Conde film. From then, Manoy, as he was fondly called by fans, broke countless Filipino stereotypes, as he put the bida and the contrabida on equal footing, introduced gay tolerance and acceptance into the mainstream, and proved that Filipino machismo is one that has a big heart.

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As he teetered between life and death, Manoy pushed the industry's comfort zone one last time. His accident raised the issues of enforcing safety on set, valuing production quality over efficiency and practicality, and most of all, putting a premium and caring for aging actors.

There are still plenty of things to be learned from Garcia’s wealth of experience, grit, and passion. From the Esquire Philippines archives, we pick the most enduring words that we can best remember him by.

1| "If I didn’t join the movies, probably I’ll be, dead."

Garcia shared that if he had chosen to continue his career as a Philippine Scout, he would’ve probably ended up as a casualty in the Korean War. And the Philippines would’ve had a forgotten hero insteads of an unforgettable villain.

2| "I’m usually earlier than the call time. Because my motto is, “What you could do today, do it now, so you could do something else tomorrow.”

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Perhaps born out of his military discipline, Garcia sees punctuality as the greatest among showbiz’s virtues, which he upheld on the set of the countless movies he was part of in his lifetime.

3| "To me, an award is a bonus for a job well done. You do it well, maybe you win an award. That’s it."

Despite being FAMAS’ most awarded and most nominated actor of all time, Garcia is quick to note that, unlike much of his actor and director peers, he does not make movies for awards.

4| "When you’re given a role, it’s the best recommendation for your next project."

In other words, you’re only good as your last role. And Garcia has a string of memorable characters in his filmography to judge him by, including the FPJ anti-hero Judge Valderama, who immortalized the line, "Marami ka pang kakaining bigas," in Kapag Puno na ang Salop to the vengeful Judge Enrico Cruz, who took justice in his own hands in Hukom .45.

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Photo by Artu Nepomuceno.

5| "Courage is taking risks."

Garcia says this in relation to challenging societal roles and mores, particularly the country’s rusty views on masculinity. One of his most memorable roles is that of Rene, a lonely gay man in his twilight years, in the 2012 movie Bwakaw. The role can be considered a full-circle moment that parallels his first gay role as the closeted Don Benito in Lino Brocka’s 1971 seminal hit Tubog sa Ginto.

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6| "When I suffer, everybody suffers. I don’t shout, I don’t get mad...I just don’t feed them."

Speaking of his directorial career, which earned him a Best Director trophy at the 1989 Metro Manila Film Festival for the Vilma Santos-Christopher de Leon starrer, Imortal, Garcia can be described as a determined director rather than a terrifying one.

7| "Money earned but not spent is not your money...The reason you earn is because you want to spend."

After starring in 113 movies, some 33 TV shows, and directing 25 movies since 1949, Garcia is believed to have a net worth of $24 million. Despite this, he has always been low key in his personal life, avoiding the trappings of the luxury and only enjoying target shooting as a sport.

8| "I’m not a dreamer. I’m a realist."

Despite being a household name during the Martial Law years, Garcia chose not to involve himself in politics. He, however, proved his value as an influential endorser in 2016. As a Sorsogon native, his TV endorsement for the neophyte AKO-Bicol Party-list led to top-ranking a three-seat win.

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9| "Women should be treated delicately. They should be put on a pedestal. She should be worshipped. I’m a one-woman man."

Those who are researching on his largely undisclosed private life will find no pings leading to the name of his first wife. Garcia, unlike his other celebrated contemporaries and despite the memorable philandering characters he played, was never involved in scandalous affairs in his seven-decade career. He is known to have fathered three children. Garcia is survived by his son, Erwin Garcia, and his long-time partner of 33 years, Lilibeth Romero.

10| "When your time is up, you’re dead, people forget about you...I don’t care about legacy."

Garcia’s stand on the impermanence of fame is clear, that no matter how much a star labored to keep his shine, the audience is always bound to forget. In his last movie, Hintayan Ng Langit, the actor had a line that did not make the cut. He said, “Kung totoong sa langit, wala ng sakit, wala ng puwang at wala ng paghahanap, ano pa ang silbi ng pag-ibig doon?” Perhaps, for Garcia, what will endure is his real love for acting, his accidental craft.

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John Magsaysay
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