They say that in death, one becomes bigger than life. For all of his achievements as an actor and a certified top draw, action superstar Rudy Fernandez undoubtedly became more than just a mere copy of his silhouette image.
Diagnosed with periampullary cancer two years ago before his 54th birthday, Daboy—as colleagues and admirers fondly call him—bravely faced the dreaded disease with much hope and laughter. His courage in dealing with his situation was simply inspiring, to the extent that it made him a certified action hero in real life.
Daboy is a unique individual and he is remembered for a number of reasons. But days after his passing last June 7, the statements coming from family members and close friends painted a concrete description of Rudy as a person.
PEP (Philippine Entertainment
Portal) pays homage to one of the most celebrated actors in the history of
Philippine Cinema by listing down his legacy both as an actor and a person.
AWARD WINNING ACTOR. With a slew of movies tucked under his belt, Daboy undoubtedly was considered as one of the finest actors in the industry. It is rare for an actor to possess both grit and sensitivity—Rudy had both.
Former President Joseph Estrada—who himself was a popular action star before his foray into politics—once cited Rudy as a possible successor to the throne of other action greats like Fernando Poe Jr.
Daboy won a FAMAS award in 1984 for Batuigas... Pasukin si Waway and another one in 1988 for Victor Corpuz. Daboy also bagged the Film Academy of the Philippines (FAP) Best Actor plum for Batuigas, the same year he notched the FAMAS trophy.
Slowed down by cancer, which consequently put his showbiz career on hold, Daboy was accorded the Fernando Poe Jr. Memorial Award in the 2007 FAMAS for his contribution to the local movie industry. Earlier this year, The Philippine Movie Press Club (PMPC) awarded Daboy the 2008 Ulirang Artista Lifetime Achievement Award during the 24th Star Awards for Movies. The FAP likewise bestowed on Rudy the FPJ Lifetime Achievement Award.
ACTION PRINCE. Rudy started out doing teen flicks before he landed his breakthrough film Bitayin si Baby Ama in 1976. Due to the success of the said film, Rudy went on to do action movies and never looked back.
After Bitayin si Baby Ama, Rudy did a number of action flicks like Wanted: Agad-Agad (1976), Alfredo Lim: Sa Kamay ng Ibabaw (1977), Bilangguan: Walang Rehas (1978), Teteng Salonga ng Tondo (1978), Pader at Rehas (1980), Pepeng Shotgun (1981), Ulo ng Gapo (1981), Get My Son Dead or Alive (1982), Kumander Elpidio Paclibar (1982), Sumuko Ka Na Ronquillo (1983), Kumusta Ka Na Hudas? (1983), Alex San Diego: Alyas Wanted (1983), Kunin Mo Ang Ulo ni Magtanggol (1983), Idol (1984), Sarge (1984), Tulisang Dagat (1984), Kriminal (1984) and Pasukuin si Waway (1984), among a handful of others.
His bankability as an action hero was further cemented when he did a biopic of popular Baguio-based police officer Bobby Ortega in 1992. The movie Markang Bungo made the famous line, "Walang personalan, trabaho lang." A sequel, Iligpit si Bobby Ortega, Markang Bungo 2, was shown in 1995.
Portraying real-life characters had always been Daboy's forte. In 1987, he took on the role of Victor Corpuz. 1991 saw Rudy portraying the life of controversial political figure Vincent "Bingbong" Crisologo. Other biopics of Rudy include Lagalag: The Eddie Fernandez Story (1994) and The Ping Lacson Story (2000). Daboy also depicted the infamous Kuratong Baleleng story in 1995.
Rudy's last big screen appearances was in 2002 when he did Diskarte with Ara Mina as leading lady and Hula Mo, Huli Ko with sexy-comedienne Rufa Mae Quinto.
THE FAMILY MAN. Rudy, like all of us, was not a saint. And even his wife is careful not to exaggerate all the adulations and hero worship her husband is now getting. Just like any normal couple, Rudy and Lorna went through various obstacles that tested their commitment to one another.
But unlike other couples, they survived the odds right until Daboy's final breath.
"Alam ko kasi na... Siguro basta't ang alam ko, ako yung tao na nasa puso niya. Ako yung taong minahal niya. Sinasabi nga niya, ‘Ikaw ang nasa puso ko,' most of the time. And yun din siguro ang puwede kong... At alam niya sa puso niya na siguro maraming pagkakataon na may nangyayari sa buhay ng mag-asawa na dadaanan kayo. Pero sa huli, sa huling sandali, alam namin pareho na nasa puso namin ang bawa't isa," noted Lorna.
Rudy's health dilemma brought him closer to his wife and sons. Ralph said that since being diagnosed with periampullary cancer, his conversations with his dad took on a more serious, if not, deeper tone.
"Parang ever since nung nagkaroon na siya ng cancer, 'yong conversations namin parang may ibang lalim na ‘yong mga sinasabi niya, mabigat na parang advise na, ‘Tandaan ninyo na ‘tong sinasabi ko.' Pero bago pa ‘to mag-worse ‘yong condition niya," shared Ralph.
Rudy's first son, Mark Anthony Fernandez, with ex-partner Alma Moreno was fortunate enough that he was given substantial time to "re-discover" his relationship with his dad. In the end, Mark's difficult growing up years looked very much behind him. Rudy, as told by Alma, couldn't have been happier for his firstborn.
"Actually, bago pumunta ng States si Daboy at si Lorna para magpagamot, matagal kaming nagkausap tungkol kay Mark. Natutuwa na siya kay Mark, sa career ni Mark. Mas matipid daw siya at mas makunat na daw. Yung mga ganun! Kaya tawa kami nang tawa," recalled Alma.
While Daboy bravely accepted his fate and felt ready to face God, one interview showed the typical father side of him.
"Paminsan-minsan, iniisip ko, paano kaya ang mga anak ko, ang mga apo ko, kung wala na ko?" he wondered, his voice trembling. Daboy regained his composure and quickly thought of the bright side, saying proudly of his family, "Tingin ko, kaya nila."
PEACEMAKER. "Siya ang gumagawa ng paraan para magkaayos. Ayaw niya ng may away sa aming mga magbabarkada," actor and Senator Jinggoy Estrada said about Rudy.
Serving as the glue that keeps the barkadahan intact, Daboy would always and willingly assume the role of peacemaker to his friends through their occasional bickering. Having friends who belong to two contrasting political parties, namely Senators Jinggoy Estrada and Bong Revilla, Daboy was the neutral ground that kept things balanced and cool.
Even when he was already preoccupied with battling cancer and undergoing treatment, his closest friends attest that he never gave up on his role as a peacemaker.
Much has been said about Rudy's pacifying nature. But that characteristic shone brighter than ever after his passing. Talking about Daboy, Bong mentioned, "'Yun ang bridge namin, e... tuwing nagkakaroon kami ng sama ng loob... tuwing nagkakatampuhan kami, si Daboy talaga ang tulay namin." To which fellow friend Phillip Salvador shot back good naturedly at Bong, "Kapag nagkaganoon pa kayong dalawa, e, baka mamaya, bumangon ang kaibigan natin. Sasabihin sa inyo, tumigil na nga kayong dalawa."
Rudy's desire to always maintain a harmonious environment can be traced back to his days as president of the Kapisanan ng mga Artista ng Pelikulang Pilipino (KAPP). Described by friends and co-workers as an organized leader, Daboy, they all shared, valued peace and good camaraderie first and foremost.
SENSE OF HUMOR. During the time he was struggling with cancer, Rudy never lost his most endearing trait to many of his friends: sense of humor.
"Siguro, kaya maraming nagmamahal sa kanya dahil palagi siyang nandiyan to lift you up. His sense of humor, napakaganda. Yung pagbibiro niya. Yung laughter niya, siguro yun ang hindi namin malilimutan dahil yung tawa niya, mahahawa ka, e," recalled wife Lorna Tolentino.
If there's one consistent description of Daboy that comes up from both friends and casual acquaintances, it was his ability to laugh and make others laugh as well.
"Pilyo pa rin," friend and manager Lolit Solis told PEP (Philippine Entertainment Portal) when asked if cancer diminished Daboy's penchant for fun.
Manay Lolit further added: "Lungkot na lungkot na kayong dalawa, dun nakatingin sa kanya dahil iniisip niyo ‘Kawawa naman si Daboy.' Nakukuha pa niyang magbiro. Ano ba ‘to? Hindi mo tuloy alam kung talagang nasasaktan o ano dahil talagang nandun pa rin ‘yong pagbibiro niya."
During the time his body was succumbing to the disease, Daboy was very firm in imposing one rule to both friends and relatives. "Walang iiyak," Lorna revealed. Everyone close to Rudy abided by his rule.
Daboy's friend dating back to his Sampaguita days Romy Belen shared, "Kung gusto mong umiyak, doon ka sa banyo," he told PEP (Philippine Entertainment Portal) on the first day of the action hero's wake, "kasi ayaw niya talagang makikitang umiiyak ka."
As Lorna confessed in her interviews, that's exactly what she did, weep quietly while taking a shower, whenever she felt overwhelmed by her husband's suffering.
THE FIGHTER. Originally, doctors gave Daboy only six months to live. But the fighter in him, which many thought was only in the movies, came through and for a time defied the medical prognosis.
In an interview with veteran entertainment columnist Ricky Lo, Rudy admitted going through a period of depression when he learned about his condition. But that didn't last for long. Picking up his broken spirit, Rudy soldiered on, tried various treatments and remained positive in the face of the life threatening disease.
Even his friends couldn't help but admire his courageous outlook. "Wala akong nakitang taong napaka-positive kundi ‘yang si Daboy. Ibang klase ýan. Ibang klaseng magbigay ng hope ýan," said good friend Phillip Salvador.
Another good friend, Bong Revilla, shared that when Rudy arrived with Lorna Tolentino at the airport after their futile U.S. trip, Daboy refused to use a wheelchair.
"Well, up to the last minute, si Daboy yung tipong hindi niya ipaparamdam sa 'yo na nanghihina na siya. Siya yung tipong, ‘lalaban ako up to the last' ganun siya," described Bong.
Daboy's strong will unfortunately proved to be no match against cancer. And on June 7, Rudy's fighting heart finally relented. But even on the cusp of death, Daboy still managed to slightly lift his head and say, "I love you" to his beloved wife.
The final stand for a life well lived.