Exactly a month after her husband's demise, director Laurice Guillen talked about her fondest memories of actor Johnny Delgado during her solo press conference for I Love You, Goodbye, held last December 19 at the ABS-CBN compound. The "love drama" is Star Cinema's official entry to the 2009 Metro Manila Film Festival, and it marks Direk Laurice's big-screen comeback after a five-year absence from the directorial seat.
"Walang ligaw-ligaw yun!" Guillen laughed as she remembered how Johnny made his first romantic advances. "We were doing a movie together, yung Init  by Lino Brocka. Maghapon kaming walang shooting. That was the first time I met him. Maghapon kami sa beach, kuwentu-kuwentuhan lang hanggang mag-sunset.
"When we started talking, I did not think that it would lead to us having a relationship, becoming lovers, and eventually him being the father of my children," she reminisced during an interview with PEP (Philippine Entertainment Portal) and some members of the entertainment press.
But her fondest memory of Johnny was not their first date or their first movie together.
"Sabi niya, hindi naman daw siya takot mamatay," she began. "Tanggap naman daw niya, pero 'wag lang daw niya akong makitang umiiyak, kasi hihina siya kapag nakita niyang umiiyak ako. So I never cried in front of him. But there was one time, one week exactly before he passed away, nag-misa sa bahay, and when the priest was giving his Homily, he said something about offering this Mass for Johnny... Pagkatapos no'n, lumuluha na ako, tapos napatingin ako sa kanya na nakahiga sa kama, nakatingin siya sa akin. Meron na siyang luha. Tapos sabi niya sa akin, he just mouthed the words, kasi siyempre may misa. Sabi niya..."
Laurice then demonstrated by mouthing the words: "I Love You." According to her, she will forever replay that single memory in her mind.
I LOVE YOU, GOODBYE. While Direk Laurice admitted that she was used to uttering "I love you" to Johnny, on his last moments she wasn't able to bid him "Goodbye."
"I never said goodbye, we never said goodbye, he never said goodbye," she emphasized. "I don't think he would have."
She then shared an anecdote describing how Johnny avoided saying the word goodbye.
"He turned his head away, so I stopped. Ayaw niya mag-goodbye. I mean, basta let it happen na lang. Hindi niya kaya mag-goodbye. For that matter, ako rin siguro. If it were up to me, I would not say goodbye."
She later summed it all up by saying that Johnny "was prepared to die, but he wasn't prepared to say goodbye."
WIFE, DIRECTOR. Despite the passing away of her husband, Direk Laurice wowed the whole production crew when she resumed filming for I Love You, Goodbye a day after Johnny's funeral. Despite her period of mourning, she knew that her husband would have wanted her to work right away.
"In a way, alam ko naman na si Johnny, 'Sige, tuloy mo na, shooting ka na,'" she said. "At nakakatulong rin naman na kumbaga, nung nawala na siya, the day after, meron ako agad ginagawa," she explained, saying that Johnny's death helped keep her work "on the edge" and inspired her to do better, no matter what.
After all, she revealed that Johnny was her worst critic.
"'Ang pangit naman! Bakit ba ang hahaba ng shot mo? Bakit ang hilig mo sa tuhog? Bakit ang pangit ng pagka-deliver? Bakit mo hinayaan 'yan? Dapat nag-take-two ka, hindi ganyan,'" she said with a laugh as she recalled her husband's criticisms."Doon nag-build 'yong trust ko, kasi alam ko hindi niya ako bobolahin."
But despite the often brutal critique, she added that Johnny always supported her films.
Laurice Guillen worked with Johnny Delgado as a director on three films: Santa Santita (2004) headlined by I Love You, Goodbye lead actress Angelica Panganiban; Tanging Yaman (2000); and Lumayo Ka Man Sa Akin (1992).
REMEMBERING JOHNNY. During the presscon, the director said that she always admired her husband's overflowing passion.
"Enjoy na enjoy ako sa kanya, gusto ko yung spirit niya," she mused, in response to a question about her first impression of Johnny. "Malaya siya mag-isip, and yung passion, hindi mo nakikita 'yan sa ordinaryong lalake. Yung malaya mag-isip, at the same time, very caring. Yung conversations, kung mag-usap kami, ang tagal. Minsan maghapon."
This year's Christmas will be the family's first holiday celebration without the man of the house. Direk Laurice narrated that they had always celebrated Christmas solemnly with mass and prayer, a hearty dinner, happy chatter, an exchange of gifts and lastly, swapping of huge Christmas cards.
"Kaya malalaki ang Christmas cards namin dahil may sulat. So that's been our ritual. Gusto ko sana ganoon rin ang Christmas namin ngayon," she said. "Just the three of us [she and her two daughters Ana and Ina], but I'll probably set the table for four," she said happily.