KAIBIGAN, KAMAG-ANAK, KAPATID. Nomar Pardo—son of a mestizo father, Ramon (Nomar's name is Ramon spelled backward), and a Filipino-American-Italian mother, Maria Luisa—inherited his good looks from his parents. He was good-looking enough to be an actor, and indeed he wanted to become one when he was younger.
"Gusto niyang mag-artista," recalls his kababata, Tata Panerio, who was two years Nomar's junior. "Gusto niya dancer, kasi magaling talaga siyang sumayaw na bata. Napakalambot ng katawan ni Nomar noong time na 'yon. Siya nga pambato namin. Magaling kumanta, 'tsaka masayang tao. Mahilig siyang mag-joke-joke."
Nomar spent most of his adolescence in Davao, under the care of his father, Ramon (who at that time had long been separated from his mother), and his stepmother, Sitti Suhara Yahya, a Muslim princess. For college, Nomar enrolled in a computer science course at the Ramon Magsaysay Memorial College in General Santos City, in the province of Cotabato. But Tinseltown's bright lights were too alluring for Nomar to resist.
Ramon Pardo recalls that his son Nomar asked permission to go to Manila, saying: "Gusto ko makita 'yong suwerte ko doon."
So, in 1986, the 19-year-old boy set off for the big city, where Ramon had already arranged for Nomar to stay with his distant relative and friend, the singer Pilita Corrales. Asia's Queen of Songs, called Mamita by her family, welcomed the young boy into her home.
Lotlot de Leon—estranged wife of Monching Gutierrez, Pilita's son with Eddie Gutierrez—remembers the 13 years that Nomar lived with the Corrales family.
"Kahit saan mo utusan 'yan, kahit sa'n pa dalhin ni Mamita... Personal things ni Mamita, siya nakakaalam. Siya lahat nagkakarga ng gamit ni Mamita. Puwede siyang all-around-bodyguard, kaibigan, kamag-anak, kapatid, ganoon siya."
In 1990, Lotlot starred in the sitcom Mag-Asawa'y Di Biro, together with Monching, Pilita, and Eddie. It was here that Nomar had his first acting role, Lotlot says: "May talyer do'n, 'tapos may tatlong mekaniko. Isa si Nomar do'n. Mahilig talaga siya sa showbiz."
Nomar also became a part of the musical-variety show Awitawanan, hosted and produced by Pilita, with the Reycards—Rey Ramirez and Carding Cruz—as co-hosts. But Nomar eventually realized that being an artista was not for him, according to Ramon Pardo: "Ang gusto, behind the camera, sa production. He told me that."
Indeed, it was behind the camera, behind the star, that Nomar shone. He started working as personal assistant to Pilita, and occasionally to Monching.
Says Lotlot of Nomar: "Ano 'yon, e, NPA—No Permanent Address! Kumbaga, kung kailangan namin siya, nandoon siya sa bahay namin... Ang priority niyan si Mamita. 'Tapos, pag wala namang trabaho si Mamita, at si Monching may trabaho, sasamahan niya si Mon-sa shooting, sa lahat."
In a phone interview with YES!, Pilita describes Nomar as a capable P.A.: "He's very good at that kind of job. He was a fast learner." She adds that what she would never forget about Nomar were his funny antics: "He was very good at imitating baklas."
Working and living with the Corraleses, Nomar earned the trust of the whole family.
"Pag walang pera si Monching noon, siya ang tagaakyat kay Pilita," Lotlot reveals. "'Auntie, penge namang pambayad diyan. Walang pera si Mon.'
Iyong ganoon, 'yong didiretso siya sa lahat... Halimbawa, mga kasambahay, hindi maka-approach kay Pilita. Siya magsasabi no'n. 'Kailangan ng pera ni ano, kailangan ganito, may problema si ganyan...' Naging confidante siya ni Mamita."
Lotlot adds, "Ang lalim ng pinagsamahan namin ni Nomar. May pera, wala. May career kami pare-pareho o wala. Nandiyan kami para sa isa't isa, kahit hindi kami lagi nagkikita o nagkakasama."
Ramon Pardo recalls Monching telling him he could always rely on Nomar to come over when needed, even when Monching didn't even have any money to pay for Nomar's taxi fare. "Hindi bumabanggit ng pera 'yon," Ramon quotes Monching. "Pag may ibibigay ako, 'Thank you!' Pag wala, okey lang."
Nomar's father adds: "He never complained to me. He never asked money from me. I knew there was a time that he was hard up. I never heard him complain."
Before working for the Gutierrezes, Nomar took on a myriad jobs. He worked as a production assistant for a Filipino stage show in Brunei, a waiter for Pilita's Kooka Bar, a worker in a cargo forwarding company in Korea, a worker in a tofu factory, and a caregiver for Pilita's sick aunt in Australia.
"Masipag" is how Lorayne describes her husband: "Kahit ano pong trabaho, basta may trabaho, 'tsaka maayos naman po."
Lorayne Torres came into Nomar's life in 1996. She had gone to visit a kinakapatid who sold Avon merchandise in Quezon City. Nomar, who was in the neighborhood, dropped by one day and inquired about the products.
"He was buying," Lorayne relates. "So sabi ko, 'Ayan, o, mas maganda 'yan.' So parang from there, nag-start na, nagkakilala kami. Wala pang cellphone noon, e. Beeper pa lang. So nagbi-beep na, 'Oy! Kamusta?' Ganito, ganyan. Hanggang sa, ayun na, dumaan na sa ligaw."
She was just turning 16 then, and he was already 28. Despite the 12-year age gap, "nag-click lang talaga kami," Lorayne recalls. "Sabi ko no'ng nakilala ko siya, he will be the one."
Lotlot, who witnessed Nomar and Lorayne's relationship blossom, says: "Talagang nagmamahalan 'yong dalawa, sobra. And they waited. They were together for a long time before they really decided to settle down."
The actress explains that Nomar was the type of person who saw the role of padre de pamilya as a big responsibility.
"I guess Nomar always wanted to settle down early kung pupuwede, pero ano 'yan sa pera—gusto niya he's in charge of the family, e. Ayaw niya 'yong wala siyang mapapakain sa asawa niya, sa mga anak niya. So, siguro kung natagalan lang 'yong pagiging mag-asawa nila, it is because 'yong hesitations niya. 'Paano ko bubuhayin 'yan?' But siguro, finally, nagkaroon ng lakas ng loob na, 'Hindi ko papakawalan si Lorayne.'"
In 2003, after seven years of being a couple, Nomar and Lorayne finally tied the knot. With the addition of two sons, Nomar considered working abroad. But he couldn't bear the thought of being away from his family.
"Babe," he once told his wife, "okey lang kahit na sabihin mong pagod ako, basta kasama ko ang pamilya ko."
"Kahit anong pagod niya," Lorayne says, "pag umuwi siya ng bahay, makita lang niya 'yong mga anak niya, happy na siya."
KARAPATAN KONG MALAMAN. When it was time for Nomar's wake and burial, one of the first to offer assistance to the family was the Kapuso network.
Lorayne says GMA-7 executive Carol Galve came to see her and told her: "Miss Lorayne, 'wag po kayong mag-alala sa expenses... GMA po ang magso-shoulder lahat ng expenses ni Nomar, sa burol hanggang sa pagpapalibing."
The widow was naturally grateful for the assistance. "Doon pa lang, napakalaki na 'yong tulong na 'yon," she says. But on the last day of the wake, before the cremation, she didn't specify who she was thanking.
"Hindi ako nag-mention ng mga names na pinasalamatan, kasi kung magme-mention ako at mayroon akong na-miss, baka may magalit, di ba? Kaya sabi ko nga in general na lang na, 'I thank everybody, sa lahat ng nagpunta, tumulong, and everything.'"
The wake for Nomar was held at St. Peter's Chapel in Quezon City, from May 22 to 26. On the first two days, Richard was still in the hospital, recovering from his injuries, but his parents, Annabelle and Eddie, were in communication with the Pardo family.
Lorayne relates: "Noong unang-una kaming nagkita at nagkausap ni Annabelle papuntang St. Peter, ang sabi ko sa kanya, 'Gusto ko pong makausap si Richard.' Sabi niya, hindi ko pa siya makakausap, kasi nasa state of shock pa siya. 'Ako din po, kami din,' sabi kong ganoon."
Annabelle, according to Lorayne, said of Richard: "Hindi pa niya alam na wala na si Nomar."
In the course of her conversations with Annabelle, Lorayne goes on, the talent manager admitted to her that she hesitated to let Richard drive on the night of the accident. Lorayne recalls Annabelle telling her: "Sabi ko kay Richard, 'Richard, 'wag ka nang magmaneho. 'Wag mo na lang dalhin ang sasakyan mo, kasi pagod kayo...' Ang sagot ng anak, 'Ma, okey lang, kasi malapit lang naman ang Tagaytay. 'Tsaka test drive na rin.' Iyon ang sinabi niya... Kumbaga, mother's instinct 'yon, e. Baka ano'ng mangyari."
It was also during this particular conversation, Lorayne says, that Annabelle offered to help put her kids through school. "'Wag kang mag-alala, 'Day, pag-aaralin namin ang mga anak mo—elementary, high school, college,'" she recalls Annabelle telling her.
She also says that Annabelle offered to bring food during the wake and to have Masses said.
"Hindi po namin hiningi 'yon, just to clarify," Lorayne says. "Kung maganda po ang intensiyon nila sa pagpapamisa, sa pagpapakain, 'Salamat po.'"
Ramon, Nomar's father, recalls Annabelle telling his daughter-in-law within the first two nights of the wake: "Lorayne, let us stop. Kalimutan na natin 'yong nangyari, 'yong past. You go on. Go on, mabuhay ka."
On May 24, on the third night of the wake, Richard came to St. Peter's Chapel, along with other talents of Royal ERA. A Mass was offered that was both a thanksgiving for Richard and a prayerful one for Nomar on that night, courtesy of Annabelle's talent agency.
Ramon recalls the young actor's arrival: "He shook my hand. He could not speak. I said, 'Let's sit down Richard. Upo ka na. Baka nahihilo ka pa.'"
He says, in hindsight: "I can never recall that he said, 'I'm sorry it happened.' Honestly."
Lorayne saw Richard's visit as an opportunity to talk to the young actor. After the thanksgiving Mass, she saw him sitting alone.
"Tinabihan ko siya," she narrates. "Pinag-iisipan ko kung kakausapin ko ba o hindi. Pero gusto ko talaga malaman kung ano'ng nangyari... So ang una kong tanong sa kanya, 'Chard, babalik ka ba tomorrow?' Sabi niya, 'Yeah, I'll be back hanggang sa mailibing si Nomar.' Sabi ko, 'Okey.' 'Tapos, sabi niya, 'Alam mo, no'ng nabubuhay pa si Nomar, ang dream niya, mapatapos ang mga anak n'yo. Tutuparin ko 'yon.' 'Okey.' 'Tapos, tumahimik po ako. Tinanong ko siya nang maayos, 'Can we talk?' 'Yes.' 'Can we talk just the two of us?' 'Okay.'"
Lorayne says Richard suggested that they talk right then and there, but she wanted to have a more private conversation with him, away from the crowd. The actor, she says, agreed to her request. She went off to find a room within the building where they could talk. When she finally did find one, she called Monching and asked him to tell Richard that she already found a room where they could talk.
Lorayne was waiting for Richard when Monching and Lotlot came in to talk to her. "Sabi nila, 'Ate Lorayne, 'wag na lang muna ngayon... 'Yaan mo, baka bumalik si Chard, 'yong wala masyadong tao. That's the time na makapag-usap kayo."
Apparently, Lorayne says, Annabelle got mad when she heard that Lorayne wanted to talk to Richard. Lorayne says Annabelle supposedly said, "Ano pa ba ang dapat niyang malaman?"
When Lorayne got back to the chapel, Richard and the Gutierrezes had already left.
"Ano ba'ng dapat kong malaman—kung kayo ang tatanungin ko?" she asks YES! "Ako ang asawa ng namatay! Hindi ko alam kung ano ang nangyari sa kanila. It is only Richard Gutierrez who can tell me what happened, dahil sabi nga niya, mulat na mulat siya noong time na nangyari 'yon, so alam niya. He can tell me everything dahil karapatan kong malaman 'yon, e, bilang asawa ni Nomar. Di po ba? Pero wala, e. Never niya 'ko kinausap."
Richard's May 24 visit was the first and last time the star attended Nomar's wake.
AT ANO ANG ITATANONG MO? A day after Nomar's cremation, Lorayne received a call from Annabelle's secretary, saying that the talent manager was angry at Lorayne because of talk going around that she was going to sue Richard and demand P4 million in damages.
She recalls telling the secretary: "Ako din, Ate, nagulat sa 'yo, e. Sa 'yo ko lang nalaman na mayroon akong demanda. Ano ba 'yon?' sabi kong gano'n. 'Tapos, sabi niya, 'So hindi 'yon totoo?' Sabi ko, 'Hindi.' Sabi ko, 'Di ba, ang hinihingi ko lang naman sa inyo, makausap si Richard?'"
Lorayne explains: "Nagulat din ako, kasi wala naman gano'n, e. Wala namang four million na kaso. Wala talaga, dahil ayaw ko talaga [magsampa ng kaso]."
The secretary called back sometime later, telling Lorayne that Annabelle had checks given as abuloy cancelled. The checks amounted to a total of P80,000, and came from Royal ERA talents Ruffa Gutierrez (P50,000), Heart Evangelista (P10,000), and JC de Vera (P20,000).
Lorayne recounts: "Sabi ng secretary, 'Sa sobrang galit ni Bisaya [Annabelle], nagalit sa 'yo, pina-stop-payment niya 'yong tatlong tseke.'
Hindi ako nag-react. Sabi ko, 'Okey.'"
The bank, she says, called her to say that the checks from the three stars, which Lorayne had already deposited, had bounced.
After that, Lorayne says, she began receiving text messages from Annabelle: "Nag-start na siyang magte-text sa akin ng kung ano-ano. Ang lakas daw ng loob kong tumawag sa opisina, magalit... Hindi ko po sinasagot. Lahat noong mga tine-text niya no'ng una, hindi ko po sinasagot. Kasi, sabi ko nga, ano ba'ng sasabihin ko sa taong 'to na hindi niya mabibigyan ng kulay o anuman."
Lorayne says that when she finally did text Annabelle back, to ask again if she could speak with Richard, she was met with hostility. As Lorayne tells it, the exchange of text messages went this way:
Lorayne: "Di ba po from the very beginning naman I was very vocal na gusto kong makausap si Richard?"
Annabelle: "At ano ang itatanong mo? Kung bakit nabangga? At ano ang gusto mong marinig kay Richard? 'Oo, sinadya kong mabangga para mamatay si Nomar at masugatan ko 'yong mukha ko?'"
Lorayne: "Bilang asawa ko 'yong namatay, mayroon akong karapatang malaman kung ano ang nangyari."
Annabelle: "As a mother and as a manager, ako ang magdedesisyon."
Lorayne: "Alam n'yo po, mahirap kasing sumagot through text-text lang. So willing naman po akong makipag-usap sa inyo."
Annabelle and Lorayne agreed to meet on June 3 at the Via Mare restaurant in Quezon City. According to Lorayne, Annabelle wanted to replace the checks that bounced with cash and to discuss the promised support. Lorayne went to the meeting place with her mother Rebecca and her father-in-law Ramon. Annabelle was with the Gutierrezes' publicist, tabloid columnist Jun Lalin.
The following is Lorayne's account of what transpired and what was said during that meeting.
Annabelle: "Dala mo ba 'yong mga tseke?"
Lorayne turned over the bounced checks, and Annabelle gave her their equivalent in cash.
Annabelle: "Nagalit ako kasi akala ko may demanda ka na four million, e."
Lorayne: "Dapat kasi, tinanong n'yo muna ako."
Annabelle asked how Lorayne preferred to get the promised support from the Gutierrezes—in the form of an educational plan for the two kids or as outright financial help.
Lorayne: "Kung educational plan, marami pong nagsasarang educational plan ngayon, e. Pagka nagkabulilyasuhan po, nagsara, problema pa ho 'yon."
The amount of the financial help, supposedly upon the advice of Annabelle's lawyer, would be three years' worth of Nomar's salary. With Nomar earning P12,000 a month, Lorayne would be getting P432,000.
Lorayne agreed to the amount that Annabelle was offering.
Annabelle: "Paano mo gustong makuha ito? Gusto mo ba tseke, mag-iisyu ako ng 12,000 monthly?"
Lorayne: "Lump sum na lang po, para at least maitatago ko pa sa bangko."
Annabelle: "O, bahala ka na. Iyan na lahat—pag-aaral, damit, pagkain."
Lorayne: "Sige po. Wala naman pong problema.'"
Annabelle told Lorayne that she would talk to Richard regarding the financial help that the Gutierrezes would be giving the Pardo family. And on that note, according to Lorayne, the June 3 meeting at Via Mare ended.
HUWAG PO KAYONG SUMIGAW. When YES! asks why she agreed to the amount of P432,000, Lorayne replies: "Dahil 'yon lang ang maitutulong nila. So alangan naman na humingi pa 'ko, di ba? Kaya nga sabi ko, paano ko pagkakasyahin 'yon? Sa ngayon, hindi ako nagwo-work dahil walang magbabantay sa mga anak ko. So paano ko pagkakasyahin 'yong amount na ibibigay niya sa akin? But nevertheless, tinanggap ko, sinabi ko, 'Okay, I will accept that.'"
After the meeting, Lorayne thought about the amount that Richard's camp was offering. With two small children to raise, she decided to ask Annabelle if she could ask for an educational plan along with the agreed amount.
Lorayne says Annabelle replied, "Educational plan o amount." Lorayne says she did not pursue the request further and decided to receive the amount previously agreed upon.
"Matagal 'yong sumunod na tinext niya," says Lorayne about Annabelle.
"Nagkausap na sila [ni Richard], pero never akong tumawag sa kanya na nangulit, 'O, ano na po ang nangyari?' Wala. Ako, pag tinawagan niya 'ko o tinext niya 'ko, saka lang kami nagkakaroon ng communication, that's it. Pag di siya tumawag, hindi siya nag-text, hindi rin ako nagte-text sa kanya."
Lorayne says that, when Annabelle finally contacted her again on July 6, the terms of the financial help had changed. Annabelle's text message that day has not been deleted from Lorayne's cellphone: "Nag usap na kami ni chard. Gusto nya ituloy yung pinag usapan natin sa wake na bigyan kita ng 12thou a month sweldo ni nOmar 12 checks for 1 yr. Bsta everyyear bibiGyan kita ng 12 checks for 3yrz yan ang maitUlong ni chard sa mga bata plz let me know kung ok na. Ipahanda ko na ang mga checke."
Thus, from a lump sum of P432,000, Lorayne would instead be getting, every year for three years, 12 postdated checks of P12,000 each.
Lorayne refused the new arrangement and asked if she could have the lump sum agreed upon at the June 3 meeting.
"Kasi pag checks, hindi ko naman alam. Puwede nilang ipa-stop-payment 'yon kung gugustuhin nila, di ba? So, hahabulin ko pa rin sila? Lalabas na naman na naghahabol ako ng pera sa kanila, which is hindi. Hindi ko ito ginagawa. So, sinabi ko sa kanila na, 'Pinag-usapan ho natin ay lump sum.'"
On July 9, Lorayne received a text message from Annabelle: "Bsta yun ang gusto ni chard, ayaw nya ng lamsam."
On July 10, Lorayne received another text message from Annabelle: "Gipit c Chard ngayon,kasi binabAyaran ang kotse. 7.8m ang kotse di pa bayad,kaya ngayon binabayaran nya."
Lorayne tried to contact Richard himself, especially after she heard him say in a television interview that he was just waiting for Lorayne's call.
"So I did my part," Lorayne relates. "Tinawagan ko 'yong secretary niya na si Ailyn. Sabi ko, 'Ailyn, puwede ko bang makuha 'yong number ni Richard, kasi iyon ang sinabi niya sa interview.' 'Hindi ka puwedeng dumiretso sa kanya. Ang kakausapin mo si Annabelle.' Sabi ko, 'Bakit? Si Richard ang kasama ng asawa ko noong namatay. Bakit si Annabelle ang kakausapin ko?'"
"Ganoon talaga," the secretary told Lorayne.
On July 21, Lorayne had her first and only phone conversation with Annabelle. Lorayne says she tried asking Annabelle again if she could have a talk with Richard.
"Sabi ko nga sa kanya, from the very beginning, isa lang naman po ang gusto ko, e—na makausap si Richard. Eto na, nagalit na. 'E, bakit gusto mo pa siyang kausapin? May narinig ka pa bang kulang sa tulong na 'binigay namin sa 'yo? Iyong mga abuloy na kinolekta ko? Hindi ka pa ba masaya, Lorayne?'
"Sabi ko, 'Bakit ho ba ayaw n'yo ipakausap sa 'kin si Richard?'
"'Bakit pa ba kailangan mong kausapin? Ano pa ba'ng gusto mong malaman? Mag-move-on ka na, dahil nakapag-move-on na 'yong anak ko!'"
Lorayne says that the heated conversation ended with Annabelle shouting at her.
"Talagang sumasabog siya, e," she comments. "'Wag po kayong sumigaw kasi hindi ko maintindihan,' ang sabi ko nga po, e."
At press time, Lorayne has not received the financial support that she and Annabelle agreed upon.
"Wala pong nangyari do'n. Lahat, wala. Ni singko, wala kaming nakuha."