THE entertainment industry is mourning once more with the passing away of two of its brightest luminaries – theater icon Tony Mabesa and movie queen Amalia Fuentes – who passed away within hours of each other last weekend.
Mabesa, known as the “Lion of the Theater” and acknowledged as the Father of University Theater, passed away last Friday at 10:15 in the evening after a lingering illness. He was 84 years old. Amalia Fuentes a.k.a. Amalia Amador Muhlach died of multiple organ failure in her home on Saturday at around 4 in the morning, three days after being brought to St Luke’s Medical Center. She was 79.
Amalia suffered a stroke six years ago while on vacation in South Korea that had her paralyzed and bedridden since.
Dubbed as the “Elizabeth Taylor of the Philippines” for her very close resemblance to the beautiful Hollywood icon, Amalia was launched to stardom by Sampaguita Pictures after winning the Mr. and Miss Number One contest (together with Juancho Gutierrez) in 1956.
She became one of Sampaguita Pictures’ most in demand stars until she put up her own film outfit, AM Productions that produced several movies, including “Ibulong Mo sa Hangin” (1966), directed by the late National Artist for Film Gerry De Leon that won for her a FAMAS Best Actress award.
She also won a best actress award for “Pag-Ibig Mo, Bukay Ko” at the Manila Film Festival in 1973.
Amalia married actor Romeo Vazquez in 1965 and separated in 1969. They had a daughter, Liezl Sumilang Martinez who died of breast cancer in 2015.
Amalia remarried (to the late Joey Stevens); they divorced in 2012.
Amalia’s last acting appearance was for the TV series “Huwag Ka Lang Mawawala” that starred Judy Ann Santos in 2013.
In a Facebook post, Amalia’s nephew Aga Muhlach wrote: “You started it all for us. You taught me so much in life. You were an inspiration. You treated me like your son. I’m at a loss for words. Go rest now.”
Another nephew, Niño Muhlach, wrote: “ Rest in Peace, Tita Nena. We will miss you,” while sharing a video of his son Alonzo serenading her.
Tony Mabesa, the pioneer of university theater, was born in 1935 in Los Baños, Laguna, and studied at the University of the Philippines where he was mentored by the late National Artist for Theater Wilfrido Ma. Guerrero, no less.
Mabesa later obtained his master’s degree in Theater Arts in Los Angeles in 1965 and master’s degree in Education in Delaware in 1969.
He established Dulaang UP at the state university and mentored many of today’s theater stalwarts, including Nonie Buencamino, Shamaine Centenera, Irma Adlawan, Eugene Domingo and Neil Ryan Sense, to name a few.
He directed more than 100 plays.
Film historian, director and producer Nick Deocampo wrote on Facebook: “I have angels to watch over you,Tony, in my film “Isaak”, and you are the guardian of memory in my latest film, “Cine Tala”. I see in you the alter ego of a film historian watching over the city and its memories of films past. I always look up to you as my mentor and master. It was in your classes where I first learned the craft of theater and you continued to support me as I crossed over to cinema. I was looking forward to your presence in the forthcoming screening of our “Cine Tala”, eager to celebrate cinema’s bygone years in our own way.
Now, you’re gone. I want to think that you have gloriously moved into the other side of the screen, took up residence in the ethereal world of the imagined – a world you have graced with your awesome presence. I grieve and I rejoice at your passing. Be among the immortals! Rest in peace. Prof. Tony, the lessons you selflessly shared were lessons for life. Rest in peace, maestro!”
Mabesa also ventured into TV and movie acting. He appeared in the TV series “Villa Quintana” from 1995-1997.
Mabesa was also in Marilou Diaz Abaya’s “Jose Rizal,” Lino Brocka’s “Macho Dancer” and the Regal Films’ “Mano Po” movies.
His illustrious acting career was capped by last year’s “Rainbow’s Sunset” directed by Joel Lamangan where he co-starred with the late Eddie Garcia as elderly gay lovers, winning as Best Supporting Actor at the last Metro Manila Film Festival.