Rudy Fernandez: March 3, 1952 — June 7, 2008

By BOY VILLASANTA – Actor Rudy Fernandez died at 6:15 Saturday morning at his home in Joeylane Street in White Plains in Quezon City due to periampullary cancer. He was 55. He battled periampullary cancer for two years, even seeking treatment abroad including hospitals in the United States and Japan. On Friday, the actor requested to be discharged from the Cardinal Santos Medical Center. A report from ABS-CBN News quoted sources close to the actor as saying that he has “accepted his fate”.

Rudy succumbed to death in the presence of his wife, actress Lorna Tolentino, and sons Renz Marion and Raphael Fernandez. He also has a son, Mark Anthony, also an actor, with former partner, actress Alma Moreno.
Minutes after the official announcement of his death, people from all sides of showbiz sent the sad news to one another via text or phone calls.

Two days before his demise, Lorna issued a statement that she was leaving her husband’s fate to God. “I am entrusting his life to the Lord,” said the actress in her message.

Yet, she hoped that Rudy would still miraculously recover.

During these last few months, Rudy and Lorna were shuttling between the US and the Philippines for medical treatment of the actor’s cancer.

They were recently advised by US doctors to stay in a Philippine hospital for treatment. Fernandez was confined at the Cardinal Santos Medical Center in San Juan for almost a month.

Before the actor was taken home, Senator Jinggoy Estrada, one of Rudy’s bosom friends, said during an interview that Rudy tried to fight his illness but couldn’t hide the real state of his health. He said Rudy’s tummy was already bloated and his eyes and skin were yellowish, all symptoms of the deadly cancer.

The last time Estrada paid Rudy a visit in the hospital, the latter was in pain. “Hirap na hirap na ako. (I can’t bear this anymore),” Fernandez was heard complaining.

Meanwhile, Senator Ramon ‘Bong’ Revilla, another one of Rudy’s close pals, and colleagues in the film community, called on the public to say prayers for Fernandez..

Rudy’s final wish was to be laid to rest at the Heritage Park along C-5 in Taguig City.

Revilla told radio station dzMM Saturday that Fernandez’s remains were immediately brought to the Heritage Park in Taguig City for the wake.

He said the public can pay their respects at the park.
Fernandez became famous for his action films such as “Baby Ama,” and “Markang Bungo.”

Fernandez has won best actor awards for his film, “Batuigas…Pasukuin si Waway,” and “Victor Corpuz”.

End of an era
In many ways, Fernandez’ passing signals the end of an era. He broke into showbusiness in the early 1970s, a decade now considered the Second Golden Age of Philippine Cinema.

It was the blossoming of the local movie industry where all sort of films—inferior and quality—and multifarious stars—of various looks, genes and persuasions shone and zoomed to the top.

It was also the age of socio-political protest reflected onscreen. It was a time when an actor as plain-looking as Nora Aunor was pushed by her adoring fans from the downtrodden masses towards the pedestal of superstardom.

Simultaneous to the movie avalanche of quickies that sapped up the energy and money of the masses; social realist films like “Sakada,” Maynila Sa Mga Kuko Ng Liwanag,” “Insiang,” “Manila By Night” and others were butchered by state censorship.

On the social canvass, Rudy was an artist who gravitated towards the masses as well.

His rise to stardom took off when he was launched in an action saga, “Bitayin…Si Baby Ama,” a film that dramatized the exploits of a notorious ex-convict, directed by Jun Gallardo for MBM Productions. The movie, shown on August 6, 1976, broke all existing box-office records in the kiss-kiss, bang-bang genre and made Rudy an instant box-office sensation.

Shortly after, Fernandez and sexy star Alma Moreno became reel and real lovers during and after the filming the movie. Consequently, the couple lived together and had one child, Mark Anthony Fernandez.

Fernandez then made a series of prison life action-drama biopics like “Wanted: Agad-Agad” (1976), “Makahiya at Talahib” (1977), “Teteng Salonga Ng Tondo” (1978), “Maynila” (1979), “Tatak Angustia” (1980).

Fernandez was the one tough, macho action star who also possessed matinee-idol type, boyish good looks and baby-faced charm. He was already a major star toward the latter part of the 1970s.

He didn’t always play anti-heroes and included crime-busters and police characters like “Alfredo Lim” (1977), “Gameng” (1977) and others among his roles.

My movie writing career also took off during this time and I had a lot of wonderful experiences talking to Rudy—in his house in White Plains , in location shoots, in showbiz parties, in his car.

It was All Saints Day in 1979 when colleague Gil E. Villasana and I went to the actor’s digs at White Plains. We had quite a revelation to write about. It was during this interview that Daboy, as he is endearingly called in show biz, confessed to the world he witnessed the death of his mother Pilar Padilla one tragic day.

He said he was in his early teens when he was about to go to the bathroom and saw her mom lying on the floor, soaking in blood. “She committed suicide,” said Rudy.

We learned that the action star’s mom shot herself to death. The scene was etched like a scar in Rudy’s heart and he couldn’t forget the nightmare. The horribly vivid incident that traumatized his young mind never really went away.

Life went on for Rudy despite the anguish and loneliness he felt. He finished his studies in the elementary and high school and went to college in 1970.

Starting out as a minor player in most of the popular young stars’ movies in the early 70s, Rudy’s life was already leading to success. Fame and fortune were to come into his life shortly.

As the 1970s waned, it was the time when Phillip Salvador was launched to solo stardom and Ace Vergel was given meaty action roles, two junior action stars, Jess Lapid, Jr. and Efren Reyes, Jr. were also having successful careers.

Lito Lapid gained a foothold from being a stuntman to protagonist as his late uncle Jess Lapid, Sr. in “The Jess Lapid Story,”

Despite the influx of other action stars, Rudy was able to hold his own and was drawing crowds to the action genre alongside a new pack of tough screen heroes.

Fernandez made a name for himself as the junior action king to the original thrones occupied by Fernando Poe, Jr. and Joseph Estrada. Ramon Revilla, Jun Aristorenas and others also had box-office hits.

Journey to fame
Rudy, Rodolfo P. Fernandez in real life, was born on March 3, 1952 to film director and medical practitioner Dr. Gregorio Fernandez and Pilar Padilla of the famous show biz Padilla clan.

During his youth, Rudy had already a taste of the klieg lights when he appeared in “Luksang Tagumpay” in 1956 and “Emily” in 1960, both directed by his father.

He concentrated on his studies afterwards and got to college at the College of Commerce at the University of Santo Tomas in 1970. But because of his hectic schedules, he missed a lot of his classes and finally decided to quit school.

It was at this time that movie reporter and talent scout Deo J. Fajardo, Jr. spotted the potentials in Rudy as an actor and the rest is history.

Initially, Rudy and Deo rented out a room in a house in Scout Lozano in Quezon City.

Rudy signed up with the Sampaguita Pictures in 1970 when he was introduced in the movie “For You Mama.”

While the Nora Aunor-Tirso Cruz III popularity was on its ebb, Rudy was doing support for the teeny-boppers such as “Life Everlasting,” “Seven Crazy Dragons” and other teen shows which featured Tirso, Aurora Salve, Sahlee Quizon, Marife and other contemporaries.

When Rudy reached the heights of his career as an action star, he was as controversial as ever especially when he and Alma broke up and his love story with Lorna Tolentino was unfolding.

Rudy as leader
Already one of the biggest stars in Philippine movie history, Fernandez took on a new challenge: as leader of the Kapisanan ng mga Artista ng Pelikulang Pilipino at Telebisyon in the early 1990s. His term followed that of Paquito Diaz.

It wasn’t an easy lease on leadership among his peers because he had to share not only his personal time and compassion to his followers but also, he had to shell out money from his own pocket.

His bigness was tantamount to also big spending on his socio-civic activities for his fellow actors in the guild. He was especially helpful to bit actors and extras who, because they would never get paid the same as superstars, were constantly in need. He also helped character actors and stuntmen during lean times.

Just the same, the oppressive system that Rudy and other showbiz leaders wanted to change for the benefit of the working class was too hard to alter.

Darling of the press
Rudy will forever remain one of the Darlings of the Press.

I remember when he was just at the start of his movie career and I was just a neophyte in the movie writing business, Rudy was too close to me.

I would always call his house to see where I could see him for interview or just plain talk. He was readily available.

I remember, he was shooting a movie, “Pader At Rehas” in the former Jusmag area in Quezon City. In the vicinity was a congested place that was practically a slum in the heart of the city. It was a favorite location shoot for action movies which had characters which belong to poor families.

He was shooting with Ace, Phillip and Jess. I would hang around the set and get enough news materials from these actors.

Rudy was addressing me in my real name, Julianito Villasanta which I initially used as byline in my fan magazine write-ups.

He was living in Derby Street in White Plains and I would always drop by the place however inaccessible transport was in his subdivision.

I would go to as far as Apalit, Pampanga for a Rudy location like “Kumusta Ka, Hudas?” of Amazaldy Films where he was paired with Vivian Velez, which he again, costarred with Ace.

During my “TV Patrol” days when big named celebrities wouldn’t want to be featured on television because of fear of overexposure and elusiveness tactic, I was able to get Rudy on cam for the first time when I braved his place one night.

Rudy’s death as metaphor
Rudy was an actor of high caliber proven by his awards received twice from the Famas—for “Batuigas…Pasukuin si Waway” in 1984 and “Victor Corpuz” in 1988. He also won the Film Academy of the Philippines or FAP Award for “Batuigas…Pasukuin Si Waway.”

As the demand for Filipino action films declined in the 2000s, Fernandez turned to television starring in a sitcom with actress Rosanna Roces called “Da Boy en Da Girl.” He also starred as the host of the docu-drama “Kasangga”.

In 2007, he was given the Fernando Poe, Jr. Memorial Award by the Famas.

In the 24th Star Awards for Movies annually given by the Philippine Movie Press Club, Rudy will posthumously receive the Ulirang Artista Life Achievement Award from one faction of the movie press.

Rudy was also very aware of what his audience, his fans expected of him. He didn’t want to take on any role that would ruin that image. He knew that he owed his success to his fans and was always careful not to disappointment.

This attitude led to his rejection of a role in what would become one of the most celebrated Filipino films of all time: “Bayan Ko: Kapit sa Patalim” which was screened for the main competition of the 1985 Cannes Film Festival in France.

Directed by nationalist director Lino Brocka, “Bayan Ko: Kapit Sa Patalim” was produced by businessman Antonio Gonzales of the Mondragon Industries. Brocka wanted Fernandez for the lead character, was a printing press mechanic caught between the company’s profit-oriented management and exploitation of its workers, and the efforts of activist laborers to champion the welfare of the working class.

Fernandez wanted some character changes be done to suit his image. However, Brocka thought such changes would ruin the entire sense and vision of the film. So Brocka opted for Phillip Salvador and the rest, as they say, is history.

Today, it is sad to note that many films lack honest-to-goodness storylines, the kind that even action stars like Fernandez had the chance to star in. We have matinee idols that fade as quickly as they burst into the scene, but few real stars that inspire audiences. We have fads and idols, but not real movie stars who last and leave a lasting legacy like what Daboy has left us.

Our films are quickly churned out for box-office receipts, but how many of them will last? How many of them can turn a fisticuffs and shoot-em-up movie into a critically acclaimed performance like Daboy’s?

Fernandez may have chosen the right time for his passing–just when the action genre is practically dead, when celluloid burns away and digital media are taking over.

But as a culture, we need more than just high-tech. We need real characters that live on, we need stories that will sustain us long after we walk out of the theater. Rudy gave us unforgetable characters in his Batuigas, his Victor Corpus, his Baby Ama and his Markang Bungo.

“Markang Bungo” was consistent with Fernandez’s success in portraying lead roles in movie biopics of famous personalities. In “Markang Bungo” he played Baguio City police officer Bobby Ortega, who became famous for his tough stance against criminality.

In that film, his character utters the classic line, “Trabaho lang ito, walang personalan” to criminals whom he arrests.

Fernandez even played the lead role in movie biopics of two famous politicians, Vicente Crisologo and Ping Lacson (now a Senator).

Peri-ampullary cancer
According to Dr. Jaime Ignacio, immediate past president of the Philippine Society for Gastroenterology, periampullary cancer is the growth of tumor in the ampulla, a passage of bile duct in the intestines.

From the liver, bile duct supplies bile to the intestine, the liquid which digest the food in-take of a person. If the ampulla has a tumor, bile doesn’t flow in the intestines resulting in inflammation of the bile duct.

Ignacio said that periampullary cancer is rare. For every 100,000 people, only 100 develop the illness. The cause of the condition is still unknown.

The following symptoms that might indicate periamplullary cancer: weight loss and bleeding of the ampulla which will be evident in a patient’s stool. He added that the patient usually feels no pain.

Ignacio said this type of cancer is not easily detected and it may be too late for the patient once it is finally identified.

“Kadalasan kasi, inaakalang hepatitis, liver cirrhosis, liver cancer o ibang sakit sa atay ang periampullary cancer kaya hindi ito agad nalalapatan ng tamang lunas,” Ignacio explained.

Treatment options include surgical removal of the tumor or loosening of the obstruction on the bile duct, technically referred to as endoscopic retrograde cholangoi-pancreatography.

In its later stages, periampullary cancer cells spread to the liver. The survival rate is recorded at four out of ten people who are usually declared to be under remission if they remain cancer-free two years after the periampullary cancer was first discovered.

Ignacio advised that to be safe and on guard against periampullary cancer or any other liver condition, a person should see a specialist immediately if he or she manifests jaundice. — with a report from Joey Villarama, ABS-CBN News

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  1. Col.Smithe USMC (Ret'd) says:

    RIP Rudy all of the Philippines will miss you dearly. May God Bless you and your family during these tough times, your loss is a reminder that we are all right behind you brother.

  2. Tom says:

    Butch Francisco is one lousy interviewer!! I can’t believe GMA7 had him do the remote interviews at Rudy Fernandez;s wake. He shouldn’t even be hosting a tv show at all. No wonder Cristy Fermin had the scoop in interviewing Lorna Tolentino first.

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