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Joker, a King, and a Queen



Last week, on October 3, the movie “Joker” premiered in cinemas. It’s a prequel movie that seemed destined to be a blockbuster film. But that is not the Joker I want to talk about. October 5 is the 4th death anniversary of the Joker who is the complete opposite of Batman’s nemesis—Joker Arroyo. He died in the United States in 2015 and as he insisted when he was still alive, there were no necrological ceremonies in his honor in the Senate or in the House of Representatives where he served as the true fiscalizer of government.


We should never let the world forget about the intellectual audacity and fierce independence of Joker. As a public servant, his record should be the yardstick to which we should measure all government officials. We cannot allow time and complacency to deprive our Filipino youth of the great lesson that was Joker’s life. I am sure that Batman’s Joker is more known than the Joker I knew but his life is more exemplary than any comic book character I know.


His strong intellect and personality were matched only by his demand for simplicity. Even when public funds were available to his office, he was almost a one-man wrecking crew in Congress, acting as his own writer, publicist, and staff. He ferociously fought corruption in government and defended our democratic ideals. As a friend, he was thoughtful, kind and loyal. Like a lion defending his pride, he was fierce in fighting for what is right.






Last Friday, October 4, veteran actor, director, and theater artist Antonio “Tony” Mabesa died at the age of 84 years old. He was considered the king of Philippine theater owing to his prolific career that spanned 70 years with some 170 shows to his name. He was also the founder of the Dulaang UP and the UP Playwrights Theater.


The theater has had a long historic journey in the Philippines. At times becoming a medium of revolutionary ideas and an expression of social issues. Tony Mabesa, “the Lion of the Theater,” was a stalwart in this regard. His talent, leadership, and his humanity will be greatly missed.






Philippine entertainment was hit by a double whammy as news of Tony Mabesa’s death was followed by the passing of another member of the Philippine cinema royalty — Amalia Fuentes. At age 79, she died last Saturday, October 5.


One of the queens of Philippine entertainment, who was often dubbed our version of Elizabeth Taylor, Amalia Fuentes was a fixture of movies produced by Sampaguita pictures. I remember seeing her in countless films with her love team at that time, Juancho Gutierrez, and many other famous actors such as Fernando Poe Jr., Joseph Estrada, Eddie Gutierrez, and Romeo Vasquez. Even later, I would see her in reruns of old Filipino films on television. Her beauty is what I would call a “classic beauty” one that never wanes even with age. With 130 films under her belt, she won as FAMAS Best Actress in 1966 and in the 1973 Manila Film Festival.




Two deaths and a remembrance of a departed friend allow us to contemplate on our own mortality and more importantly, our life here on earth. How can we honor the legacies of Tony, Amalia and Joker? By ensuring that what they stood for and what they fought for remains in our collective memory.


As Henry David Thoreau wrote, “On the death of a friend, we should consider that the fates through confidence have devolved on us the task of a double living, that we have henceforth to fulfill the promise of our friend’s life also, in our own, to the world.”