• Eddie Romero: National Artist for Film

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    My brother Edgar named after the great American author Edgar Allan Poe, was buried at the Libingan ng Mga Bayani at high noon as befits a National Artist for Cinema after a program in the Cultural Center in his honor. A product of both Silliman and UP he was for the most part self-educated -the only sibling who did not receive a college degree despite the offer of my father to give us the best education that money could buy. This was a bit of a disappointment for a father who wrote the lyrics of the UP hymn who became Secretary of Education and his uncle Vicente Sinco, at the time a UP Law professor, who later President of the same University and founder of Foundation University. When asked why he dropped out of college his stock reply was there was nothing that professors could teach him.

    From whence came this hubris? Eddie’s self-confidence stemmed from an insatiable curiosity that led him to devour the books in my father well equipped library shelves. This helped him to master the English prose and develop an encyclopedic memory which allowed him to discuss everything under the sun – subjects ranging from the Greek Philosophers like Plato to pillars of English literature from Chaucer to Shakespeare and from Bernard Shaw to Somerset Maugham. The author who seemed to have a big influence on Eddie’s writing however would be the American Ernest Hemingway, famous for his short sentences which were clear, concrete and concise as in confession. Like his idol Ernest, Eddie had a penchant for the understatement and economy of words refusing long winded paragraphs to make up for lack of depth.

    On the downside of this erudition Eddie would lose some girlfriends who complained that they could not keep up with his highly charged conversations making them suffer from an inferiority complex as a result!

    At the unripe age of twelve when people his age would be immersed in less intellectual pursuits, Eddie aspired to become a journalist. The same hubris that led him to drop out of college led him to present himself before the then managing editor of the Philippines Free Press McCullough Dick with an article in hand. As narrated to me by the late Free Press columnist Leon Ty, the venerable Caucasian editor thinking that the boy in short pants was obviously a messenger asked who sent the piece. The Free Press boss nearly fell off his seat when he was told by the boy that he was the author of the article. Unbelieving, the editor just to humor the boy asked Eddie to go to a corner and write a piece on whatever came to mind. We never knew what he wrote but the fact is he was hired on the spot, making him the youngest contributor to the prestigious magazine at age twelve.

    Perhaps Eddie was out to demolish my father’s unbroken record of having been an auxiliary teacher at elementary school also at the tender age of ten during the American period!

    While at Silliman Eddie was a member of a group of prolific young writers which included the likes of Cesar Amigo and Ruben Canoy. The group would spend long evenings talking literature and cinema.Cesar Amigo and Ruben Canoy went on to establish a distinguished careers in journalism and the movies.

    His confidence buoyed up by early writing successes Eddie decided to move from short story writing to producing screenplays. It was the same hubris above that led him to the doors of renowned director Gerry De Leon of Sampaguita pictures. Impressed by his output Gerry used his material for his movies. This satisfied the writer but he still felt unfulfilled and wanted to go behind the camera. As the story goes Sampa­guita boss Doc Vera-Perez, not quite sure of Eddie’s directorial abilities, hired the lad in his early twenties on the condition that Gerry De Leon would be behind Eddie when he was behind the camera, as in big brother is watching you kid! The rest is history and Eddie would be flying solo and directing films for Sampaguita which would fare well in the box office.

    To sharpen his directorial abilities Eddie took advantage of my father’s positions as Chief of Mission to the Court of St James in England by becoming his private secretary. To allow him the opportunity to study the works of the great British directors of the time, the likes of Sirs Carol Reed and David Lean in Pinewood Studios, he bought Dad a tape recorder whose contents he would type and edit at night. After London he found himself assisting Roberto Rossellini in his epic film Stromboli shot in Mt. Vesuvius and witnessed the blossoming romance between the great Italian director and his Swedish star Ingrid Bergman. At a later stage of his movie career he would be producing B movies for Hollywood. Coming back to the country he would co-produce that box office blockbuster Appocalypse. Now with Francis Ford Cop­pola and local films as an independent producer.
    What is Eddie’s legacy? In sum it was his human virtues.

    First is commitment. For co-workers in the performing arts as well as to his friends he leaves behind the virtue of total commitment to his craft. Eddie would lock himself for days surviving on black coffee, the beans which he would painstakingly choose—a mixture of Baraco and Arabica. A perfectionist the word” editing” must have come from his name Eddie. Indeed a lot of fortitude both intellectual and intestinal went into his ordinary work of movie making extra-ordinarily well.

    Second is refusal to compromise. Eddie could have followed the trend – kowtowing to the masa’s insatiable demand for bomba and pedestrian movies. Indeed he kept the bar high. His historical and satirical period films could have been popularized to stick to meager budgets and cater to popular demand, but Eddie refused to compromise on quality.

    Thirdly is humility – Eddie never took himself too seriously. What you see was what you got. When a friend offered to make a bronze bust of himself, he just shrugged it off with a dismissive –o come on !He dismissed movie-making as just hanap-buhay and actors industry workers out to make a living. He was modest to the point of self –deprecation. He wondered why he would be paid so much for a job he enjoyed doing.

    Lastly is charity .All these years which I have known him which has span many decades I have never ever heard Eddie talk badly about his .family friends or co-workers in the industry. There were never critical comments even if he loved to joke about his dear friends like Ronnie Poe or President Erap. One of this was that Ronnie preferred to kiss his horse rather than his leading ladies even if one of them looked like one.

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