German “Kuya Germs” Moreno may best be known for his iconic line, “Walang Tulugan,” but several hours before dawn on Friday, he finally succumbed to eternal sleep. He was 82.
Moreno’s death comes exactly a year after he suffered a stroke on January 2, 2015. Only taking a few months’ rest following the attack, he went back to work on his daily radio program on AM radio dzBB, his weekly late night program on GMA Network, and was very visible in showbiz events, though wheelchair-bound and with a slightly slurred speech. His last public appearance was during GMA Network’s New Year Countdown for 2016 at the SM Mall of Asia grounds.
Moreno is considered a strong and respected pillar of Philippine entertainment, first as consummate host on TV and radio, which earned him the moniker “Master Showman;” a competent artist both on the vaudeville stage and later in film; and finally, a star-maker.
“He lived and breathed show business; everything he did was for the love of the industry so he never slowed down even after his stroke last year,” recalled GMA Network Vice President for Entertainment Lilybeth Rasonable in an interview with The Manila Times on Friday. “Besides his countless achievements, I believe it is this love for what he does—with every waking hour of his life devoted to looking for talents, spotting talents, being concerned about artists, and about people in the industry—that will be his greatest legacy.”
Born German Molina Moreno on October 4, 1933, Moreno was forced to earn a living at a young age with his father’s untimely death. He tried to make ends meet by taking on odd jobs, even selling bibingka (rice cakes), peanuts, and cigarettes wherever he could. He first set his foot in the entertainment industry in the humblest of ways—as a janitor and a telonero (curtain raiser) at the then famous Clover Theater.
Backed with persistence and talent, Moreno slowly climbed from side stage to main stage. He became a comedic actor on bodabil (vaudeville) and played alongside stage greats Katy de la Cruz, Diomedes Maturan, and The Wing Duo, among others in the 1950s.
From there, Moreno’s star rose higher as he transitioned to moving pictures. His first screen role came via a small part in a Susan Roces film, Susan, Susay, Susie, for Sampaguita Pictures.
Romy Protacio of Asian Journal USA wrote that Moreno got his big break in 1963 when Sampaguita introduced him alongside a bunch of young teenage stars as the “Sampaguita-Vera-Perez All-Stars.” This group churned a series of successful movies such as Mga Batang Artista, Mga Batang Turista, Mga Batang Lagim, and “Mga Batang Iskwater.”
From star to star-maker
Eventually, the All Stars disbanded and Moreno shifted his focus to hosting, mostly with good friend Ike Lozada, and later on as a trio with Inday Badiday.
He went solo and rose to further fame with GMA Supershow (previously Germs Side and Germs Special), a popular Sunday noontime variety show in the late 1970s, which lasted for 13 years.
In 1986, Moreno moved on to becoming a star maker, hosting and producing his own youth-oriented variety show That’s Entertainment, which became the nesting place of many of today’s most popular artists.
“There are so many reality star searches today, from acting to singing, but the fact is that Kuya Germs was the very first to this with That’s Entertainment,” Walang Tulugan co-host, talent manager, and veteran showbiz columnist Aster Amoyo said. “Almost all of the big stars came from That’s Entertainment, from Lea Salonga to Vina Morales, to Ruffa Gutierrez, even to [Vice Mayor] Isko Moreno.”
When That’s Entertainment was cancelled at the height of its popularity and with no explanation in 1996—a surprising turn of event, which according to Amoyo, pained Moreno deeply—he was offered to do another variety show, this time slated for a weekend late-night timeslot. It was then that Walang Tulugan was born, and which has run uninterrupted for the last 18 years, and will air tonight from Moreno’s wake at Mt. Carmel Church in New Manila, Quezon City.
Besides a highly successful career in hosting, Moreno also tried his hand at directing at one point in his many decades in show business. He helmed Guy and Pip in 1971 and Blue Hawaii in 1972 with co-director Danny Holmsen.
He also produced made for TV films such as Kung Mayroon Mang Pangarap, Ganti” and Sa Paglinaw Ng Tubig. Moreover, Moreno also worked as a disc jockey (DJ), a sidekick to Eddie Ilarde in the latter’s radio program, Ngayon Naman in CBN before going solo.
Before his death, Moreno was hosting, alongside the weekly Walang Tulugan with The Master Showman, a daily afternoon radio program on DZbb titled, Walang Siesta.
Yet another great contribution of Moreno to the Philippine Entertainment industry is the Eastwood City Walk of Fame—the country’s answer to Hollywood’s Walk of Fame—to acknowledge Filipino artists who have made a name in local TV and cinema.
Officially founded on December 1, 2005, Moreno funded the laudable project out of his own pockets and through the help of his closest friends.
The Eastwood City Walk of Fame is located in Libis, Quezon City.
In an interview with dzBB on Friday, Moreno’s nephew John Nite who has lived with his uncle for the past 20 years recalled that the showbiz legend showed no signs of physical pain, and neither gave any premonitions on Wednesday evening.
“He even asked me to go to his room where he gave me an ampao (a red Chinese envelope) with coins, which he traditionally gives everyone for luck in the New Year,” Nite shared in Filipino. “Everything seemed normal; we even talked a little bit about Saturday’s show for Walang Tulugan. Little did I know that was the last time I would talk to him.”
By 7:30 the following morning, Thursday, Moreno’s nurse knocked on Nite’s bedroom door and hurried him to see his uncle.
“The nurse said Kuya Germs was hardly moving and he was already unconscious. When he gulped for a huge breath of air, that’s when I decided to rush him to the emergency room [at St. Luke’s Bonifacio Global City]. He flat-lined when we got there but they revived him and took him to critical care—of course we wanted to do everything possible to save him and he seemed as if he was also fighting to live, but he was never able to speak again.”
By Friday morning, Nite released the following statement to GMA Network, “My uncle, known to everyone as Kuya Germs, our Master Showman has joined our Creator at 3:20 a.m. due to cardiac arrest, a year after he suffered a stroke. He passed on in the company of his family and friends. He lived a full life, touched so many hearts through the years, and helped make dreams come true for most of the biggest stars in the Philippine entertainment industry. We are deeply saddened by his passing but we are comforted by the thought that his legacy will live on.”
Moreno’s death caught most people off guard, especially celebrities who were shocked with the sad news.
Many of Moreno’s talents whose careers he launched and moved on to becoming big stars in the industry took to social media to pay tribute to their mentor.
Billy Crawford, one of Moreno’s wards, took a break from his African vacation and posted a photo of Moreno on his Instagram account @billyjoecrawford with a lengthy and heartfelt caption, “Pa, I don’t know where to begin. You’ve always been there when I needed you the most. You are the most generous, selfless, genuine, caring father/mentor anyone could ever ask for. You’re one of the reasons why I’m still in this industry you love oh so much. I’m sad that I’m not there next to you to say my goodbyes. You will be missed tremendously. We fought, we laughed, we cried, we sang, we danced and we shared the same stage for so many years! And I want to just thank you for teaching me and guiding me through everything. It hurts to see you leave us, but God is right there to make you rest and enjoy eternity with Him. I also pray for your family to be strong and to carry a smile like you always did. You will always be our MASTER SHOWMAN! Most importantly you will always be my father and I will always be your makulit na adopted son! RIP, Pa. I love you.”
Singer-actress Vina Morales, another That’s Entertainment baby, wrote on @vina_moralesInstagram account: “I’m saddened by the news. He is one person I respect and love not only in showbiz but he is also a part of my family. I love you Kuya Germs. I’m sure you are in a better place now with our Lord Jesus Christ. Missing you.”
Top actress Judy Ann Santos-Agoncillo shared, “Maraming salamat kuya germs… Marami kaming binigyan mo ng pagkakataon sa industriyang minahal mo.. Paalam po master showman.
Manila Vice Mayor and former matinee idol Isko Moreno said his mentor’s death as a big loss to the entertainment industry.
“He opened the doors for me and to be honest, there would be no Isko Moreno without Kuya Germs.”
‘German Moreno and Associates’
Meanwhile, GMA Network, Moreno’s home base, also mourned his passing.
“The Master Showman will be greatly missed by his friends and fans both here and abroad, especially those in show business, where he devoted the best years of his life. Kuya Germs was responsible for building the careers of the biggest stars we now have. The epitome of a loyal Kapuso, his dedication to the industry will serve as an inspiration to all. We pray for his eternal repose.”
Often joking that GMA stands for “German Moreno and Associates,” Rasonable told The Manila Times that the network had lost a father.
“In a personal way and in a professional way, he would always be concerned about everything that we do. He would always ask after our welfare, always check on us, always give us advice, always propose concepts. He is the epitome of a father, and if you want to define ‘Kapuso,’ that’s Kuya Germs.”
Rasonable said Moreno would visit the executives and employees daily in their offices or cubicles, before or after his radio program.
“Sometimes he would even barge in on important meetings but that was a normal thing for us because this is Kuya Germs’ home,” she added.
The family of Moreno has granted the request of GMA Network executives to hold part of his wake at the station’s headquarters in Quezon City.
According to Nite, the public will be allowed to pay their last respects to his uncle but that they wish to keep the first night for family and closest friends to mourn privately.