Amid overflowing flowers, a pristine white backdrop, and a peaceful quiet inside the Mt. Carmel Church Hall of Our Lady of Mt. Carmel Shrine, a mix of grief and admiration surrounded the first night of German “Kuya Germs” Moreno’s wake.
Moreno died on Friday due cardiac arrest. He was 82.
Beloved by an industry that likens his loss to the death of a father, showbiz veterans Gloria Romero, Lorna Tolentino, Jackie Lou Blanco, Tina Paner, Boots Anson-Rodrigo and her husband King, Jake Vargas and Renz Valerio were among the first personalities who came to pay their last respects to the Master Showman.
As the night progressed, and the novena mass began for Moreno, more stars descended at the wake.
Kuya Germs’ own beloved Nora Aunor, the country’s Superstar, arrived, followed shortly by Philippine Movie Queen Susan Roces, Comedy Queen Ai-Ai delas Alas, Randy Santiago, Jolina Magdangal, Dulce, Sharmaine Arnaiz, Lolit Solis, Gelli de Belen, husband and wife Zoren Legazpi and Carmina Villaroel, and Manila Vice Mayor Isko Moreno.
While they tried to avoid the cameras, Aunor and Isko Moreno left the hall in tears.
Though Kuya Germs’ family promised to open the wake to the public, they requested to keep the first night for relatives, colleagues and their closest friends to grieve privately.
Just outside the hall, The Manila Times caught up with Jake Vargas, one of Kuya Germs’ latest “alaga” or talents. Asked how he was coping, Vargas quietly replied, “Actually po, kahapon pa po ako umiiyak, pinipigilan ko lang yung sarili ko ngayon. Ayaw ko naman laging iyakan si Tatay, gusto ko naman maging masaya siya kahit papaano (Actually, I have been crying since yesterday and I’m trying not to weep now. I don’t want to keep on crying for dad, I want him to be happy somehow.)”
Vargas recalled that a few days before Kuya Germs’ death, he saw him in good spirits, which is why he was shocked to learn of his sudden passing.
Setting aside his grief, Vargas chose to remember instead the valuable lessons he learned from his ‘Tatay’.
“Tinuring ako ni Tatay na anak at hindi siya nagsawang payuhan ako na kailangan maging professional sa lahat ng bagay, huwag sumuko, lumaban hangga’t kaya, at magtrabaho ng maigi (He treated me like his own son and he never tired of giving me advice, that I should remain professional, I should never give up and to always give my best in my work).”
Delas Alas also praised Kuya Germs for his contributions to the industy. “Malungkot ang industriya ngayon kasi alam naman natin na si Kuya Germs ay institusyon hindi lamang ng pelikula ngunit pati ng telebisyon. Pero sabi nga, ‘the show must go on’ at ang paboritong sabihin ni Kuya Germs, na ‘send in the clowns’ (The industry is mourning because we know Kuya Germs is an institution not only in the movies but on television. But the show must go on).”
Roces, who had closely worked with Moreno during their Sampaguita days, shared her fondest memory with the late actor-host: “There was a time na nag-stage show kami, and I can’t forget yung kanyang costume as a ballet dancer na naka-blonde hair at nagsasayaw. Sa mga pinagsamahan naming pelikula ang hindi ko makakalimutan ay ang ‘Dance O Rama’ dahil marami kaming mga dance numbers doon.”
Roces had nothing but praises for her former colleague.
“Ako ay nalulungkot dahil nawalan tayo ng isang matalik na kaibigan, taong masyadong dedicated sa industriya ng pelikula, sa stage show at sa lahat ng uri ng entertainment (I am sad because I lost a good friend, someone who dedicated himself to the movie industry and all types of entertainment.)”
“Ang priority niya, sa pagkakakilala ko sa kanya, ay kung ano ang makakabuti sa lahat, sa kapwa talent niya. Marunong siyang mag-share, hindi siya madamot, hindi niya sinusukat kung magkano ang ibabayad sa kanya para sa kanyang serbisyo—ang importante sa kanya ay ang magtanghal ng isang magandang programa.
“Talagang kahanga-hanga si siya at kailanman ay hindi namin siya makakalimutan. Mahal na mahal namin si German Moreno.”
As showbiz celebrities continued to flock to Mt. Carmel, Moreno’s family have yet to announce details on the public viewing as well as interment plans.