AFTER six years of battling colon cancer, former beauty queen, the actress and TV host Rio Diaz-Cojuangco succumbed to the disease on Sunday 7:30 p.m. (4:30 a.m. Monday in Manila) at Saton Hospital in San Francisco, California.
Her husband, Rep. Charlie Cojuangco of Negros Occidental, son of the billionaire-industrialist Eduardo “Danding” Cojuangco, announced that her body would be cremated in the United States. Her ashes would be flown home shortly for a wake at Santuario de San Antonio in Forbes Park, Makati City.
Friends close to the actress said family members surrounded Rio in her final hours: Representative Cojuangco and their two children, Claudia, 7, and Jaime, 5; Ali, 20, her son by her first husband, singer Hadjii Alejandro; and her US-based sisters.
The actress was diagnosed with colon cancer in 1998, a few months after she was elected vice mayor in Pontevedra, her husband’s hometown.
Since then, she had been going to the US for treatment.
For many years a cancer survivor, she was last in the country in November 2003 and had spent Christmas and New Year in Pontevedra.
She left for the US in mid-January this year after she went into remission.
Rio, a former Mutya ng Pilipinas winner, belonged to a family of beauty queens. Her elder sister is 1969 Miss Universe Gloria Diaz, who visited her at Stanford Hospital in August.
In 1976, the younger Diaz was named fourth runner-up, representing the Philippines in the Miss Asia Pacific beauty pageant.
She did several films in the early 1980s before migrating to the US with Alejandro. She became a household name in the early 1990s after her marriage to the singer was dissolved.
Upon her return, she hosted several women-oriented TV shows, as well the popular noontime show, Eat Bulaga, when it was still aired over ABS-CBN 2.
Before she left for the US early this year, the actress released a video entitled Afflicted with Hope, a documentary to help cancer patients cope with the fatal disease.
The film also spoke of her deep faith in Jesus Christ, which she had always said helped her accept her fate.
The video, which also features other cancer patients and their families, is found in several doctor’s clinics, and given to patients upon the actress’ request.
Rio had said she would like it to serve as an inspiration to cancer victims like herself.
By Danny Vibas