Death of showbiz leader Spanky Manikan still rings in my head


By Boy Villasanta


Actor Spanky Manikan’s death recently wasn’t as feted as Fenando Poe, Jr.’s, Rudy Fernandez’ or even Ace Vegel’s but it was, in more ways than one, as memorable as theirs.


It wasn’t as publicized as theirs-- as if fame alone determines the quality of a lifetime—but in the hearts and minds of people he left behind, Spanky is forever etched in them.


Manikan is gone but his memories live on.


I wasn’t close to Spanky but he remains in my heart and mind as a significant actor of his generation.


When he started appearing in the movies in the 1970s, he was a young man, almost a gorgeous idol. He was a very popular newbie in the thick of things in show business at the time being groomed for big time stardom was a privilege among ordinary but good- looking upstarts from the stage especially when he was given a role as one of the construction workers Gido in now National Artist for Film Lino Brocka’s 1974 masterpiece “Maynila Sa Mga Kuko Ng Liwanag (Manila in the Claws of Darkness)” on contemporary urban labor exploitation and other dark city’s realities.


Spanky was a theatre stalwart before he ventured into the movies. He was a regular stage player at the Philippine Educational Theater Association (PETA) and other organized live performances.


According to entertainment writer Art Tapalla, Manikan was very active in theater productions even in the 1960s but his ripe stage presence was felt in the 1970s and 1980s.


Art, being a progressive artist when he joined PETA in its inception in 1967, joined the underground movement against the Marcos dictatorship after Martial Law organizing cultural events for the grassroots in the urban and rural fronts to drive a nationalist fervor in literature and the performing arts.


Tapalla helped the workers of Rubberworld-Adidas Philippines form the cultural and theater group Tanghalang Silangan, the first ever all-workers cultural group in the National Capital Region (NCR) and staged aside from pickets and rallies cultural presentations for the proletariat. 


“Nang mag-underground ako, si Spanky ang lagi kong nilalapitan para makapanood ang mga taga-Bagong Baryo at mga taga-pabrika sa mga dula ng PETA (When I went underground, it was Spanky whom I always approached so that people from Bagong Baryo (a poor district in Caloocan City) and workers in the factories could watch plays in PETA),” Art recalled. 


Manikan was also part of the zarzuela “Halimaw" written by Isagani Cruz directed by Felix “Nonon” Padilla, Jr. with music by Lutgardo Labad produced by Zarzuela Foundation and PETA where Tapalla was one of the production crew.


To pay his last respects to Spanky, Art attended the necrological service at the St. Alphonsus Church in Makati City where many of Manikan’s friends and colleagues condoled with the bereaved family and spoke dearly of the departed actor whose contributions to the development and progress of the local cinema were invaluable.


Spanky was an awarded actor when he won Best Supporting Actor in the 1981 Metro Manila Film Festival and the Catholic Mass Media Award for his sterling performance as a videographer in National Artist for Film Ishmael Bernal’s “Himala.” He also bagged the Best Supporting Actor in Bahaghari Aewards for his role in the telemovie “Parola” in 1995 and given the Best Actor (Non-Musical) by the Aliw Awards for his portrayal of Zacarias Monzon in Tanghalang Pilipino’s “Mga Ama Mga Anak.”


Manikan might not be a high- profile leader in the entertainment industry but his charisma and judicious views on issues in the business were traits of ideal leadership.


Spanky died of lung cancer and was cremated at the Loyola Memorial Chapels. He was 75.  



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Friday, 23 February 2018
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