It is two in the morning. The production is preparing a scene where Eddie Garcia’s character is opening gifts with his family, the last for the day. There is a moment wherein he must suggest caring for his granddaughter by giving her a Christmas present. His daughter, played by Sunshine Dizon, is now forced to reflect on her conflicted feelings about her father. I am his silly and often unwise driver, previously bribed by Paolo Contis, the son-in-law.
Our director, Ricky Davao, blocks us and after a few rehearsals, we proceed to shoot.
A lot is happening here. I am exhausted and have a hard time remembering some of the beats I need to provide for the set-up. I want to go home, collapse on my bed, and pass out from a long day’s work. But I perk up somewhat because malapit-lapit na ang pack-up. And then I focus on the man.
After the first take, he motions to members of the production, points at the glass windows behind him, and says, “Art department, ‘di ba umulan kanina? Nung nakunan natin ‘yung eksena bago nito, nabasa ang mga bintana. So kailangang basa ulit yan sa eksena na ito.” He says this firmly and without embarrassing members of the art department, motivated by simply improving the physical continuity between shots.
Attention to detail, along with extreme professionalism grounded on a profound respect for his colleagues. This is Eddie Garcia.
In another project, he is a retired METROCOM colonel suffering from Alzheimer’s disease and the delusion that he still lives in the time of Martial Law. I play the visiting son-in-law — unaware of atrocities he has committed against Tony Labrusca, the film’s protagonist, held hostage and tortured in the basement along with friends.
I share a holding room with Tito Ed. I observe him across the room as he reads his script, back and forth, pen in hand, making notes. I am quite tired and, to myself, whining about how long this is taking. “Isang eksena na lang ako,” I tell myself. I try to get a nap, nakaw-tulog as we call it, to have some energy for the sequence we’ve yet to do. I wake up an hour later and see Tito Ed walking into the room after having shot something else. Frustrated and bored, I wish they had decided to do the one with me first so I could go home. I watch Tito Ed sit on his reclining chair, grab his script from the table beside it, and read. Back and forth, pen in hand, and once again making notes. It is midnight.
The industry giant was revisiting and reworking his script, while I, the much younger twenty-something actor, was privately grousing about wanting to finish my last take.
I will be honest. There have been times in my career when I’d been unhappy with what’s on the table. From what I’ve gathered, this is normal for actors to go through: A bad case of nerves especially for a live performance, fear of rejection, of not knowing whether or not there will be another assignment once the current project ends.
But the two times I’ve worked with Eddie Garcia have made me realize it is trivial to focus on these things, for the way to a long and successful career is to do your best with what is given you. This much he impressed on me, in the times we worked together.
We say goodbye to an icon, a beloved partner, father and grandfather, family man, friend, and award-winning artist. His immense contributions cannot be understated. How fitting it is that with his passing he makes yet another contribution, this time to a serious discussion toward further improvements in safety and working conditions in the film and television industries. This is his final act.
“Whatever it is, do it well.” He said this quite often.