I picked up the phone—there was no one. When I checked my cell phone, I read the message from his brother Ugi and cousin Eddieboy Escudero that Don had just passed away at Medical City where he was rushed a few days ago. He died last Monday at age 55.
I got more text messages and I started to feel my heart’s pinch of sorrow. But I felt very relieved—he had died without pain nor prolonged suffering.
Don had been diagnosed with stage 4 liver cancer over a year ago. He battled this consuming foe with chemo and stem cell procedures which his family and elders, who own Villa Escudero Resort, selflessly supported.
The whole gang of friends—Danding Genato, Joey Javier Reyes, Manny Castañeda, Ricky Toledo, Chito Vijandre, Jim Tan, Tats Manahan, Cal Lim and Ricky Punzalan—was around him two days before he died, regaling him with gossip and memories, which boosted his spirit.
Don, Joey and Manny had their own film production outfit called Available Light. Their last project was the controversial “Live Show,” which was banned here but won awards abroad where it was distributed.
Don worked closely with Mother Lily Monteverde of Regal Films and directed “Multo in the City,” “Tiyanak” (which I saw in San Francisco) and “Babae sa Balete Drive.”
Don was the multi-awarded (Famas and Urian) production designer of director Peque Gallaga. Their collaborations were the excellent “Oro, Plata, Mata” and “Scorpio Nights.”
Don was very shy and soft-spoken. He loved opera and Stephen Sondheim. He loved helping his uncle Ado Escudero, the culture advocate and maverick, with the yearly Good Friday Procession, the town fiesta in San Pablo, Quezon, and the Marian procession in Intramuros.
He was a great collector of art, books (Don read everything and had total recall) so he could talk about anything under the sun.
I remember on a trip to Egypt with him, he knew more than the tour guide in the Cairo Museum about their ancient civilization. I shall always remember just the two of us on African Safari for two weeks in the ‘90s. He was the perfect traveling companion—erudite, a gentleman raconteur and quick wit.
Don is survived by his mother Millie, brothers Manolet and Ugi and sister Mari.
Don was cremated the day he died, last Monday. The wake is at the Old House in Villa Escudero. He will be buried in the family crypt after funeral services on Friday.
Oh, when I asked everyone, no one admitted calling me on the land line past midnight. They all said they were texting and calling my cell phone. My mom said it was probably Don, saying goodbye till me meet again.