Saying goodbye to Mark Gil: A heart of gold and an amazing actor

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By Gabby Fernandez

Of Snapshots & Zeitgeists

Thursday, September 4, 2014


LAST Saturday, the country lost one of the greatest Filipino actors of his generation. And last Saturday, I lost a great friend.

I was 28 years old when I first met and worked with Mark Gil (real name Ralph Eigenmann). It was my first job in the movies, being the art department manager for a Peque Gallaga-Lore Reyes fantasy entitled “Magic Kingdom.”

As good as my work title sounded, I was really just managing carpenters and painters and laborers and making sure they rendered the set designs perfectly.

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I was ready to quit midway through that first experience of mainstream film-making. It was just too damn hard, I thought to myself. We’d work for 20 hours straight, under the worst conditions and the tightest of budgets (as was then, so it is now).

Worse, being a Lasalista, the old hands of the film industry who had inherited their jobs from their fathers who in turn inherited it from theirs, saw me as a target. “Ah anak mayaman - hindi tatagal yan.” Then Ralph came onto location and we started to shoot his scenes for several weeks.

We became very close, especially when he found out that I, too, was a Lasalista. I guess he knew what I was going through because one time – pissed and angry at some of my crew – I angrily barged into the actors’ tent - thinking I was alone.

I didn’t know he was there. He had a wide smile on his face. He knew what I was going through.

Then he said something that was crucial to my decision in sticking it out with making films: “Lasalista ka kasi kaya ka nila sinusubukan. Show them! May mas matinik pa ba sa Lasalista? Ganyan talaga sa industriya -you gotta prove yourself, man. Show them you can work harder than them and I promise you, you will have their respect forever.”

So I did. And he was right.

We became really good friends since then.

Some years we’d drift apart, then some years we’d be in close communication. He had starred in both my movies - a small cameo in the first one. A major role in my last one.

Since we shot that film “MANA,” we became really good friends. He’d visit me in my house and hang around and we’d just shoot the breeze (okay, more like down the beers!). When I fought with people we both respected and loved – he was by my side and gave me strong words of support because he knew I was in the right.

He was such a loving person. He’d send me a text message just to keep in touch. He’d greet me on my birthday – remembering it year in and year out. He was a gentleman and a class act equally at home in the most expensive hotels as well as the dirtiest slums of our film locations.

Being an acting coach, I hope to someday write a long treatise: on why I believe he is inarguably the best actor of his generation. I was with him Wednesday morning and Thursday morning and when I saw him, I immediately knew that the cancer cells in his liver were winning the battle. Still, we laughed and he made sungit and lambing alternately to his beautiful wife Maricar, and his sister Cherie (Gil) – he was still his old self.

Then Saturday morning Cherie called me crying. And I knew. I instinctively knew.

Ralph, the uniquely-talented actor that the public knew as Mark Gil, was gone.

Sadness has engulfed me. It feels as if I’ve lost a brother, and like the death of any loved one, I still can’t wrap my mind around the idea that I will NEVER see him again. EVER. Such does death sign its signature: with the mark of eternity.

So here’s to you, Ralph. You were one of the most generous and loving souls I have ever met. And to juxtapose it with our film, MANA: what I wish to inherit from you is this - your relentless kindness and your seemingly-limitless capacity to love.

So goodnight for now, my friend. You were such a fascinating artist. And I’ve been one damn lucky director to have worked with you and more so, to have become your good friend and wiser older brother.

Until it’s my turn (which I hope will be a long, long time from now) - please just make sure - save some of those heaven-made Glendiffich shots for me.

Till the last drops of whisky my friend, till the last drop I take – I shall always be grateful for the loving, silly, whimsical, intellectually-stimulating and often, dead-drunked-out friendship we had.

Published in the Sun.Star Bacolod newspaper on September 04, 2014.

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