The Lito Lapid Story: A Synopsis-A A +A
By Max Sangil
Friday, August 3, 2012
MY MOTHER, known to many in my hometown of Porac as Apung Batik, ran a carinderia in the town's public market. There was no running water in the market, and what was used was a hand pump. Manuel 'Lito' Lapid was in his early teens and used to fetch water for the carinderia's use. That may have been when he started having a good body and developed those six-pack abs that became of good use when he entered the movies.
Lito's father was Jose, older brother of the late action hero Jess Lapid. They were from Guagua. They were both good with horses. They were prized stuntmen of the Premiere Production of the Santiagos. I remember Jose, also known as Tang Pepe, tame even a galloping horse on the set of “Banga ni Zimadar”, a movie shot on location on the sand dunes of Mancatian in Porac.
By the way that movie starred Efren Reyes Sr. and the beautiful Edna Luna with a cast including Johnny Monteiro, Jose Romulo and hundreds of extras. That was the first movie shot on location in our town. I mention it so I won't forget it, and for the benefit of my young cabalens in Porac.
Tang Pepe didn't make waves in his movie career unlike his younger brother Jess who achieved stardom. He married Eleuteria Mercado, a beautiful lass from Porac, whom he courted when he was shooting the movie. The marriage produced five boys -- Rey the eldest, and Lito the youngest. Tang Pepe died when Lito was only two years old.
The young Lito did a lot of odd jobs just to help the family. He became a truck helper, sold pan de sal, washed dishes in the lone panciteria of the town and was a laborer digging ditches. When his Kuya Rey got work at Premiere Productions as a cameraman, he tagged along and if lucky enough, he would be cast as a crowd extra. To hone his skills, he joined Totoy Torrente's SOS daredevil group when they practiced. He outshone most members of the group because of his good looks. In one movie he was cast in, independent film producer Jesse Chua spotted him.
Jess Lapid was a household name in the 60s and 70s. He shared stellar billings with Fernando Poe Jr., Joseph Estrada, Romeo Vasquez, Ronald Remy and many other popular actors from big studios like LVN, Sampaguita Pictures and Tagalog Ilang Ilang Productions. At the height of his popularity, he was gunned down by a self-styled gang known as the Big Four in a night club in Quezon City. The killing made sensational and running headlines. It was the life story of the slain Jess Lapid that was made into a movie by Chua, and cast was Lito in the main role. That movie made him a star.
During the impeachment trial of Chief Justice Renato Corona, Senator Lito was the only member of the Senate who spoke without a script, so to speak. He spoke in the national language which everybody understood. He didn't spend much time and admitted he wouldn't be quoting any Republic Act “because if I will, the people won't believe me,” he said. He only finished high school in 1972 at the St. Catherine Academy in Porac. He married his childhood sweetheart, Marissa Tadeo. By the way, his vote during the impeachment trial got the highest tweets in global trending.
In showbiz, you can't distinguish which is true and which is not. Movie articles linked him with several leading ladies, and when I asked him which is for reel and which is real, Lito would only give you a reply by way of a smile. He admitted his affair with statuesque actress Melanie Marquez, daughter of film director Artemio Marquez of Mabalacat. His most memorable films were Leon Guerrero, Julio Valiente, Pedro Tunasan and Ben Tumbling.
The eruption of Mt. Pinatubo in 1991 exposed the real Lito Lapid. He opened his poultry farm in Porac and gave chicken and eggs to families in need. He braved the rushing lahar and picked stranded people and crossed river channels to save them. These events were caught on camera and were common fares on TV nightly news. Expectedly people wanted him to run for public office. He did so in 1992, and got elected as provincial vice governor.
There was no stopping his political success. He breezed through in defeating incumbent Governor Bren Guiao in the local elections of 1995. He served three terms at the Capitol. And in 2004, he was elected senator of the republic. It is a long way from the lethargic town of Porac to the august chamber of the Philippine senate, but Lito galloped his way, and his role as film star and politician is far from over yet.
Published in the Sun.Star Pampanga newspaper on August 03, 2012.