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Brassy, buoyant Bernardo Bernardo.

He was a towering presence onstage and onscreen. Actor Bernardo Bernardo, two-time Gawad Urian winner, was the consummate thespian, until the very end.

Although he was suffering from pancreatic cancer, he actively promoted Loy Arcenas' movie musical 'Ang Larawan' last December and recently made his final film appearance in Joel Lamangan's 'The Significant Other.'

Lamangan hailed Bernardo, who passed away at 73 on Thursday, as 'an actor with an unparalleled hunger to search for truth in his interpretation of a scene.'

Singer-actress and 'Larawan' producer Celeste Legaspi recalled their first encounter in the 1970s: 'Rolando Tinio was raving about this young man who could sing, act and dance.' Tinio paired the two in a TV show that time. 'In my naivete, I thought he was straight!'

Singer-actress Mitch Valdes also has fond memories of the debonair thespian. 'In the '70s, there was a whole community of ladies who lamented Bernardo's coming out...He was so talented, women wanted to be the one to 'convert' him. In the end, we all had to settle for his friendship.'

Valdes and Bernardo were reunited onstage, in the musical 'Katy' in 1987, where he played her father. Legaspi, who produced 'Katy,' related that she would never forget his rendition of 'Tingnan Mo Nga Naman Ano?'-the aria of the vaudeville star's dad. 'There was never a dry eye in the audience every time he sang his song,' volunteered Valdes, who portrayed Katy.

Filmmaker Jose Javier Reyes, who wrote the libretto of 'Katy,' recounted: 'He fought for his solo song when it was about to be edited out, and he turned it into one of the play's most memorable songs.'

Before show biz

Long before show biz, Reyes met Bernardo in the groves of academe. 'He was my college professor, one of the first teachers of ComArts at De La Salle.'

Bernardo was a tireless mentor, as well-generously sharing his knowledge with the next generation of artists.

At 13, actor-director Ricky Davao crossed paths with Bernardo backstage after watching the play 'Baka Naman Hindi,' which costarred his late father Charlie Davao. 'It was my first time to watch a play,' Davao reminisced.

When his dad introduced them, the kid was astonished, witnessing Bernardo's transformation from a grizzled senior onstage into a strapping hunk offstage.

Then, the clincher: 'When my dad stepped out of the room, he told me that I was very handsome!'

In 2015, they played lovers in the Sinag Maynila film 'Imbisibol.' 'He was my teacher. From time to time, we would bump into each other, and he would give me pointers on my past performances.'

Some of today's acting luminaries proudly pointed out that they had learned the craft from Bernardo.

1st leading man

When she was a wee tyke, Lea Salonga, who later went on to topbill West End and Broadway plays, shared the stage with Bernardo whom she called her 'first leading man.'

He was the King and she was one of his children in a local production of 'The King and I' in the 1970s. 'Since I was just 6, I remember him as being very tall and stern-looking. I would sometimes sit in the wings just to watch him and Tita Baby Barredo (who played Anna).' They would later team up again in the play, 'The Goodbye Girl' 'That was when I saw his crazier, funnier side.'

Cherie Gil remarked: 'We were real friends, not just colleagues. We shared major professional and personal journeys together.'

He was also Gil's first leading man in her stage debut, 'Barefoot in the Park,' in the 1980s. 'I was only 19 then.'

They had the chance to collaborate again in Lav Diaz's 'Hele sa Hiwagang Hapis' in 2016. As bonus, they traveled to Berlin together, where their film won the Silver Bear Alfred Bauer Prize. 'And we met jurors Meryl Streep and Clive Owen. We were both giddy and starstruck! He touched my life in so many ways.'

That good

According to Diaz, coworkers would stop what they were doing during the 'Hele' shoot, to watch him act. 'He was that good.'

Before starring in the film version of 'Imbisibol,' Ces Quesada acted opposite Bernardo in the stage original. 'I had to be ready for all the surprise ad-libs he would throw around. How we enjoyed those verbal jousts!'

Model-turned producer Bessie Badilla described him as 'witty and fun. Never a dull moment with him.' Badilla nicknamed Bernardo, who spent a few years in California, as 'BB of the West,' because she was 'the BB on the East coast.'

Filmmaker Adolfo Alix, who directed Bernardo in the 2016 movie 'Whistleblower' after his return to the Philippines the year before, said the late actor 'was always fun and lively.'

Quesada quipped: 'One moment, he was vulgar; the next, sublime. And if he was having a good day, he would throw in a few Broadway songs between snickers.'

'Hele' producer Bianca Balbuena agreed: 'He loved acting. He loved to laugh. He loved cracking green jokes. He loved life.'
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Publication:Philippines Daily Inquirer (Makati City, Philippines)
Date:Mar 12, 2018
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