True Icons: Honoring Amalia Fuentes and Tony Mabesa
Two legends of Philippine entertainment have died within hours of each other, signaling, in the words of director Jose Javier Reyes, the “passing of a generation.”
Film and theater stalwart Antonio “Tony” Mabesa died at 10:20 p.m. on Friday, October 4. He was 84 years old. Screenwriter and playwright Floy Quintos confirmed the passing via a status message on Facebook.
In the early hours of Saturday, October 5, Amalia Fuentes, who was once referred to as the “Elizabeth Taylor of the Philippines,” also passed away. She was 79 years old. The news was relayed by her grandson, Alfonso Martinez, also on Facebook.
The cause of death for both personalities was not immediately disclosed.
Mabesa and Fuentes were just two of the 300 luminaries of Philippine cinema honored at the Sine Sandaan event held at the New Frontier Cinema last September 12. Both were also honored at the Entertainment Editors Choice Awards handed out by the Society of Philippine Entertainment Editors (SPEEd) in July.
Lion of Philippine theater
Although Mabesa also acted in films and TV shows, he made his mark in Philippine theater. After graduating with a degree in theater arts from the University of the Philippines (where he was mentored by National Artist Wilfrido Ma. Guerrero), Mabesa pursued further studies in the US, first completing a masters in theater arts at the University of California in Los Angeles, then another masters in education at the University of Delaware.
Mabesa founded Dulaang UP and the UP Playwrights and directed and starred in countless productions at the State University.
His final film role was in the tragicomedy Rainbow’s Sunset, co-starring Eddie Garcia, who also passed away earlir this year. Mabesa won best supporting actor at the Metro Manila Film Festival for his role.
Fuentes, meanwhile, began her career when he and actor Juancho Gutierrez won Mr. and Ms Number One of Sampaguita Pictures in 1956. Both actors were launched that same year in the film Movie Fan.
Fuentes and Gutierrez starred in several other movies together over the next few years, including Rodora (1956), Sonata (1957), Pakiusap (1959), at Ang Senyorito at Ang Atsay (1963).
Eventually, Fuentes was paired with actor Romeo Vasquez, both of whom starred in films like Pretty Boy (1957), Bobby (1958), Ako Ang May Sala (1958), at Bilanggong Birhen (1960). The two married but later separated. They had one daughter, actress Liezl Martinez, who died in 2015.
Fuentes was also active behind the camera as director, writer and producer through her own film production company AM Productions. She wrote the screenplay for the films Tatlong Kasaysayan Ng Pag-ibig (1966) at Ito Ang Aming Kasunduan (1973), and co-directed Mga Reynang Walang Trono alongsie Fely Crisostomo.
Fuentes won awards for Best Actress twice: the FAMAS in 1966 for Ibulong Mo Sa Hangin and at the 1973 Manila Film Festival for Pag-ibig Mo Buhay Ko. Her last TV role was in the teleserye Huwag Ka Lang Mawawala on ABS-CBN in 2013.
After Vasquez, Fuentes married American businessman Joey Stevens. They divorced after 28 years. They have one adopted son.
Her nephew, former actor Nino Muhlach, also posted a loving tribute to his aunt on Facebook.