Most of us have arguably known him as one of the greatest artists our country has ever had. His notable brilliance as an actor, a filmmaker, and a screenwriter were indeed formidable, which catapulted him to becoming our “The King of Philippine Movies” and the “ultimate idol” or inspiration of many Filipinos, either ordinary or celebrities.
While we’ve already heard a lot of anecdotes about him when it comes to his admirable attitude towards work and his colleagues, we probably have heard nor read less about how he was as a patriarch to his beloved family. And just like the characters he portrayed in the 259 movies he starred in, Fernando Poe Jr. was certainly as strict yet doting and fun-to-be-with in real life.
As we commemorate his 15th death anniversary this coming December 14, let’s get to know him as family man through the stories imparted by his daughters Senator Grace and Lovi Poe, as well as his grandson Brian Llamanzares, in their interviews in ABS-CBN talk shows.
As a stern yet doting father to Senator Grace Poe
Being the one to live with Da King almost her whole life, it was indeed Senator Grace who had the chance to experience how it is to be his daughter.
Even though having him as a dad is something to be proud of and thankful for, she imparted that it was actually difficult at the same time as well. Not just because of the pressure brought by her parents’ superstar status, but with how strict her dad was particularly during her teenage years.
In an interview with the King of Talk Boy Abunda in The Bottomline, she recalled how he used to implement a very “unreasonable curfew” whenever she went out with her friends at night. Fortunately, her mom, Susan Roces, was always there to go between them and negotiate with him.
She shared a further elaboration of this during her Magandng Buhay debut last August for the celebration of FPJ’s 80th birth anniversary, when asked regarding his being a strict father.
“Actually, medyo. Kasi no’ng bata ako, siya talaga ‘yong kalaro ko. Masayang magkaroon ng gano’ng tatay ‘pag bata ka pero ‘pag naging teenager ka na, ang hirap. Mahirap magpaalam sa kanya. Lagi kong tinatawag ang nanay ko,” she related.
Then, she went on to narrate one instance she got touched when he stayed up late despite having to go to work early in the morning just to make sure that she went home that night.
“Parang iisipin mo na popular na siya, marami na siyang nagawa, pero hindi niya nakakalimutan ang pagiging tatay niya,” the politician added.
Furthermore, Senator Grace also related that guys also had a hard time courting her as they immediately got intimidated by FPJ’s presence, just like what happened to her beau-turned-husband Neil Llamazares on the very first time that he met her famous parents. Besides, according to her, there was this one time when she told him about someone who crossed her that totally irked him. So he talked to that person and warned him to never go back at their house again.
Developing a tighter bond with her dad, especially when she was still small, she’s been always proud to be tagged as a “Papa’s Girl”. He actually even allowed her to take part in a few of his movies as one of the child stars, but not as his on-screen kid.
Despite the fact that they don’t have any biological connection, she’s grateful that her adoptive parents loved and treated her as their own.
“Kaya nga para sa akin, ‘pag sinabing, alam mo ‘di ‘ba in-adopt ako, bakit parang ang aking kompiyansa ay gano’n na lang? Sapagka’t trinato niya talaga ako bilang isang anak na hindi niya pinabayaan. Kaya abot-abot ang aking utang na loob sa kanilang dalawa,” she conveyed.
As an inspiring dad to Lovi Poe
She might not have the chance to live with FPJ, but actress Lovi Poe was still grateful for being able to stay by his side until his death on December 14, 2004, as well as for the love and inspiration he had left to her.
At age 15, she admitted during her guesting in Magandang Buhay last November that it never crossed her mind that he would be gone too soon since she was still young then and she believed that everything would turn out fine in the end just like what usually happens in fairytales. She eventually came to the realization that, “No matter how much you wish or pray for something, sometimes, hindi siya ibibigay sa’yo.”
However, instead of moping about it, she made her dad as her inspiration to do great in her job as an actress and to be a better person every day.
“Actually one of the main reasons na talagang nai-inspire ako every day to be a better person and to do well sa trabaho ko is my dad. Siguro ‘yong legacy na iniwan niya unang una sa lahat, tapos ‘yong pangalawa is that ‘yong mga nakakatrabaho ko, lahat sila walang sinasabi kundi magagandang istorya tungkol sa kanya at lahat sila parang inaalagaan ako coz it’s their way of giving back to my dad,” she said.
Lovi might not have witnessed how Da King was behind-the-scenes when he was still alive, but the anecdotes imparted to her by fellow celebrities who had the chance to work with him were already enough for her to see how kindhearted her dad was.
“So do’n pa lang, ang sarap ng pakiramdam kasi do’n ko nakita na grabe, napakabuti ng dad ko kahit ‘di ko man nakikita ‘yong example na ‘yon ngayon up-close and in person, nararamdaman ko ‘yon through everyone’s stories,” she divulged.
She also confessed conversing with her dad through prayers, especially when she’s going through tough times or have to do crucial decisions, to seek guidance and enlightenment.
“Lagi akong nagdadasal, especially when I’m going through a tough time. Lagi akong humihingi ng guidance sa kanya and I wanna be enlightened when it comes to certain things, so siyempre marami tayong decision-makings na kailangang gawin and minsan you feel like it’s weird, pero it’s easier to talk to someone who’s up there minsan. Paggising mo sa umaga, you have answers. Makinig ka lang and be quiet, some answers will be there,” she conveyed.
As a sweet and loving husband to wife Susan Roces
From being mere colleagues, the formidable team-up of FPJ and Susan Roces transcended the screen as they eventually became a real life couple who had been married for 36 years. They tied the knot twice in 1968 via civil and church wedding and raised their adopted daughter Mary Grace ever since she came into their lives on that same year.
Growing up with them, the Senator was a witness of how sweet and thoughtful his dad was to her mom, particularly during those times that he made her mad. He would either woo her by tapping his musician friends to help him serenade her or by slow dancing with her. It had also been his habit to bring something for her whenever he shoot a film out-of-town.
As a role model to grandson Brian
He was still a kid then when they lost their granddad to stroke in 2004, thus, he wasn’t able to spend much time with him when he was still alive.
But in spite of that, Brian Poe-Llamanzares, Senator Grace’s firstborn to husband of 25 years Neil Llamanzares, was still able to absorb nuggets of wisdom from FPJ through her mom’s stories.
“Ang laging sinasabi ng nanay ko, we always have to remain humble. So ‘yong favorite line raw ng lolo ko, ‘[the] victory [in] humility’. So kahit gaano ka-successful ka, laging ‘yon ang linya,” he disclosed during their Magandang Buhay appearance.
He might not be as good as his lolo when it comes to wooing girls, he always keeps in mind to be a gentleman and to make his ladylove feel important and loved at all times – the qualities of FPJ that made him adored by his co-stars, especially his leading ladies.
Furthermore, his mom thought that the other characteristics that his son brandished from her dad are being polite, family-oriented, industrious, and generous.
Brian also expressed how overwhelmed and proud he is every time he hears good words about and witnesses tributes to his late grandfather.
“Siyempre, sobrang nakakataba ng puso kasi lahat naman ng mga kuwento tungkol sa lolo ko laging maganda. Actually, maganda talaga ‘yong pag-alaala sa lolo ko, and siyempre siya ‘yong isa sa naging ehemplo ko sa buhay. I try my best to be like him and every time I hear stories about that, I just think na I’m so proud to be his grandson,” he said.
He might have gone for 15 years now, but the memory and legacy of the legendary Fernando Poe Jr. will remain etched in our hearts and minds forever. Long live, Da King!