Quezon City, March 31, 2002 (STAR) By Ricky Lo - Tomorrow morning when you wake up and the sun does not appear... Ė from the song I Will Be Here
For sure, the sun will appear tomorrow morning when you and I wake up. But towards noon when, as a habit, you and I turn on our TV sets to ABS-CBNís Magandang Tanghali Bayan (MTB), Rico Yan will not appear. He died in his sleep early morning last Good Friday at the Dos Palmas resort in Puerto Princesa, Palawan where he was on a Lenten break with friends. He was 27.
When that sad/shocking news reached Manila three hours later, jolting everybody from the soberness and solemnity of the day Christ was laid to rest, the initial reaction was, "Oh no, it canít be true!" Contrary to what everybody thought Ė "Please, God, say it isnít true!" Ė it wasnít a cruel joke spread through texting. It was for real.
The Hunks Ė Diether Ocampo, Piolo Pascual, Bernard Palanca, Carlos Agassi and Jericho Rosales Ė dissolved into sobs when they heard the news while in San Diego, California, for their US concert tour. Pops Fernandez, vacationing in L.A. with her children Ram and Robin, was stunned when Deo Endrinal (ABS-CBN guy and manager of The Hunks) relayed the news to her and Pops had to double-check with friends in Manila before passing it on to Ruffa Gutierrez, also in L.A., and other US-based friends.
Ricoís ex-girlfriend Claudine Barretto, with whom he broke up barely a month earlier, was in Subic with her sister Marjorie and her husband Dennis Padilla and their kids when told, very gently now, about what happened.
"Claudine just went blank," recalled somebody who was with the group. "And then, she turned hysterical, prompting a doctor to put her under sedation. When she woke up, she couldnít talk; sheís in a state of shock, so we had to bring her to the hospital."
It was, indeed, hard to believe that somebody as healthy as Rico, who turned 27 only last March 14, would die in such a sudden manner. He was at his prime, standing on top of the world, with his last movie (with Claudine), Star Cinemaís Got 2 Believe, smashing box-office records when it opened in Metro Manila (and other cities throughout the country). His other TV show (aside from MTB), the sitcom Whattamen, was doing well at the ratings game. He was endorsing, along with Whattamen and MTB co-stars Dominic Ochoa and Marvin Agustin, Talk Ďní Text, among other products (heís also the image model for the Molecules/Particles apparel, together with Claudine). He had everything going for him, never mind if his four-year-plus romance with Claudine ended on a sad note after the release of their movie.
When we last saw him last Saturday on MTB (which showed pre-taped Lenten episodes from Holy Monday to Holy Wednesday), Rico was as full of life as ever, giving no hint at all if he was bothered by his break-up with Claudine. There he was, as usual, frolicking in a pool with Marvin and Dominic and the rest of the MTB Gang in a continuing summer special, lighting up the small screen with his boyishly bedimpled smile that had endeared him to 72-million-plus Filipinos. Who would have thought that that would be the last time televiewers were seeing Rico alive!
Only 10 hours before he was found stiff at the loft of the cottage he shared with Dominic (and his girlfriend Janna Victoria) and two other friends, Rico was at a party, singing at a videoke to the delight of his companions who never suspected that when they said. "Good night!" to Rico at around 2 oíclock Good Friday morning, they were doing so for the last time. As his Kuya Bobby confirmed, Rico was a snorer, so he occupied the loft where his companions heard him groaning (umuungol) at around 6 a.m. Thinking Rico was just, as usual, snoring, his companions didnít mind him, letting him get some more sleep.
"At past 9 a.m.," said a sobbing Dominic, devastated by the tragedy just like everybody else, "I told somebody to rouse Rico because we were supposed to play pingpong with the natives. A doctor, who was with his family in Dos Palmas, tried to revive Rico with CPR pero hindi na siya nagising. He was dead on arrival when brought to the Adventist Hospital in Puerto Princesa."
Ricoís father Robby and his Kuya Bobby (they have two other sisters), co-host of the ABS-CBN early-morning show Alas Singko y Medya, flew to Puerto Princesa on a private plane owned by Meralco and ABS-CBN to bring Ricoís body to Manila, arriving after dusk at the Camp Crame for the autopsy, results of which put to rest nasty text messages about Ricoís death which was caused by hemorrhagic pancreatitis (bangungot). Ricoís family made it clear that, contrary to rumors, there wasnít any trace of drugs in his body.
Found undigested inside Ricoís stomach was the seafood he had eaten at the party. "He didnít drink too much," said one of the partygoers. A little crack was detected in Ricoís heart. He was suffering from asthma, all right, but, according to Bobby, "It wasnít really that serious."
Launched as a member of the ABS-CBN Talent Centerís Star Circle Batch 1 seven years ago, Rico went on to star in TV dramas and movies produced by Star Cinema, sister company of ABS-CBN, making his movie debut in Radio Romance with Claudine as leading lady. They made two other movies, Flames The Movie and Dahil Mahal na Mahal Kita, before they became sweethearts, appearing together also in the ABS-CBN soap Saan Ka Man Naroroon (with Diether Ocampo and Leandro Muñoz).
Rico was also paired with Judy Ann Santos in two movies, Paano ang Puso Ko? and Kay Tagal Kitang Hinintay. Three years ago, Rico, Marvin and Dominic were launched as the singing Whattamen which was eventually made co-hosts of the noontime show MTB early last year when Willie Revillame (forming his own zany trio with Randy Santiago and John Estrada) left the show. Whattamen spun off into a sitcom (Wednesday nights on ABS-CBN) a few months ago.
Well-behaved, well-mannered and well-loved, Rico was the perfect role model not only for his colleagues but other people his age. He was clean-living, well-bred and as reffreshing as the Eskinol Master Skin Lotion which he endorsed when he was new in showbiz. Until recently, Rico was a spokesperson for the youth, appointed by former President Joseph Estrada.
With a Marketing/Management degree from La Salle, Rico invested his earnings in business. At the time of his death, Rico was co-owner of the Tequila Joeís Italian restaurant in Makati and sole owner of a food business. Not many people know Rico was behind several charity projects (unpublicized as Rico wanted them to be) and was on the final stage of preparations for a Rico Yan Foundation to benefit the youth.
The last time I saw Rico in the flesh was during the shooting of the ABS-CBN Saya ng Summer station I.D. three days after Got 2 Believe opened to SRO crowds all over the country. As usual, the physically-affectionate Rico was hugging everybody who was congratulating him for being "The New Box-Office King," not letting, as usual, the compliment go to his head.
Two weeks before that, six of us movie writers were in a huddle with Rico at the Got 2 Believe presscon, teasing Rico that, since he confessed to being a camera bug like his role in the movie, he should shoot Claudine in the nude.
"Itís not my cup of tea," said Rico, "maybe itís in my upbringing. Some people may see Ďartí in nudes but I donít see it that way. I donít appreciate nudes, they donít excite me at all."
Being a nature-lover, added Rico, heíd rather shoot (photograph) eagles in flight and beautiful scenery.
"I love to fly, thatís why Iím fascinated by an eagle in flight and planes, too."
Wherever he may be now, Iím sure Rico is flying not only with eagles but also with angels in a forever land where there are no intrigues, no controversies, no cares and worries, no pain and suffering, but only eternal peace and happiness.
Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi
2002 by PHILIPPINE HEADLINE NEWS
All rights reserved
PHILIPPINE HEADLINE NEWS ONLINE