Cherie Gil: ‘A whirlwind of talent’

Cherie Gil was full of life the first and last time I saw her in person in May 2019, at the street party celebrating the 16th anniversary of Joel Torre’s JT Manukan Grille in Malugay, Makati.

When the Flippin’ Soul Stompers played its opening song for the night, The Temptations’ “Get Ready,” Gil went up front and danced by herself, later joined by Torre’s daughter Aila.

Gil died on 5 August at age 59.

The cause of her death has yet to be announced, although her colleague friends in showbiz knew she had been ailing.

“She sold all her properties here before moving to New York,” said a journalist.

Her last post on Facebook on 16 July was a photo of a piece of bread, with the caption: “Look at what the nurse gave me at Memorial Sloan! What the world needs now!!!”

It gave a clue on where she was: the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in Manhattan, New York.

“Yes, we knew [she was sick], but left it up to her on how she wanted to handle it,” Mitch Valdes told Daily Tribune.

She was born Evangeline Rose Gil Eigenmann to a family of prominent performing artists which included her father Edde Mesa, mother Rosemarie Gil, and brothers Michael de Mesa and Mark Gil.

Dubbed “La Primera Contravida” of Philippine movies, she became the quintessential taray queen following her role in the 1985 film Bituing Walang Ningning as fading singing star Lavinia Arguelles with the classic condescending line: “You’re nothing but a second rate, trying hard copycat.”

Gil worked with some of the country’s best directors.

In 1980, Ishmael Bernal cast her as Kano, a lesbian drug dealer in Manila By Night. In 1982, Peque Gallaga chose her to play Trining Ojeda, a naive provincial lass traumatized by the war in Oro, Plata Mata.

She went on to distinguish herself as an excellent character actor in countless TV series. Later on she also found her element in the theater, playing four characters in the 2018 local production of Angels in America.

A high point in her career was being cast in Lav Diaz’s Hele sa Hiwagang Hinagpis (Lullaby of the Sorrowful Mystery), which won the Silver Bear (Alfred Bauer Prize) at the 2016 Berlin International Film Festival, whose jury head, Meryl Streep, joined her for a photo-op.

“I first met Cherie in Champoy and she was a whirlwind of talent, with a personality to match it,” Mitch Valdes told Daily Tribune. “The friendships that were formed there have remained up to the present. Oro, Plata, Mata just cemented it. She asked me to be present when it was time to shoot her love scenes with Ronnie Lazaro.

So, I had to sit on top of sacks of grain in the nipa hut throughout the whole shoot.”

Added Valdes: “Her personal life was turbulent like all great artists. But she never lost the shine of her talent. Like all great artists.”

On her website, a video compilation of her life as an artist, titled, “Cherie in 5 minutes,” starts off with one of her movie speaking lines: “Kung gusto mong maging artist, you have to be a little crazy, a little insane.”

Cherie Gil proved she had an outstanding method to her “madness.”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *