A method to her ‘madness’

Joel Torre was so overcome with grief he couldn’t respond to Daily Tribune’s message asking about Cherie Gil.

Gil, Torre’s costar who played his childhood sweetheart in Oro, Plata, Mata, was full of life only a few years ago at the street party celebrating the 16th anniversary of his JT Manukan Grille in Malugay, Makati.

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

Gil died of metastatic breast cancer on 5 August at age 59.

Cherie Gil went on to distinguish herself as an excellent character actor in countless TV series. | PHOTOGRAPH COURTESY OF IG/MACHERIEAMOUR

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, Gil’s colleague in the TV comedy show, Champoy, and also a cast member of Oro, Plata, Mata, told Daily Tribune.

“I first met Cherie in Champoy and she was a whirlwind of talent, with a personality to match it,” Valdes continued. “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.”

Bart Guingona, who directed Gil as Diana Vreeland in the one-woman play Full Gallop, told Daily Tribune: “She was a true artist devoted to her craft. When we did Full Gallop — an hour-and-a-half of monologue — she was her own worst taskmaster. There was one time in rehearsals when she wasn’t getting some lines right and she broke down. We took a cigarette break on the fire escape. She was inconsolable. Then we returned to the rehearsal hall. And this time she did it flawlessly. She just wouldn’t give up. That iron, will and determination, together with her vulnerability, are what I’ll always remember her for.”

Actor Hazel Orencio has fond memories of Gil: “Cherie is very dear to me. As her assistant director in Hele sa Hiwagang Hapis and line producer/production manager in Kaputol, she had her moods but was always patient with her and knew that she just wanted lambing most of the time, and then she’d be okay. But as an actor, she was brilliant… We had many great memories, specially in Berlin where we met (and got to hug) Meryl Streep. She was a big-time fangirl. If she had her way, she won’t leave Meryl’s side. That was when I saw her at her happiest. She was on a high even on our flight back to Manila.”

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

Cherie Gil in Cannes, France 17 October 2017. | YANN COATSALIOU / AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

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 had only one scene in Mike de Leon’s Citizen Jake — for which she won Best Supporting Actress at the 42nd Gawad Urian Awards in 2019.

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 and her idol, Meryl Streep, joined her for a photo-op.

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

Cherie Gil found a unique method to her “madness.”

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