“The girls lost a hero,” says actress Gina Alajar—or possibly anybody from the 52 people interviewed for The Last Pinoy Action King, a documentary film about the late Rudy Fernandez. My eyes had turned foggy at that point to even check.
Then again, I didn’t know why I shed a tear.
I hardly cared about the subject of directors Andrew Leavold and Daniel Palisa’s film, let alone even know him. (No thanks, generation gap.) But the fact that I know little makes watching less emotional and more curious: Why should ‘Daboy’ matter to us now?
The king that was
It’s been seven years since Rudy Fernandez has passed, and this younger generation—us who grew up with Charlie’s Angels and stylish Tarantinos —has yet to mourn. This movie moves us to.
Watching Pinoy Action King felt like intruding on an hour-and-a-half-long eulogy, one that comes with a hardworking visual aid and elevator music on loop. Family members, close industry friends, and showbiz folk like Philip Salvador, Lorna Tolentino, Vicki Belo, Gloria Romero, and Dingdong Dantes disclose who Rudy had been.
Not the time of heroes
“[Rudy] was the real deal. He was a unique character [to the point that] he was loved as much onscreen and offscreen,” tells director Daniel Palisa, “some people can’t really walk the walk offscreen. He was able to pull it off unlike many personalities.”
Here’s what I understood: Rudy was everyman—your diamond in the rough, the man who saves, the one who doesn’t take his work “personally” onscreen but takes his craft seriously off it, the guy who crinkles his eyes when he chuckles too cutely. He was, in a sense, too perfect.
But that was what his era needed then. The people needed a hero. But do we need one now?
Today, we aspire for dreamy James Reids and dimply Alden Richardses. But even they have flaws, say, James portrays stoic guys with spoiled attitudes and is constantly controversial. Today’s people want men as they are: human with, of course, a demigod appearance.
In the film, Rudy’s only seeming flaw was the cancer that crippled him. To us young ones, that would’ve been too cliché despite it being reality.
Was he the last Pinoy action king?
I sat with producer and Rudy’s son Rap Fernandez two days before the premiere. I had to ask about the film’s bold title. Was Rudy really the last Pinoy action king?
Rap thinks he isn’t. But it all depends, he says, on who tags you as such. “It’s the people who put you where you are. It’s not something you can just proclaim. The crown [or title] is put upon the head by the people who love you, who are moved by your work,” he thinks. “It’s not something you can do on your own.”
I find that the film hails Rudy the same way. It romanticizes what we lost by highlighting his perfection, when we would’ve needed to know him as a flawed figure, too.
But the film succeeds in reminding us that there was once a hero among us. We once had a man who didn’t use his looks and cheesy pick-up lines to garner a gaggle of girls. We once had the ultimate movie dream guy. Knowing that was better than thinking we had none at all.
The Last Pinoy Action King is showing at the ongoing Quezon City International Film Festival. Catch on Oct. 28, 6 p.m. at TriNoma Cinema 1, and Oct. 30, 1 p.m. at Robinson’s Galleria Cinema 7. For more information, visit their website.
Art by Dorothy Guya