An award more special than others
By Nick Tayag
This Dec. 7, NCCA Chairman and CCP President, and Manila Bulletin Lifestyle Arts + Culture columnist Arsenio “Nick” J. Lizaso received the Fernando Poe Lifetime Achievement Award from the Film Academy of the Philippines (FAP). According to the official letter signed by current FAP Director General Vivian Velez, the selection is “in recognition of your countless contribution and devotion to the industry and your tireless effort to create a better tomorrow for industry workers as a whole.”
After his successful stint directing plays and TV programs, Lizaso expanded his range as a film director. Among the movies he directed were Flor de Liza with Julie Vega and Janice de Belen together in one movie; Ulo ng Gapo, a box office hit and critically acclaimed action-drama that featured Rudy Fernandez, Charito Solis, and Eddie Garcia; and Markadong Anghel with Alma Moreno, Tirso Cruz III, and Vic Silayan.
Lizaso was one of the founding members of the Kapisanan ng mga Direktor ng Pelikulang Pilipino (KDPP), the first Directors’ Guild in the Philippines, which also included Ronnie Poe, Lino Brocka and, Ishmael Bernal. He was later elected as the second KDPP president, succeeding Lino Brocka.
In an online interview, Lizaso said that he considers this award as one of the two laudatory citations he treasures most, more special than all the other awards and recognitions of achievements he has received in his lifetime.
The first one is a hand written congratulatory note on his performance in My Fair Lady from no less than Ambassador Carlos P. Romulo, former UN President and Philippine Foreign Secretary, which he keeps until now.
The other one is the recent Fernando Poe Lifetime Achievement Award. That’s because he considers Ronnie Poe a special friend and colleague.
Every time Lizaso celebrates his birthday on the Dec. 14, he remembers Ronnie Poe, because that day coincides with the death anniversary of “Da King.”
Very few people know that he was “privileged” to have shared a close friendship with FPJ when he was still alive.
He cherishes the memory of his “escapades” with Ronnie. Not as a movie director, although he was then already a director, but as one of the FPJ boys. As the then undisputed King of Philippine Movies, Ronnie had a heavy schedule but whenever he had a free time, he would often call Rudy Meyer, an actor and director who is his trusted friend, to round up the boys or inquire about our whereabouts. Soon enough, he would come driving his huge Cadillac.
One time, FPJ sidled up to Lizaso and said, “Balita ko masarap ka raw magbulalo…pwede ba sample? (I heard your bulalo is delicious. Can we taste it some time?)” So early one morning, Lizaso and a few FPJ boys went to buy several kilos of fresh beef at the Tagaytay market and then proceeded to Ronnie’s kwadra (horse stable) in Sta. Ana where he prepared the nilagang baka. Lizaso was only too delighted to see FPJ together with a dozen FPJ boys and members of KDPP (Kapisanan ng mga Direktor ng Pelikulang Pilipino) feasting on his bulalo.
FPJ revered the Filipino master filmmaker Gerry de Leon also known as “Manong.” The last film Manong directed was Juan dela Cruz starring FPJ. But Manong died before the film was finished. As a gesture of his great respect for Manong, FPJ kept the raw, unedited footages in a vault, unseen by anybody else. One day, FPJ asked Lizaso to view the footages, which consisted of raw cuts of the first part of the film. Even in their raw form, the footages were impressive, masterfully done, indeed. Needless to say, he was grateful to Ronnie for the privilege of seeing them. But why me, he still cannot fathom even now.
Just to demonstrate how close he was to Ronnie Poe, Lizaso revealed that when his parents had their 50th wedding anniversary, FPJ readily consented to be one of the main wedding sponsors along with the late Marichu Vera-Perez Maceda and the young Pilar Pilapil.
One of Lizaso’s most cherished pictures shows him with Ronnie Poe taken in 2003 when they both attended the Golden Jubilee celebration of their respective batches in San Beda College. In that same event, Lizaso was also a recipient of the Bedan Achievers Award for Theater together another Bedan alumnus who received the same award for public service: Rodrigo R. Duterte, then the Mayor of Davao City.
After receiving the Fernando Poe Lifetime Achievement Award, Lizaso remarked: “I consider this a worthy tribute not to me but to Ronnie who highly valued friends who stayed true to the spirit of ‘may pinagsamahan.’” Then he corrects himself by saying, “may pinag saluhan” to convey a kind of friendship that was on another level.