Unlike others in the television and movie industries, Eddie early on did not view acting or directing as a goal in life.
Born Eduardo Verches García on May 2, 1929, in Sorsogon, Eddie’s grandfather was a captain in the Spanish army, who was in the Philippines during the Philippine Revolution against Spanish colonial rule. Eddie’s father was Antonio García, who was half-Filipino and half-Spanish, and his mother was Vicenta Verchez, who was half-Filipino and half-Spanish from Pampanga. The language spoken at home was Spanish.
Eddie studied at the Sorsogon Elementary School, then at the San Beda College High School. He took up Psychology until his third year. In 1946, he joined the Philippine Scouts stationed in Guam, which was a contingent of United States army. He became a military policeman in Okinawa, Japan, for three years. Soon, President
Elpidio Quirino disbanded the Philippine Scouts, although one could request to be reenlisted.
In 1949, Eddie García happened to be residing from across the Sampaguita studio. From the window, he sometimes watched film shoots. One day in 1949, there was a call for audition for Manuel Conde’s Siete Infantes de Lara (Seven Devils). A friend who was living in the same house convinced Eddie to audition with him. Forty guys auditioned, were interviewed and given screen tests. Eddie was one of seven chosen for a “small swashbuckling role.”
Eddie the oddball enjoyed his military stint, but tried his luck in the movies because acting was a new experience. He didn’t have to stay put in an office. He likes surprises that come with experiences. So, he wrote his general a letter, requesting an honorable discharge from the army. The general granted his wish with a “Good luck!”
That was in 1950. Eddie joined Sampaguita Pictures, where he played kontrabida (bad guy) nine times opposite Tony Ferrer, the local James Bond. Despite the irregularity of film projects and uncertainty about his future, he came to like and enjoy the job.
In spite of his shooting schedules, Eddie completed A.B., Psychology at San Beda in 1953. He doesn’t exactly know why he took up Psychology. Of course, it helped him better understand the different characters he portrays on screen.
Movie assignments kept rolling in and certainly tided him over. After almost seven decades in the industry, this 89-year-old with prominent mestizo features is still attractive and appealing, despite his slight stoop and rather slow gait, precisely because he hasn’t bothered to have a facelift. The creases on his face shows that age is not a negative factor in tinseltown. Well, at least for male performers. His 5’8 ½” height, broad shoulders and metronomic vibrato laughter impress you that age has not turned him into a grinch, or that fame has made him a spoiled brat. He’s one person who does not fear candor. The Taurean Eddie may be as stubborn as a bull, but he weighs his words carefully, and is not one to mess with.
Unlike many actors and directors, however, Eddie says he never loses his temper. Once at a shooting, Charito Solis arrived on the set at 8 a.m., and waited for a young female actor, who was to play Charito’s daughter. At 12:30 p.m., the young actor was nowhere in sight. Charito left. Eddie naturally sided with Charito.
At another shooting, there were no props. Eddie told the people responsible to bring in the props. Cast and crew waited for the props. Nobody ate lunch until the props arrived, which came at around 4 p.m. “When I suffer, everybody suffers,” Eddie states simply, and laughs.
Once in a club, some bad boys invited Eddie over to their table for a drink. They poured beer in his glass and spiced it with peanuts, complete with the pod. Then, Eddie ordered beer for another round, and said, “This one’s on me.” He calmly pulled out his .45 and poured bullets into the glasses. The group paid the bill and hastily left.
Eddie García has taken on so many roles in film and television. For almost seven decades, he has acted in more than 600 movies, and directed more than 100 films. He has appeared in action films like in FPJ’s Kapag Puno na ang Salop (1987, 1989, 1990); Sgt. Patalinghug (1991); Cordoba, Lulutang Ka sa Sarili Mong Dugo (1992); and Alfredo Lim: Batas ng Maynila (1995).
In drama, Miguelito (1985, Lino Brocka); Tubog sa Ginto 1970); Tinimbang Ka Ngunit Kulang (1974, Lino Brocka); Ganito Kami Noon, Paano Kayo Ngayon? (1976, Eddie Romero); Minsan pa Natin Hagkan ang Nakaraan (1983, Marilou Diaz-Abaya); Nagalit ang Buwan sa Haba ng Gabi (1983); Kung Mahawi Man ang Ulap ((1984); Gumapang Ka sa Lusak (1990, Lino Brocka); Bakit May Kahapon Pa? (1996); Death Row (2000, Joel Lamangan); and Bwakaw (Jun Lana, 2012);
In comedy, May Lamok sa Loob ng Kulambo (Danny Zialcita, 1984); May Daga sa Labas ng Lungga (1984); Atsay Killer (1984); and Enteng Manok (1993).
In television there were Darna (2005); Asian Treasures (2007); Darna (2009); Juan dela Cruz (2013); and Sana Bukas Pa Ang Kahapon (2014).
Eddie told himself, after several acting stints, that he would direct a film in 15 years. It took him just 12 years to become a director. His first directorial assignment was Karugtong ng Kahapon (1961) for Sampaguita Pictures, featuring Mario Montenegro, Rita Gomez, Ric Rodrigo and Marlene Dauden.
Other memorable films Eddie megged include Pinagbuklod ng Langit (1969); Atsay (1978), with Nora Aunor; P.S. I Love You (1981); Saan Nagtatago ang Pag-ibig (1987), with Vilma Santos; Kung Aagawin Mo ang Lahat sa Akin (1987); Imortal (1989); and Abakada Ina (2001), with Lorna Tolentino.
Eddie received from FAMAS (Filipino Academy of Movie Arts and Sciences) six awards for best supporting actor; five for best actor; five for best director; three Hall of Fame awards; one lifetime achievement award; and one FPJ memorial award.
From the Film Academy of the Philippines, he garnered three Luna awards for best director and one for best actor.
From the Metro Manila Film Festival, he was recognized as best director and best actor.
The Manunuri ng Pelikulang Pilipino bestowed on him the Urian for best actor in Death Row in 2000, and in 2006, the Natatanging Gawad Urian.
Eddie was also honored with the 1998 FAP lifetime achievement award as well as the 1st Dolphy Lifetime Achievement Award,
He further reaped an international award for best lead actor of Bwakaw at the 55th Asian-Pacific Film Festival in 2016.
For someone who has portrayed a lover, priest, rebel, cop, homosexual, senior citizen, convict, etc., Eddie García cannot think of a dream role he hasn’t done yet. One thing he’s sure of, though, is that he cannot play the role of a lady. And he laughs. His versatility as an actor is unparalleled in the history of Philippine cinema. And the more he advances in years, the more he churns out with natural ease unforgettable performances. All he requires in accepting an assignment is a good concept and a good script.
He’s thankful for the awards, although he doesn’t work with awards in mind. For him, “movie-making is just a job. Every role you do should be done well. It’s the best recommendation for the next project… Love your work. Come to the set prepared. Don’t give your director headaches. And avoid chismis…National Artist? I don’t aspire for that. If it comes, well and good. As I always say, awards are just a nice bonus for a job well done.”
In 2018, he was among individuals chosen as Most Outstanding Citizen of Quezon City.
The unstoppable and irrepressible Eddie García manages to make movies in between tapings of the FPJ’s Ang Probinsyano (now on its third year). He’s done three critically acclaimed films in a row. He won best actor for ML at the 2018 Cinemalaya Independent Film Festival. In ML, he is the villainous retired Metrocom colonel with Alzheimer’s disease who thinks it is still martial law.
He was also proclaimed best actor in Hintayan ng Langit at the 2018 QC International Film Festival. Here, he meets his former lover Gina Pareño in purgatory.
Rainbow’s Sunset, starring himself, Tony Mabesa, Gloria Romero, and directed by Joel Lamangan, won 11 awards at the 2018 Metro Manila Film Festival. Eddie was accorded the Special Jury Prize for his role as an elderly gay man who tells his family he wants to take care of his dying lover.
“Acting is easier than directing,” Eddie confides. “In directing, you’re the captain of the ship. You choose your locations, the production design…I’m meticulous about the script.” He seriously studies the script before accepting a project. Then, like a psychologist, he prepares himself by keenly observing others.
He’s not interested in politics, whether being in it or giving his opinions. “I’m just an actor. Reality depends on the perception of people.” He does not, however, shirk from controversial roles, no matter if they’re heavily shaded with politics.
Not your typical artista with a huge ego--who parties most of the time in order to stay in the news--discipline guides his life. He believes in punctuality and keeping his personal life private or separate from work. His motto: “What you could do today, do it now so you could do something else tomorrow.”
Eddie got married in 1957; he was 22. His wife, quit working in a department store so she could be “a loving wife.” Unfortunately, she died of cancer in 1995. Their eldest son died at 22 in 1973 in a motorcycle accident. Their youngest daughter passed away at 39. The remaining child, their second son, has three children and a grandkid.
Eddie García describes himself as a one-woman man. Gifted with a good memory, he maintains a healthy lifestyle, which includes eating fish, vegetables and fruits, running, walking, target-shooting and lifting dumbbells.
He prefers to be called “Eddie,” not Mr. García, not Sir, just Eddie. That way you bridge any age gap and start on a friendly basis. It also casually reminds one that fame is no excuse for reinforcing hierarchy or presumed power.
In a published interview with Miguel Esobar in Esquire, Eddie was asked how he would want to be remembered. His answer: “Frankly, I don’t give a damn.”
That’s Eddie García, or just Eddie, the oddball of Philippine showbiz, a gem, a rare gem indeed.
Marra PL. Lanot writes poetry and essays in Filipino, English and Spanish. She also writes for newspapers, magazines and television, and has attended as invited delegate to various international literary/poetry festivals, the most recent ones of which are in Colombia (2013) and in India (2014).
More articles by Marra PL. Lanot