THE OTHER SIDE OF FERNANDO POE, JR.
By Ross F. Celino, Jr.
THE STORY of Fernando Poe, Jr.'s screen life and loves has been well played up in newspapers and magazines. What is not well known is Ronnie's personal life as a private individual.
We hope to bring out heretofore unknown, perhaps unheard-of vignettes on his personal life as we have gathered them from people close to the popular and most sought-after actor.
From his mother, the former Bessie Kelly, we learned that Ronnie, that's how intimates and friends prefer to call him, is not only a loving, but also a dutiful and thoughtful son, wh has more than sufficiently provided all the things his loved ones needed.
It is of public knowledge that when his father, Fernando Poe, died some 15 years ago, Ronnie though still barely a man took it upon himself to assume his illustrious father's role. He took the tremendous responsibility in stride and eventually came off with flying colors.
Proof of this is the different film-producing companies which he has put up. There is the mother corporation which bears his own initials, FPJ Productions. Then Jafere Productions which spells out the first letters of his name and that of his brothers and sisters, Jenny, Andy (the husband of Mina Aragon), Frederick, Elizabeth (the wife of Bob Soler), and Evangeline. And D'Lanor Pictures, his name spelled backward. And RR Productions, in partnership with comedian Dolphy.
The Poe Household
Between mother and son, there exists a love and respect which is much apparent. Ronnie more than knows what is expected of him as a son and big brother and so does Mama Bessie, so much so that a healthy convivial atmosphere dominates the Poe household.
From others, specially the technical crew of his movie outfits, we gleaned a very interesting, if not a heartwarming episode in the young life of Ronnie. He was doing the picture Only The Brave Know Hell (Hanggang May Kalaban) with Hollywood actor John Saxon, for Filipinas-Hemisphere, a coproduction venture of Eddie Romero and Hollywood producer Kane Lynn, on location in Magdalena, Laguna. A big throng of people came to watch the shooting. From among the crowd was an old crippled woman who asked to be brought to the set.
Apparently, the woman had not seen a movie for a long, long time since she became crippled, much less seen an actor or actress in person. When Ronnie heard her plight, he was visibly touched but did not show it in an ostentatious manner.
The next morning he had the old woman fetched to the set and a pleasant surprise awaited her! A wheel chair was ordered from Manila for her and to complete her happiness a 16-mm movie was shown to her.
The woman at first was dumbfounded, for who would not? When she regained her composure, she hugged Ronnie tightly. Copious tears welling from her eyes, she thanked him profusely for his generosity and thoughtfulness.
A Big Hearted Man
Ronnie indeed has a magnanimous heart! Consider this: During the showing of any of his pictures in Manila theaters -- whether he is the star or the producer -- he almost always has "special guests."
He gave explicit orders to his checkers and personnel to admit free of charge all physically handicapped and destitutes who may desire to see his pictures.
This writer witnessed an unusual incident which happened at the Center Theatre not so long ago.
I was on my way out of the theater when I happened to spot at the foot of the stairs leading to the balcony and loge seats a crippled young man in an improvised self-operating card talking to a checker. I overheard the lame man expressing over and over his gratitude for Ronnie.
Curiosity got the better of me and I inquired why the man in the card was so profuse with his thanks. I learned that Ronnie had given orders to admit these unfortunates -- the lame, the deaf, the dumb and destitutes -- to see his movies free.
Outwardly, Ronnie appears to be tough and stone-hearted, but people close to him swear that he has the softest of hearts this side of heaven. He could not, they aver, stand a woeful tale without acquiescing to requests for help.
It is not uncommon, therefore, for Ronnie to fall prey to professional sob-story tellers who periodically go to him for assistance.
On this, Ronnie quips: "It's no longer my fault if they deceive me. After all, they cheat nobody but themselves if they tell me a false story...What bothers me is if I cannot give anything to these people who come to me for help. I only wish I have more to spare..."
One time, a man approached Ronnie and told him that his wife had just died and that he did not have money for the funeral expenses. After hearing his tale of woe, Ronnie, without asking questions, fished out a crisp fifty peso bill from his pocket and gave ito to the man, who hurriedly left after murmuring his thanks.
Friends, who were with him that time, reminded Ronnie of a similar incident in which he played the sympathetic sucker to a hoax, but Ronnie shrugged his shoulders and just smiled.
But then Ronnis is like that, always the kind-hearted guy, ever ready to help a fellow-being. As he says: "I always live by my adage in life that: "It is not what we give but what we share, for a gift without the giver is bare..."
Source: The Weekly Nation
June 1, 1966
* * * * * *