Saturday, June 7, 2008

Action Star Rudy Fernandez Dead from Cancer at Age of 56

After a long, hard-fought battle of two years with cancer, Rudy Fernandez (1953-2008) now rests in peace. He died at 6:15 AM on June 7 at his home with his wife, family, and closest friends by his side.

Rudy, or "Daboy," as he was fondly called in his inner circle of close friends, died of periampullary cancer, which is "an enlargement of the ducts from the liver and pancreas where they enter the small intestines." The Tagalog translations of liver and pancreas being atay and lapay, respectively.

Rudy Fernandez was most known for his contributions to and stardom in Philippine showbiz as an action star, starring in movies for decades. He won two FAMAS Best Actor awards for the action films Batuigas...Pasukuin si Waway in 1984 and Victor Corpuz in 1988. He is also this year's recipient of 2008 Ulirang Artista Lifetime Achievement Award at the 24th Star Awards for Movies given by the Philippine Movie Press Club (PMPC). He also received the Film Academy of the Philippines' FPJ Lifetime Achievement Award. There is no question that his career and persona has left a great and indelible mark in Philippine showbiz.

His remains now lie in wake at Heritage Park, Taguig City, according to his last request that it be open to the public for those who wish to pay their final respects. He is survived by wife Lorna Tolentino and their two sons Rafael and Renzo Marion, and his son with Alma Moreno, Mark Anthony Fernandez.

Here is a timeline from PEP of Rudy Fernandez' fight with cancer:

- Early 2006: Two years ago, Rudy had a recurring fever that attacked him every afternoon. The diagnosis was cancer. The Fernandez family managed to keep it under wraps from the press, but close friends knew about it.

- March 2006: His ailment was diagnosed as stage 1. Keeping it from the media, Daboy immediately underwent Whipple operation, a procedure named after American surgeon Allen O. Whipple, who devised it in the 1930s. The highly delicate major procedure (10 hours) involves removing parts of the pancreas, bile duct, gall bladder and duodenum, then suturing the remaining bile duct-intestine connection. Rudy and LT were told that many patients had gone on to live many years after the operation. And, indeed, the actor bounced back.

Answering talks about Rudy having cancer, LT said there was nothing to worry about. She said it was only a cyst that needed to be taken out. Rudy even gave an interview after his operation. "Maganda yung recuperation ko. I even did two teleseryes for GMA-7: Atlantika and Now and Forever," he said.

- March 2007: LT admitted in the GMA-7 showbiz talk show Startalk that Rudy indeed had cancer. The cancer came back. Rudy explained, "Any recurrence, stage 4 agad, automatically. They found two lumps in my liver, and another near the pancreas." An oncologist said he had six months to live.

Rudy Fernandez and Lorna Tolentino scheduled a trip to Hong Kong, Japan, and the United States to seek other medical opinions and undergo treatment. After affecting his pancreas, the agressive cancer cells invaded his liver. His doctors informed him that he needed to go through a series of laboratory tests and immediately start chemotherapy.

- March 11, 2007: A day after LT's announcement, his close friends organized a surprise party. The ever-positive Rudy Fernandez left a promise only strong men declare: "I ain't gonna die yet!"

- May 2007: Rudy and LT went to Tokyo for a cancer treatment called Radio Frequency Abulation, which is done to treat "inoperable tumors" in the liver through energy emanating from radio frequencies.

- September 2007: The couple flew to Hong Kong, this time for his PET (Positron Emission Tomography) Scan test.

Rudy went under the knife to have a portacatheter inserted. "Para siyang may pacemaker para hindi masyadong masakit sa mga veins niya yung chemo na ginagawa sa kanya," Lorna said.

- March 2008: They went to the States to try a new kind of treatment. Prior to their trip, he already had treatment here with "nine infusions."

- April 2008: Sen. Jinggoy Estrada in an interview said, "Yung kay Rudy, unfortunately, sa liver niya kumalat." Rudy was supposed to have his revolutionary gene therapy, but they only stayed for four days. He had an obstruction in his billary duct.

"He's in pain," Sen. Bong Revilla said.

- May 2008: The action star had stage 4 periampullary cancer. But he was still positive. "Life is not a battle. I love it, I want more of it. That's all I ask, just a little more."

Senator Jinggoy disclosed that Rudy's tummy was already bloated and his eyes and skin were yellowish, all symptoms of the deadly cancer.

His friends offered a healing mass on May 10.

- June 5, 2008: Lorna texted her close friends: "I am entrusting his life to the Lord."

- June 7, 2008: Rudy "Daboy" Fernandez, 56, succumbed to cancer.

Video of GMA-7 Interview with Sen. Bong Revilla sa Pagpanaw ni Rudy Fernandez

And if you can understand Tagalog, here are the personal accounts of Rudy's final moments from PEP according to his closest friends:

BONG REVILLA. StarTalk's Butch Francisco covered the wake at Heritage Park and interviewed one of Daboy's best friends, Senator Bong Revilla. Bong, who looked quite composed despite his solemn air, tried to keep it together as he talked about his longtime friend and their last few moments together.

"Around seven o' clock in the evening, tumawag sa akin si Senator Jinggoy [Estrada]. Sabi niya, ‘Pare, punta ka na dito, nag-drop yung kanyang [Rudy] blood pressure.' So, takbo kaagad ako sa bahay niya. Pagkakita ko kay Daboy, medyo nanghihina siya.

"‘Tapos sabi ni Jinggoy, ‘Pare, ‘eto na si Senator Bong. ‘Tapos idinilat niya yung mata niya. ‘Tapos noong pagkakita niya sa akin, parang ginanoon niya mata niya [idinilat]. ‘Tapos, pinipilit niyang magsalita. Sabi ko na, ‘Pare, huwag ka na magsalita. Dito lang kami. We're here para sa iyo, hindi kami aalis dito. Laban ka, laban ka,'" Bong recalled.

According to Bong, the ever-positive Rudy answered back, though weakly, a distinct "lalaban ako." As Bong related, Rudy was teary-eyed but he was still fighting for it.

"We stayed there until five o'clock in the morning," Bong added. "Sabi ng doctor, ‘Mukhang stable si Daboy, puwede na kayong magpahinga muna para relyebo kayo.' Umuwi ako sa bahay, magpapahinga ako. Pero pagdating na pagdating ko sa bahay, may na-receive na akong text na ‘Bumalik ka na dito.' ‘Tapos tumawag si Senator Jinggoy, so balik na ako doon."

But Bong was five minutes late. Rudy was already gone by the time he arrived at 6:20 a.m.

"Five minutes late ako," Bong said in a downcast voice. "Si Senator Jinggoy nandoon na, inabot niya pa. Sila yung nagsabi na, according to Senator Jinggoy, na binulungan niya na, ‘Pare, sige na, go ahead. Sige na, kami na bahala dito.' So after five minutes, naputulan na siya ng hininga."

LOOKING BACK. Looking back in his experiences with Daboy, Bong related how it affected him from the days everything looked fine to the day when he has to accompany his friend to his final resting place.

He said, "Nasaksihan natin na since the beginning... Naglalaro kami ng badminton niyan, very healthy, talagang...he doesn't even smoke, doesn't drink. Napakaingat niyan sa katawan. Nilagnat lang ‘yan, e. Then after that, nagpa-check-up siya, siguro one week siya yata nilalagnat. Hindi alam kung trangkaso ba or what. Ayun pala, mayroon na siyang cancer. So yun, it turned out na yun nga, may cancer siya."

But Rudy defied his doctor's prediction that he would only have six months to live. Rudy said that he didn't believe his doctor, saying that he should change his doctor. The next doctor they went to gave the possibility that Rudy's cancer is curable. That in turn, gave Rudy hope.

Rudy persevered and surpassed his former doctor's prediction of six months. This year, however, Rudy's strength began to wane and it was now all up to the Almighty.

DABOY'S FINAL MINUTES. According to the people who were with Rudy in his final minutes, Bong related that Rudy's blood pressure dropped to 60/40 in the final 30 minutes of his life. When this happened, everyone in the Fernandez household feared for the worst.

"Nag-iyakan na sila," said Bong. "Hysterical na si LT, umiiyak siya na ‘Papa...papa...' ganoon. ‘Tapos dumilat mata ni Daboy, ‘tapos sabi niya, ‘Mama...' ‘Tapos, yun yung huli niyang salita. Maganda na marinig din sa kanila [Lorna and the rest of the family], but makikita mo talaga yung pagmamahalan ng mag-asawa. Yung care sa bawat isa na ayaw iiwan ng...parang pelikula, e. And yung pagmamahal niya sa anak niya, makikita mo, e, kasi yung mga anak niya lagi nandoon every time na may dadalaw sa kanya."

JINGGOY ESTRADA. Senator Jinggoy Estrada, probably the closest friend of Daboy, was less composed than Bong when StarTalk's Lolit Solis interviewed him thru phone patch from the GMA-7 studio. The quavering voice of Jinggoy was barely audible as a whisper as he recounts the final minutes in the company of his ailing but still cheerful friend.

"Tinawagan ako ni Lorna ng mga bandag five-thirty ng umaga," Jinggoy's croaking voice said. "Sabi niya na punta ako kaagad sa bahay. So, dumeretso na ako sa bahay nila sa White Plains. Buti naman at naabutan ko pa si Rudy na humihinga..."

Lolit asked if it was indeed Jinggoy who told Rudy that everything was going to be okay. Jinggoy confirmed this by saying, "Noong nakita ko yung monitor kasi, medyo flat line na. Tinanong ko ang doctor na ‘Bakit ganito?' Sabi niya sa akin, ‘Wala na.' Sabi ko kay Daboy, ‘Pare, pahinga ka na. Ako na ang bahala sa iyo at sa pamilya mo dito.' Yun lang yung sinabi ko sa kanya. "

Lolit commented about a certain early scenario when she observed how close Rudy and Jinggoy really were. They were more than brothers.

"Higit pa sa kapatid ang turingan namin ni Daboy," whimpered Jinggoy. "Twenty years ago, bagama't superstar siya noon at hanggang ngayon, he remained a humble person. Very down to earth. ‘Tsaka madali siyang pakisamahan."

Jinggoy then continued to relate how pivotal Rudy was in his life, especially if he was having problems, or whenever there arguments between him and Bong. Rudy, as Jinggoy described, was the peacemaker.

"Siya gumagawa ng paraan para magkaayos," Jinggoy sadly said. "Ayaw niya ng may away sa aming mga magkakabarkada."

Jinggoy's dad, former president of the Philippines Joseph Estrada, visited Rudy before even Joseph himself cannot bear to see Rudy suffer. Joseph, as the same to Jinggoy, was greatly affected.

"Mahal na mahal ni daddy si Rudy," a now crying Jinggoy said. "Nung na-confine daddy ko sa Veterans, siya lang ang kaibigan ko na dumalaw sa akin araw-araw, gabi-gabi...nag dadala ng pagkain...hindi niya ako iniwanan. Noong bumaba kami sa Malacanang, siya po ang lagi naming kasama. Siya po ang laging sumusuporta sa amin. Hindi ko po makalimutan ang mga panahon na inalay po niya sa pamilya namin. Kaya mahal na mahal namin si Rudy..."

Now that Rudy is gone, will the bonding that the four of them had once will continue? Will the remaining three friends-Jinggoy, Bong, and Phillip Salvador-act as fathers to the sons left behind by Rudy?

"Alam mo, sa pagiging tatay lang ng mga anak ni Rudy, e, walang problema yun," said the still quavering voice of Jinggoy. "Nandito naman kaming tatlo. Alang-alang kay Rudy dahil napaka akit ng kanyang pagkawala."

What is his message to the grieving Lorna?

"Tibayan niya ang kanyang loob," Jinggoy said. "Magpatatag siya. Sa mga anak naman niya na si Rafraf at si Renz, at si Mark, ay huwag nilang pabayaan si Lorna lalo na ngayon na talagang napakasakit na mawalan ng mahal sa buhay. Ano man ang kailangan nila, dito lang kami...Handang handa kami mag bigay ng tulong hangga't kailangan nila kami."

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