Rain Without Meaning


The door to the master’s bedroom was wide open, and the doctor, bag in hand, paused unnoticed and leaned against the jamb, listening to Don Ramon play one of Lizst’s familiar pieces on a grand piano, which was parked in the center of the room. It had always seemed, to the doctor, such a ridiculous place to put the grand piano, but Don Ramon de Cabrera cared nothing for propriety nor the opinions of his friends.

 “Tell me that I won’t last long with this damned acute diabetes,” he told the doctor once, “and I might believe it. But when I talk of music, my statements are conclusive, and my bedroom is where that piano rightly belongs because I will it so!”

The doctor merely shrugged his shoulders then. Don Ramon and he had been neighbors when they were boys and they had grown up together. As a child, Don Ramon was fiery and rebellious, fearlessly and obstinately devoted to his own ideas and beliefs. He did everything differently from other people, and no amount of persuasion, cajoling, or threat had ever swayed him from what he thought or did…

“That’s enough, Ramon,” the doctor interrupted at length, glancing at his watch. “There’s still tomorrow, you know, and genius has its limits. Besides, it’s almost dinner-time.”

“Miguel!” Don Ramon wheeled about eagerly and laughed. “You incorrigible adolescent—how long have you stood there spying on me? I had almost given up waiting for you, hoping all the time that you and your putrid hypodermic needles would never come at all!”

The doctor entered the room and perched his bag on a small table beside the piano.

“I suppose,” the doctor said, smiling, “you would consider it another exhibition of adolescence if I wished you a merry Christmas and a happy New Year. You’ve always scoffed at Christmases and you’ve never been really happy in your life.”

“Bravo!” Don Ramon answered and crossed toward the window. “And there’s a good chance that I shall have died before half of the New Year’s over. You don’t have to avoid my glances, Miguel, because I’m not at all sensitive about dying.”

Don Ramon raised the blinds and drew the dark heavy curtains wide apart. Sunshine burst into the room and fell partly on the piano. The white keys sparkled. He looked at them and then out of the window, at the lazy streets below, while the doctor snapped open his bag and pulled out the blood-pressure apparatus, sterilizer, syringe …  Every day, the same routine …  Not much change in your blood pressure  … Sleep well last night?  … But who says you mustn’t eat? … Avoid sugar though … And starchy foods …. And avoid excitement, physical or emotional …

For the last eight years, Miguel had come to this room, had opened his bag and brought forth the blood pressure apparatus, sterilizer, syringe, insulin ampules—the indispensable insulin ampules without which the patient will die, die, die, tortured and ghastly, the whole rotting frame shaking vehemently in its last attempts to live, the eyes bursting out of their sockets, the mouth taut in a futile attempt to scream … and the hands, clutching and tearing at the twisted throat, painfully thirsty for a minute drop of insulin—insulin!—like a dying man in the desert who knows an oasis in the immediate vicinity but is bound and gagged, cannot move towards it and can only see the vultures circling overhead, impatiently waiting, avidly watching…



“Your daughter’s mouth,” the doctor said, “seems to be queerly pink and swollen this morning. Have you struck her again today?”

“I couldn’t help it.”

Of course,” replied the doctor in mock sympathy, lighting a cigarette. “Always you can’t help it.” He drew a deep lungful of air and coughed it out in a note of detest.

“Stale,” he commented, throwing the cigarette out if the window. “As stale and as deteriorated as your carcass and your mad standards of artistic perfection, which you have so brutally demanded of her to attain, and she hates you for it.”

“Oh, so you’ve noticed that, too.”

The doctor nodded thoughtfully and turned to prop up the scale of the blood pressure apparatus.

“I have never before seen a deeper and a more consuming hate for a father than that which I see it in your daughter’s eyes as she looks at you. I feel sorry for her somehow; I grieve for her in fact, as I watch her cling so desperately to her morbid hate. It is the only weapon which she possesses against you. Hate and nothing else; and for that, I grieve for her.”

“Because it isn’t enough of a weapon?”

“Because it’s madness,” the doctor said. “I tell you, Ramon, it’s madness to compel her to equal you—she just can’t! I don’t know of anyone else in this country who can. In all fairness, instead of raving over her slightest mistakes in technique and manual dexterity, instead of screaming and scowling in her face, you should see it. In all fairness, you should! Or—why don’t you scratch her eyes out and rip her face beyond recognition for a change?”

Don Ramon left the window and sat on the stool, his back against the piano, his hands toying tunelessly with the keys. He stared fixedly at the mounted sterilizer.

“If Farruca were only born a boy…” he said, answering from another stream of thought. “I could make an excellent pianist out of the child yet.”

The doctor shrugged tolerantly and moved closer towards Don Ramon.

“Well, shut your mouth and open your eyes wider,” he said. “That sudden attack which gripped you yesterday might have caused a shock to your liver.”

“Farruca makes a pathetic musician,” Don Ramos continued, as if to himself. “So do all women.”

“There ought to be a yellowish thing in your eyes if it did.” And the doctor stooped forward and forced the eyelids wide with his fingers.

“They make excellent novelist and painters. They even make good poets. But they shouldn’t try to write music. They’re not savage enough.”

“No, I don’t see any yellowish tinge here,” the doctor observed, peering keenly into the patients eyes. “So far, so good.”

“Or perhaps, they’re much too savage,” Don Ramon added, upon second thought. “In which case, the more reasons why they make poor musicians.”

The doctor grinned sheepishly and moved the blood-pressure apparatus to where it suited him. “Although why, in the name of common sense, you expect to make a genius of your daughter, knowing fully well her shortcomings as a woman, is beyond me,” the doctor said. “It is not foolish; it is brutally unreasonable.”

“Damn, a doctor with his head smugly hammered on! Must there always be a reason for everything?” Don Ramon felt his blood beat hotly in his face.

“Please remember what I told you about the danger of exciting yourself, if you intend to live longer.”

“Women to me…,” Don Ramon struggled to explain, “… are nothing but necessities…”

“… Like insulin,” the doctor prompted, “without which you will die, tortured and ghastly.”

“Necessities to stimulate me in the creation of my art and, much more, in its perfection. But with Farruca, it is different. I want to perfect her, not just because she’s my daughter and I love her and am fond of her, but because I have never considered her being a woman as any gap at all between herself and the art of savages. Oh, you don’t believe me, I know; but I do love her. I do! Except when she plays the piano and repeats those horrible mistakes I have continually warned her about. It revolts me to watch her struggle and border on near-perfection, only to weaken and fall short, that the desire to perfect her simply clogs my reason and I suddenly find myself loathing her.” He began rubbing his face in utter confusion. “It shouldn’t be so, I know.”

The doctor gently brought down his hand and silently buckled the airbag of the blood-pressure apparatus around his arm. Squeezing the pump, he carefully watched the mercury rise up the scale.

A maid came in bearing a tray of food. She carefully and timidly set it down beside Don Ramon’s elbow. “Señor,” she began, “your dinner—“

“Take it away!” The master’s voice was low and menacing.

“But, Ramon, por Dios! You’ve got to take something at least.”

“I’m not hungry!”

The maid hastily picked up the tray and started to move out. “Farruca says that dinner will be ready downstairs as soon as the doctor is—,” the words tumbled one after another and she was gone.

The doctor kept his eyes on the ascending mercury. “Eighty-five,” he read slowly, “Eighty-six, eighty-seven … Eighty-seven. Tsk, tsk. Quite a considerable change. Must be due to that attack yesterday.” He unwounded the airbag, released his patient, and started packing up the apparatus.

“Don’t trouble telling me this is bad,” Don Ramon said, “because I know it is.”

The doctor worked silently, efficiently. “Someday,” he said when he was through, “when I deem it profitable to write your biography, I shall devote one chapter wholly on … The Genius, As Seen By His Kitchen Maid. I believe it would sell—but God! This weather is killing me. No trees at all to screen the house.”

“It’s a matter of getting used to it,” Don Ramon said drily, staring distantly out of the window. “Besides, there’ll be rain from the mountains before long. Look—.”

The doctor looked to the west. Dark clouds were racing fast towards the city. “Yes, it’s about time the rainy season sets in. I think I’m very glad.”

Outside it had started to drizzle. Heavy clouds had hidden the sun, and the dining room darkened. Soundlessly, the drops fell and met the smell of the earth as it rose up…

Farruca and the doctor remained seated after dinner. The girl looking absently at her hands which she had spread out in front of her, the doctor glancing aslant now and then at her swollen lips, debating whether to treat it or keep on pretending to have not seen it.

“Thinking of anything special?” he finally asked when the maid who waited upon them had cleared the table. “Is it a big secret?”

The girl drew in a deep breath and smiled fondly at him. She seldom told people much of what she thought, and when she ever did, it was with an effort painful to watch. However, with the doctor—perhaps because he was to her the nearest thing to an uncle, and she had always considered him as one—she affected no front and could afford to say anything without fear of being too self-revealing.

“Oddly enough, I was thinking of my mother and what she might have given me for Christmas, if she were alive. I don’t remember her at all, as people say she died the day I was born, and there isn’t any pictures left of her in the house, so I’ve been trying to imagine how she looked.”

“Your father had all her pictures burned after the funeral,” the doctor said. “There was a life-sized portrait of her, which used to hang on the sala of the old house. That, too, was thrown into the fire.”

“Is it true what people say, that she—looked like the Virgin Mary? Did she really?”

“Come think of it, why yes, she did!” he agreed heartily. “It never occurred to me before but, yes, she did look like her!”

Farruca laughed happily for the first time. “She must have been really beautiful,” she said. “What was it like when she died, Tito? I hear my father locked himself up in his room for three days, refusing to see people.”

The doctor nodded reminiscently. “I couldn’t even see him.”

“He must have been so in love with her,” she said wistfully. “Although I can hardly conceive of him as being in any way capable of loving anyone or anything but his music and his money.”

The doctor waited until she looked up and said: “He loves you, too, my dear, much more than you can possibly dare to imagine.”

She laughed as if what he had just said was a bad joke, and she searched his face for the slightest trace of amusement, but when she did not find any, she laughed just the same, and the doctor moved uneasily in his seat because he sensed that there was something morbid and calloused and disturbing in her laughter now, which only a terrible hate could bring about.

”He doesn’t love me, he loves his music. And he loved my mother for her money. He married into her family because doing so spared him the necessity of having to play for a living in concert halls for a multitude of what he regards as high-browed, dissipated idiots paying their way in and waiting to be impressed!”

“Please, Farruca!”

“Yes, I know!” She tossed her head defiantly and laughed. “It never occurred to you that I knew, but I do; and I more than hate him for it. I despise him!” And she laughed some more at the doctor’s look of shock and blank surprise at the terrible hate which he saw in her bluntness.

The rain fell harder and pounded on the roof. They could hear the water gurgling down the drain outside, by the window near where they were. The doctor stood up and pulled down the glass panes. The gurgling stifled.

“I’m sorry, Tito Miguel. Are you angry with me?”


“Did I disillusion you?”

He remained silent.

“Please do not be angry with me, Tito. You are the only one I have left in the world.”

“Forget it,” he said. “Now go up and ask your father if he is ready for the injection.”

But she did not move. Instead, she looked up at him and said, “He wouldn’t allow me to have a Christmas tree in the house. He said that Christmas trees were among civilization’s sentimental—and therefore stupid—devices in its attempt to defy destiny, or something like that. Just what did he mean, Tito?” She waited for him to speak but his lips were clamped tight, his eyes narrowed in deep thought. Seeing that there was no indication of any desire on his part to speak more, she arose and went up.

Her father’s door was shut. She stood in front of the knob, poised her first momentarily and rapped against the panel.

The rain drowned her knock.

She tried again, louder. There was no answer. She turned the knob and walked in, just in time to see the windows, wind-driven, fly wildly on their hinges. She saw them crash against the wall.

And then she saw her father.

He lay huddled on the floor. A violent paroxysm had seized his whole body. His shoulders, against the leg of the table, shook furiously and the table along with them, upsetting the mounted sterilizer and a glass of water. His feet jerked outward, became rigidly still, and jerked again. His hands choked at his throat, nails ripping deep into the flesh. His mouth was avid and open, shrieking soundlessly; and his eyes sought her in an agony of helplessness, while the water from the upset glass flowed sluggishly on the tabletop, lingered for a while at the edge, then tripped coldly down his pain-twisted, horror-distorted face.

She rushed wildly out of the room in an impulse to scream for help. At the top of the stairs she suddenly stopped and composed herself. Mustering every effort to pull her wits together, she turned back to the room and, compelling herself, stood on the threshold, and watched the twisted figure that was once her father, die in pain. For a moment, his eyes sought hers; then they rolled and the whiteness was all she could see. His body had become limp and motionless, quivering slightly now and then.

Softly, she shut the door and walked to the end of the hall, into her room. She sat on the edge of her bed, trying hard not to think. Fear had gone out of her but her hands trembled with anticipation. She strode to the mirror and brushed her hair elaborately. By the time she finished, her fingers had ceased shaking, although her face was white and bloodless. She looked at her face for a while in the mirror and felt that she could gaze forever at herself. She examined her every features as if she were seeing herself for the first time, idly running her fingers over her chin and cheeks. After a while, she left the room and walked down the hall without glancing at her father’s door when she passed.

Back at the dining table, the doctor, who had been watching her as she came down, asked anxiously, “Is he ready for the injection?”

She felt too exhausted to speak, and said nothing; but she looked at him distantly and full, as if she were a stranger in the house.

Thunder rolled, then cracked, like a bomb detonating. The glass panes rattled and the house seemed to rock.

“Why don’t you answer me?” exclaimed the doctor. “Is he ready or are you sick yourself, Farruca? What is the matter with you? Farruca!”

Intuitively, he dashed frantically across the room and raced up the stairs, three steps at a time.

“Telephone the hospital for an ambulance!” he called hoarsely. “Oh, Santa Maria, it cannot be! Please let him live! Padre Nuestro!”

The wind whistled and sent the rain crashing relentlessly on to the roofs and the streets.

Alone by herself, Farruca leaned her tired head on the closed window, her nose pressed flat against the glass, and she watched the big drops sputter on the pavement outside. From far away, the landscape had grown nebulous. The puddles overflowed as thunder boomed mercilessly and more and more rain fell—to her, without form.

And without meaning.

Cesar Jalandoni Amigo grew up in Dumaguete, where he graduated with a degree in political science from Silliman University in 1948. Together with Aida Rivera-Ford, he served as the first editor of the Sands & Coral. He is a much-awarded screenwriter, famously for Buhay Alamang (1952), Hanggang sa Dulo ng Daigdig (1958), The Moises Padilla Story (1961), and Igorota (1968). He also directed Sa Atin ang Daigdig (1963), 7 Gabi sa Hong Kong (1966), The Hunted (1970), and Babae ... Sa Likod ng Salamin (1976). He received the 1974 Outstanding Sillimanian Award for Screenwriting and TV/Film Production.

A Remembrance of Cesar Jalandoni Amigo


In 28 August 1974, when Cesar Jalandoni Amigo received the Outstanding Sillimanian Award for Screenwriting and TV/Film Production, he was riding a crest of recognition for a body work that, starting in 1949, had been consistently impressive, and straddled two creative worlds—that of literature and that of cinema, although his fame leaned towards the latter. His citation for that award begins: “[His] world is the world of film, some of them fiction, but in that world, Mr. Amigo is real. His contribution to the art and profession of filmmaking in the Philippines has been substantial and for this he has been amply awarded.”

What is the sum of this contribution? In quick consideration, there are the thirty-three films to his credit—all of which he wrote or provided the story for, and four of which he also directed. There are the four FAMAS Awards for his screenplays [plus a few more nominations]. And then there are the stories themselves—always with a social bent, geared towards a deeper consideration of what he felt to be the vital issues of the day.

In 3 June 1973, when he received the Patnubay ng Kalinangan [Guardian of Culture] Award, an honor bestowed by the City of Manila, which is considered by many local artists to be one of the most prestigious and the most sought-after cultural award in the capital, the noted writer and civic leader Celso Al. Carunungan addressed Manila’s Commission on Arts and Culture in testament of his friend:

“Cesar J. Amigo has used his talents not merely for self-aggrandizement, but also as weapons, however modest, in humanity’s fight against traditional enemies: communism and population explosion. In the mid-1950s, Amigo devoted almost two years of his life writing and directing anti-communist films in Vietnam and Cambodia. The early 1970s see him gradually switching from theatrical movies to film featurettes on family planning, which Cesar Amigo now produces and directs for the National Media Production Center, in collaboration with the Population Commission.”

He was the most lauded scripter of his day, and people could readily recognize his authorial signature in the films that he wrote—one could say he was the precursor, together with Clodualdo Del Mundo Sr., to the likes of Amado Lacuesta, Clodualdo Del Mundo Jr., Ricky Lee, Raquel Villavicencio, and Jun Lana, all of them celebrated screenwriters that came after him.

Cesar Amigo at his typewriter. He was most comfortable working late at night.

Cesar J. Amigo was born in Manila on 22 September 1924, but grew up and spent his formative years in Dumaguete City, Negros Oriental, where he had family. [He is related to the famed Amigo clan in Dumaguete.] He went to kindergarten at what was then Silliman Institute in 1929, proceeding to the primary grades at the same school in 1930. For his intermediate grades, he attended West Central School [now West City Elementary School], graduating in 1937. He attended Negros Oriental High School for his freshman and sophomore years [1937-1939], but transferred to Mindanao and studied at Cotabato High School, where he graduated in 1941. He returned to Dumaguete soon after to study Pre-Law at what was now Silliman University—where he was subsequently elected Vice President of the Silliman Literary Guild [already betraying his literary inclinations at age 17]—but his college education was interrupted by the outbreak of World War II.

When he returned to school in Dumaguete in 1945, right after the war, he shifted gears and this time pursued a degree in political science. He also became part of what was later called the Class of Reconstruction—the cohort of college students at Silliman University who witnessed the biggest social change and cultural development thus far. The war had disrupted their lives, and those who survived the Japanese occupation and its terrors came back to the classroom with a renewed vigor. They brought with them, according to Silliman University President Arthur Carson, an “enthusiasm and … sober maturity,” which then “brought stimulus and reward.”

What should be noted is that this returning group of students—particularly the Class of 1948 [to which Amigo belonged]—brought together at least two generations of young people into war-ravaged Silliman campus: those who had yet to experience college life but were now of age to begin higher studies, and those whose own tertiary matriculation was cut short. The former brought with them fresh vigor, and the latter returned more than ready to begin again—and this combination became a melting pot from which would come much of the creative ferment that cemented Silliman’s [and Dumaguete’s] contribution to the national culture. The next five years after 1945 became a period when the student population more than doubled, despite the glaring challenges of post-war education, including the lack of classrooms and the lack of faculty to teach. Because of the massive enrolment that only became even more massive with each passing semester, certain liberties in completing courses were instituted, and the schedule between semesters was tightened. 1946, for example, is known as the year without a summer vacation, as students raced to complete their courses to accommodate incoming students. In 1947, three commencement ceremonies were held for seniors who were able to complete their requirements.

The title “Class of Reconstruction,” which was given to the Class of 1948, is the cohort that felt the joy and the challenges of post-war reconstruction and rehabilitation in campus the most. Swirling around Amigo and his classmates were many things in the local culture that were beginning to stir. In 1948, the Student Government came back to operation, publishing its Constitution in the September 18 issue of The Sillimanian. [The school paper itself resumed publication only in 1946.] Plans for the reviving of the yearbook, The Portal, was also underway. [Its first post-war publication would eventually be released in 1949, reprinting with permission Rafael Zulueta da Costa’s poem “Like the Molave” as a centerpiece to underline a popular post-war sentiment of strength after adversity.] Theatre made a dramatic comeback, with Gilbert and Sullivan musicals and Shakespeare plays being staged to popular reception on campus in the late 1940s on to the 1950s. In 1947, Edilberto K. Tiempo, a returning faculty member, was accepted into the prestigious Iowa Writers Workshop, followed the next year by his wife, Edith, who was also admitted into the same program. Campus publication flourished, with Rodrigo Feria at the helm.

And lastly, in 1948, the Sands & Coral was launched.

The first issue of the Sands & Coral was edited by Cesar Amigo and Aida Rivera [now Ford], under the guidance of Rodrigo Feria and Ricaredo Demetillo. This magazine would later make its mark as the preeminent literary publication of Silliman University. The folio caught the attention of national literary circles, was reviewed favorably in newspapers, and signaled Silliman’s growing importance in the contribution to the national literature, particularly that in English, which would be the main engine of the burgeoning Dumaguete literary culture in those years. Alongside Amigo and Rivera would be other Silliman writers who would soon win national accolades and see constant print in national publications—including Jose V. Montebon Jr., Eddie Romero, Kenneth Woods, Reuben Canoy, James Matheson, Edith Tiempo, Edilberto K. Tiempo, Graciano H. Arinday Jr., Ricardo Drilon, Leticia Dizon, David Quemada, and Ricaredo Demetillo. Many of these names would be part of a campus literary group who called themselves The Barbarians, Inc.

Among Amigo’s literary output as a Silliman student are several items published in the 1946 issue of the Sillimanian Magazine, including a poem [“Postlude”] and a short story [“Rain Without Meaning”]. After his editorial stint for Sands & Coral in 1948, he would contribute one more time to the folio, this time with a criticism piece titled “Ideals and the Man” for the 1951 issue edited by Reuben Canoy, Claro Ceniza, Honorio Ridad, and Lugum Uka. In this short piece, Amigo crystallized an abiding philosophy:

The man who considers his ideal as a thing apart from his actual being, a distant goal, makes a perilous mistake. For the ideal is forever enmeshed with the courses of our lives. It never leaves us. A man may indulge in gluttony, but invariably he will despise another glutton because the perception of it revolts his innate principles of abstinence, which is only a factor of a more complex Ideal. In this case, the ideal manifests itself in a physical reaction, as it does in the more superficial motions and opinions of a human being.

Let there be no mistaking it: no man can isolate himself from the Ideal. He may be unconscious of it; he may despise ideals. But there is not a single human being of a sane mind, however stupid or dissipated, who does not erect [consciously or unconsciously] a standard of behavior, a Principal Attitude. What is this standard? An Ideal.

His son Bob would remember his literary inclinations: “Like most accomplished writers, [my father] was a voracious reader. For the most part of the day, he would soak himself in reading novels, the local dailies, Time and Newsweek, Reader’s Digest, and just about anything he could get his hands on—including spiritual books from almost any religious persuasion. To be sure, this was the foundation that made him the consummate writer that he was. It would seem that this love for the printed page was a passion he learned from his mother, Belen Jalandoni.”

He continued: “As a writer, he was most comfortable working late at night. I remember waking up in the wee hours of the morning hearing him pounding away on his typewriter. And when he was exhilarated about a story or screenplay that he was doing, I would hear him relate this to my mother, Ursula. Oh, how he loved telling her his stories. I suspect that she was the only audience who mattered most to him.”

Soon after graduating from college in 1949, Amigo would return to Manila, where he landed his first job—that of senior scriptwriter for Sampaguita Pictures, following the lead of Romero, who had begun writing screenplays for Gerardo de Leon, starting with Ang Maestra in 1941. [The two would have a long collaborative relationship in the coming decades.]

His stint at Sampaguita would last until 1951, whereupon he began working as a freelance scriptwriter. The gambit paid off, and his screenplay for Buhay Alamang [co-written with Romero] would finally be produced in 1952. The film would also net him his first award, the FAMAS for Best Screenplay. But the following years also saw him drop off from screenwriting altogether, and between 1953 and 1956, he turned to journalism, becoming a movie columnist for Sunday Times Magazine.

In 1956, he began working for the propaganda arm of the U.S. military, specifically as senior scriptwriter and documentary film director for the USIS-Saigon (Vietnam) and USIS-Pnom Penh (Cambodia). In this period, he would write and produce films with an anti-communist bent, notably with Saigon (1956), a film directed by De Leon and starring Leopoldo Salcedo, Ben Perez, Cristina Pacheco, and Khank Ngoc [a famous Vietnamese film actress and singer who would win Best Actress for Anh Sang Mien Nam (1955), a joint Vietnamese-Filipino production, at the Philippine Film Festival Award]. Saigon is a revenge melodrama about ill-starred Vietnamese lovers fleeing the Viet Cong from North Vietnam.

The stint with the U.S. military would last until 1957, and Amigo soon returned to the Philippines to write Ang Kamay ni Cain for De Leon, from a story by Clodualdo Del Mundo Sr. Soon, film assignments rolled in with more regularity, and the rest of the 1950s would see him write the screenplays for Sweethearts (1957), Bakya Mo Neneng (1957), Be My Love (1958), You’re My Everything (1958), Laban sa Lahat (1958), Hanggang sa Dulo ng Daigdig (1958), Rolling Rockers (1959), Eva Dragon (1959), and Hawaiian Boy (1959). Of these titles from this period of resurgence, he would be known most for Hanggang sa Dulo ng Daigdig—a crime film directed by De Leon, about an outlaw [played by Pancho Magalona] out for revenge—for which he would win once more the FAMAS Award for Best Screenplay. For that film, Reel News critic Francisco Villa would write: “[The film boasts of a] treatment at its most imaginative… and realism in its rawest and most stunning presentation.” Amigo’s reputation as a screenwriter was secured.

At the 1959 FAMAS Awards, where Cesar Amigo [left] won Best Screenplay for Hanggang sa Dulo ng Daidig. Its director, Gerardo de Leon [right] won Best Director.

In the 1960s, his screenwriting credits would include Escape to Paradise (1960), Sandakot na Alabok (1960), Kadenang Putik (1960), Sa Ibabaw ng Aking Bangkay (1960), Vengavito (1961), The Moises Padilla Story (1961), Halang ang Kaluluwa (1962) Labanan sa Balicuatro (1962), Falcon (1962), Sa Atin ang Daigdig (1963), Barilan sa Pugad Lawin (1963), Intramuros (1964), Blood is the Color of Night (1964), Magandang Bituin (1965), The Ravagers (1965), 7 Gabi sa Hong Kong (1966), The Passionate Strangers (1966), Gold Bikini (1967), Ang Limbas at ang Lawin (1967), Virgin of Kalatrava Island (1967), Brides of Blood (1968), and Igorota (1968)—a run of films that would exhibit Amigo’s wide-ranging capabilities in handling different genres, from film noir [The Passionate Strangers] to horror [Brides of Blood], from action-filled drama ripped from the headlines [The Moises Padilla Story] to war epics [Escape to Paradise], from historical melodrama [Igorota] to romantic comedies [Magandang Bituin], from musicals [7 Gabi sa Hong Kong] to spy capers [Gold Bikini]. He would also begin writing B-movies for Hollywood around this time, often in association with Eddie Romero, Gerardo De Leon, and Cirio Santiago.

He would also win the FAMAS for Best Screenplay for Kadenang Putik in 1961, and The Moises Padilla Story in 1962. The latter film [directed by De Leon]—about a real-life Occidental Negrense politician who becomes a martyr after a brutal election-related skirmish with a powerful provincial governor—has become an undisputed classic in the canon of Philippine cinema. This film, together with The Passionate Strangers [directed by Romero, and co-written by fellow Sillimanian Reuben Canoy]—which is set in Negros Oriental and is about an American factory owner who faces his demons as he confronts a labor strike and further muddles it with murder—completes Amigo’s duology on Negrense moral horrors.

In 1963, he would direct his first film, Sa Atin ang Daigdig, a story following six people “from the gutters” as they strive for success. [The movie’s press bills it as a film that “will startle you with its frankness and stir you for its truth.”] It became the Philippine entry to the prestigious Venice Film Festival—an honor that Amigo took in stride, proclaiming both the success of the production and its inclusion in Venice as “beginner’s luck.” He would also direct two more films in the 1960s—7 Gabi sa Hong Kong [a musical extravaganza starring Gloria Romero, Shirley Gorospe, and Juancho Gutierrez], and Wanted: Johnny L [an anti-crime anthology film he co-directed with De Leon and Romero].

Igorota—directed by Luis Nepomuceno in 1968—would also be a landmark film in Amigo’s screenwriting career, although contemporary critics would come to deride the film for being a “misguided” attempt by the Filipino film industry to crash the international market with its sensational tale of an Igorot maiden who falls in love with a man from the city in the lowlands—their union stirring cultural conflict that end in tragedy. The film would, however, win eight FAMAS Awards in 1969, including Best Picture, Best Director, and Best Actress [for Charito Solis, for whom this would become a milestone role]. Amigo would also serve as associate producer for the film.

The 1970s would herald a trickling down of Amigo’s screenwriting outputs, which would include The Hunted (1970), Pipo (1970), Ang Larawan ni Melissa (1972), The Pacific Connection (1974), Hindi Kami Damong Ligaw (1976), Babae … Sa Likod ng Salamin (1976), and his last film, Sa Dulo ng Kris (1977). The Hunted, which Amigo would also direct, was Nepomuceno’s follow-up to the success of Igorota, also starring Solis. The actress would return for a final engagement with Amigo as director in Babae … Sa Likod ng Salamin, the first film produced by Reuben Canoy. It is a psychological melodrama about a woman with dual personalities—that of a faithful wife by day, and a seductive mistress by night. “I’ve always had a soft heart for Cesar. [He is mild-mannered, soft-spoken, and intelligent director.] Besides, he is really good,” Solis would speak of Amigo in Crispina Martinez-Belen’s Celebrity World column for Manila Bulletin.

In 1972, he would win Best Director and Best Screenplay for Ang Larawan ni Melissa at the Quezon City Film Festival.

In 1977, he would direct Sa Dulo ng Kris, an expansive tale set in contemporary Mindanao detailing the challenges that people from the South regularly faced [including the conflict between Muslim natives and Christian settlers], which was produced by Canoy and starred Joseph Estrada and Vic Vargas. It would prove to be his final film, earning him his last nominations for Best Director and Best Story at the FAMAS.

Cesar Amigo [right] receives the 1974 Outstanding Sillimanian Award for Screenwriting and TV/Film Production from then University President Cicero Calderon and Board of Trustees Chair Josefa Ilano.

Sometime in the early 1980s, Amigo returned to journalism full-time, becoming Managing Editor of The Evening Post. From 1983 to 1986, he also became a regular writer for The Manila Paper, which Reuben Canoy published and edited, putting out a column called “Bench Warming with W. Somerset Moghum.” [W. Somerset Moghum, his pen name, was derived from W. Somerset Maugham. Moghum is a twist of his nickname Mogoy—which only relatives and close friends from Silliman would call him.]

His wife Ursula also would pass away in 1982 at age 52, and he started to develop a love for cooking—perhaps to fill his late wife’s role in the family, as she was known among their friends for her culinary expertise.

In the twilight of his life, he would also return to his literary [and Sillimanian] roots, and help produce Abby R. Jacobs’ wartime memoir We Did Not Surrender in 1986. [Jacobs was an American missionary who taught at Silliman University, and was in Dumaguete when World War II broke out. Together with other American teachers, she evacuated to the hills and mountains of Negros to hide from the Japanese occupying forces, and where they bravely assisted the resistance movement. She taught at Silliman until 1953, and was one of Amigo’s mentors in his student days.]

He later became editor of HOY!, a monthly magazine, in 1987. The April 1987 issue of the magazine would be his last work, as he was diagnosed with colon cancer towards the end of April. He immediately had surgery in May, but the surgery was only a solution to ease his last days. He passed away on June 5 in his house in Mariposa, Quezon City, surrounded by family.

Cesar Amigo with wife Ursula and their family.

His eldest daughter Marika would remember his passion for his work, and his devotion to his family: “Papa’s passion for film was evident with every line he wrote and every frame he shot. But what his patrons would never know was that the only thing this decorated filmmaker loved more than his craft was his family. And his countless home movies and family photographs prove that. The glitz and glam of the limelight never fazed him. His life at home was his priority and he made sure that we all felt the same way. Our dinner table was always bursting with excitement, as each of us would eagerly tell each other of our day. Our guests would even point out that dinners at the Amigo house would always run long because everyone had so many stories to tell. But no one told stories quite like Papa. His eccentricities and his cinematic narration were uniquely his.

“His love for film poured into these conversations, too. This dinner table was where we would unleash our inner movie critic and conduct lengthy discussions on the films we just saw. Film was not just in our blood; it was part of our soul. Papa made sure that the very art form we loved would bring us closer to our loved ones.

“And as the years went by, this has not changed. The Amigo table still has the longest dinners that are chock full of stories we eagerly tell each other sprinkled with unabashed critiques of the latest box office hits. Papa’s love for family was infectious, so much so that we became each other’s closest friends. And although he did not get the chance to meet most of his grandchildren, they share that very same closeness my siblings and I share. Their dinner tables ring of enthusiastic storytelling and meticulous movie critiques too!

“As a daughter that still misses her father, I’m grateful that Papa’s passions are still immortalized for the world to see. His award-winning films, and most of all, his influence in his family for generations to come.”

His second-born, Bob—or Bebop, would remember his tenacity regarding film production, insisting always on the paramount importance of story, but also not at the expense of the bottom-line: “As a film director, [my father] believed that the storyline was the centerpiece. But he did not indulge his creative senses in stories that his audience could not relate to. He understood the balance of doing a film that told a good narrative and returned a profit to his producers’ investment at the box- office. To this end, he did not believe in wasting raw footages that merely ended up on the cutting room’s floor. Thus, during production, he meticulously crafted every detail of his shot with the purpose of cutting down on outtakes.

“’Economy of words,’ he once told me, ‘is a skill that every writer should develop.’ I cannot help thinking that many today could benefit from his wisdom—particularly in an age when almost anybody can fancy himself a writer by merely putting out his work on the internet. Cesar J. Amigo belonged to an era of writers whose pen was golden.”

We get the same sense of Amigo as writer from son Ike, the fifth in the brood: “I did not have the opportunity to watch many of my father’s movies, because his prolific writing days were on its tail-end when I was old enough to go to the movie house. However, it’s not hard to see why he was a good scriptwriter. The stories that he’d tell us on the dinner table were always interesting—from how he won over my mother in marriage, to why he lost two fingers on his left hand, to his experiences in Saigon that closely resembled the adventures of Indiana Jones, even though that character wasn’t invented yet. That’s why I looked forward to our time on the dinner table, because it was a guaranteed front-row seat to my father’s next storytelling adventure.”

From Gigi, his fourth-born, we get a sense of Amigo as a man with many facets, including an inherent quirkiness—and further explanation for those two missing fingers: “[My father] was quite the character. He was funny and quirky and a great storyteller. He had a way with words, which is no surprise since he was a writer. But growing up in Dumaguete, his main language was English and Bisaya. His weakness was Tagalog. So what did he do? He invented some Tagalog words. These words seemed so real to us that it was only when I started school that I learned from classmates that I’m using made-up Tagalog words nobody understood. For example, ‘tudoy,’ which apparently was not Tagalog for ‘toe’! He gave funny names to our pets as well, like our dog A-shit, our goldfish Quasimodo, and a pair of carp he named Mr. and Mrs. Carruthers. Even the clueless mailman was baptized as Mr. Estonactok.

“But what everyone who ever met him would probably remember was that he always wore a two-fingered black glove on his left hand. This glove covered two fingers cut in half.  Papa had a lot of versions on how he lost his fingers. Some stories were funny, while others were outrageous. But the best story was the real one. He accidentally cut them off with an electric saw mishap while attempting to build a bookshelf! He rushed himself to a nearby clinic just as it was locking up for the night. Papa knocked on the door with his bleeding hand and a beautiful woman opened the door to let him in. And that was how he met the love of his life, my mother.  That is a story worth telling through the ages.”

From the youngest, Cesar Jr.—or Jun—we get a sense of a carrying on of that passion for filmmaking: “Pursuing a career in film or production was never a dream of mine. Sure, I was proud to be a film director’s son, and of course I loved movies growing up. But the thought of following in Papa’s footsteps never crossed my mind. Still, Papa had such a unique and impactful personality that it’s almost impossible not to be influenced by him. Seeing him a few times in action on a film set and having those endless discussions about movies during mealtimes gave my siblings and me an appreciation for film production, and depth of cinematic perspective far beyond others our age. So it doesn’t come as a surprise that four of his six children eventually ended up in production at one point or another, myself included. Papa’s been gone for awhile now but his legacy continues on… even to his grandchildren.”

My thanks to the Amigo family, especially Marika Amigo Bulahan, for their assistance in the writing of this article, as well as for the treasure trove of archival photos.

Ian Rosales Casocot teaches literature, creative writing, and film at Silliman University in Dumaguete City, Philippines where he was Founding Coordinator of the Edilberto and Edith Tiempo Creative Writing Center. He is the author of several books, including the fiction collections Don’t Tell Anyone, Bamboo Girls, Heartbreak & Magic, and Beautiful Accidents. In 2008, his novel Sugar Land was longlisted in the Man Asian Literary Prize. He was Writer-in-Residence for the International Writers Program of the University of Iowa in 2010.