Director, cartoonist, erstwhile National Artist Carlo J. Caparas, 80


NO ONE else did schlock quite like he did. Carlo Magno Jose Caparas, billed as Carlo J. Caparas in his work in cinema, has died. He was 80 years old.

The news was confirmed through a Facebook post by his daughter, Peach Caparas, on May 26. The post was an ode to her father titled, “Sa Bawat Tipa ng Makinilya” (For every stroke of the typewriter’s keyboard). There, she detailed some of the intellectual properties that have sprung from him: “Panday, Pieta, Elias Paniki, Bakekang, Totoy Bato.”

Born in 1944 to a working-class background, Mr. Caparas took a series of odd jobs, culminating in a stint as a security guard at a publishing house. His night shift gave him the time to entertain himself by reading, until a stray bullet during a company strike struggle forced him to take a leave. The pause led to the publishing of his first comic, called “Citadel,” published in Superstar magazine.

One of his most popular comics, “Ang Panday,” was adapted to film in 1980, starring Fernando Poe, Jr., later dubbed The King (of Philippine cinema). While Mr. Caparas already had a string of films to his name thanks to his Golden Lion Films International production outfit, also adaptations of his work in comics, Panday was a sure hit with all who were involved. To this day, the comic series is still being adapted, fostering a formidable franchise.

In the 1990s, however, Mr. Caparas would be known for his gory “massacre” films, which tackled crimes that terrified a nation. He marked 1993 with The Vizconde Massacre: God Help Us! (based on the 1991 murders of the middle-class Vizconde family), The Myrna Diones Story: Lord Have Mercy! (based on the 1992 massacre of a Cordillera family), and Humanda Ka Mayor! Bahala na ang Diyos (loosely based on the 1993 Eileen Sarmenta rape-slay case). All of these films had gore, melodramatic music, rather questionable decisions of taste (the Vizconde movie was shot in the same house where the murders took place), and the screams of Kris Aquino (the presidential daughter and then-budding actress, yet to hit her stride as a well-loved television host, who gained the description “Massacre Queen” for starring in these films). Still, the formula worked: Mr. Caparas saw out the 1990s and the early 2000s with sensationalized depictions of brutal and topical crimes.

His other film credits include movies about rape victims and actresses Maggie dela Riva and Annabelle Huggins, murder victim Delia Maga (a film  by Joel Lamangan about her alleged murderer, convict Flor Contemplacion, the execution of whom caused diplomatic unrest between Singapore and the Philippines, was released the same year with Nora Aunor in the title role; a more decidedly villainous Elizabeth Oropesa plays her in Mr. Caparas’ version of events), and murder victim actress Lilian Velez (played by Sharon Cuneta; Mr. Caparas was a whiz at setting up star-studded casts).

In 2009, Mr. Caparas was involved in a controversy when he and six others were proclaimed as National Artists of the Philippines. The honor was disputed by the National Commission for Culture and the Arts (NCCA) and the Cultural Center of the Philippines (CCP), among other artistic bodies and individual artists. The complaints were raised due to the nature of Mr. Caparas’ work, as well as the presidential prerogative exercised by then-president and now Representative Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo. In 2013, the Supreme Court declared the National Artist proclamations of Mr. Caparas, Philippine Educational Theater Association founder Cecile Guidote-Alvarez, fashion designer Pitoy Moreno, and architect Francisco Mañosa, null.

While the franchises spawned by his comic series live on, his last actual film credit was for 2017’s Kamandag ng Droga. A street in Pasig is named after him, and Mrs. Macapagal-Arroyo awarded him with a Presidential Medal of Merit in 2007.

His wife, Donna Villa, died in 2017; and they are survived by children CJ and Peach.

“Dad, you will forever be loved, cherished, and honored… by all of us. Love, The children of a King,” said Ms. Caparas in her Facebook post.

The wake, as announced by Ms. Caparas, will start on May 27, from noon to midnight at the Golden Haven Memorial Chapels and Crematorium, Villar Sipag, C5 Extension Road, Brgy. Manuyo Dos, Las Pinas. — Joseph L. Garcia