Ex-Defense chief, actor-director pass away

Fortunato Abat, the former Defense secretary and Philippine Army commander, passed away on Wednesday night, the Department of National Defense announced Thursday. He was 93.

“The DND mourns the loss of former Defense secretary and Commanding General of the Philippine Army, Fortunato Abat. He passed away last night at 7 p.m. at the Veterans Memorial Medical Center. We [thanked] him for his service to the nation,” Defense spokesperson Arsenio Andolong said.

Abat was born on June 10, 1925 in San Juan, La Union. Before becoming Defense secretary, Abat served for exactly five years as the Commanding General of the Philippine Army from March 28, 1976 to March 28, 1981.

Starting as an enlisted man on April 15, 1944 during World War II, he received various medals and decorations for acts of conspicuous courage and gallantry in the conduct of the pacification campaign in Central Mindanao, and for distinguished service in various positions in the Armed Forces of the Philippines.

After the war, Abat entered the Philippine Military Academy as a cadet in 1947 and graduated in 1951. He was part of the Philippine Expeditionary Forces to Korea and a veteran of the Korean Campaign.

He was first appointed as the Administrator of the Philippine Veterans Affairs Office, a DND-attached agency, after the EDSA Revolution in 1986. Later on, he was named Undersecretary  during the term of Defense Secretary Rafael Ileto.

He also served as Undersecretary during the term of then-Defense Secretary Fidel V. Ramos, but he left the DND and was designated Deputy Director General to Ileto, who later headed the National Security Council.

Also passing away Thursday was veteran actor and director Bernardo Bernardo, who was suffering from a lingering illness. He was 73.

Bernardo’s demise has left local celebrities in shock, with many of them expressing their grief on social media.

The news about Bernardo’s passing spread on Thursday morning when his niece, Susan Vecina Santos, revealed the actor’s death on his Facebook page. n the post, but Bernardo had been undergoing treatment since January for what he himself described as “a potentially life-threatening tumor in his pancreas.”

Upon learning of Bernardo’s death, theater star Lea Salonga expressed her grief on Twitter.

“This has been heavy news to hear. Tito Bernie was my very first leading man in the very first show I ever did, ‘The King and I’ (he played the King of Siam and I was one of his daughters). Kind, funny, ebullient, brilliant, big hearted. Sigh.,” she posted on the micro-blogging site.

Film Development Council of the Philippines chairperson Liza Diño also took to Facebook to express her sadness on the passing of a “dear friend” and colleague.

“When I became part of FDCP, he was among the first ones to greet me. At the time when everyone was in doubt, he stood up for me,” Diño recalled.

Singer Leah Navarro, who had shared the stage with Bernardo in the ‘80s during the Manila restaging of a classic production, recalled how it was working with the former host and stand up comedian.

“It was a treat to work with you in ‘They’re Playing Our Song’ so long ago. You were wonderfully talented, funny, sensitive, and kind. Rest peacefully with God forever, old pal,” Navarro stated in her social media post.

Born in Manila, Bernardo finished his degree of Bachelor of Literature in Journalism from the University of Santo Tomas. He got his theater training at the University of California and graduated and with a Master of Arts Degree at the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Arts under a British Council grant.

Already a respectable theater actor when he transitioned to films in the mid-1970s, Bernardo went on to win the Gawad Urian Best Supporting Actor award in 1981 for his role as Manay Sharon in Ishmael Bernal’s “Manila By Night” (also titled “City After Dark”). 

After several more movies where he got typecast in gay roles, Bernardo nabbed what was probably his most memorable role—as Dolphy’s nemesis Steve Carpio in the hit sitcom “Home Along Da Riles” and its subsequent movie offshoots.

Bernardo also headed the theater arts department of the Meridian International College in Taguig City. With PNA

Topics: Fortunato Abat , Defense secretary , Philippine Army commander , Department of National Defense , Philippine Military Academy , Bernardo Bernardo , Film Development Council of the Philippines
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