From the book “Balik Tanaw: The Filipino Movie Stars of Yesteryears
by Dr. Romy Protacio
If Bella Flores is the “Reyna ng mga Kontrabida, Charlie Davao can very well be described as her male counterpart. He is debonair looking, with mestizo looks, the stereotype profile of the Sampaguita Studio male talents back then. He could easily have dabbled on romantic roles, but instead, he became one of the top character actors of his time. He believes he was destined to be kontrabida forever in Philippine movie land. Unlike Eddie Garcia who has had lead roles in drama or comedy films, Charlie was typecasted as the ultimate villain and he was happy to be in that league, and has not really dreamt to take on a lead role in his movies.
He was born Charles Davao on October 7, 1934 to his father, Leon Davao who was a native of Iloilo and his mother, Estrella Valdez, who hailed from Capiz. He grew up in Iloilo where he completed his elementary and high school studies. In 1954, he moved to Manila to continue his studies and eventually, he obtained a degree in Commerce at the University of the East in 1959.
He remembers that when he moved to Manila, he wasnt really that motivated to pursue his studies. He envisioned himself as a movie star and knew that moving to Manila will enable him to meet the right people who can help him reach his dream. He believed that he has the talent to act as he was active in school stage plays and knew that one day his face will also grace the silver screen.
His Movie Career
During his younger years, he was a model of Tommy Abeto, a well known Manila couturier. One day, Sampaguita Studio sent an invitation to Abeto to recommend some of his models who may be interested to become an actor. Charlie was one of those who were sent to the studio. When he arrived at the studio, Dr. Perez sent him to Director Conrado Conde for a screen test. He went to the set of “Taga sa Bato starring Van de Leon and Paraluman, for the screen test. He remembers that it was a long wait (almost a day!!) because Director Conrado Conde forgot that he was there. Charlie did not consider it as a screen test really, since he was not even given any dialogue to deliver. Instead, he was just asked to state his full name and was made to smile in front of the camera, look to his right and then to his left.
After two weeks, he received a call slip from Sampaguita Studio advising him that Dr. Perez, the star builder of Sampaguita, would like to talk to him. “Tuwang-tuwa ako! Charlie continues, “I came ahead of my appointment schedule and waited for three hours before Dr. Perez came down to the living room of his house to meet me. When Dr. Perez saw him, Charlie was told “I think you are going to work for us.
Charlie was overwhelmed by the news. That was the beginning of his kontrabida life. There was no movie to launch him in an introducing role, but instead, he was always given the antagonist roles in the films he made.
He was given a weekly allowance of 30 pesos, with or without a movie. He would receive P500 per picture for the first year, P1,000 for the second and PP2,000 for the third. These were measly amounts compared to todays standards, but he was happy that he was getting paid to do what he loved the most.
When his parents found out that he had joined the movies, they were quite disappointed and his Dad firmly requested him to finish his college degree. He did get his degree, but never practiced his career in business, as he became much too involved in making movies.
In my phone interview with Charlie, I asked him to mention some of the movies he made. There was a brief “senior moment though, when he said he could not really recall all of them. I mentioned one movie in particular, the film, “Tugtuging Bukid, which he made with Luis Gonzales and Gloria Romero. I remember it well as I was part of the dance group in that movie where our dances were choreographed by Cora Inigo. When he became a free lancer, he finally got his break from Ambassador Productions when he starred in the movie “Pitong Matahari. His role was “Agent 009 patterned after the movie of James Bond.
He emphasized that back then, they had to guard their reputation as Sampaguita Pictures movie stars. He relates that they were not allowed to hang out in public places, nor to be too visible in social gatherings. They were not allowed to speak profanely by Dr. Perez. Although most of them did not have formal training in acting, they had to depend on their innate acting talents to handle whatever roles are given to them. Looking back, he couldnt be grateful enough for the training he received through his experiences working with Sampaguita Pictures.
His Love Life
Nuong kabataan ni Charlie, palikero siya. Wala siyang bisyo sa paninigarilyo at sa pag-inom ng alak. Ang bisyo nya ay humanga sa mga nag-gagandahang babae. Marami siyang babaeng minahal na nagiwan sa kanya ng magagandang ala-ala. When he got tired of being single, he married Emma Marie Abiera, a professor in Spanish at St. Theresas College. Their married life was blessed with four children: Bing, Ricky (the husband of Jackie Lou Blanco), Mylene and Mariella. His third child Mylene passed away at the age of five due to a heart-breaking accident. The five-year-old Mylene stumbled on a broken bottle of Coke that hit her stomach. Charlie remembers the early morning of December 23, 1969 when he took Mylene to the hospital. It was too late to save her life because of loss of blood. Charlie and his wife were devastated by the tragedy. The following year, Charlies loneliness was compounded by the death of his wife Emma at the age of 35. He felt that what happened to his child and wife is a reminder of his lifestyle during his younger days when he dated so many women. I drew the word from his mouth he was “Babaero.
Two years after the death of his first wife, Charlie married his second wife, Mary Grace Ynigo. They have two children: Mylene (named after her daughter by his first wife) and Charlone.
At 75, Charlie Davao has no plans to retire from acting. He believes that this is his calling and would gladly accept the roles offered to him
From time to time, he would accept guest roles in TV shows. Charlies most recent project was “Ngayon at Kailanman starring Heart Evangelista and JC de Vera. “Ngayon at Kailanman is originally a box-office romantic drama in 1992 starring Sharon Cuneta and Richard Gomez. It was adapted by GMA Network for television as part of their “Dramarama sa Hapon block.
He appeared in TV series like “Mula sa Puso (1997), and “Saan ka man Naroroon (1960). In 2002, he made “Kahil Kailan (2002), followed by “Basta Kasama Kita (2003), “Sa Piling Mo (2006), “Margarita (2007), and “Saan Darating ang Umaga (2008).
He now lives a quiet life, and although at one point it was reported that he had a heart attack, he said that that wasnt so. He only required angioplasty to resolve a block in his arteries, but other than that and a recent gall bladder surgery, he considers himself still of good health, now that hes turning 75 by October 7 this year.
He shares his advice to the new generation of actors and actresses that fame is fleeting and that while youre blessed with it, you should accept it and nurture it with humility. He also advises them that self confidence is the key to success in the entertainment industry. “Maging humble sila at isipin nilang, kaya ko ito, kaya ko ito.
He would often say how grateful he is with his decision to choose acting as a lifetime career. Getting paid for doing what you love most is truly satisfying, but its not only the financial perks of the trade that makes him love showbiz. It has been his life for decades and its where he gained not only fame and fortune but lifetime friends as well. AJ
Reprinted from the book: Balik Tanaw: The Filipino Movie Stars of Yesteryears published by the San Diego Asian Journal, the original and first Asian Journal in America.
(To buy a copy of Dr. Romy Protacio’s book, “Balik Tanaw: The Filipino Movie Stars of Yesteryears, published by the Asian Journal San Diego, call: [619.474.0588 in the U.S. for $12]; [733.5455 in the Philippines for P300]