Director, artist, teacher: The legacy of one Peque Gallaga
MANILA, Philippines – Peque Gallaga passed away on Thursday, May 7, leaving behind a legacy that includes some of Philippine cinema’s most memorable films.
Gallaga is perhaps best known for his 1982 film Oro Plata Mata, which won the Gawad Urian Award for Best Direction in that same year. He also helmed a wide range of films from the erotic thriller Scorpio Nights, to several installments in the immortal Shake Rattle and Roll franchise, to the beloved kid’s fantasy film Magic Temple.
As the industry mourns his loss, here are a few things people may not know about the legendary director and educator.
He started out in the theater
Born in Bacolod, Gallaga spent his earlier years in Manila, where his elementary and high school education took place. He returned to Bacolod to earn his commerce and liberal arts degree at the University of St. La Salle (USLS), during which time he got involved in theater, putting up plays at what was then known as the university’s speech lab. USLS’s theater is now named after him.
He would occasionally act – but could never memorize lines
With his theater background, it’s not surprising that the director would sometimes find himself taking on roles too – though he once admitted that he could never memorize lines, and even hides his cue cards on set.
“I make sure that whoever is offering me a role knows exactly what he’s getting from me. So I warn them that I have absolutely no brains for memorizing — it all went the way of my virginity during the psychedelic years — I can’t memorize Tagalog, Ilonggo or English if my life depended on it….I ask them not to give me kilometric lines and, short of directing my scene, beg them to cover my scene with as many shots as possible so I can memorize and deliver my dialogue line by line,” he said in a 2008 story published in The Philippine Star.
Among the films where he is credited as an actor are Jose Rizal (1998), Enteng Kabisote 4 (2007), and Relaks, It’s Just Pag-Ibig (2014).
He said he has done better films than Oro, Plata, Mata
Many people might say that Oro, Plata, Mata was Gallaga’s masterpiece – but he said in the same Philippine Star story that he believes he’s done better. Oro, written by Jose Javier Reyes, was only his second film, after all.
According to Gallaga, Virgin Forest, Unfaithful Wife, Scorpio Nights, Magic Temple, Magic Kingdom, Isang Taong Walang Diyos, Tiyanak, Gangland, and Pinoy Blonde were much better films than the one he is most lauded for.
“A lot of the sequences from Shake, Rattle & Roll are better constructed and directed,” he said.
He was a visual artist
Filmmakers are by nature visual artists, but Gallaga’s art crossed the boundaries of form as he created pieces using graphite and charcoal. His grayscale drawings were showcased in exhibits in 2015 and 2017.
He considered teaching ‘the best thing’ he did
Many might consider Gallaga to be a cinema legend – but it seemed that he took more pride in being a teacher. Early on in his career, he taught drama at De La Salle University, and later on at USLS when he was based in Bacolod. Gallaga would go on to run several summer workshops on film and theater.
A 2013 interview with Boy Abunda now rings more poignant as Abunda asked Gallaga: “You are at the gate of heaven, and then God says, ‘Peque, welcome to heaven, but first tell me what was the best thing you did in your life,’ what will you tell God?”
“I taught. I was a teacher, and that was the best thing I did,” Peque said.