Jaclyn Jose could drink till daybreak and still arrive on set ready with her lines

Jaclyn Jose could drink till daybreak and still arrive on set ready with her lines
Jaclyn Jose (1964-2024) —FACEBOOK PHOTO

In a huddle after the meeting called last January by the office of Sen. Robinhood Padilla to discuss the Eddie Garcia Bill, the award-winning actress Jaclyn Jose told me that we should all pull together to push the enactment of the important piece of legislation. 

Hoy, pagtulung-tulungan natin na maipasa ito. Pero sana naman huwag abusuhin kasi pag nagalit ang producers at tumigil sa pagpo-prodyus, lahat tayo mawawalan ng trabaho,” she said, so eager for the bill that upholds the rights and rightful remuneration of movie/TV workers to become law but wary that it might scare off film producers. 

Such was a facet of the off-screen persona of Jaclyn, who died of a heart attack at 60 on March 2. Her fear of producers quitting making films altogether arose from her concern for industry workers: “Lalong kawawa ang workers, ang crew,’ she said.

Jaclyn spoke her mind regardless of who was around to hear. Her personal life—her tumultuous love affairs, her quarrel with her children, her word fights with her enemies, some of whom were her former friends—was fodder for gossip columns.  

Since the confirmation of her death, much has been written about her being a cool mom and grandma, how she cared for and mentored young actors, and how she struggled through life as a single mother and emerged as a multi-awarded artist.

Someone else’s lens

Jaclyn was passionate about acting because it gave her the chance to look at the world through someone else’s lens.  During the brief moments of a take, she said, she was able to forget her own worries and to focus on the character’s life, conflict, or happiness.

Perhaps that was why it was easy to talk her into joining an advocacy. In 2016, Jaclyn lent her voice, literally, to a Conservation International-Philippines campaign. For the “Nature is Speaking” project, she voiced the Earth speaking as Home. She came on time, ready to record, and did about three takes upon her request so we, the producers, would have options for editing. All that, done gratis. 

(The project was a translation of monologues by Earth, Ocean, Land, etc. The other performers here were Lea Salonga, Piolo Pascual, Robert Arevalo, Robert Sena, Monique Villonco, and Angel Aquino.) 

After her celebrated win as Best Actress at the 2016 Cannes Film Festival for her performance in “Ma’ Rosa,” we threw a welcome party for Jaclyn at Taumbayan, a café-bar in Kamuning, Quezon City. We held a ceremony dubbed the “Can Award” and handed her a trophy improvised from empty milk cans. She had a good time telling stories, drinking the night away until morning. 

Oh, yes, she could drink until daybreak and still come to work ready with her lines.

But her sarcasm was cutting, too. At one time, Jaclyn and I, as co-actor, shot several scenes consecutively for a TV drama. Afterwards we walked through the garden of the set, looking for a place to sit and enjoy a smoke. We passed three crew members who were seated and looking relaxed. She asked them if they were taking five: “Break kayo?” The guys nodded. She said it was good that they could get off their feet during breaks, and wondered if we could find our own place to do so: “Buti pa kayo, nakakaupo. Kami kaya, saan kaya kami pwede maupo?” Sensing her vibe, the guys left after profuse apologies. She smiled naughtily and whispered that we had driven away the poor things, who were just then catching their breath: “Kawawa naman, pinaalis natin. Baka ngayon lang sila nakapagpahinga.” 

Once, I visited her on the set of a sitcom she was taping, I asked her, “So how’s the Cannes Best Actress doing?”

Heto, nagke-kenkoy para kumita,” was her curt reply, the hurt apparent at being made to play some silly character to earn her bread, and trying to laugh it off.


Jaclyn Jose
The actress and the author. —CONTRIBUTED PHOTO

But my best memory of Jaclyn is her honesty. In 2017, I produced the play “Buwan at Baril sa Eb Major” by Chris Millado. The play—an anthology of stories of human rights violations during Ferdinand Marcos Sr.’s dictatorship—was first produced in 1984 by Peta (or the Philippine Educational Theater Association). Director Andoy Ranay and I wanted Jaclyn to play the part of “Babae,” a woman who is claiming the body of her slain husband.

Jaclyn read the script we sent her. When I came to hear her say yes to the project, she said she could do it in the name of friendship, but that “maka-Marcos ako.” She was a Marcos supporter. She said she could wing it and play the part, but her heart would beat otherwise.

We said no. We knew that she would be marvelous in the role. But we were doing advocacy, and she had to believe in the cause. 

Looking back now, I think: What if we had proceeded to get her for the role? Could she have changed her mind, or at least challenged her belief, if she had delved deep into Babae’s character? We will never know now.

Still, I remember and honor her honesty.

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