Ricky Lee’s birthday party was a wedding like no other

Ricky Lee’s birthday party was a wedding like no other
National Artist Ricky Lee —CONTRIBUTED PHOTOS

I kept gushing about the arrangements at his party and our dear birthday boy, National Artist for Film and Broadcast Arts Ricky Lee, replied that if he would get married, it would also be potluck.

But I was talking about his wedding! On his 77th birthday last March 19, Xavierville Clubhouse was transformed into some kind of wedding venue with guests galore (more than 300), lights, full-service catering, a table for cakes, tables for gifts of food and booze… The merrymaking began at 6 p.m. and ended at 3 a.m.

Unlike in a marriage ceremony, however, in which the guests vicariously live through the thrill of the couple’s love for each other, here it was like a wedding between Ricky and the community of artists: actors (Iza Calzado, Bela Padilla, Agot Isidro, John “Sweet” Lapus, Meryll Soriano, Joem Bascon, Herbert Bautista, Gina Alajar, Ricky Davao, Ice Seguerra, Dimples Romana, Miles Ocampo, Elijah Canlas, Gold Aceron, Kych Minemeto, Vandolph Quizon, and Dos Quizon, some of whom took writing workshops with Ricky); directors (Jerry Sineneng, Adolf Alix, Paolo Villaluna, Pepe Diokno,  Maan and Michael Dagnalan , Arjanmar Rebeta, atbp.) ; the “Himala the Musical” group (Vincent De Jesus, Bituin Escalante, Kakki Teodoro); media  people (Noel Ferrer, Mel Navarro); and, of course, writers (Pete Lacaba, who gave Ricky his first break as co-writer for “Jaguar,” Flor Caagusan, Rody Vera); and so many others, including his “workshoppers” batches 1-29 from 1982 to the present under Mowelfund (or the Movie Workers Welfare Foundation), Star Cinema, ABS-CBN, GMA7, ShoutOut Pinas/Pelikulove…

The guests couldn’t seem to have enough of Ricky. There were selfies and photo ops left and right, like paparazzi taking pics of whoever was greeting the celebrator, with hugs, smiles, and good cheer all around, especially among his workshoppers (as his good friend, Direk Mac Alejandre, said, Ricky seems to love them even more than he loves his friends).

And everyone loves him back. There were the Brockas: Direk Lav Diaz, Khavn dela Cruz, Roxlee with kiddo Katch 23 who would do mean rock, complete with crisp curses; “Katutubong D.I.V.A.” Bayang Barrios in a duet with singer-songwriter Cooky Chua, accompanied by Mike Villegas doing “Paano Mahalin ang Katulad Mo!”; lyric soprano Sharon Vicente and tenor and classical pop singer Jonathan Badon—three genres, take note!

The décor, menu, photo booth, program—the entire event—was lovingly prepared and organized by his longtime aides Ram Banal and Adel Abrigonda, the latter a film student at the Polytechnic University of the Philippines who tended to Ricky during his hospital confinement and surgery a few months back, and who would say, “Basta masaya si Ricky (As long as Ricky’s happy).” 

The celebration was hosted by former workshopper and now writer-director Rod Marmol and actress Sheenly Gener.

Ricky Lee
The author (second, from left) with Gina Alajar, Josephine Gomez and Ricky Davao

It was a joyful night. I myself was happy to be with so many from almost all my engagements and the institutions I have worked with since my college graduation to the present—“Himala,” “Sr. Stella L,” Peta (or the Philippine Educational Theater Association), Mowelfund, Angels, Boses, ABS-CBN, GMA7, DGPI and, of course, Pelikulove. 

Ricky Lee is an institution unto himself. It didn’t matter if one did not know all the other guests; somehow, Ricky’s “kindness, wisdom and generosity of spirit,” as Nessa Valdellon of GMA7 wrote on her FB account, bonded all.

Ruby V. Paurom, an online writing student of Ricky’s at Pelikulove and who also headed the Carl Jung Circle Center a year ago, wrote online how she “felt so much love in the air for our dear Ricky Lee.” Such a rare and precious artist in our midst: “Kakaibang National Treasure indeed!” she said.

(More photos at https://drive.google.com/drive/folders/1vb3S3Z_ZvZmmAp9tKGJcvYTNm42gFH2I?usp=sharing and https://drive.google.com/drive/folders/1Nl_UIP8uTHeYUSk_6IzKkbVjDBE60LYr?usp=drive_link)

TV/Film director and producer Ellen Ongkeko-Marfil is founder and president of Pelikulove.

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