President Rodrigo Duterte’s paying his last respects to Alvaro Muhlach, better known as Cheng Muhlach, former actor and producer and most especially, dad of pop star Aga Muhlach, has many sights and sounds to it.
Cheng’s ashes of his remains were kept vigil last week at the Heritage Memorial Park and Crematorium in Taguig City where the body of the late senator Edgardo J. Angara also lain yet on a separate chapel. President Duterte last Monday night first dropped by the wake of Angara after which he walked into the room where Muhlach’s urn of his ashes was perched on the center panel for all to pay homage on.
At the Angara’s memorial service, this columnist sat beside entertainment writer Benjie Felipe who is working for Martin Andanar, the Secretary of the Presidential Communications Office. I told Benjie Duterte paid Cheng’s remains a visit. I asked him how the President is/was related to Cheng or to any of the Muhlachs. “A, puwede namang mag-request na dumaan (Oh, it’s okay to request to drop by),” quipped Felipe who used to appear on cam as Tiongki Benj in ABS-CBN shows.
“Tingnan mo, kalaban pa ni Aga no’n si Wimpy Fuentebella (Look, Aga was even an opponent),” commented Benjie who was referring to the 2013 midterm elections when Muhlach ran against Fuentebella in the Camarines Sur 4th District Congressional bid where the actor lost. Aga ran under the Liberal Party.
No matter how Duterte got to pay his dues to Cheng doesn’t count anymore. Whether he was requested or not isn’t big deal. It is because if ever the President was advised, it was instinctive on his part. Or it might be his conscious effort to extend sympathy to the Muhlach family as Filipinos. It is also because Aga, the son of the dead, is an influencer in the country. Because Aga is so popular he can command and sway the people to a certain cause.
Cheng was no hero in the national definition of a freedom fighter whom a president should pay tribute to but by virtue of his being the father of a famous son, the family deserved the honor.
Even if the younger Muhlach in a political fight ran opposite Fuentebella who is seen as a Duterte ally, what matters is Aga’s value as a celebrity.
Nando’n na rin lang, pagkasiyahin na (He’s already there so make the most of it) might be the logic and purpose of it all.
So much so that it is the empathy inherent in man in time of tragedy and desolation that the visit evoked in.
Cheng’s passing was as painful as the death of Aga’s mom Anita Aquino a few years ago.
Cheng died recently of cardiac arrest at the St. Luke’s Medical Center in Quezon City right in time when Aga sat foot in the Philippines after a shoot of a film with actress Alice Dixson in Greenland. The actor immediately went to the hospital and bid his father final adieu.
Aga grew up with Cheng until he built his own house (as a matter of fact, a number of houses), wedded actress Charlene Gonzales and bore him children, twins Andres and Atasha but would see his pa when he had ample time.
It was a deep inured bonding between a dad and a son that made Aga cried a river during this time of mourning.
But he wasn’t alone because Charlene was always around during his bereavement that made the burden lighter.
The other Muhlachs—Aga’s own brood Albert and Arlene; Aaron Muhlach, best known in the past as Barok, Cheng’s son by awarded actress Beth Buatista; Almira Muhlach, Aga’s half-sister and his other half-brothers, actors AJ and Andrew Muhlach and his uncle, Alex Muhlach, dad of Niño Muhlach and grandfather of Alfonso; his cousins, children of former movie queen Amalia Fuentes were there to lend their hand in times of trouble.
Speaking of Amalia, she didn’t care whether she was on a wheelchair because of a stroke just to kiss his young bro goodbye she did come to the wake and to the inurnment as well.
Most people who were in one way associated with the Muhlachs were there—Angel Locsin, Willie Revillame, Liz Alindogan, Deborah Sun, Alice Vergara etc.
They loved Cheng in so many ways.