Apr 18
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Ricky Belmonte: Quiet death of a matinee idol

Author: The Philippine Star

The end came very quietly, like a thief sneaking into a house in slumber in the dead of night, exactly the way he said he wanted to go "when my time comes. "

His time did come yesterday morning at 4:08 at the Parañaque Medical Center, 72 hours after he suffered from a massive stroke (last Sunday, Sept. 30) that rendered him comatose due to cerebral hemorrhage.

Ricky Belmonte, matinee idol of the ’60s and early ’70s, was 54 (he would have been 55 on Dec. 25, born as he was on Christmas Day that’s why he was named Jesus Cruz).

"I don’t know if it was a premonition," Ricky’s younger (not older as earlier reported) sister Elizabeth Ilustre was telling friends, "but these past several days, Jessie (Ricky’s nickname) kept on reminding us that if ever, he didn’t want to feel pain, that if he had to go he wanted to go fast – without pain. "

Since he broke up with Rosemarie Sonora, now married to an American and living in Antioch, California, Ricky had been taking care of their three children – Renzo/Wowie, Sheryl and Patrick – until a few years ago when Sheryl quit showbiz to live with husband Norman John Bustos (a cop) in San Francisco, California. Sheryl gave birth to a baby girl, named Ashley Nicole, last May. Renzo-Wowie then declared his own "independence," followed by Patrick who opted to live with their mom.

The family decided to sell their house in Valle Verde, dividing the amount equally among themselves, and Ricky moved to his sister Elizabeth’s house in Parañaque City where he had the massive stroke that led to his death.

"The night before," recalled Elizabeth to friends, "he was in a good mood, ang saya-saya niya. We were at a party. Later, when we got home, he complained of dizziness, followed by a terrible headache. "

Ricky was rushed to a nearby clinic from which he was transferred to the Parañaque Medical Center when his blood pressure didn’t stabilize. On arrival, he was declared clinically dead, kept "alive" only by life-support gadgets. His heart was beating, all right, but his brain was dead. His kidneys, liver and a few other vital organs were said to be okay but he wasn’t responding, not even if his toes or hands were pressed hard or when a relative or a friend would whisper close to his ears (sense of hearing is said to be the last to fade out in a dying person).

At the time of his death, Ricky was appearing in the popular ABS-CBN soap Sa Dulo ng Walang Hanggan as the drunkard husband of Helen Gamboa, his contemporary in the roaring ’60s when Ricky was discovered, launched in 1967 as the leading man of Susan Roces (who would become his sister-in-law) in Si Syanang at ang Pitong Tsikiting by Greta Productions owned by the Santoses whose son married Susan’s sister Teresita Sonora (who retired to domesticity after only one or two movies).

Contrary to other newspaper stories, Ricky was not a member of the Stars ’66, the 10 Sampaguita hopefuls launched in grand style by the late Starmaker Dr. Jose "Doc" Perez, big boss of Sampaguita Pictures. The Stars ’66 were Edgar Salcedo, Pepito Rodriguez, Ramil Rodriguez, Bert Leroy, Jr. , Dindo Fernando, Gina Pareño, Rosemarie Sonora, Blanca Gomez, Loretta Marquez and Shirley Moreno. Three of them are dead (Edgar, Dindo and Loretta).

After his "matinee idol" years during which he was paired with Rosemarie in a love triangle with Pepito Rodriguez (remember how they were nicknamed Rikitik, Rositik and Pepitik?), Ricky shifted to doing bold roles (Ang Madugong Daigdig ni Salvacion, with Pilar Pilapil, directed by Celso Ad. Castillo, among them), while at the same time maintaining the family band 747 which performed in five-star hotels both here and abroad. Among the 747 members are the fathers of Geneva Cruz and Sunshine Cruz.

Ricky’s last quiet moments were straight out of the tearjerkers Sampaguita Pictures was noted for (aside from light comedy romances).

Lying "clinically dead" in that Parañaque City hospital, Ricky was probably watching with a smile how family members discussed whether to let him go naturally or to disconnect those life-support gadgets (so as not to prolong the agony and the pain he and his loved ones were going through). Luckily, they didn’t have to resort to that, thus saving themselves any guilt feeling.

Rosemarie, whom Ricky married in 1971, couldn’t come home and neither could Sheryl who is still breastfeeding her baby. But last Tuesday evening while Ricky was at the ICU, Renzo/Wowie got Sheryl on his cellphone) and let her talk to their Papa. Rosemarie was with Sheryl at that time and she, too, had her private moment with Ricky.

It was Dolor Guevarra and her husband, direk Boots Plata, who advised Elizabeth (stepmother of one-time bold actor Gino Ilustre) to have Sheryl – and Rosemarie – talk to Ricky even on the phone. Direk Boots is directing Sana’y Bigyan Mo ng Pansin, the Judy Ann Santos-Cogie Domingo topbiller where Elizabeth’s son Ryver Cruz plays a role.

After that one-way phone chat, Ricky was moved from the ICU to a private room, with all the life-support gadgets, and only a few hours later he died.

"He was slowly turning blue because his blood pressure was going down," Elizabeth said. "But a few moments before he breathed his last, biglang naging rosy ang kanyang cheeks; he looked very handsome at that moment. "

Danny Cruz (Sunshine’s father) whispered to Ricky at that final moment of parting, "Go, Jessie. Don’t worry, Mama and Papa will be there to meet you. You won’t be alone. " (The Cruzes’ mother drowned in a motorboat accident somewhere in Cavite a few years before their father succumbed to a heart attack. )

(Note: Ricky’s remains are at the Loyola Memorial Chapels in Guadalupe, Makati City. Interment will be announced later. ) A roster of Misses International The Miss International 2001 will be chosen tonight in Japan, with Maricarl Tolosa as the Philippine representative. So far, the Philippines has won the title thrice: Gemma Cruz in 1965, Aurora Pijuan in 1970 and Melanie Marquez in 1979. Will Maricarl again bring home the bacon?

Meanwhile, let’s see who among the beauties now in Japan are the most likely to make it to the finals. Here’s an update sent by an anonymous reader to Funfare:

1. Miss India Kanwal Toor – She represents the established beauty superpower. It should be noted that no Miss India has ever captured the Miss International crown.

2. Miss Israel Dikla Eklabetz – She won the Miss Photogenic award, a big plus.

3. Miss Venezuela Aura Zambrano – She represents a country which won the Miss International crown last year. Aura is one of the favorites here, too, as she is so far the most classy and the one with the most adorable face.

4. Miss San Marino Marzia Bellezo – Very Italian in looks, she is from a small mountainous country; the best Miss San Marino ever.

5. Miss Dominican Republic Judith Curry – Voted by global-beautieis. com as the most likely to win the crown, she has a fresh face and a Latina aura.

6. Miss Russia Tatiana Pavlova – She is poised to repeat or even surpass the 2nd runner-up finish of fellow Russian beauty Svetlana Goreva last year.

7. Miss Bolivia Joan Quiroga – She is one of the noticeable Latina beauties; the Japanese have a passion for Latina beauty (it isn’t by chance that most finalists at Miss International these days are Latinas)

8. Miss Greece Fotini Kokari – Fueled by her kababayan’s good performance at the 2001 Miss Universe, Fotini hopes to win the crown for her country. She’s so far the strongest European contender.

9. Miss Spain Ayola Carrasco – With a very young face, blonde hair and sparkling eyes, this Hispanic beauty is very charming.

10. Miss South Korea Myung Hee Baek – The Korean bet ended as 1st runner-up last year. Expect a good comeback from the Land of the Morning Calm. * * * Funfare-friendly Mike Herrera of Cabanatuan City has his own interesting "sidelight" about the Miss International. Here it is:

Here’s an informal survey of all-time favorite Miss International winners. The Philippines’ Melanie Marquez topped the survey with 38 votes, followed by 1960 Miss International Stella Marquez of Colombia with 20 votes, Venezuela’s Consuelo Adler with 18 votes, with Ingrid Fifi Finger of Germany and Ilma Julieta Urrutia of Guatemala in a tie with 15 votes each.

The other who made it to the next five slots are: Colombia’s Paulina Galvez (1999) with 12 votes, Norway’s AnneLena Hansen (1995) with 10 votes, Greece’s Christina Lekka (1994) with eight votes, the Philippines’ Aurora Pijuan (1970) with seven votes and Puerto Rico’s Laurie Tamara Simpson (1987) with five votes.

1. Melanie Marquez – At 15, Melanie became the third Filipina to win the crown on Oct. 10, 1979. A clear winner from the start, she was also voted Best in National Costume. She has gone a long way, thoroughly conditioning her mind and bracing herself physically and emotionally for the tough challenge ahead. Today, she feels vindicated by what she has accomplished as an actress, mother and wife.

2. Stella Marquez (no relation to Melanie), is the first winner in the first staging of Miss International in Long Beach, California on Sept. 17, 1960. She bested 36 other delegates. After her reign, she married Jorge Araneta of the illustrious Araneta clan. She is the chairperson of the Bb. Pilipinas charities, which is behind the country’s most prestigious pageant responsible for sending Filipina delegates to the world’s global beauty tilts.

3. Consuelo Adler – She bested a field of 54 international beauties. The 5’9" model continued to work in the field of fashion after her reign. She is also the lead star of the latest Venezuelan’s telenovela Estrellas Mi Amor.

4. Ingrid Fifi Finger – She was only 18 when she became her country’s first Miss International in 1965. The title brought her fame and money but not necessarily happiness or career fulfillment. She turned down a Hollywood contract because she didn’t want to go on location. She turned down a role in Barbarella, that would have propelled her to stardom. It was Jane Fonda who took the role in the movie directed by Roger Vadim.

5. Ilma Julietta Urrutia – She is so far Guatemala’s first and only Miss International. Before winning the title, she competed first in the Miss Universe Pageant in Miami where she was one of the 10 semi-finalists. After her reign, she became a dedicated teacher reaching out to under-privileged children in Guatemala. She also writes a column in her country’s leading newspaper.

Source: The Philippine Star