Dear Floy

As the nation tries to come to terms with the sudden death of its leading playwright, theater director, writer, a longtime friend and colleague says goodbye

From FB page of ‘Grace’, Floy Quintos, who passed away April 27, in the midst of preparations for the staging of what would be his last play, ‘Grace,’ set for May 2024

Award-winning playwright and director Floy Quintos passed away April 27, Saturday, of a heart attack at age 63. Below, the author, a friend from his theater days, writes a grateful goodbye.

Dear Floy,

Kapatid naman. Hindi pa ako nakakabawi.

Yes, I remember why I bore a grudge. You missed my mom’s wake. I was indignant, so years later, I missed your father’s wake, and didn’t get to say a proper goodbye to Tito Titus. It was the most pea-brained thing, considering your late parents and my late parents had been friends long before I knew who you were.

All gone and missed: At the Dulaang UP cast party for ‘Fili’ in 1992: Tony Mabesa, Ogie Juliano, and now Floy Quintos

And then, in what is again proof positive for me that God moves in wonderful ways, I went on a retreat last year and He bonked me on the head, telling me I should stop being so petty. So I texted you an apology, from the retreat house, and you answered, “Hahahaha. Labyuuuuu. Here we are again…as for us, wala tayong problema ever.” Then we segued into stories about mutual friends and doggie care and so much more, never missing a beat.

My pride and pettiness made me miss your much-acclaimed The Reconciliation Dinner. I told you I was looking forward to seeing Grace when it opens on May 25, and hugging you after what has seemed like ages. Carpe diem, indeed.

The author as Pepay in ‘Fili,’ with the playwright, at the 1993 Asean Theater Festival in Bangkok, Thailand (photo by Frances Makil-Ignacio)

Was it a million years ago, the early ’90s, maybe, when I first met you on the staff of Larry J. Cruz’s Metro Magazine, which I so wanted to write for? I even thought “Floy” was a woman, until you joked, “I’m Pilar and Titus’ daughter.”

We had actually acted together first in Tony Mabesa’s inspired but utterly challenging staging of Maxim Gorky’s Mga Bakasyonista (Summerfolk), and I remember how you and Clint Ramos asked Jackie-Lou Blanco to bring some of her mother Pilita’s (Corrales) outfits. You would wear them backstage, where all of us onstage could see you through the wings—and I pissed in my pants trying to keep a serious face, because my character was a neurotic old maid who didn’t laugh. This was when you weren’t onstage, as a nervous, besotted writer, as only Russian writers can be besotted.

Years later, you would play Iago to my Emilia in Dulaang UP’s 2000 production of Othello—my first and only attempt at Shakespeare, translated by Rolando Tinio, no less. And who could forget you playing the Aswang Hunter (feeding the kids in the cast sushi) and me playing Allan Paule’s stalker mom in another riot, Gilda Cordero-Fernando’s Luna: An Aswang Romance the same year?

Floy Quintos (left) and director Dexter Santos during the script reading for ‘Collection’ at UP in 2013

The first “Quintoshian” play I did, as an early “Quintoshian” actor—it was Tony Mabesa who coined the term, as you were already a Palanca Award-winning powerhouse by then—was your deranged, deconstructed Fili in 1992. I don’t even think my role existed, but I wanted to be in on the fun, as Pepay, a prostitute who walked around blowing bubbles in the circus-themed scenes. In 1993, the following year, surprise, we took the whole damn production, bubbles, hula hoops, roller skates and all, to the Asean Theater Festival in Bangkok. It was the darnedest thing.

In between, can we even begin to count the hours and minutes spent eating, drinking, talking? Like when Mabesa chastised you, Tess Dumpit, and a bunch of us over Shakey’s pizza on Katipunan, for not trusting his decision to drastically cut the play the morning of opening night. “Acting on the edge of the precipice,” he called it. Then, remember the time we were having beers with the late Roy Alvarez and our friend Carlo, and Roy summoned our duwendes on the spot? Or when we were ranting over this or that unrequited love, and in true Norma Desmond fashion, you raised your eyebrow and sang, f—k it, because “No-one ever leaves a staaaaar”?

I knew when you were in love in those days, and you knew when I was, too—and we never really passed judgement on each other, even if the relationships sometimes asked too much of us. At least, your svelte figure and dusky complexion notwithstanding—Naomi Campbell, is that you?—you could eat and drink like a stevedore in those days.

‘We’re at the height of our powers, aren’t we, Alyá?”—adding an accent to that last A

Because I was a journalist first, there would be some productions I missed because of work, but which we still watched to see our friends, laughing because we personally knew those wonderful performers on the stage. I also knew you were directing events, TV shows, launches, the Assumption velada, the opening of the Southeast Asian Games in Manila, everything; remembering your early impersonation of the Universal Motion Dancers cracks me up to this day. I would tell you about my projects, and you would tell me about yours, and you once said, when we were in our 40s, “We’re at the height of our powers, aren’t we, Alyá?”—adding an accent to that last A, which only my late editor in chief Letty Jimenez-Magsanoc did. I guess you were both exceptional in that way.

We may have not always kept in close touch in our later years—hence, that tampuhan drama—but let me tell you now, it was one of the greatest honors of my life that you had me in mind when you wrote characters into your plays. You were, quite simply, brilliant, and theater people aspired to become Quintoshian actors. I would get that call from you: “O, ano, mader, handa ka na ba uli umarte? Sa ‘yo ito!”—always a serious decision, as rehearsals at UP meant leaving my Makati office early. Pepay was the fluffiest one; before I knew it, I was Maude, a circus fat lady with a lot of angst in 1991’s magnificent And St. Louis Loves Dem Filipinos, and the monologue you wrote for her gave me goosebumps the first time I read it.

In 2011, I was the bitter wife of the man who faked the Code of Kalantiaw in Fake, staged in the intimate Playwrights’ Theater of the much-missed Faculty Center of UP. And then, in my last stage production in 2013, before I pretty much retired from theater, I was the delusional jeweler Tatiana in your stunning play, Collection, about greed, excess, and hypocrisy.

I would watch, Floy, as you explained, in the deepest of ways, what the characters were saying. I saw you thinking on your feet as you practically wrote the scene on the spot, nodding vigorously when the delivery was good. I would hear your infectious, lilting laughter when you liked how funny something turned out.

I can still hear the excitement in your voice when you built your little home in your parents’ compound, decorated it with the prized bulul and ethnographic art you celebrated in your antique shop, and called me occasionally for dog advice for your beautiful Akita, Aki (well, you could have done better with the name, though). Come to think of it, Aki went ahead of you, and I know he’ll be waiting, along with everybody in the theater, the art form you transformed and edified and left so much richer for your timeless works of intelligence and insight.

I join so many, many people in shock at your sudden death. My heart goes out to Frances, Stella, Missy, Shamaine, Leo, and the other actors in the midst of rehearsing Grace. “God, Alya, I’ve been acting for Floy straight since 2018!” Frances texted me, devastated, as she sent me the picture shown here of us in Bangkok, me as Pepay and you, Floy, as yourself. Which is all you ever had to be.

The author’s last ‘Quintoshian’ play, as Tatiana in ‘Collection,’ 2013

More than anything, I thank God again. I don’t know how much it would have hurt if I hadn’t made peace with you last year, after my two foolish years of silence. I thank God for you, and for the genius and friendship you shared with me.

Wala tayong problema, kapatid. Ever.


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