Theater, film and TV actor Spanky Manikan passes away at 75

Spanky Manikan.

Theater, film and television actor Spanky Manikan passed away Sunday at the age of 75.

The actor was diagnosed with stage 4 lung cancer middle of last year and was reportedly undergoing treatment including chemotherapy at the time of his death.

Best known for his award-winning performance in Ishmael Bernal’s “Himala,” Manikan began his acting career with the Philippine Educational Theater Association in 1972.

Since then, he has acted in plays not only produced by PETA (“Halimaw,” “Kabesang Tales,” “Juan Tamban,” “Canuplin,”) but also by Bulwagang Gantimpala and Tanghalang Pilipino of the Cultural Center of the Philippines (“Salubong,” “General Goyo,” “Bien Baligtad,” “Mga Ama, Mga Anak”) and Dulaang UP (“Marat Sade,” “The Iceman Cometh”).

In a thoughtful tribute, noted composer and film scorer Lutgardo Labad revealed in a Facebook post that Manikan, who comes from a family of singers, also sang many songs in PETA’s early years. Describing the actor’s singing voice as “golden,” Labad said Manikan interpreted his songs “with exquisite musicality, beautiful tone quality, emotive power, and most of all SOUL.”

He started crossing over to film roles in 1975 when he was cast as Gido in Lino Brocka’s “Maynila sa Mga Kuko ng Liwanag.” Since then, he also acted in Brocka’s “Bona,” Bernal’s “Broken Marriage,” Joel Lamangan’s “Deathrow,” Dante Nico Garcia’s “Ploning,” Lawrence Fajardo’s “Amok,” and Maryo J. delos Reyes’ “Bamboo Flowers.”

Manikan’s Oriental features also led to roles in several low-budget international films like “Behind Enemy Lines,” “Cruel Horizon,” and “Saigon Commandos.” He was also among several Filipino actors cast in “A Dangerous Life,” the 1988 political drama mini-series on the Edsa Revolution, where he played the cameraman and friend of an American TV journalist portrayed by Gary Busey.

Spanky Manikan in ‘Himala’ in 1981.

For his role as Orly, the apathetic documentary filmmaker in “Himala,” Manikan won the Best Supporting Actor award in the 1981 Metro Manila Film Festival. In 2014, he was nominated for Best Supporting Actor in the PMPC Star Awards for Movies for his role as Lolo Andong in “Bamboo Flowers.”

That same year, Manikan was honored by the Aliw Awards Foundation with the Best Actor award for a non-musical play for his portrayal of Zacarias Monzon in Tanghalang Pilipino’s “Mga Ama, Mga Anak.”

On television, Manikan was a fixture in several teleseryes that included “Kung Mawawala Ka,” “Krystala,” “Tayong Dalawa” “May Bukas Pa,” and “Walang Hanggan.”

He last appeared in the GMA soap “My Love From The Star” until he was diagnosed with cancer and was replaced by actor Crispin Pineda in July.

Last year, the actor was honored by PETA with a Citation for Recognition as part of the theater company’s 50th anniversary celebration.

Spanky Manikan’s Citation for Recognition as awarded by PETA during its 50th anniversary last year. (Photo from the Facebook page of wife Susan Africa)

In a Facebook post by his wife, seasoned actress Susan Africa, Manikan was quoted as saying that he considers the PETA citation as the most important recognition for his contribution to the arts. Aside from Africa, Manikan is also survived by their three children.