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'Mga kababayan ko, dapat lang malaman n'yo!'

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'Mga kababayan ko, dapat lang malaman n'yo!' FUNFARE UPDATE By Ricardo F. Lo 
March 07, 2009 12:00 AM 

Francis Magalona and wife Pia Arroyo (leftmost) with their children. The title of this column is lifted from Mga Kababayan Ko, Francis’ classic rap.

The end came at 12 noon yesterday just as Eat, Bulaga! began to go on air.

However, it was only halfway through the show that the hosts sadly gathered before the camera as lead host Vic Sotto made the painful announcement:

Ikinalulungkot po namin ipaalam sa inyo na si Francis Magalona died at 12 noon today at the Medical City.

Direct to the point. No background music. Very solemn and very sober.

Holding back tears, the hosts then bade Francis, simply Kiko to them and friends, a fond farewell. “We love you, Kiko!”

Toward the end of the show, the woman contestant on the show’s Taktak Mo o Tatakbo segment won the P1-M jackpot (plus P30,000).

“I’m sure it was Kiko who helped her win,” said Joey de Leon.

Even if we knew that the Master Rapper was ill, going in and out of the Medical City in Pasig City for the chemotherapy and the blood transfusion, the news of Francis’ death came as a shock not only to his wife Pia Arroyo and their eight children but to his fans and friends.

Francis, 44 (Oct. 4, 1964), was diagnosed to be suffering from fourth-stage leukemia (“The aggressive type,” said a doctor) in August last year after he complained of suffering from dizzy spells and fever in the afternoon first noticed by his Bulaga! co-hosts two months earlier when they mounted the show in Las Vegas.

“He was usually in high spirits,” recalled Malou Choa-Fagar, vice president of TAPE, Inc., producer of Bulaga! “But when we were abroad, he seemed to tire easily. He turned pale during those dizzy spells.”

During Francis’ first hospitalization, fans and friends rallied to donate the Type O blood that he badly needed, with Sen. Richard Gordon, chairman of the Philippine National Red Cross (PNRC), and Rosa Rosal (mother of Bulaga! co-host Toni Rose-Gayda), in-charge of the PNRC “blood” department, giving him full support until the very end.

Francis was never able to go back to Bulaga!

When he appeared for the last time in a remote interview on Startalk barely four weeks ago, Francis was bald, having lost his hair to chemotherapy. He said he was ready to undergo a bone-marrow transplant, a radical procedure which never got underway.

“We rushed him back to the hospital last Tuesday for his usual blood transfusion,” Pia Arroyo told Funfare Update in a phone interview. “He was under sedation. No, he didn’t go into a coma. He died peacefully.”

Francis died with Pia and their children around him, together with Tita Rosa (Rosal) who treated Francis as her own son.

Although he fought as hard as he could, Francis was prepared for the worst, said Pia.

One of the children of ’50s Sampaguita loveteam Pancho Magalona and Tita Duran, Francis worked as an artist for Mr. & Ms. magazine before he joined German Moreno’s youth-oriented show That’s Entertainment in 1986. He branched out to movies, appearing in Viva Films’ Bagets 2 (also directed by Maryo J. delos Reyes like Part 1) and Ninja Kids and some other films. With his rap album Yo! (released by OctoArts for which he did a dozen more), with the now-classic Mga Kababayan Ko as carrier single, Francis was hailed as the Master Rapper. He then joined Bulaga! as co-host.

“What do I remember most about Francis?” asked direk Maryo. “Well, his being so lanky and skinny did not complement his vibrant energy and talent. He promised me na magpapataba siya. He called me ‘Nanay/Tatay’ Maryo and gave me a hand-made drawing naughtily titled ‘Breakfast in Bed’.”

Said Aga Muhlach, who was in Bagets 1 but not in Bagets 2, “Sayang. He’s so young. He was with me in the movie Joey Boy Munti. I was with him during his ‘lost’ years and during his ‘struggles.’ Sayang talaga. Batang-bata pa siya!”

Before he died, Francis recorded an album of inspirational songs with Ely Buendia, vocalist of the disbanded Eraserheads, who survived a heart ailment almost at the same time Francis was diagnosed with leukemia.

Francis’ remains lie at the Christ The King Chapels in Green Meadows, Quezon City. Interment date will be announced later.

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