Goodbye, Redford

HUMMING IN MY UNIVERSE By Jim Paredes (The Philippine Star) Updated August 01, 2010 12:00 AM
Redford White: The author’s friend was a fellow diver with a private passion for charity.

We were doing a noontime TV show together some 13 years ago. That’s how I got to know Redford White. I had met him years before but we never went beyond the customary “Hi.” Looking back at the way our friendship played out, I never imagined that I would ever get close to this Bisoy (Bisayang Tisoy) comedian.

We did not hit it off working in front of the cameras. I was probably too serious and he was way too funny. It was behind the cameras where we got along. In fact, it was the lure of the depths of the sea that made us friends. We were both divers and one time, I invited him to join G Toengi and a few other people to a dive. After just one adventure under the sea, we knew we were kindred spirits.

Far from his public persona, Cipriano Cermeno II, better known as Redford White, was actually quite a serious guy. People would be floored, as I was, if they knew that he liked to talk about philosophy, religion, Christianity, Buddhism and other such topics.

Red was a searcher of truth. A no-frills guy, he liked to get to the bottom of things, exploring questions about life and its meaning. Sometimes, he liked to talk but there were times when he just wanted to be silent. It was during those long drives and deep conversations to Anilao and back where I discovered that Red and his wife Elena had been involved in community and charity work for a long time. In their property in Novaliches, they had built, over two decades, a community of more than 150 people where they took care of batches of kids whom they generously housed, fed and sent to school. Some of them have graduated from college and now work successful jobs and careers here and abroad.

Redford and Elena even built a beautiful Church inside the compound with the help of the people they have helped — neighbors and devotees of the Santo Nino de Maligaya, to whom they dedicated the entire charitable effort.

I was dumbfounded to discover that this comedian, whom everyone loved for making them laugh their heads off, had a much bigger life outside of how the world knew

him. In fact, this life of service and giving was his main life, something that he kept low-key and shared only with a few friends. He liked things quiet, simple and without fuss. In this way, he was, to me, a pure soul.

Once in a while, he’d talk about his and Elena’s work helping flood or calamity victims by organizing relief efforts, or their travels to places where they set up shrines in honor of their favorite Santo Nino icon, in Guam, Canada, the US and other places. When Red shared such stories, I sensed a deep humility and a sense of fulfillment that no amount of success and fame in showbiz could give him. Sure, he enjoyed and took pride when his TV shows got high ratings; but he knew that the world of showbiz was impermanent and while he relished the highs while they lasted, he felt no real attachment to them. His true fulfillment came from somewhere else.

With the number of hours we shared talking in the car on the way to Anilao and back, which averaged around six hours at a time, plus the number of dives we made (160 to 170) not only in Anilao but also in Davao, Cebu, Bohol and Tubataha, it is no surprise that we became really close. Maan de Ocampo, Jon Santos and I were Red’s closest dive buddies. The long trips and the time in between dives, the meals and the bumming around, were precious bonding moments.

Such deep camaraderie and friendship is easily developed among diving buddies since, when you think about it, diving under the sea can be life-threatening. No one can be casual about diving because casualness can cause carelessness which can have deadly results. Under the “buddy system” rules of scuba, we were responsible for each other. We were always looking out for each other’s safety. This reality made us all present and quite open to each other.

The last time I saw Red before he got sick was in December 2009. Our meetings had been downgraded to lunches and dinners since he had developed high blood pressure and Elena had asked him to stop diving. He had become a heavier smoker. We had lunch at Adarna restaurant in QC with Maan. There was the usual exchange of jokes, storytelling and catching up with each other’s lives. Red was his usual self — calm and attentive, easy, accepting, sometimes deep, but also hilariously funny. His eyes had that twinkle, especially when he made funny comments.

After that meeting, I called him a few times, texted him, but got no reply. I figured maybe he was abroad, or busy, or just wanted to be by himself, which he

was sometimes wont to do. It was only last July 20 when Matt, Red’s assistant, texted me a message that disturbed me deeply. It said, “Kuya Jim, kelan kita pwede tawagan tungkol kay Red?” I immediately replied. That night, when Maan and I met with him, he told us that Red had finally requested that we be informed he had a brain tumor and lung cancer, which were diagnosed last February.

“Why did he wait this long?” I asked. Because, true to form, he did not want friends fussing or worrying about him.

The very next day, Maan and I went to Red’s Novaliches compound with a cake in a red box that had a white diagonal line on it which made it look like a diver’s flag. When we entered the room, we saw Red on his bed, his face bloated due to steroids. He didn’t look good. The twinkle in his eyes had dimmed. We went straight to him, had a group hug and he started to weep. He shed tears of relief, sadness, joy and love, all thrown in together. Then he uttered with both a chuckle and a seriousness, “P’re, malapit ko na makita si Lord.” We hugged each other even tighter.

I whispered to him to prepare the way for us since we would have many things to answer for before we could probably get in. After a few minutes, he seemed more relaxed and we talked about this and that, just like before. Maan and I knew our friend was in a bad state and would not last long. After about 25 minutes, we bade him goodbye so he could rest.

I had one more opportunity to see Red on the day before he died. I had asked a priest friend, Fr. Arnold Abelardo, if he could borrow Tita Cory’s rosary which was given to her by Sr. Lucia, the visionary of Fatima, that I wanted to bring to Red. On that final visit, Red looked worn out. He could hardly breathe. We said a prayer as Red clasped the rosary. Lydia and I also gave him a wooden holding cross. Throughout the meeting, he kept saying, “Love you, p’re,” as we held each other’s hands.

Before I left, I looked into his eyes and reminded him that a rule in diving was, if dive buddies lose each other, each is obliged to go up and wait for the other for a moment before he starts any rescue effort. I told him that since he was going “up” first, to please patiently wait for me.

For a brief moment, I saw his eyes twinkle, and amid his laborious breathing, he let out a hearty laugh, loud enough to be heard outside the door. I then held his gaze one last time, clasped his hand, hugged him tight and said, “Ingat pare.” I had to force myself to turn away and walk out the door, knowing that was our last goodbye.

He died at 6:47 the next morning. I found myself spontaneously awakened about the same time and feeling refreshed despite having slept late. After a few minutes, I got a text from Matt saying that Red had passed away.

Redford, I just want to say that I have not met a more decent man than you. You taught me many things by simply being you — simplicity, humility, dedication, lightness of being, deep uncomplicated friendship, laughter and the great capacity to love the manifestations of God that may not even be readily attractive and lovable.

Love you, P’re! Wait for me, please.

* * *

Here are my workshop schedules:

1) Creative For Life: A cutting-edge course to permanently awaken your creativity from Aug. 2-6, concluding on Aug. 9, from 7 to 9 p.m. at 113 B. Gonzales, Loyola Heights, Quezon City. Seminar fee is P5,000.

2) Songwriting Workshop: A lot of people through the years have asked me about writing songs since I have written so many, including hits, over four decades. I have long wanted to conduct a workshop on it. The workshop will be held on Aug. 14 to 1 from 1 to 6 p.m. at 113 B. Gonzales, Loyola Heights, Quezon City. The workshop fee is P5,000.

It is a requirement that participant in the workshop must know how to play an instrument — guitar or piano.

3) A Basic Photography Workshop will be held on Aug. 21, 1 to 7 p.m. at 113 B. Gonzales, Loyola Heights, Quezon City. Seminar fee is P3,500

* * *

Please write to to reserve a slot for any or all workshops. Or call 426-5375/ 0916-8554303 and ask for Ollie.

10 thoughts on “Goodbye, Redford”

  1. Thank you for sharing Mr. Redford to us through your words, Sir Jim. I only know him via two things: From “buddy en sol” and from your 2005 blog about your dive buddies.\n\nIt made me cry. Mostly because of how you beautifully described what friendship among men really is. And also because here is a great man, a decent man, a kind man who left this world so early and yet I’m trying to accept this in a positive view.\n\nAgain, thanks sir Jim!\n\nAnd to Sir Redford, thank you for sharing your separate and personal world to Sir Jim. I, as your quiet fan of Buddy En Sol, would never knew that being humble, silent and searcher of truth could be simple reasons to live life to the best of our abilities no matter who we are or what we’re living for.\n\nPerhaps through your buddy’s eyes, my message can be linked to him in one way or another. I believe it’s the same eyes you’ve promised to each other to looked one another, may they be worn by goggles or reading glasses.

  2. thanks for the nice article about redford white. i do like his style of comedy. now, i know he is a nice person behind the camera. hope other actors especially new ones would follow his simple ways. thanks again sir jim

  3. Sir Jim thank you for sharing this article about Sir Redford White. Nagkaroon kami ng idea kung sino ang totoong Redford White behind the limelight. The story really made me cry. After reading this article i decided na hanapin kung nasaan ang SANTO NINO DE MALIGAYA SHRINE dito sa Guam to offer some prayers.

  4. I always thought Redford White was WAY underrated as a comedian. He’s my favorite local comedian ever! This is even when he was starting out in Iskul Bukol. His gags and barbs with Mang Temi were subtle yet so damned funny. With the way he delivered his lines, I’d say he was even better than “the king”.

    I’m glad to learn from you that underneath that (unappreciated?) extraordinary talent was a caring and giving individual. Rest in peace, Red.

  5. this article made me cry .. and thank you for sharing how wonderful a human being is REDFORD WHITE … truly admirable..

  6. Thanks for this post Jim. I knew that you would write something about Redford White when I got the news of his passing. He’s truly now the White Angel watching over you, his good friend. Nice to have a glimpse of the real Redford White through this article – and what a generous and remarkable man he’s been! He’s now home in God’s warm embrace.

  7. Wow! It seems like Redford was really something at hindi pa alam ng mga tao yun (except dun sa mga tinulungan niya).

    I have always loved the way he makes people laugh. I remember lagi kong hinihintay ung Buddy en Sol (kahit naging late ung timeslot) para lang mapanuod siya. I was waiting for him to throw his punchlines.

    We will definitely miss you Redford.

  8. It has been over a month since you made this post. But I only know him for his funny antics and witty and funny remarks on tv and his movies. I remember growing up watching his tv shows and movies which never failed to make me laugh. But after reading this post, and how you described him as a man outside of the biz, I found out how deep this man who was known for his comedic acts is. There was more to him than just acting. And from this, I guess it is safe to assume that he had fully lived his life. Thank you for sharing this story.

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