Fernando Poe Jr, "Da King" of Philippine cinema who rallied millions of fans in a daring bid for the presidency earlier this year, died yesterday after suffering a stroke and slipping into a coma, his doctor said. He was 65.
Poe had complained of dizziness while dining with friends at his suburban Manila film studio. He was brought late Saturday to St Luke's Hospital, where doctors diagnosed a blood clot in his brain, and he later fell into a coma, neurologist Abdias Aquino told reporters. Poe died early yesterday at St Luke's.
The actor was a hero to millions of poor Filipinos who embraced the fast-punching, straight-shooting underdog hero he typically played in more than 200 action films. He also portrayed true-to-life heroes, including decorated policemen, and appeared in several World War II movies as a soldier or guerrilla fighting Japanese invaders.
A five-time winner in the local version of the Oscars, one of his most memorable roles was a true story -- a teacher who became a rebel leader fighting greedy landlords and bureaucrats in the 1920s, when the Philippines was still an American colony.
In his last movie, released in May, he was the buddy of a billiards player portrayed by real-life Filipino pool champion Efren "Bata" Reyes.
President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo called her rival "a worthy adversary in politics and a great Filipino."
"I mourn with millions of Filipinos who loved him dearly and held him as symbol of their deepest aspirations," she said in a statement.
Poe, better known as "Da King" or simply FPJ, started appearing in movies in his teens and never held public office. He had come under pressure from politicians, especially supporters of his close friend and another ex-actor, ousted President Joseph Estrada, to capitalize on his popularity and seek the presidency in the May 10 election.