THERE will be a program honoring the “Lion of the Theater,” Antonio “Tony” Mabesa, who passed away last Friday after a seven-decade career in theater and film. Tonight for Tony: A Celebration will be held today at 4 p.m. at the University of the Philippines, Diliman in Quezon City.

Mr. Mabesa passed away on Oct. 4, at 10:20 p.m. He was 84.

Screenwriter Floy Quintos wrote on Facebook that day: “We, the family of Antonio Mabesa, are saddened to announce his passing. Sir Tony joined his creator at 10:20 this evening. He was surrounded by family and friends.

“We thank you for your prayers. We hope you can respect the family’s wish for privacy at this time,” Mr. Quintos added.

Born in Laguna in 1935, Mr. Mabesa began his journey in the theater by directing school plays at UP Rural High School. He went on to study at the University of the Philippines where he was mentored by National Artist for Theater Wilfrido Ma. Guerrero. He earned masteral degrees in theater arts at the University of California in Los Angeles in 1965, and in education at the University of Delaware in 1969.

In 1976, he founded the theater organizations Dulaang Unibersidad ng Pilipinas and its umbrella group, UP Playwight’s Theater where he was mentor to renowned actors such as Nonie Buencamino, Shamaine Centenera-Buencamino, Eugene Domingo, and Irma Adlawan.

Mr. Mabesa worked on more than 170 shows and also ventured into acting for film and television. His notable films include Tukso Layuan Mo Ako! (1991) and Kristo (1996); his latest role in television was Pedro Tansico in GMA7’s family drama series Hiram na Anak (2019).

In 2018, Mr. Mabesa played his last role in film as the late Eddie Garcia’s lover in the 2018 Metro Manila Film Festival (MMFF) LGBT-themed family drama, Rainbow’s Sunset, where he won the award for Best Supporting Actor.

Dulaang UP’s latest play, Fuente Ovejuna, which he directed, opens on Nov. 8.

Friends, family, and mentees expressed their condolences and appreciation for the late actor and director.

Shamaine Centenera-Buencamino on Oct. 5 wrote on Facebook: “My theater mentor passed away last night. Thank you sir Tony Mabesa. Not just for the acting lessons but for inspiring us to be our best in life. We love you and we will always be grateful that you became part of us. Please pray for the eternal repose of the soul of this beloved man. Bravo sir! Goodnight and may your soul rest in peace.”

On Facebook, theater director Dexter M. Santos wrote of his experience as a student of Mr. Mabesa and concluded with: “We all have our own special ‘Mabesa’ experience. Life lessons that molded us and made us survive this unforgiving industry. Memories that will forever be etched in our hearts. MARAMING SALAMAT PO SIR TONY… SA LAHAT LAHAT. You are not only a father to your ‘Mabesa Babies.’ You are not only a father to every UP Theater Major. You are a father to anyone who has been part of every Dulaang UP, UP Playwright’s Theater, and UP Dulaang Laboratoryo Production. You will be missed.”

Friends and colleagues who wish to pay their respects to Mr. Mabesa may visit Hall A at the Arlington Memorial Chapels and Crematory in Araneta Avenue, Quezon City. Interment details are to follow. — Michelle Anne P. Soliman