For Fernando Poe Jr.’s immense contribution to Philippine movies, there’s no doubt he deserves to be honored. As the Senate Bill 1822 filed by Senator Lito Lapid pointed out, Da King starred in nearly 300 films in his 46-year-movie career. Some of these films he directed himself, produced and wrote. FPJ, posthumously declared National Artist of the Philippines for Film in 2006, is considered an icon in the local entertainment industry.
Senator Lapid is proposing we name a street after Da King. Which shouldn’t be a problem. Some of our streets were named after great Filipinos: Amorsolo after the painter, Julio Nakpil after the composer, Jose Diokno after the Senator, Maria Orosa after the food technologist, and Epifanio delos Santos and HV Dela Costa after the writers and historians.
But the street the Senator wants to give the name Fernando Poe Jr. to already has a name—and here is where the conflict arises. According to the proposed bill, much of FPJ’s legacy lives on in FPJ Productions which is located in Del Monte Avenue in Quezon City. Senator Lapid’s proposal is to rename Del Monte Avenue in Quezon City to Fernando Poe, Jr. Avenue.
The bill was already approved on the committee level. Senator Ramon “Bong” Revilla Jr. moved to approve the bill, and Senator Imee Marcos seconded Revilla’s motion. Revilla’s motion was then approved by the Senate panel chairman, Senator Manny Pacquiao.
The National Historical Commission has expressed its reservations over the measure because the street name Del Monte Avenue has been around for almost 60 years, historian Ambeth Ocampo mentioned in his recent column in the Inquirer. To which Sen. Marcos replied: “If we went by that rubric that 50 years or older will never be changed, there will be no progress in this country.”
Meanwhile, Ocampo calls Sen. Lito Lapid’s proposal “ill-advised” and a “sad proof that we have little or no respect for street names that are mute reminders of history.”
In an open letter submitted by Fr. Cielo Almazan, OFM, the Franciscans conveyed their objection to the bill, pointing out the “tremendous historical, religious and cultural significance” attached to the present street name.
Fr. Almazan explains that Del Monte Avenue was derived from San Francisco del Monte, a secluded place founded on February 17, 1590 by Fray Pedro Bautista, a Franciscan missionary. “The place has been referred to as San Francisco del Monte to honor St. Francis. Del Monte was added to its name because it sits on a hilly area and to distinguish it from San Francisco de Manila, then the Franciscan Church in Intramuros.”
The letter adds that “it was Governor General De Vera who offered Fray Pedro Bautista (canonized a Saint in 1862) 250 hectares of this area that includes the old section of San Francisco del Monte on both sides of the Dario river. Today, the Minor Basilica of San Pedro Bautista stands in this place founded and made holy by this patron saint who actually lived and served in this place popularly known as San Francisco Del Monte.”
Fr. Almazan stresses the profound religious significance of the area. “Almost five centuries ago, Fray Pedro Bautista built in this area a home where the missionaries could find solitude and recharge their physical and spiritual vigor spent in bringing the Good News of Jesus Christ to the natives of the area. Consequently, the first Church in Quezon City was built here in San Francisco del Monte.”
The Franciscans are requesting Senator Lapid to just please choose another street instead to name Mr. Poe after. The letter says that while FPJ turned the whole QC into his studio as he shot many of his movies in different areas of this city, there are many other streets here that are memorable to Da King or connected with him. “As we all know,” the letter suggests, “his family lived along Roosevelt Avenue.”