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Director Celso Ad. Castillo, 69, dies of heart attack

The director as he appears in Gorio Vicuna's upcoming documentary 'Celso Ad. Castillo'.

Director Celso Ad. Castillo died of heart attack early Monday morning in his hometown of Siniloan, Laguna, where he was born 69 years ago. He was brought to Pakil General Hospital at around 3AM where he was declared dead on arrival.

The news was confirmed by his brother John.

The son of a lawyer and writer, Atty. Dominador Castillo, and his wife Marta Adolfo, Castillo graduated from the Manuel L. Quezon University in 1964 with a Bachelor of Arts degree in English Literature.

Castillo started as a komiks writer. With his father’s help, he published his own magazine where he wrote all the stories, using different pen names. A movie producer then asked him to write a James Bond parody movie, which was followed by a sequel.

Two years after his college graduation, he wrote and directed his first movie, “Misyong Mapanganib”. His first significant film came in 1971 — “Asedillo”, starring Fernando Poe, Jr. as a 1920s bandit anted by the American colonial government.

Once considered “the enfant terrible of Philippine cinema”, Castillo went on to release 64 films, with at least two unfinished ones and his first digital film “Bahay ng Lagim” currently in post-production.

Colleague Peque Gallaga and the late Lino Brocka once hailed him as “the greatest Filipino filmmaker this generation has produced”.

The enigmatic director, writer, and actor created some of the greatest and most unforgettable films in Philippine cinema in a career spanning more than five decades.

Covering genres as varied as action, horror, drama, comedy, fantasy and even soft porn, he made the classics “Ang Pinakamagandang Hayop Sa Balat Ng Lupa”, “Asedillo”, “Patayin Mo Sa Sindak Si Barbara”, “Nympha”, “Pagputi Ng Uwak, Pag-itim ng Tagak”, “Paradise Inn”, “Virgin People” and “Burlesk Queen”.

His last known finished work was the made-for-TV movie “Medical Center”, starring Denise Laurel, Ara Mina, Zoren Legaspi and Ryan Eigenmann.

Castillo’s death came at a time of renewed activity for the director once known for a prolific output. He was about to launch his fifth book “Celso Ad Castillo: An Autobiography and His Craft” which he described in a November 17 interview with InterAksyon — possibly his last media interview — as a “a journey of an artist”.

“Actually, it’s more than just a journey, it’s an adventure. It’s a trek into an eerie man’s mind in the real world and in the insanity of a make believe one. Are you ready for that?” Castillo said as a challenge to readers in a recent interview with InterAksyon.

“How does a total novato enter a tough business like the movie business and reach the top of the line? A director and his film must become one so that there will be total unison in pursuing the dramatic conclusion of a film masterpiece,” he declared.

The autobiography also contains colorful details of some key events  in his life, such as the year he coverted to the Muslim faith and was renamed Arif Amiruddin bin Abdullah.

A documentary on Castillo’s life and career by filmmaker Gorio Vicuna is scheduled to be launched soon.

Castillo was one of 12 veteran filmmakers recently chosen by the Film Development Council of the Philippines to take part in its Sineng Pambansa: Master Directors Film Festival scheduled for 2013.

As an actor, he was last seen in the 2011 TV dramas “Reputasyon” on ABS-CBN and “Babaeng Hampaslupa” on TV5.