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The Mystique of Rico Yan:
The Wholesome Kid as an Icon

by: Sen. Blas F. Ople

Some guest had to be turned away at the gates of La Salle Greenhills where the body of Rico Yan lay in state. In any case, one would have to stand in line, and await one's turn to view the remains of the young actor who was buried on Thursday, April 4. My grand daughter Anna, from St. Paul's in Pasig, was one of those who joined the interminable queues. She folded her savings of PhP 1, 000 into an envelope to donate to the Rico Yan Foundation and asked me for a matching check as my donation. I signed a personal check for PhP 2, 000 as my share.

The Rico Yan funeral far exceeded the size of the crowd that accompanied the hearse of actress Nida Blanca. The event also completely overshadowed the news about the death of the two national artist for music, Lucio San Pedro and Levi Celerio, a point belabored by the morning radio commentators of GMA 7, alluding the one-sided coverage of the day's obituaries in favor of Rico Yan, putting the blame for this on the rival channel, ABS-CBN.

I never met Rico Yan and as a rule, I pass over the entertainment news as a minor distraction in a busy life. But I must admit that the death of Rico touched a chord in my aging skeptical heart.

It is evident that a youth cult has formed around Rico Yan, the dimpled young man who died on Good Friday in his rented cottage at the Dos Palmas resort in Palawan. The dimples graced the soft lines of a very handsome face. The police ruled out foul play and the autopsy did not support speculations that he had taken an overdose of the drug, Ecstasy. The medics said that he died of pancreatitis or, to put it in more popular term, "bangungot." On the romantic angle, some people said he died of a broken heart because of the break-up of his relationship with the young actress Claudine Barretto. But I saw on TV an interview of Claudine who says that their lover's quarrel had been settled even before Rico flew off to the Palawan resort for the Lenten holidays. These are the ingredients of a tale that appealed to a large audience of young and old alike, but especially to Rico's thousands of fans in the country's student population.

Rico Yan did not go out of his way to cultivate his popularity. But the tragedy of his passing at so youthful an age and the legend of his many good works for the under priviledged youth combined to make him a model-- an icon-- at a time when the new generation is accused of failing morals and indifference to the traditional Filipino values. Rico had once turned down a great career opportunity, the premier role in a movie casting him as a drug addict because this might set a bad example for the youth.

To this massive wave of sympathy, his family properly responded by establishing a foundation in his name to pursue his passion for the under priviledged Filipino youth. His elder brother Bobby has offered to act the role of Rico's "messenger" through the Rico Yan Youth Foundation. And why not? Rico Yan embodied the symbol of the wholesome kid, one who refused the temptations of the age, and one who never exploited the power of celebrity. There was a time not too long ago when another young man out of Cuba, Che Guevarra, attracted a youth cult around the world, for dying as he did in the wilderness of Columbia, a hunted man fighting for his Marxist vision.

The mystique of Rico Yan owes nothing to ideology. He was a victim of his own destiny as we all are in our own turn. He is the wholesome kid, the good boy as an icon of his own generation. We don't have to fathom the mystique of Rico Yan or of the cult it has evoked. It has a validity of its own, and as my grand daughter Anna argues, if we want to encourage wholesomeness and idealism in the Filipino youth, why not send your penny's worth to the Rico Yan Youth Foundation?


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