Remembering Cherie Gil: A Beloved Mother, Aunt, and The Country’s Primera Contravida

Cherie Gil, known as one of the country’s top antagonists, died on Friday, August 5, at 59.

On Friday, August 5, actress Cherie Gil passed away at the age of 59. Her nephew, actor Sid Lucero, confirmed the news to Lhar Santiago of GMA News. Sid is the son of Cherie’s late brother Mark Gil. He posted a throwback photo with the caption: “I love you;) big hug:) #bugluv.”

On Sunday, August 7, Cherie’s family, which includes her older brother Michael de Mesa, formally announced her passing. She battled cancer.

On Battling Cancer

“Cherie was diagnosed with a rare form of endometrial cancer in October of last year after deciding to relocate to New York City to be closer to her children. She then underwent treatment at the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center of New York,” the family said.

⁣”It was her request that her diagnosis be kept private. And as a family, we supported her in this decision. Cherie fought bravely against her illness, with grace and strength. Despite her struggles, she always managed to exude courage and never lost her trademark sass, wit, and infectious humor, or her larger-than-life personality. She spent her last days surrounded by family and loved ones.⁣”

“While we are deeply saddened by our loss and still mourning her passing, we are incredibly moved by the outpouring of love and support for her and our family; evidence of just how many lives Cherie touched.”

Cherie Gil’s Showbiz Resume

Born Evangeline Rose Gil Eigenmann, Cherie is the youngest child of actors Eddie Mesa and Rosemarie Gil. She has two brothers who are both actors as well – Michael de Mesa and Mark Gil, who died in 2014. In a documentary called Habambuhay: Remembering Philippine Cinema, Cherie recalled how she and her brothers grew up in showbiz.

After her father returned to the Philippines in the 70s, Cherie’s dad asked her to sing with him during a concert. It was there that Vic del Rosario, head of Viva Entertainment, saw her and asked her dad about signing her up for a single. The song “I Love You, Boy” was released in 1977.

Cherie later ventured into films. One of her first movies was Problem Child, which she mentioned was a life-changing film for her. She did Manila By Night as well — directed by Ishmael Bernal. Moreover, she did a sitcom, Champoy, and later took part in one of Peque Gallaga’s most popular films — Oro, Plata, Mata.

The Country’s Primera Contravida

However, it was her role as Lavinia Arguelles opposite Sharon Cuneta in the movie Bituin Walang Ningning that cemented her status as one of the country’s top contravidas of all time. The line, “You are nothing but a second-rate trying hard copycat,” became part of Philippine cinema’s iconic movie lines.

cherie gil

Taking a Break and Making a Comeback

Cherie took an 11-year break to raise her family in the US. After her break, she returned with the drama Sugatang Puso. Additionally, she filmed more movies including playing the daughter of Valentina called Valentine in Darna Ang Pagbabalik!

This was followed by more television and movie projects. Some of her projects include Dolce Amore, Marina, and Pieta. One of Cherie’s last projects was Legal Wives before she packed up and returned to the US.

In between TV and movie projects, Cherie performed in theater and appeared in plays such as Nine, Fully Gallop, and Angels in America.

Cherie even got to meet no less than Meryl Streep in Germany as part of the cast of Lav Diaz’s Hele sa Hiwagang Hapis. The movie won the Alfred Bauer Award at the Berlin Film Festival in 2016.

On top of everything, she founded her own production company My Own Mann Production, and produced Sonata. She won the Best Actress for her role in Sonata at the ASEAN Film Festival. Cherie got her Gawad Urian for the movie Citizen Jake as well.

Cherie Gil on Giving Back

At the height of the pandemic, Cherie taught a master class in acting online. She also spoke at various seminars about her experience as an actress. In addition, she was involved in the organization Hineleban Foundation that John and Renee Perrine established. Furthermore, Cherie Gil has been active in a number of advocacy work on the environment, climate change, and food security in the country.

In one of her last interviews, Cherie spoke to Boy Abunda about the importance of loving the craft and how her family played in her upbringing. She added that the pandemic has made her realize her time with her children.

“I think the bottom line is each day I wake up. the first thing I look up on my phone is if I have received a phone or text from my children. In the end, the strongest force in me and the strongest energy in me is being a mother.”

The Importance of Family

Cherie has three children. She has a son, Jay, from her relationship with actor Leo Martinez and two children with husband Rony Rogoff – Bianca and Raphael.

In her interview with MEGA Magazine early this year, Cherie spoke about the decision to go back to New York. “I just had to make sure that first and foremost, my mental, emotional, and spiritual states were getting the priority. I was getting tired of myself. And I was just so angry and unhappy. So I sold everything and packed up.”

Unknown to many, Cherie was already battling cancer. However, the family kept quiet about it upon her request.

An Industry in Mourning

Following the announcement of Cherie Gil’s passing, many of her co-workers remembered her through photos and videos on social media.

Sharon Cuneta

Sharon Cuneta, who co-starred with Cherie in Bituin Walang Ningning, wrote a long message.

“I leave New York now with a much heavier heart than ever before because now I am leaving YOU with the knowledge that I will NEVER see you again,” Sharon wrote. “I cannot process it. It seems so unfair. It will never be the same without you. I will never be the same without you. I told you that you had to fight, please, because you couldn’t leave me and that you were my partner, that there is no one like you.”

“My heart is in pieces again and now I dunno how to put it back together anymore because among the many loved ones I have lost these past few years, you were & always will be one of my most loved, a most important part of my life and my history.”

Gabby Eigenmann

Cherie’s nephew Gabby Eigemann shared photos of her and his dad Mark Gil. “Posting these pics is so hard. You guys are together again. I love you with all my heart. Thank you, Lord, for sharing them with us. I love you Tita.”

Joel Torre and Liza Soberano

Joel Torre, who starred alongside Cherie in Oro, Plata, Mata wrote on Facebook: “To Life, Our Dear Cherie. For Love is Far Stronger Than Death. We Love You.”

Liza Soberano, who starred with Cherie in Dolce Amore, wrote of her Mama Luciana: “Had the honor and privilege of working side by side with one of the industry’s greatest @macherieamour. Will forever be guided by your lessons and philosophies in acting and in life. You left us way too soon but your art and soul will remain with us forever. Thank you. May you rest in eternal peace.”

Andi Eigenmann

Andi Eigenmann wrote of her aunt: “You were there in most if not all of my life’s milestones. But my favorite was being with you here during my first time on this magical island. Wouldn’t have it any other way.”

For all of her contributions to the industry. Cherie Gil will definitely be missed by many.

Check out more stories on Modern Parenting:

Live Long and Prosper, Nichelle Nichols: Star Trek’s Trailblazer

Gloria Sevilla: The Queen of Visayan Movies

Susan Roces: Queen of Philippine Movies

Shop for Modern Parenting's print issues through these platforms.
Download this month's Modern Parenting magazine digital copy from:
Subscribe via [email protected]