Whatever happened to the girl in Huling El Bimbo video? 2
Theater actress Wena Basco in the "Ang Huling El Bimbo" music video. (Right) With Eheads’ Buddy Zabala and Ely Buendia at the band's reunion concert in Ontario, Canada. Photo courtesy of Basco
Culture

'Paraluman' in Huling El Bimbo video met a sad end; actress who played her has a happier story

The actress who played the lady who looked like Paraluman recently had a reunion with her music video costars—and the memories came rushing back
RHIA GRANA | Jul 02 2023

She’s the girl who looks like Paraluman in the iconic music video for the Eraserheads classic “Ang Huling El Bimbo,” one of the most played Pinoy rock music videos on YouTube, with 37 million views. But while the lady’s story in the song ends in tragedy—“nasagasaan sa isang madilim na eskinita,” remember?—Wena Basco, the actress who played the heroine in the music video, has a happier story to tell: she toured the world as a theatre actress, eventually settled in Canada, and is now raising a family. 

The world never really got to know her after the video premiered in ‘96 but Wena resurfaced recently, showing up at the Ontario leg of the Huling El Bimbo US Tour. Local media picked up the story of her reuniting at the First Ontario Centre with the other stars of that beloved music video—Ely Buendia, Raimund Marasigan, Buddy Zabala and Marcus Adoro. The last time they all saw each other was during the shoot for “Ang Huling El Bimbo” 27 years ago. 

Wena sat down with ANCX one late evening in her side of the world (morning in Manila) to talk about that reunion, and her days with the Eheads in the 1990s. On the monitor, she was the picture of happiness and contentment, wearing almost the same hairstyle as the lady holding a plate in the music video. On her Zoom background is a crowd shot of the Huling El Bimbo concert. 

Wena Basco
Wena Basco and Ely Buendia dance the El Bimbo. Screengrab from the music video

Wena was young

Wena Basco, theater and film actress, was the manager of the UP Tropa Experimental Theater Company during her college days. The Eheads boys were a pretty significant part of her university life and she of theirs. As manager of UP Tropa, she worked with the band in their first theater performance experience.

“They were our band in a play called ‘Manhid,’ which was directed by Auraeus Solito,” Wena recalled. The Eheads wrote songs for the musical which included the modern kundiman, “Kailan,” which became part of the band’s sophomore album, Circus. The song was co-written by Solito and another UP Tropa member, Karing Evangelista. Marcus and Raimund joined the theater group for another play, also as band members.

In turn, the UP Tropa showed full support for the four young boys. “Bago pa sila sumikat, talagang sinusundan na sila ng grupo namin,” said Wena. “They would play here and there and we would watch their gigs after school.”

The band released what would become one their biggest hits in 1995, “Ang Huling El Bimbo,” and the following year, their recording company BMG Records (Pilipinas) Inc. decided to produce its music video. Ely tapped UP Tropa’s Solito to be its director (he would later direct the indie film “Ang Pagdadalaga ni Maximo Oliveros”). Since they all knew each other thru UP Tropa, Wena was cast as the video’s lead actress.

Wena Basco
Wena met a tragic end in the music video of "Ang Huling El Bimbo." Screengrab from the music video

The young girl in the video was one of Wena’s students at a PETA theater workshop she held at Smokey Mountain in Tondo, Manila. “Auraeus asked me if I knew a kid who looks like me,” Wena told ANCX. ‘I said, ‘Yes! In fact I do.’” One of the boys in the video was the little girl’s brother.

The shoot was at Solito’s house in Sampaloc, Manila and was done in two days. The director’s mother taught everyone how to dance the El Bimbo, which became popular in circa 1970s Manila. “Hindi naman mahirap ang dance. At hindi rin mahirap pasayawin ang Eraserheads,” Wena recalled. “Makikita mo naman sa video, Marcus was his usual kulit self. Raymund was fun. Ely was a bit serious.”

Everyone in the shoot had their creative contributions, Wena said. The full version of the video clocked in at almost 8 minutes. “Literal ang pagkakakuwento ni Ely sa story ng ‘Ang Huling El Bimbo’ but Auraeus layered the video with symbolisms, with metaphor,” shared Wena. “If you see the whole video, it begins with the Eraserheads on the roof. Kasi noong bata sila, they were on the roof, watching the girl, writing love notes to her. Then sa extro nung song, they remembered the girl kasi nabalitaan nila namatay siya. So they’re reliving her memory.”

Instead of showing the lead actress dying in a car mishap, the team decided to show her turning around using, well, a turntable. “It’s the circle of life,” said Wena. In the end, the girl is seen waving to the boys. “She was saying farewell to them, kaya huling El Bimbo.” 

Wena with Aureous Solito
Wena with the director of "Ang Huling El Bimbo music video," Auraeus Solito. Photo courtesy of Wena Basco

After the video

After the shoot in 1996, Wena became busy with her theater career, touring different countries with a French company. Eventually in 2010, she and her family decided to settle in Canada for good. Wena, who holds a degree in Psychology and has an MBA, is currently an NGO worker fighting for human rights, children's rights, children’s education, and healthcare in developing countries. 

The Eraserheads, on the other hand, established a music career of epic proportions and became one the country’s most important artists in Pinoy rock. They would disband in the early 2000s but would have a few reunion gigs, the biggest of which is the Huling El Bimbo concert now touring the world. Wena says she and the boys have not touched base since 1996, making their recent reunion one for the books.

Wena Basco with Buddy Zabala and Ely Buendia
“There was a feeling of warmth, surprise, and disbelief because of how long we have not seen each other,” says Wena of her her reunion with the Eheads. Photo courtesy of Wena Basco

The reunion

“The Eheads didn’t know that I was going,” Wena told us in the video call. But she was coordinating with her friend, former UP Tropa member and wife of Buddy, Earnest Mangulabnan Zabala. 

We asked Earnest what Wena was like in college. “Oh back then, I was in awe of her. When she was on stage, she was larger than life. Ang galing umarte. She really inhabits the role. At all-around siya cause she's also great with her work as one of the top officers ng UP Tropa.”

Shortly before the Ontario show, Wena and her two kids were backstage and that was how she first saw drummer Raimund and lead guitarist Marcus. “They were both shocked that we’re actually seeing each other after so many years,” Wena recalled. “We stared at each other and then we hugged.”

Later, she would also see Buddy, who she said is still the same Mr. Nice Guy she knew in college. “Before the show, he asked, ‘Kumain na ba kayo?’ and even offered us food.” She got to see and have a photo with the band frontman Ely right after the show. “There was a feeling of warmth, surprise, and disbelief because of how long we have not seen each other.”

The stadium was filled with 11,000 people. “As soon as the Eheads went out… hiyawan na,” Wena said. “The first three songs were fast songs so we were all dancing. Suddenly, I felt like I was back in university.”

Since the show producers knew Wena was coming to the concert, a montage of the “Ang Huling El Bimbo” music video appeared on a giant screen, a prelude to the theater actress’ special appearance. Then Buddy took the microphone and addressed the crowd: “You remember that in the MTV we were dancing with Paraluman?” The crowd gave a thunderous roar. “She’s actually here tonight. Her name is Wena Basco. Wena, where are you?”

The spotter scanned the stadium but it would take a while for it to find Wena. “The spotter was looking for a girl wearing red. I removed my red jacket because it was hot at the stadium, ang daming tao. It took them a full minute to find me,” Wena said, laughing.

When the spotlight finally found her, Wena took a bow theater-style and the crowd applauded. “Nakakatuwa the way she acknowledged it,” recalled Earnest. “It's as if she embraced everyone in the venue. Every inch the consummate stage actress that I remember from college.”

“It was my way of saying, ‘Thank you so much,” said Wena, clearly still reeling from that “El Bimbo” moment. “Because it was such a wonderful experience to have played that role.”