Filtered By: Lifestyle

Celebrities and personalities who passed away this year

2019 saw the passing of several business magnates, former and current government officials, artists, directors, and media workers.

As the year comes to a close, GMA News Online remembers them and the legacies they have left behind.

Henry Sy, Sr. (1924-2019)

The Philippines’ richest man and the founder of SM Group passed away on January 19.


The 94-year old business tycoon topped Forbes Magazine Philippines’ Richest List for eleven years straight. In 2018, he was ranked as the 52nd richest man in the world.

He was the chairman emeritus of SM Prime Holdings Inc., SM Development Corp., and Highlands Prime Inc., and BDO Unibank Inc. He was also an honorary chairman of China Banking Corp.

Joey “Pepe” Smith (1947-2019)


Known as the Pinoy rock legend, Smith died on January 28.

He was a former member of the seminal Pinoy rock group Juan dela Cruz Band. The group produced hits such as “Balong Malalim," "Beep Beep," "No Touch" and "Himig Natin."

Smith was 71 years old.

Armida Siguion-Reyna (1930-2019)

The former Movie and Television Review and Classification Board (MTRCB) chairperson passed away on February 11.

She served during former President Erap Estrada’s administration.

Siguion-Reyna was also a singer, TV actress and film producer. She is best known for her song “Aawitan Kita” which became a television program that ran for 30 years. The accomplished lady was 88 years old at the time of her death.

Nestor Espenilla Jr. (1958-2019)

The Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) governor Nestor Espenilla Jr. joined the Creator on February 23.

He was appointed to the position of BSP governor by President Rodrigo Duterte in 2017.

He also served as the ex-officio chair of the Anti-Money Laundering Council, Philippine International Convention Center, and the Financial Stability Coordination Council.

Espenilla held a bachelor’s degree in business economics (cum laude), an MBA from the University of the Philippines, and a masters degree in policy science from the Graduate Institute of Policy Science in Tokyo, Japan.

Maria Bulaklak Ausente (1987-2019)

The 32-year old former GMA field correspondent who hailed from Igbaras died on March 13.

Ausente is known for her brilliant storytelling and her passion for journalism. Even as she was confined in a wheelchair, she served the network as a news desk editor until early 2019.

In 2014, she wrote an award-winning essay about her trials and experiences after being diagnosed with chronic kidney disease.

Mark Joseph “Seph” Ubalde (1986-2019)

Ubalde was a former GMA News Online reporter who departed on April 1.


After he graduated from the University of the Philippines Diliman in 2007, he landed his first job as a news producer for GMA News Online. Three years later, he attended a media fellowship in Germany and subsequently worked for media non-profit VERA Files.

He then became the associate editor of a magazine, a weather anchor at TV-5’s Interaksyon, a content manager of News5Everywhere, and a social media consultant for the Presidential Communications Operations Office and the Department of Information and Communication and Technology. He was 33 years old.

Bienvenido Alejandro (1926-2019)


The co-founder of the beloved local stationery shop Papemelroti passed away on May 15.

According to his daughter Patricia Alejandro Paterno, he was a faithful, loving husband, a wonderful father, and a fun lolo. He was 92 years old.

Sr. Crescencia Lucero (1949-2019)

Lucero was a Franciscan sister and human rights activist who joined the Creator on May 15.

According to her colleagues in the Task Force Detainees of the Philippines (TFDP), she is the “Grand Dame” of the country’s human rights community.

Sr. Lucero also headed the Association of Major Religious Superiors in the Philippines' Justice and Peace and Integrity of Creation ministry. She was 77 years old.

Clinton Palanca (1974-2019)

A three-time Palanca Memorial award winner, Clinton Palanca passed away on May 30.


He was an award-winning author and one of the Philippine's premier food writers whose works have appeared in The New York Times, the Philippine Daily Inquirer and Esquire.

In his wife Lourdes Gordolan’s tribute, Palanca was described as a “husband, writer, kindred spirit, friend, chef, travel partner, creative soul, loving father, caring son.” He was 45 years old.

Eddie Garcia (1929-2019)

Veteran actor and director Eddie Garcia had been in the industry for about 70 years, since 1950, until his untimely death on June 20.


Garcia, who was well-known for his villain roles and appearances in action and comedy films, has won several awards. Perhaps the most notable one is the FAMAS (Filipino Academy of Movie Arts and Sciences Awards) Hall of Fame, where he was the first artist to win the Best Actor, Best Supporting Actor and Best Director awards.

Before he started his showbiz career, he served as a military policeman in Okinawa, Japan with the Philippine Scouts after World War II.

Miguel Bonalos (1999-2019)

Bonalos was a San Sebastian juniors basketball player who passed away on June 30.


He played for the Staglets in season 94 of the National Collegiate Athletic Association. He was 20 years old.

Gina Lopez (1953-2019)

The former Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) chief passed away on August 19.


She succumbed to multiple organ failure at Makati Medical Center after battling brain cancer.

Lopez was an anti-mining activist and environment advocate. Prior to her position as the Environment secretary in 2016, she participated in civic works and even became a yoga missionary.

In 2010, she was appointed as the chairperson of the Pasig River Rehabilitation Commission by former President Benigno Aquino III. She also led reforestation efforts of the La Mesa Watershed.

She was 65 years old.

Sari Yap (1962-2019)

Yap, who passed away on September 9, is fondly remembered as the founder of the first Pinoy-owned glossy fashion magazine Mega Magazine.


Yap graduated with a master’s degree in Spain with a sobresaliente cum laude thesis, and went on to establish the One Mega Group publishing house.

Tony Mabesa (1935-2019)

The veteran actor-director died on October 4 at 84 years old.


Mabesa worked on several plays and TV series such as “Haring Lear” and “The Rich Man’s Daughter”, among others.

In 2016, he received the Gawad Dangal ng Lahi, an award that recognized his prominence in the local performing arts scene, during the 66th Carlos Palanca Memorial Awards for Literature.

Carlos Celdran (1972-2019)

Cultural activist, performance artist and tour guide Celdran died on October 8.


He was known for his performance art-inspired tours around the Walled City of Intramuros. He also spoke critically of the Catholic Church’s stance against using contraceptives in the country.

In 2010, Celdran raised the ire of the Catholic Church by dressing up as national hero Jose Rizal while protesting at Manila Cathedral as he held up a sign that read “Damaso.” He was subsequently convicted for “offending religious feelings” by a Manila court, and was sentenced to spend two months to one year in jail. The decision was upheld by the Supreme Court.

Miguel Barretto (1937-2019)

The father of Gretchen, Marjorie and Claudine Barretto passed away on October 15.


We luv u Dad

A post shared by Claudine Barretto (@claubarretto) on

A week before his passing, the family was celebrating his 82nd birthday before he fell ill and was rushed to the hospital.

It was during the Barretto patriarch’s wake that a feud broke out between the Barretto siblings which they took to social media in the following weeks.

Aquilino “Nene” Pimentel, Jr. (1933-2019)

The former Senate President and the author of the landmark 1991 Local Government Code died on October 20.


As the then-Senate President in 2001, he voted to open the second envelope of evidence during former President Erap Estrada’s impeachment trial.

Pimentel had been a public servant for almost fifty years, from being a delegate of the 1971 Constitutional Convention to his latest stint as one of the members of the Consultative Committee (ConCom) to draft a new constitution based on a federal form of governance during the current administration.

John Gokongwei, Jr. (1926-2019)

The founder and chairman emeritus of JG Summit Holdings, Inc.
passed away on November 9.


He was also the chairman of the Gokongwei Brothers Foundation, Inc. (GBF).

His business interests included the airline, manufacturing, and petroleum industries, among others. In 2019, Gokongwei placed third in the Forbes Philippines Rich List with a net worth of $5.3 billion.

In 2017, he was recognized as the “Management Man of the Year” by the Management Association of the Philippines (MAP).

Jose “Pepe” Ong (1941-2019)

The chairman and co-founder of CDO Foodsphere Inc., a meat-processing company based in the Philippines, passed away on November 14.


The business tycoon was also one of the founders of the Philippine Association of Meat Processors Inc. (PAMPI). Prior to setting up CDO Foodsphere with his wife, Ong taught Biology at the Ateneo de Manila University.

Elizabeth Yu Gokongwei (1941-2019)

She was the widow of the late John Gokongwei Jr who passed away exactly a week after the late business tycoon’s death, on November 16.


She was a member of the GBF Board of Trustees, and the author of “My Angkong’s Noodles.”

Cesar Apolinario (1973-2019)

A respected and well-loved figure at the network, the GMA-7 reporter, host and director joined the Creator on December 13.


Apolinario was diagnosed with lymphoma earlier during the year.

He began at GMA Network as a cameraman-researcher. He briefly served as a TV reporter, before working on documentaries such as I-Witness, Brigada, and Born to Be Wild. He is best known for his work as a host for I-Juander.

He was 46 years old.

Miko Palanca (1978-2019)

Palanca passed away on December 9, his grieving family confirming his death the following day.


The actor had just recently starred in the teleseryes "Bagani" and "Nang Ngumiti Ang Langit.”

He also appeared in several movies such as “Bituing Walang Ningning” and “Dreamboy.” He was 41 years old.

—JCB, GMA News