BAGUIO CITY, Philippines--In a used clothes stall at the Bayanihan Hotel, the "ground zero" of ukay-ukay (used clothes) here, Hazel Bantilan was listening to a radio broadcast on Sunday afternoon announcing that young actor Marky Cielo was dead.
"Haan nga agpaypayso. Awan confirmation (This is not true. There's no confirmation yet)," she said.
After getting another ukay-ukay stall owner to confirm the news, Bantilan cried.
"He is a good boy. Right after he won as Starstruck [ultimate] survivor, he texted some of us to thank us," she said.
"We worked hard for him. He is a relative of one of us so we did a text barrage. And now he's gone," Bantilan said.
Mark Angelo Cadaweng Cielo, 20, became a model for Cordillerans when he joined the reality contest Starstruck, a search for fresh talents mounted by television network GMA-7.
Although he grew up in Butuan City after his birth in 1988, he and his family returned to Mt. Province in 2001. He was fluent in Bisaya as well as in Kankanaey.
Most owners of ukay-ukay stalls in Baguio came from Mt. Province and they helped mobilize Cordillerans to vote for Cielo during his Starstruck run.
Members of the Cordillera organization Bibak (Benguet, Ifugao, Bontoc (Mt. Province), Apayao, Kalinga and Abra) in other countries also helped Cielo win the contest.
Cielo's account at the social networking website Facebook had a handful messages on his death from his more than 770 friends on Sunday.
"`Nak (Son), we will miss you. We will miss you," said Cecilia Roxas' message.
Butch Guerrero, a writer connected with the University of the Philippines' Creative Writing Center and an observer of pop culture, said Cielo was an essential part of the regional consciousness.
"He is a katutubo (native) and proud of it. In a lot of reality shows, we see people liking contestants who are mean and rough and rude. Marky is the opposite. I was so happy when he won. He is a confirmation that good values still do matter," Guerrero said.
Cielo's Facebook "shout" remains: "Tnx po sa mga fans ko (Thanks to my fans)."