Known professionally as Cesar Montano, Cesar Manhilot, fondly called by his nickname Buboy, was born and raised in Sta. Ana, Manila, Philippines, but traces his roots to the Manhilots of Baclayon, in the island province of Bohol in Central Visayas, Philippines. He is the fifth of seven children born to a lawyer and his 7th day Adventist wife. Montano says discipline was the hallmark of his childhood, his father he describes as a strict disciplinarian, and his mother imposing the religious prohibitions of “no pork” and “no movies”.
Montano went to the Sta. Ana Elementary School, and finished Engineering at the Lyceum. It was well known that he was good at drawing and would have become a painter, if not a singer, if he hadn’t become an actor.
Montano was first married to Marilyn Polinga, a fellow Boholano he met at the Seventh Day Adventist Church. Their two children, Angela and Angelo, grew up with her when they separated as a couple. When she died of a brain tumor in 1993, the children moved back with him. His other son, Caloy Diego, lives with his mother, Filipino actress Teresa Loyzaga, in Australia.
He is currently married to Philippine actress Sunshine Cruz with whom he has two daughters, Angeline Isabelle and Samantha Angeline.
The acting bug bit Montano when he was in his senior year in college in 1984, and soon enough, he was taking acting workshops with the likes of Joel Lamangan and Imee Marcos, and landed the role of elevator boy in “Estremenggoles.” TV and movie roles quickly followed: “Agos” with Gretchen Barretto, the Pinoy Thriller, “Regal Shocker”, and the “Maricel Soriano Drama Special”.
Montano’s passion for acting was first seen in Dulaang UP’s stage productions. He was an active member of University of the Philippines or UP Playwright under the direction of Tony Mabesa.
ACHIEVEMENTS IN SHOWBIZ
- Jose Rizal (1998) – played Jose Rizal; film won 13 awards (1999)
- Muro Ami (1999) – won 13 awards at the 1999 Metro Manila Film Festival
- Panaghoy sa Suba (2004) – Montano’s directorial debut; won several awards, including best actor and best director for Montano; also screened at international film festivals
In 2005, American film director and screenwriter John Dahl cast Montano in The Great Raid after taking notice of Montano’s performance in the movie Muro Ami. He played Juan Pajota in the Miramax Films set in Cabanatuan City, Nueva Ecija, Philippines in 1945 towards the end of WWII. The director was impressed with the bald look Cesar sported in “Muro Ami”. In addition, his intense performance in Marilou Diaz-Abaya’s film was a determining factor for his being chosen to play Captain Pajota. Only a few Filipino actors have penetrated the international film scene and enjoyed equal exposure with foreign stars.
On May 19, 2005, Cesar Montano was sworn in as United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization or UNESCO Philippine commissioner for culture and the arts. This came as a surprise to most Filipinos because he is better known for his award-winning roles in critically acclaimed movies Rizal, Muro Ami than his principles and beliefs. Little is known of his tireless and thankless efforts to “promote” his home province, Bohol, where he and his family always spend Christmas. Whenever he can, Montano makes sure to put in a good word about this little paradise in central Philippines that there’s hardly a Filipino who doesn’t know yet of his Boholano heritage. His vocal support for Bohol and the preservation of its heritage and environment, he says, may have earned him the nomination to the UNESCO. But he did not seek the honor. Montano believes there is something to be proud of in every part of the country-the lovely landscape or delicacies or exotic catch from the sea. According to him:”Kahit hindi nila ako gawing ambassador, promoting Bohol is my heart’s desire. With my appointment, makakatulong ako to get sponsors for our projects from the products that I endorse.”