Agent X-44: James Bond of Philippine Cinema

The Legend of Tony Falcon: The Filipino Super Spy

The various movie posters of Tony Falcon, a.k.a. Agent X-44.

Exotic places, futuristic cars, world-destroying villains, dangerously seductive women, Walther PPK, multi-functional pens and wrist-watches, and a glass of Martini (shaken, not stirred). All of these are well associated with the very famous British spy whose code name is 007. “The name is Bond, James Bond” is his usual often-imitated introduction. Who would not want to be like James Bond?

Well gentlemen, let us not ignore the likelihood of getting shot at, captured, tortured, electrocuted, poisoned, and erotically seduced-to-death. I wonder if any gentleman would still consider taking his role. I also wonder who will enjoy the benefits of his insurance policy just in case.

The United States of America also has its ‘Bond’ counterparts: Jason Borne, Jack Ryan, and Ethan Hunt; and the most recent addition to the British super spy tradition Harry Hart. Oh, let us not forget Austin Powers and Johnny English. And one more: Tony Falcon. Tony who? Tony Falcon, you don’t know him? No pressure. Allow me to introduce him to you. Please?

Bond works for the 00 Section of MI6 with the Licence to Kill, while Falcon works for the X-Division of the NBI (National Bureau of Investigation). James usually wears tuxedos or coats whenever he goes to formal gatherings, Tony on the other hand wore White coat, white dress shirt, White pants, and White dress shoes (that function as oxygen inhaler). He perpetually wore this outfit everywhere – attending a formal or informal gathering; seducing women or even fighting villains. And by the way, the outfit was dirt-proof and tear-proof.

James Bond made 24 films since 1962 (not including the non-canonical movie titles) and Tony Falcon already made 15 films from 1965 to 1980 and another one in 2007; even though the last one was a comical re-invention let’s still include it on the list.

The role was originally played by actor Tony Ferrer, whose real name is Antonio Laxa. He was born on 12 June 1934. He turned 83 just few days before this article got published. He is still regarded as the James Bond of the Philippines. He won a FAMAS (equivalent of the Oscars or the BFI) Award Best Actor for his performance as X-44 in the movie Sabotage (1966). You can say that it’s more fun being a secret agent in the Philippines! Mr. Ferrer admitted that he was grateful for the role that catapulted him to stardom.

The actor himself commented:

“It’s because of Tony Falcon that I became very popular with the public, let’s face it, I’m not as handsome as the other matinee idols of the ‘60s, but because I’m Agent X-44, girls got attracted to me. I thought of wearing all white suits in these movies and they became my trademark.”

Other attempts had been made to match or rather capitalise on James Bond’s profitability domestically. There was Dolphy’s ‘Dolphinger’ (Goldfinger rip-off), Chiquito’s ‘James Bondat’ (original Filipino word is ‘bundat’ which means fat-belly), and Weng Weng’s ‘For Your Height Only’ (For Your Eyes Only rip-off). Such play with words. None of these ‘spoof’ rip-offs reached the speed and height of the Falcon.

In 2006, James Bond was transformed into a life-like assassin. So dark, rough, and gritty that people got bewildered by Daniel Craig’s characterisation. I love the upgrade actually. It was a disruption in the long tradition of James Bond’s cavalier image.

Similarly, an effort was made to re-introduce to the new generation the famous agent from NBI’s X division in 2007. Tony Falcon was no longer the gritty-witty modern hero I saw when I was a kid. Mr. Falcon, however, this time was not emulating James Bond but someone else. I don’t think it’s Austin Powers, or Johnny English, or even Maxwell Smart? Those gentlemen are still far better agents. The film trailer reveals it all.

My earliest memories of X-44 were the afternoon Filipino classic movies during weekdays. I was able to watch them randomly. I still haven’t watched the other Falcon movies. Perhaps my favourite was Ang Agila at Ang Falcon (The Eagle and The Falcon) shown in 1980.

Maybe, just maybe – the reason why any typical man wanted to be James Bond or Tony Falcon, is not about the chase, the thrill, the girls, or the gadgetries. It is saving the world from omnicidal maniacs plus the chase, the thrill, the girls, and the gadgetries.

So who do you think will be the next James Bond?

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