Siya nga ba ang tunay na SSL?

When Ate Vi accepted the 2005 Gawad Plaridel last year, on her speech, she said: “”Nilangaw po ang pelikula ko” referring her film, Sister Stella L competing to a forgettable commercial film by Sharon Cuneta in mid 80s pero sa kabila ng kamalasan sa takilya nasuklian naman ito ng mga papuri na hanggang sa ngayon ay ikikunsidera ang SSL na isa sa pinaka-klasikong pelikula sa kasaysayan ng pelikulang tagalog. Ipinagmamalaki ni Ate Vi ang pelikulang ito. Narito ang ilang “facts: tungkol kay SSL. Sa ibaba, numbero 10 ay sasagutin natin kung sino ba talaga si SSL.

1. Ang SSL ay lumaban nuong 1985 sa Venice Film Festival.

2. Kung ang pangalan ng karakter ni Vilma Santos sa pelikula’y Sister Stella Legaspi ang pangalan naman ng karakter ni Jay Ilagan na katambal niya ay Nick Fajardo. Nanalo si Jay Ilagan bilang pangunahing aktor sa URIAN nuon 1984 para sa SSL.

3. Ang linyang: “katarungan para kay Ka Dencio!” referred to the character played by Tony Santos Sr. Oo, siya rin ang direktor ni Ate Vi sa kanyang tv show nuon na “D’Sensations.” Nanalo si Tony Santos Sr ng Best Supporting Actor sa Famas at Urian para sa pelikulang ito.

4. Ang linyang: “bakit hindi ka gumaya sa akin… nagmumura, nagpapabuntis!!!” ay mula sa papel ni Gina Alajar. Natalo si Gina Alajar sa kanyang papel sa SSL kay Laurice Guillen na gumanap na madreng kasa-kasama ni SSL bilang pangalawang aktress sa URIAN nuong 1984.

5. Sampung tropeyo ang napanalunan ng SSL sa Gawad Urian nuong 1984.

6. Regal Films recently released SSL in DVD/VCD format. The on-line price for SSL is on the average 15 US. dollars.

7. Dalawang pelikula ang pinanlaban ni Nora Aunor nuong taong 1984 sa Urian, ang “Bulaklak ng City Jail” at “Merika”, walang nakuhang kahit isang tropeyo ang mga pelikulang ito.

8. Vilma Santos portrayed another role as a nun in Eddie Garcia’s last directorial job in Viva films’ Immortal opposite Christorpher DeLeon.

9. UP’s 1st Diwata Awards was given to four women, Vilma Santos was one of them, UP cited SSL as one of her remarkable contribution to film history.

10. Ngunit sino ba talaga si SSL? According to this article SSL was based on the life of Sister Coni Ledesma.

KASAMA Newspaper (Vol. 12 No. 2 April–May–June 1998) – Solidarity Philippines Australia Network (Frank Cimatu of Norther Dispatch) interviewed Coni Ledesma and Luis Jalandoni during their visit to Baguio City this year. The following is a compilation from two articles that appeared in NORDIS on May 16, 1998

She is known by many in the Left as Sister Stella L. but Coni Ledesma brushed this innuendo aside. “I have not even seen the movie,” Ledesma said of the popular and influential Mike de Leon movie about the rites of passage of a militant nun played by Vilma Santos.

“I met with Pete Lacaba (the movie’s script writer) and he didn’t tell me about it,” she said. “All I know is that it was a composite of different nuns. I can not take the solo credit.”

If “Sister Stella L” was wholly based on former Sister Coni L’s life, the storyline would have been far more radical, literally and figuratively. Ledesma was already an activist nun during the turbulent end of the 1960s. She was a founding member of Christians for National Liberation, the underground organization for subversive priests and nuns.

In August 1972, Ledesma was captured and detained for almost a year. She was released with the intercession of the Catholic bishops and the National Council of Churches in the Philippines.

In 1976, she began international work for the National Democratic Front. In the same year, she married Louis Jalandoni, himself a former Catholic priest before becoming one of the leaders of the NDF. The couple, who had their 25th wedding anniversary last month, were married by Jaime Cardinal Sin. They migrated to the Netherlands and were the first Filipinos to be granted political asylum in that country. They have a 22-year-old son, Jose, who is now taking up law at the University of Amsterdam.

Ledesma is now a member of the NDF negotiating panel and a member of the reciprocal working committee for human rights and international humanitarian law. She is also the international representative of Makibaka, an underground feminist organization. She recalls with fondness the “language restructuring” they’ve been having with the government panel which insists on not giving the NDF an equal stature even in the field of semantics.

Ledesma said the government was so extra careful in setting aside the NDF’s “status of belligerency” that the NDF panel had to exhaust their thesaurus to come to terms with them. Instead of “prisoners of war”, for example, the NDF had to come up with “persons deprived of their liberty for reasons of armed conflict”. The “white flag of truce” was replaced by “flag of peaceful intentions”, even if the flag remains white, Ledesma said. “Ceasefire” is now “suspension of military operations” and the “oppressed masses” is the “toiling masses”.

Ledesma said it was their first time to really come back to the Philippines except for that very brief stint in 1986 with the failed talks between the government and the NDF. The couple had been going around the country giving talks and speaking with the so-called “toiling masses”.

She said Filipinos have become politically mature. “Malakas ang revolutionary movement (The revolutionary movement is strong). I observed the political maturity in all sectors. They know their rights and they have a clear grasp of the basic issues,” she said. However, she said the economic poverty is deplorable. The Jalandonis went back to their native Negros where both families belong to the landed rich.

“I talked to the sacadas (sugar workers). Their condition was terrible. They get paid ten pesos a day and yet they can not even get hold of that money. They are instead issued receipts to buy at the company store. It’s back to the 1960s,” Ledesma said.

“The urban poor in Negros are in turmoil. It is in a situation where the call for change can not but grow kasi galit na yung mga tao (because the people are already angry),” she said.

Ledesma had already met with President-in-waiting Joseph Estrada with regards to the resumption of the peace talks. She has the same apprehension as her husband that the “Erap Para Sa Mahirap (Erap for the Masses)” may be put aside. “His first meeting was with the businessmen. He should have talked with the peasants. Ang dami nilang (They have so many) struggles. Pakinggan naman sana niya sila (I hope he listens to them).”

Ledesma said she is looking forward to the 100th year of Philippine independence on June 12. “It is a hundred years of struggle against colonialism and imperialism. It is a legacy that has been passed on to us. The struggle for true freedom rests on us,” she said.

Ledesma’s husband, NDF leader Luis Jalandoni said he is optimistic the peace talks will go on with president-in-waiting Joseph Estrada. But as for now, Jalandoni said Estrada is not as receptive as they wanted him to be.

The NDF is also concerned with Estrada’s statement that he is committed to embrace President Fidel Ramos’ economic policies particularly towards globalization and liberalization. Jalandoni, who spoke last Wednesday at the University of the Philippines College in Baguio, said this may affect the forging of a permanent peace agreement between the government and the NDF. Jalandoni said among Estrada’s first statements were the favouring of a hero’s burial for former strongman Ferdinand Marcos and the exoneration of the charges against his first lady Imelda Marcos.

Jalandoni also said the Mining Act of 1995 should be reconsidered by the Estrada administration. He said about ten million hectares of Philippine land have been applied for by foreign mining corporations for mining exploration and mineral production. He said the NDF’s position is for indigenous people’s rights yet these lands are covered by applications mostly of foreign mining corporations.

Jalandoni also said the mutual cessation of hostilities has not been followed by the government. He cited the flagrant violations made by the government such as the launching of a military offensive in Calinan, Davao City by the Army’s 73rd Infantry Battalion against the New People’s Army on May 2. Five NPA members were killed as well as a civilian in the attack. The next day, the same battalion attacked and killed four NPA men in Marilog District also in Davao City. – Frank Cimatu/Northern CP

11. According to Regal Films web-site: Sister Stella L is the award-winning masterpiece by Mike de Leon. It’s about a nun, Sister Stella Legaspi (played by Vilma Santos), who becomes involved in labor strikes after learning about the government’s neglect of the poor and the working class. Her sworn duty to fight for the poor and the oppressed turns personal when her journalist friend Nick Fajardo (played by Jay Ilagan) is tortured and the union leader Dencio (played by Tony Santos) is kidnapped and killed. What follows is her eye-opening and tear-jerking battle against cruelty and injustice. This film is one of the most memorable roles for Vilma Santos. She is excellent in her portrayal of the resilient nun. – Regal Films

12. From another web-site: Sister Stella L is a nun who acts as a counselor in a home for unwed mother undergoes political awakening when her friend and namesake belonging to the same congregation as hers inspires her to get involved in the struggle for justice and freedom of striking workers in a cooking oil company. – Geocities

13. The complete cast of Sister Stella L are: Vilma Santos, Jay Ilagan, Gina Alajar, Laurice Guillen, Tony Santos, Anita Linda, Liza Lorena, Ruben Rustia, Eddie Infante, Adul de Leon, Rody Vera.

14. SSL has bee exhibited in several American universities which include UCLA, here’s the proof:

Lectures and Screenings by Nicanor G. Tiongson, Film Dept., University of the Philippines

Session 6. Screening: Sister Stella L., 1984; Mike de Leon, Director -Discussion: Allegories of Resistance Sunday, May 12, 2002, 6:00 PM – 9:00 PM 2534 Melnitz Hall, UCLA Campus, Los Angeles, CA Source:

Another article mentioning about the real SSL: Nuns from the Sisters of Good Shepherd are calling for President Arroyo’s resignation following issues that continued to hound her administration. The Sisters of Good Shepherd were conducting their provincial assembly Nov. 12 to 14 when the bomb attack at the Batasan Pambansa Complex that killed four people including Basilan Rep. Wahab Akbar occurred.

The incident prompted them to hold discussions on the country’s situation and decided to craft and sign a declaration asking President Arroyo to resign. “Moral bankruptcy of the government na parang wala na siyang karapatang mag-lead sa mamamayang Pilipino lalo na ang ating gubyerno ay hindi na natin maasahan na sila pa talaga ang nai-involve sa mga bribery, graft and corruption,” said Sr. Maureen Catabian, Chairperson of the W-JPIC, Sisters of Good Shepherds, Philippines. (Moral bankruptcy of the government that says that she no longer has a right to lead the Filipino people especially that we can no longer rely on the government which is involved in bribery, graft and corruption). Reports said the nuns of the Sisters of Good Shepherds were active participants against martial law during the 70’s.

The nun portrayed by actress and now Batangas Gov. Vilma Santos in the movie “Sister Stella L” was the story of Sister Christine Tan and Connie Ledesma of Good Shepherd. In the light of the divided opinion of the Catholic Church on the issue, some priests still admired the sisters’ bravery for the declaration. “Sana magkaisa ang simbahan doon sa pag-condemn o pag-denounce doon sa moral bankruptcy (We hope that the church would unite to condemn or denounce moral bankruptcy),” Sister Catabian said. The nuns were also shocked with Mrs. Arroyo’s statement during the Association of Southeast Asian Nations Summit condemning the violation of human rights in connection with the military junta in Myanmar.

“Tingnan niya muna ang sariling bakuran sa Pilipinas na ano ba ang ginagawa doon sa mga sunod-sunod na issue [na] mga scandals and scams iyung extrajudicial killings di ba na internationally na-condemn na tayo ng community. Pinapaalam na sa gobyerno natin na hindi tama iyung nangyayari pero parang hindi ganoon kasigasig iyung gubyerno para tutukan ito,” added Sister Catabian. (She should look at her own backyard Philippines on what is being done on the successive issues of scandals and scams, extrajudicial killings which have been condemned by the international community. The government was being put on notice that what was happening was not right but the government seems not intent on focusing on these.) – Source: “Nuns call for Arroyo’s resignation” ABS-CBN Interactive 11/23/2007