What’s Love Got To Do With It – Isang Gabi Tatlong Reyna

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One rainy Friday night in August, 1990, all roads led to the Metropolitan Theater where the top-rating and the most awarded musical-variety TV show VILMA! would air one of its most-watched episodes, ever.

Vilma Santos, who would turn 37 that year, was on cloud nine.  She was the toast of the town, in both movies and television.   Her Lino Brocka directed movie, “Hahamakin Lahat” was a commercial and critical success.  Come hell or high water (there was a tropical storm), fans queued at the SRO theaters and saw her out and out Cruella Deville role as Gabby Concepcion’s paramour.  Some like her bad.

Vilma, the versatile actress scored again.  Earlier, she won her first of six Star PMPC and her fourth Urian best actress awards for her ’best’ performance in years in Pahiram ng Isang Umaga, which was directed by Ishmael Bernal.  She also just finished Kapag Langit ang Humatol with Laurice Guillen at the helm. At the PMPC Star Awards for TV, Vilma’s show harvested the biggest awards. And on that particular rainy night at the jam packed Metropolitan Theater, Vilma Santos was paying tribute to a Movie Queen she loved dearly and who reciprocated that love. Amalia Fuentes was the special guest, who just turned 50.  Vilma! was giving her a tribute, with special appearances of former Sampaguita Productions ’stars.’

Everybody knew that despite the infamous Romeo Vasquez/Vilma Santos le-affair Amalia and Vilma remained the best of friends.  With a sincere, charismatic and humble La Vilma, who could resist her charm?  Yes, the original Taray Queen, forceful and outspoken former queen of Philippine movies, she with a strong personality but with the most beautiful face in Philippine cinema, acquiesced to her friend’s request to grace the most watched TV show.   Love begets love. Respect begets respect.  The retired and reclusive Amalia Fuentes could not say no to the current darling of Philippine movies.

To recall, the senior and junior movie queens appeared in these movies: Bulaklak at Paru-paro (1970), Mga Reynang Walang Trono(1976) and Asawa Ko, Huwag Mong Agawin (1986).   Amalia directed Vilma’s episode in Mga Reyna and agreed to second billing to Vilma in Asawa Ko.   No doubt about it, Amalia Muhlach Sumilang Fuentes, is a Vilmanian.  To seal their sisterhood and camaraderie, Vilma is Ninang to Liezl Martinez and to the latter’s son Alfonso.   Why, Liezl even sang a song ’’Wind Beneath My Wings’ to her surprised mother that night which drove the strong-willed and still beautiful Amalia to tears.  A Kodak moment, indeed.  Priceless! While interviewing the three Muhlach generations, Fuentes, Liezl and young daughter Aliyanna, Amalia revealed to Vilma that she is protective of her ’unica hija’ Liezl.  “Ay naku, I think I also have become like my Mom, I’m also very protective of my children,” Liezl remarks.

Ex-Sampaguita stars Luis Gonzales and German Moreno served as Vilma’s co-hosts who provided comic relief as they recalled their Sampaguita days with Amalia Fuentes.  Debonair Eddie Gutierrez also came to greet Amalia a Happy Birthday.  Then Daisy Romualdez, Amalia’s contemporary and best friend danced the mambo/cha-cha with dancing queen Vilma, along with Kuya Germs and Luis Gonzalez. “I messed up that dance number,” Daisy gamely confesses, “wala kasing practice.” On her friend Nena (Amalia), Daisy admires her colleague for being frank and outspoken like her. “Nagkasundo kami kaagad dahil pareho kaming prangka ni Nena, hindi kami plastik,” she bemuses.

The highlight of the evening was when Vilma introduced another special guest, the other Queen of Philippine movies, Amalia’s rival, Ms. Susan Roces. Radiant and regal in her Susan Roces hairdo and dark, glossy gown, Ms. Roces was polite and generous with her comments on her kumare-rival.  Vilma, obviously starstruck, throws a question to Susan: “What can you say about Ate Nena as being mataray and you Ate Susan as soft-spoken?”  Susan: “I’d like to make a correction Vi, Amalia is not mataray, she is just outspoken, pero nasa lugar, so there’s a difference there.”  Applause from the audience.  “Alam mo ba Vi na my mother dotes on Amalia dahil pareho silang prangka?  Sabi ng Mommy ko, iyang si Susan hindi pumaris kay Amalia, prangka at di iyakin.”

Amalia on Susan: “I want to be like Susan dahil she is so sweet and soft-spoken.  Doon nga sa weekly sessions namin, sabi ni Doctor Perez, why don’t you be like Susan, matiyaga sa fans, ikaw, sumakit lang ang ulo mo, ayaw mo nang harapin ang fans.” Guffaws and chuckles.  The conversation turns serious.  Vilma: “How did you handle the competition? Did the intrigues get in your way, affected you?”  Susan, smiling sweetly, with a politically correct comment: “Hindi naman. We were in the same movie company and we were treated fairly.  We’re like one big family.  In your case with Nora, and Gloria Romero and Nida Blanca, it’s different.  Magka-iba kayo ng movie companies.”  Vilma: “Ay ang sarap, sana, one of these days magksama rin kami ni Nora Aunor like this one, Ate Susan and Ate Nena, together.”

Amalia Fuentes, Susan Roces and Vilma Santos.  Isang Gabi, Tatlong Reyna. – Susan, a movie queen, honoring a rival-friend movie queen Amalia on her 50th. birthday.   Amalia confessed on the show and thanked Susan for throwing a surprise birthday party for her days before the Vilma show.  What’s love got to do with it?  In the case of Susan and Amalia, it’s love.  In the case of Vilma and Amalia, it’s also love. Diva to diva. Competitors can be friends.  May it also happen to Vilma Santos and Nora Aunor.  Rivals on the silver screen, friends for life.   A fter all, love conquers all.  It is more permanent than fleeting fame and fortune.  What’s Love Got To Do With It?  Isang Gabi Tatlong Reyna – Mario O. Garces, V Magazine