The Classic Vilma Santos Movies

1. RELASYON (1982) – “Vilma Santos represents womanhood in the film…Santos portrays a mistress who is an out-and-out martir. She serves De Leon hand and foot, ministering to his every need, including fetching beer for him, washing his clothes, serving as his shoulder to cry on, even baby-sitting his child. In return, all she gets from De Leon is chauvinistic love, void of tenderness, full of immature aggressiveness… Vilma Santos’ acting is adequate and extraordinary…” – Isagani Cruz, Parade 01 July 1982.

“Vilma Santos confidently showed she felt the character she was portraying. Her depiction of feelings and emotions easily involve the viewers to share in her conflicts and joys. In this film, she has peeled-off apprehensions in her acting. Christopher de Leon has also been supportive in emphasizing the characterization of Marilou. He suitably complements Vilma’s acting.” – Lawrence delos Trinos, Star Monthly 10 July 1982

”VILMA SANTOS holds the first ace on acting this year with her terrific performance in Relasyon – the range is wide, the insight deep, hardly a false note in the entire performance – she was always in control, even when she seemed totally lost in her role…basta magaling si Vilma, tapos!“ – Ador Cs Tariman

FACTS: Vilma Santos’s first best actress grand slam win.
FICTION: Vilma Santos’ wins can be attributed to her connection to Imelda Marcos. (That’s absurd.)


2. BURLESK QUEEN (1977) – “…naiiba ang Burlesk Queen, kahit ikumpara sa mga naunang trabaho ni Celso at sa iba pang direktor na nagtangkang tumalakay sa paksang ito. Matagal-tagal na rin namang nauso ang kaputahan sa pelikula, pero walang nakapagbigay ng katarungan sa lahi ni Eba bilang Pilipina at bilang puta… para kay Celso…ang tao ay hindi basta maghuhubad at magtatalik. Maraming pangyayari sa buhay ang dapat munang linawin at unawain, at iyon ang basehan ng kasaysayan.” – Jun Cruz Reyes, MPP, Manila magazine Dec 1977

“(about the hospital scense with Vilma and Leopoldo Salcedo) Tuloy-tuloy ‘yun. nag-experiment ako noong una, kumuha ako ng second take, pero di ko na rin tinapos. Perfect na iyong una. Alam mo bang nang gawin namin ang eksenang iyon tatlo kaming umiiyak sa set? Ako, si Vilma, at si Leopoldo? Dalang-dala si Leopoldo sa pagsasalita ni Vilma, lumuha siya kahit patay siya dapat doon. Buti na lang di siya nakuha ng kamera…(Kung Nahirapan ka ba kay Vilma?) …Oo, hindi sa acting dahil mahusay talaga siya kundi sa scheduling. Alam mo kasi it takes time before I can really get into the mood of a picture, mga two weeks, tapos kapag nandiyan na, that’s the stage when I’m ready to give my life to the project. Tapos biglang walang shooting ng two weeks dahil busy siya sa ibang pelikula…” – Ricardo Lee, Manila magazine Dec. 1977

FACTS: The film won 10 out of 13 Awards at the 1977 Metro Manila film festival including Best Actress for Vilma Santos.
FICTION: All of the awards that’s been given to the film has been given back due to the investigation that the verdict were rigged. (Up to this date, Vilma still has her medal and award.)


3. RUBIA SERVIOS (1978) – “The second rape scene in “Rubia Servios” which stars Vilma Santos, is reminiscent of the rape scene in “Santiago”, shown in 1970. Instead of Caridad Sanchez as the wife who is assaulted in full view of husband Mario O’Hara, it has Vilma Santos and Mat Ranillo III. This coincidence is not surprising since Brocka also directed Santiago, and O’Hara, who has since graduated from supporting roles, is the scriptwriter for “Rubia Servios”. Vilma does not expose much skin and Philip Salvador (as the attacker) has his pants on, but the scene could well be one of the most realistic rape scenes on screen in a long, long time. The anguish in Vilma’s face and the lust in philip’s eyes blended so well the effect was dramatic rather than sensual. The real climax of the film, however, is the killing of Philip by Vilma with a paddle aboard a motorboat at sea. Lino Brocka, who directs Vilma for the first time, succeeded in muffling her sobs even in the most hysterical moments. To our mind, “Rubia Servios” is geared towards mature audiences. It is engrossing despite the lack of fancy camera shots and an almost chronological presentation.” – Ricky Lo

FACTS: Vilma Santos lost The Best Performer Award in this 1978 Metro Manila Film Festival to rival Nora Aunor. Admittedly, this was the most painful lost she experienced in her whole career. With its “For Adults Only rating” in consideration, the film still managed to end up as one of the Festival’s top grosser.
FICTION: Vilma committed suicide after her lost, luckily Manay Ichu, her Rubia Servios producer came and rescued her. (Both Manay Ichu and Vilma managed to get drunk but Vilma did not commit suicide.)


4. DOLZURA CORTEZ (1993) Dahil Mahal Kita (Because I Love You): The Dolzura Cortez Story 1994, This Philippine drama chronicles the colorful life of Dolzura Cortez, the first publicly recognized AIDS patient in the Philippines. The film begins with a brief examination of Cortez’s pre-AIDS life. Initially she lived in a small village with her cruel husband and three kids. The spunky woman leaves them and moves to the big city where she engages in several affairs. Her second marriage to a rich foreigner does not last long. To support her children, Dolly begins an all woman “contract worker” agency. This also serves to facilitate her love of night-life. Tragedy comes to Dolzura after she collapses on a dance floor one night and learns that she has full-blown AIDS. At a Manila hospital she meets ex-lover Paulo, an AIDS researcher who encourages to tell her story publicly. The courageous woman does and she becomes instrumental in spreading AIDS awareness to the islands. – Sandra Brennan, The New York Times

“Still bearing activist weight is Vilma’s effort in Laurice Guillen’s Dahil Mahal Kita: The Dolzura Cortez Story in which she fleshes out a body and a mind for a person with AIDS. This initiative constitutes an advocacy not only for people afflicted with the dreaded pandemic, but also for women who have to overcome strata of ostracism in the process of survival and resist their being reduced to an aberration, in this case, a pathology.” – Patrick Flores, Manila Standard Today Jan 11, 2003

FACTS: Vilma Santos’ earned her 2nd Best Actress grand slam wins.
FICTION: Dolzura Cortez wanted Nora Aunor to play herself in this film. Aunor declined. (No. No. No. That’s the most ridiculous thing I have ever heard – Simon Cowell from AI)


5. PAHIRAM NG ISANG UMAGA (1989) – “…a striking part of the movie (was when), Juliet watching intently as morticians work on her father’s remains, as everyone weeps when the coffin is lowered to its final resting place, and during the ritualistic pasiyam, the nine-day novena for the dead. It’s as though Juliet can see herself in her father’s lifeless body while mourners mill around it. The attempts to raise the level of the melodrama and present insights on life and death provide the movie its greatest strength – and wide appeal. How strangely ironic that a movie dealing with death could have so much life.” – Mario Hernando, Malaya 05 March 1989

“…Vi goes to the kitchen to prepare breakfast at habang nagbabati siya ng itlog, doon pa lang ipinakitang una siyang nag-breakdown. And this is shown nang nakatalikod siya sa camera. No overly ornate kind of emoting na akting na akting ang dating. Pero damang-dama mo pa rin…she becomes the part (lalo na sa eksena nila ni Gabby Concepcion sa simbahan na binalikan nila kung paano sila nagkasira), and if you notice that she is good, well, salamat po…Sa second viewing ng movie namin lalong napansin ang subtle nuances ng performance ni Vi, up to her death scene which confirms our supposition that the movie is not really so much about death than a celebration of life..’yan ang opinion namin…” – Mario Bautista

FACTS: Vilma Santos won her first PMPC Star Awards Best Actress.
FICTION: Mario Bautista fought hard to make sure Nora Aunor won the Star Awards. (It was actually the opposite!)


6. LIPAD, DARNA, LIPAD (1973) – “the quintessential actionfantasy Pinoy flick that appeals to all ages, from generation to generation. This movie is a major milestone for Vilma because it proved that she could really carry a solo movie and bring in the dough (up to now of course!). Vilma’s Darna franchise is the most memorable and successful of all Pinoy fantasy-action genre. Imitated but never equalled, Vilma’s Darna lives on. Unforgettable. Memorable. It grows on you. No Pinoy kid ever grows up without being a part of the Darna magic. Vilma, practically flew at the top of the box office in Sine Pilipino’s trend setting trilogy “Lipad, Darna, Lipad!” Many fans consider Lipad, Darna, Lipad, as one of the most entertaining Darna movies ever. After all, who could forget that climactic aerial battle scene between Darna and the Impakta (Gloria Romero)? That shot of Romero impaled in a giant crucifix ensconced on top of a church tops any gory scene in The Omen. The enormous success of Lipad, Darna, Lipad led to three more Darna movies with Vilma Santos. As a result, the star for all seasons became the star for all Darnas—Santos played her four times, more than any other actress in the superheroine’s history. “Lipad, Darna, Lipad!” were divided into three separate segments, directed by three different directors. In Darna’s case, the three directors were Maning Borlaza, Joey Goesiengfao, and Elwood Perez—three names that promised an adventure that could do Andy Warhol proud.” – Eric Cueto

FACTS: Lipad Darna Lipad broke all box office records and made Vilma as the most successful Darna to date.
FICTION: Vilma was immediately wanted to wear the two-piece sexy Darna cutomes. (Vilma wore skin coloured suit on top of the Darna custom but after some people who works for TIIP and her entourage convinced her that it looks tacky, she agreed to wear the custom without it.)


7. ANAK (2000) – “Living complex emotions with subtlety and humor, pic resists melodrama until the dam abruptly burst after 90 minutes; ill judged pileup of crying scenes, plot crises and more crying ensues…That’s too bad, since early reels observe parent-child relationships with considerable delicacy… veteran local star Santos is in fine form, while barretto lends impressive shading to what might have been a stock sexy “bad girl” role…” -Dennis Harvey, Variety Magazine 19 March 2001

“The slick production is turned into art by its star Vilma Santos. Her magnetic star quality makes her look so wrong for the part and yet she makes it all her own. She’s a natural comedianne and a great tragedienne-her look of resignation is heartbreaking. Vilma discards the glittering clothes and make-up for Anak, but she still looks youthful. It wouldn’t come as a surprise if the sensitive young actor playing her son would go on to play her leading man a few years from now.” – Dennis Ladaw

FACTS: Official Philippine Entry to the 73rd Academy Awards Best Foreign Film. Anak grosses 14 Million Pesos, a record breaking for a Filipino film!
FICTION: Vilma can’t portray a poverty stricken maid or “atsay” role, that role only suited Nora! (Tell that to the marines!)


8. SISTER STELLA L. (1984) – “…For a heart-warming film, the entire cast deserves congratulations, particularly Vilma Santos who reveals another aspect of her multi-faceted talent. From her usual soft and sweet romantic roles, she can be transformed into a strong and militant woman without losing any of her charm and beauty. Jay Ilagan, Tony Santos, Anita Linda and Liza Lorena are also in their best form. Mike de Leon as director, Jose F. Lacaba as scriptwriter are likewise to be congratulated for making a truly human film and for contributing to the cause of workers for justice and of the religious for the recognition of their social role. Not to be overlooked is the producer Lily Monteverde of Regal Films who has this time shifted from puerile erotic dramas to make a courageous film for which she will always be well remembered.” – Alice G. Guillermo, Who Magazine 30 May 1984

“…De Leon’s film was to have had special screenings, on the unanimous request of the Cannes’ board of critics. Sister Stella L., however, suffered from the rush of subtitling work that descended upon Cannes’ select group of translators and De Leon opted not to show the film without subtitles. He nevertheless had the distinct honor of holding a retrospective under the sponsorship of the French Cinematheque right after the festival. The film eventually competed at the Venice Film Festival. Under its original title Sangandaan (Crossroads), Sister Stella L. was invited to the Venice Film Festival in 1984, the second Filipino film (after Genghis Khan in 1951) to be honored with such recognition.” – Agustin L. Sotto, Pet Cleto, Philippine Panorama 02 December 1984

FACTS: Vilma Santos admittedly confessed SSL was a flop at the box office.
FICTION: Vilma was overshadowed by the supporting cast of this film. (The Urian critics disagreed! They gave Vilma, her third consecutive best actress! Hah! Beat that!)


9. DEKADA 70 (2002) – “Santos’ Amanda effortlessly and movingly chronicles the changed consciousness of the family and the country, with understatement her most reliable tool. Pic begins and ends with images of Santos at the forefront of a political demonstration, and nothing, from first image to last, for 128 minutes, is allowed to spontaneously or slyly deviate from the logic of her consciousness-raising.” – Ronnie Scheib, Variety Magazine “Last seen in ANAK (SFIAAFF ‘01), Vilma Santos delivers an understated, profoundly moving performance as the matriarch whose awakening redefines the traditional mother and wife role she donned for years. This is the story of an incredible character that survived an unforgettable decade.” – Michael Magnaye, The 22nd San Fransisco Asian-American Film Festival 2004

“As Amanda, Vilma Santos shows again why Brocka, before he died, had likened her to water. “She can register anything,” he said. In “Dekada”, its the same Santos of vigor and transparency. The only difference is the depth, the resonance, and the greater confidence. Can she ever go wrong?” – Lito B. Zulueta, Philippine Daily Inquirer 30 December 2002

FACTS: Vilma Santos’ 4th Grand Slam wins for Best Actresses. The film was exhibited in last year’s “Cinema of the world” section at Cannes. Philippines’ Official Entry at the 76th Academy Awards Best Foreign Language Film. Vilma’s 4th Grandslam Best Actress wins.
FICTION: Dekasa 70 was written by Lualhati Bautista for Nora Aunor.


10. BATA BATA PAANO KA GINAWA? (1998) “Sa tingin ko, sa Bata, Bata… pinakamagaling si Vilma Santos. Sa dami ng kanyang award, may ibubuga pa pala siya. Iba ang akting niya rito…Halatang feel na feel ni Vilma Santos ang kanyang papel dahil, gaya ng karakter ni Lea Bustamante, dalawa ang anak ni Vilma sa magkaibang lalake.” – Marra Pl. Lanot, Diario Uno 16 Sept. 1998

”And Vilma Santosis more than up to the challenge. Gone are the hysterically flapping hands, the melodramatic emoting, all the trademark acting tics. In their place is a heartfelt performance that distills Lea’s essence to an exquisite point-no movements are wasted, no gestures are overwrought. …Vilma rolls them on her tongue like the finest wine; when Lea is on the verge of breaking down, Vilma remains true to the spirit of her character… If the Lipa City mayor decides never to do another movie again, she can retire assured that her last performance-in a career already studded with formidable portrayals-may conceivably have been her best.” – Andrew E. Pardes, Manila Times 13 Sept 1998

FACT: Opening gross was 5.2 million pesos. Another record breaking for Vilma. The film earned her a third grandslam best actress wins and her very first international recognition, winning the Brussel International film festival’s best actress award.
FICTION: The film was offered to Nora Aunor

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