The camp of Gov. Vilma Santos credits movie journalist JC Nigado for giving the actress-turned-politician the tag Star for All Seasons. For the longest time — since the early ’70s, rival Nora Aunor was called Superstar. In 1986, Sharon Cuneta was built up as the Megastar and yet Vilma remained untitled.
In 1988, when Vilma marked her 25th year in show business in a PICC extravaganza put up by GMA 7 with the help of Chit Guerrero for her weekly variety show, Vilma!, Nigado wrote a series of articles where he called her Star for All Seasons. Other titles were coined for other stars after that, but only a few managed to maintain those titles and Vilma is undeniably one of them.
Tonight, after Charo Santos’ Maalaala Mo Kaya, ABS-CBN will start airing a five-part special called Vilma: A Woman for All Seasons, which will trace the various facets of her life and career as an actress (the only one with four grand-slam wins), as a TV host and dancer (her Vilma! show on GMA 7 that ran for nine years was the best-produced — without question), as a wife and mother (the first time she is showing her new home in Alabang — a must-see on Aug. 15) and as a public servant (her image as Lipa mayor first and now Batangas governor is untainted). For the final episode on Aug. 29, son Luis Manzano will show viewers some of the behind-the-scenes in the making of their movie All My Life, which will be shown by Star Cinema in September.
I had a reunion with Vilma recently and we both agreed that the title Woman/Star for All Seasons is so apt for her because she had been through all the seasons of life round and round. Together, we sat down to trace the various seasons of her life.
Happiest seasons – “When I gave birth to my son Luis/Lucky — lucky talaga siya.”
“When I evolved as an actress and, modesty aside, started getting those grand-slam awards.” “When I was given a second chance at marriage. Imagine, si Ralph (her husband, NEDA chief Recto), binata and he inherited an instant family.”
“When I gave birth to my other son, Ryan and he grew up to be a healthy boy,” she still sighs with relief now. “That was a difficult pregnancy that made me stay in bed for months.” The truth is, practically the whole nation prayed for her successful delivery and we are all happy that Ryan has turned into a bright and intelligent teenager.
Saddest seasons – “When I discovered in the late ‘70s that financially I was negative P16-M.” This was due to failed investments and mismanagement, particularly of her movie production outfit, VS Films. “The interest of the bank loans I made, I didn’t realize I had already accumulated — from P2-M, it swelled to P7-M. When I woke up one day, wala na akong ari-arian. All my assets were frozen because I also had problems with the BIR.” To her credit, she slaved it out to be able to recover and pay her bank debts. She did films left and right, but she never enjoyed her talent fees from those blockbusters because all these went straight to the bank and to the BIR. For her upkeep (she had to eat, too, of course and maintain a staff), she accepted the offer to do the BBC-2 variety show V.I.P. (Vilma in Person) that aired live Sundays. Looking back, that contributed to the failure of her first marriage (to Edu Manzano) because she had to sacrifice her Sundays, which was supposed to be family day.
“Also sad was the passing away of my father in 1986.” Even local showbiz mourned the death of Amado Santos because he was a good man and was missed by all.
Frustrating seasons – “When my first marriage failed. But God is good. He gave me another chance — and may bonus pa na another son.”
“When my career went down in the late ‘70s and for that I only blame myself because those were the years I was being unprofessional. For example, there was this Christmas presentation I was supposed to do and I fled to Baguio. I did not show up on the set.” Now, I really salute her because it takes a big person to admit that mistake when she could have passed on the blame on other people and even the system. But that’s Vilma Santos.
Rebellious seasons – “When I put my personal life and happiness over my career. Height ng katigasan ng ulo ko ‘yun. I was doing five to six movies a year and maybe na-burn out din ako. I was looking for independence. I wanted my freedom.” She says that her rebellious years happened when she was between 24 to 27 years old. Actually, if you ask me, she started rebelling late. She must have really been up to here to rebel at that point of her life.
Scariest seasons – “If you want me to panic and get scared, tell me that one of my family members is ill. If one of my children is sick, I don’t work — I don’t even sleep. I stay beside my child all the time.” I witnessed that myself when Luis got sick (was it dengue?) before he reached his teens. Nothing and nobody could make Vilma get out of the hospital room (maybe not even an earthquake) because she wanted to stay with her first-born all throughout the ordeal. No tapings, no shoots. If only for that, she should have been awarded best mother of the year. “Even with Ryan now, kaunting lagnat lang, I take his temperature every hour — until he gets annoyed with me na. Ha! Ha! Ha!”
Most romantic seasons – “All seasons,” she says, letting out a hearty laughter.
People have extolled Vilma Santos as a great performer and politician. But has anyone cited her for being witty, too? – Butch Francisco, The Star, Aug 1, 2009