Wow! Ang Bigat! 2/2

UP honors Vilma Santos with Gawad Plaridel – She was unforgettable as Burlesk Queen, as Sister Stella L and as Dolzura Cortez. On Monday, however, she was Vilma Santos, the artist. “Ako po pala ay nakapag-ambag na sa industriya,” said Rosa Vilma Santos as she accepted the Gawad Plaridel, a citation given by the University of the Philippines to media practitioners who excel in their profession.

The award was named after Filipino propagandist Marcelo del Pilar who used the pen name Plaridel. “Paulit-ulit ko pong binasa ang citation,” Santos said. She is the first artist to receive the award for her contribution to the movie industry. In her lecture on the relevance of the film industry on society, Santos said actors can be role models through the various roles they play. She said she was able to internalize her role in the movie “Sister Stella L.,” a story of a nun who became an activist during the martial law years. “Totoong-totoo ‘yong sinabi ko sa Sister Stella L. na ngayon hindi na lang ako nanonood. Nakikisama na ako at tumutulong sa abot ng aking makakaya,” Santos said. She called on the public to support the local film industry. Santos, who acted in over 200 movies, said she owes her success to the film industry. She is now mayor of Lipa City in Batangas and is supporting the movie business by lowering the amusement tax in Lipa from 30 percent to 15 percent. She started her career when she was nine years old in the movie “Trudis Liit.” She, however, said the turning point came when she did “Burlesk Queen” when she was 23 years old. It was a tough decision, she said. She used to attend a school run by nuns. But it was a good choice, she said. “Ang pelikula pong ito ang nagpamulat sa akin sa maraming bagay,” she said. “Burlesk Queen,” shown in 1970, was a social commentary of the country’s patriarchal society.

Santos movie career, however, was not always happy endings. “Sister Stella L.,” for instance, did not rake in profits compared to the movies of Sharon Cuneta during those days. “Nilangaw po ang pelikula ko,” Santos said, adding that she cried over the box-office flop. It was worth the gamble, however. The movie is now considered a classic. Acting is an endless process of learning, Santos said. Despite the many awards she got she always remembers that she still needs to learn a lot. During the shooting of the movie “Relasyon,” director Ishmael Bernal told her: “Tanggalin ang ilusyon sa iyong sarili.” He ordered her to jog inside the toilet for ten minutes to internalize her role. Santos said she is grateful to the directors who megged her most unforgettable films. She thanked directors Lino Brocka, Ishmael Bernal, Mike de Leon, Laurice Guillen, among other. Among the films that made marks in her acting career were: “Relasyon,” “Broken Marriage,” “Sister Stella L,” “The Dolzura Cortez Story,” “Anak,” and “Bata, Bata, Paano Ka Ginawa?” Bravo Ate Vi! – Vanessa Bago

Recognizing Vilma Santos, thespian and nationalist – She is the grieving mother of sons to the struggle, linking arms and manning the front lines of a peaceful revolt. She is the mistress demanding the dignity deserving of a wife, a friend and a woman. She is the nun preaching the gospel of liberation against a dictatorship. She is the stripper dancing in tears as she lets go a love and a life never meant for one such as her. She is the single mom struggling to keep her wits amid domestic, financial and romantic dilemmas. She is the overseas worker facing down AIDS and its inevitable consequences. And she is Darna, a superhero fighting the giants, saving Ding and flying off to the stars.

Burlesk Queen, Relasyon, Sinasamba Kita, Sister Stella L, Imortal, Dahil Mahal Kita: Dolzura Cortez Story, Bata, Bata . . . Paano Ka Ginawa?, Dekada ’70, not to mention Darna at Ding are just some of her countless films. Vilma Santos is all these and more. From the every woman to the other woman, she elevates every role as worthy of a superstar and every character as deserving of precise and passionate acting. She braves patriarchal traditions and murderous dictatorships to play burlesque dancers, mistresses and activist nuns. “She gambles her popularity to widen her scope as an actress,” proclaims Dr. Nicanor Tiongson, Dean of the College of Mass Communication of the University of the Philippines (UP). He adds, “She proves popularity and ratings need not degrade the craft.” For that and more, Vilma Santos wins the 2005 UP Gawad Plaridel Award.

Santos received the award designed by National Artist for Sculpture Napoleon Abueva on July 4 in ceremonies at the Cine Adarna, UP Film Institute. Besides speeches, renditions of original movie soundtracks from Santos’s best loved films, as well as an insightful audiovisual presentation directed by Jun Austria, regaled audiences comprised of students, entertainment industry luminaries and fans who packed the venue. The Gawad Plaridel is an annual award to honor the exemplary media practitioners of the highest professional integrity in the interest of public service. Adopting the pen name of propagandist and La Solidaridad publisher Marcelo H. del Pilar, the award recognizes those who, like del Pilar, use the media to advocate libertine principles. Newspaper publisher Eugenia Apostol is the award’s first recipient. Now Vilma Santos joins the highly esteemed ranks of nationalist media professionals.

Beyond celebrity – She won despite being a star. Bookish and unglamorous academics instinctively scornful of celebrities and politicians bowed to her stellar performance as thespian, woman, politician, and yes, superstar. Dr. Sergio Cao, chancellor of UP Diliman confessed being a star-struck fan, “I had to nebulize before coming here; I couldn’t breath.” He later thrilled to busing her on the cheek. Nevertheless, Cao sermonized, “Star power is real power. It is the power to move people to tears, to make them cry and laugh and urge them to by with endorsements. It is to make them think what you want them to think, to make them feel what you feel. They should use it wisely, make people do good and aspire for better lives.”

The Gawad Plaridel validated that Santos has done just that. Her multifaceted portrayals of strong independent women have inspired those she has mirrored. Her portrayals of antidictatorship advocates have immortalized unsung heroes of the movement for generations to come. Her fearless gambles at parlaying her celebrity to triumph at portraying the most challenging of roles have set the mark for generations of actors. Vilma Santos is a class act, not by any accident of pedigree, but rather by the brilliance of her artistry and the strength of her convictions. Santos herself credits her success to “nonstop learning.” She remembers basking in the glow of a grand slam win at every major award-giving body for best actress with the movie Burlesk Queen. On her next movie with director Ishmael Bernal, she recalls a humbling experience she remembers to this day: “I took seven takes just for the first scene on the first day. I wasn’t focused. Bernal trapped me in the toilet and ordered me to jog in place to work off many illusions from my grand slam win.” The Gawad Plaridel recognizes Santos as a consummate thespian and nationalist. In an industry marred by dubious awards, it is the academe that remains the unimpeachable judges of exceptional talent and principle.

Tough times – Vilma Santos, ever fearless, used her time at the podium not only to thank the industry and her supporters for her awards; she enumerated specific problems besetting the local cinema and television industry, and more importantly, specified solutions for the current crisis. The problems include the huge entertainment taxes imposed by government; digital video piracy; the lack of spending power of the masses; competition from foreign films that open on the same time as local films; and foreign television drama series that producers find cheaper to import instead producing ones locally. Santos proposes reducing taxes on films and television productions to bring down costs; better scripts and original stories that are distinct from foreign counterparts; lower talent fees for superstars—”Show me the script and we’ll talk about the talent fee,” Santos dares independent filmmakers; and Sen. Ralph Recto, Santos’s husband, passed a law that offers 10- to 50-percent tax rebates on film of worth and quality as adjudged by the Film Rating Board. “We can still overcome,” Santos rallies the Gawad Plaridel audiences. From superstars such as her to the new crop of independent filmmakers now with immortal lines from Sister Stella L. “Kung hindi tayo kikilos, sino? Kung hindi ngayon, kalian pa?” – Rome Jorge

Vilma Santos: Plaridel Awardee 2005 – The UP Gawad Plaridel Awards 2005 is the only award in the University of the Philippines bestowed to outstanding media practitioners. It honors Filipino media practitioners in print, film, radio, television and new media, who have excelled and performed with the highest professional integrity and in the interest of public service. National Artist Napoleon Abueva conceptualized and molded the Plaridel trophy showing Marcelo H. del Pilar (the crusading journalist and editor of the vernacular section of Diariong Tagalog, the first Philippine bilingual newspaper, and the La Solidaridad, the reformist newspaper), which will be given to the awardee plus P100,000. Last year’s awardee was editor and publisher Mrs. Eugenia Duran-Apostol. This year, a film practitioner was to be distinguished among our many outstanding film practitioners.

Vilma Santos was declared the Plaridel awardee for 2005. The actress, now mayor of Lipa City, has received 65 awards from different award-giving bodies including the best actress in the Brussels International Film Festival in 1999, 10 awards from FAMAS, and another 10 best actress Urian awards from the Manunuri ng Pelikulang Pilipino. The other awards are from FAP, the Manila Film Festival, the Metro Manila Film Festival, Star Awards, Catholic Mass Media Awards, CineManila International Film Festival and many others. Her first film, Trudis Liit, garnered for her the best child actress plum 41 years ago, and the rest is “herstory.” She declared that she was very nervous the day she received it. The award, she thought, was so prestigious that it carried with it a lot of responsibilities. But it seems Vilma Santos is used to handling responsibilities. Aside from being an active movie personality, she takes her tasks as city mayor of Lipa seriously.

Sen. Ralph Recto attended the awarding like a proud husband would, attentive in the front row of the theater beside Vilma’s mother as UP President Emerlinda Roman, UP Diliman Chancellor Sergio Cao and Dean Nicanor Tiongson bestowed the Plaridel Award 2005 to Ms. Vilma Santos. President Roman, in her message, said “Because of her dedication to her craft and her portrayal of roles important to women and society, Ms. Santos deserves recognition not only from the viewing public, but also from the academic community.” UP Diliman Chancellor Cao said that he was starstruck and that it was the first time he had seen Vilma in person, adding, “More importantly, Ms. Santos has used her status as celebrity to pursue public service. As mayor of Lipa City, she has proven that art and politics do not exist in separate plains. She has shown us that women artists can transform society in more ways than one.” College of Mass Communications Dean Nicanor Tiongson said, “Traditionally, the academe has always kept a discreet distance from show business and for good reason. For one, academics have always emphasized critical thinking and professional integrity, both of which seem to be rare commodities in a movie world obsessed with instant gold and glamour. For another, the popularity of a movie star, to be sure an unwanted legacy from Hollywood, has been used by producers to cover up for a multitude their cinematic sins. Stardom is not a sin in itself. In the hands of film actors who are sincerely committed to their art, popularity can be harnessed to uplift the standards of the whole film industry. In choosing Vilma Santos as the UP Gawad Plaridel Awardee for Film, the College of Mass Communications would like to offer to film and media industries incontrovertible and living proof that popularity and ratings need not lead to the degradation of media tastes and standards.”

After receiving her trophy, Vilma Santos delivered her Plaridel lecture. She shared her experiences in the industry that she truly loves and expressed her concern for the high taxes on film, dwindling audiences of Filipino films, piracy and the strong competition from foreign films. She spoke to a very attentive audience. The Cine Adarna of the UP Film Institute, which can seat almost a thousand people, was SRO. Ms. Santos has over 200 movies to her name. Some of the more notable ones are: Burlesk Queen, Pagputi ng Uwak, Pag-itim ng Tagak, Ikaw ay Akin, Rubia Servios, Broken Marriage, Relasyon, Sister Stella L, Dahil Mahal Kita, Bata Bata Paano Ka Ginawa, Anak and Dekada 70. Many recognize the value of this “Star for All Seasons.”Writer Lualhati Bautista says, “As an actress Vilma gets into the character she is playing, goes through her experiences and pain.” Feminist Mara Lanot says that, “In all the roles Vilma has played in her films and real life, she chose for herself and got what she wanted, and these characters are strong.” Scriptwriter Ricky Lee explains that “Vilma, by embodying the different images of the Filipina as victim and fighter in the span of three decades, has consistently molded the image of the woman and society that moves forward.” Another writer, Pete Lacaba, admires Vilma for her fearless portrayal of Sister Stella L during martial law years when it could have affected her career and her personal life at the time, and also for courageously using her clout as a big star in the movies to perform roles that are different.

Vilma has worked with many of our reputable directors. Chito Rono sees her as a consummate actor who brings brilliance to her performances, saying, “Sometimes an ordinary role becomes a diamond when she portrays the role.” Maryo de los Reyes says, “As an artist, she has nurtured an aesthetic refinement and has continuously searched for the beauty and the enhancement of her craft. She has maintained her ‘pagiging tao,’ being ‘makatao’ and ‘pakikipagkapwa-tao’ all these years.” Critic Bien Lumbera calls her an “auteur,” one who leaves the mark of her personality in the roles she plays. In her performances, he adds, she manages to bring her audience together with her character’s experiences and ways of looking at things. Another critic, Butch Francisco, explains that, “Vilma took a long time to be recognized as a serious actress. Through the collaborative efforts with top directors, she became one of the greatest actors of Philippine cinem. She tackles scripts with social issues and often times was experimental with her roles.” Producer Atty. Espiridion Laxa says Vilma “has reached this incomparable height of success because of several good traits: her discipline, her determination to excel in her acting profession and her knack for choosing the right roles.” Producer/actress Charo Santos-Concio speaks of her as a “passionate thespian, her filmography boasts of a list of films that are audacious, artistic, classic and socially relevant. Inevitably, she has brought to the limelight ordinary people with extraordinary lives and has created awareness of various socio-political issues.”

Her frequent leading man in her films, Christopher de Leon, has good words to say about her, too: “Vilma Santos is not a selfish actor. For example, if I have a scene that is really meant for me, she will make me shine; she is a very gracious actor. ” He explains that the brilliant performances of the actors who interact with her are evident in her films. To Vilma, congratulations! – Philippine Daily Tribune, July 07 2005 Global Vilmanians

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