The Campaign Against Vilma

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First the news, a voting member of the Philippine Movie Press Club (PMPC) reveals that some members of the group have reportedly approached Lorna Tolentino and Rudy Fernandez for the awards. When the controversy ove the best actress issue in tonight’s PMPC Star Awards started to rage early last month I opted to ignore it for two reasons. First, I thought it was petty, this business of comparing Vilma Santos’ acting (in Tagos ng Dugo) to Lorna Tolentino’s (in Maging Akin Ka Lamang). To begin with, how does one really measure acting? Second, the controversy was stirred by people behind the Star Awards so I figured it must have been a gimmick to drum up interest in the awards night, considering that the organizers had to sell the show. And what better way to do it than to fit two of the top contenders in the most popular and hotly contested category – best actress. Logically, those who thought up of building up Lorna’s chances at the expense of Vilma had made the right decision and got what they wanted. One only has to look at the media mileage that the constroversy had generated to realize how effective their strategy was. Had it been the other way around that is, had the Star Awards’ drumbeaters favored Vilma over Lorna – that is, would not have been as interesting. Or, it probably would not have been raised to the level of controversy that is had become. Let’s face it, Vilma is very much on top, and putting her at the forefront of the race is almost a froregone conclusion. So to stir up a hornets’ nest, so to speak, they had to put her down. And look what they’ve got: a potential hit show, thanks to Vilma. But granting that Lorna’s lobbyist in the Philippine Movie Press Club truly believed in her performance to win over Vilma’s, then there’s nothing wrong with that. It’s their right to express their own opinion as to who should win.

But the fact that they are the prime movers of the Star Awards any public declaration of their individual preferennces would only make the body’s final verdict suspect. Simply put, they should have inhibited themselves from issuing any statements that would in any way jeopardize the entire proceedings. Besided, the way they did it was not a simple statement of fact or belief; it was nothing but an open campaign to lobby for the one they have favored to win. Unfortunately, Lorna’s campaigners’ ploy has backfired; without their being aware of it, they have only placed the Star Awards in a no-win situation. If, on the one hand, Lorna wins it would only confirm the nagging suspicion that the Star Awars can be “bought.” If, on the other hand, Vilma wins the general conclusion would be: the Star Awards only wanted to prove its credibility. If it has any. Perhaps, the least that they can do is to let the two actresses win in a tie. That was the Star Awards will have finally exposed its real worth – that everything can be arranged. As I said, either way, it is no-win situation. Why I have decided to break the ice and, as they say, join the fray is because things have gone out of hand. Recently, somebody asked me about my opinion as regards the best actress issue, but I declined to give any comment. The question sounded rather rhetorical and, frankly, it was. I thought my silence would put the issue to rest, as far as I am concerned, but to my horror, it has triggered an unexpected reaction from some concerned quarters. “Mas mabuti na ngang hindi nag-comment si JC dahil talaga namang Vilmanian iyan.” The truth is, I don’t think Vilma, at this point, needs any more awards. She has proven herself many times over and if that is not yet enough to some people she can’t do anything about it. She has to accept the fact that there are those – especially in the PMPC – who simply do not believe in her.

And a Star Award won’t change it and, if I may add, add any luster to her career. However, it doesn’t mean that people have to disregard her performances. An actor does not prove her/his mettle and win awards only to be ignored later because she has already made it. Vilma continue to explore new horizons in honing her craft and this is what she has demonstrated in Maryo de los Reyes’ Tagos ng Dugo. As Gina Alajar once said, “Mahirap nang talunin ang ginawa ni Vi sa Tagos. Talagang ibang-iba siya at napakagaling.” When the Manila Standard celebrated its first anniversary last Feb. 11, the editorial staff had planned to give out best achievement awards in the different sections of the paper. In this section, among the various awards considered were those for film – the others were for recording, live entertainment, television etc. – and the consensus was to limit them to the acting category, since it has been agreed that there’s no best film. This paper’s resident reviewers were asked to submit their choices in the four contested categories (best actor, best actress, best supporting actor, best supporting actress) and all those who responded voted Vilma as best actress. Former Fine Arts instructor and longtime film critic Luciano E. Soriano singled out Vilma’s performance in Tagos ng Dugo for its credibility and sincerity. As he explained, “Vilma’s role and performance was more human, and whatever flaws of the movie, they weren’t her fault.” He did not cite Lorna’s Maging Akin Ka Lamang simply because, as he stressed, the role was “stupid and one-dimensional.” Besides, “Lorna hardly looked credible for the role even as Lino Brocka tried to control her acting failed.” Initially, Manunuri member Mike Feria chose Vilma for her subtle performance in Saan Nagtatago ang Pagibig?,” citing her for breathing life to an otherwise vapid role.

He did cite Lorna in Maging – but as he said, “Marami pa siyang kakaining bigas para mapantayan si Vilma.” However, the Manunuri’s present stand vis-a-vis this year’s awards has caused certain problems. Former tv man and stage director Henry C. Tejero was casual but at the same time sweepingly cocksure about it: “Last year was really Vilma’s year at talagang wala namang ibang pagpipilian.” Former Manunuri chairman Justino M. Dormiendo, in keeping with the film critics’ group’s decision no to give out any awards this year, abstained himself from the deliberation. But had he not abided by the Manunuri’s decision, it’s almost certain that he would not vote for Lorna whose acting in Maging… he panned in an earlier review. Wrote Dormiendo in the 19 May 1987 issue of Manila Standard: “…While we admit that Tolentino gets to show off her often concealed thespic skills here, it is, however, not sufficient to convince us of her so-called exemplary acting prowess. Tolentino is hampered by her youthful ways and costenance to pass herself off as a scheming woman suffering from a perverted obsession…” Certain circumtances, however, have prevented us from annoucing the awards in time for the anniversary celebration until we decided to shelve it for the time being. It even crossed my mind to cancel the awards together, considering that no matter that I did not participate at the individual choice of the four reviewer, the doubts that I, being their editor, have influenced their choices, one way or the other, could not be avoided. But I believe these people – and their reputation and writings can speak well enough for themselves, I don’t have to belabor the point. Actually, whether Vilma wins or not is beside the point. The thing is, people have manipulated the whole issue to the extent of discrediting what the actress had done in the film. And to top it all, the brouhaha has becouded the real issue that, sad to say, has appalled over to the more personal concerns.

Finally, the bad news, a PMPC insider says the Star Awards, like most other awards, is not for sale, but it can perhaps be negotiated. For inquiries please call former PMPC president (Ms) Nel Alehandrino of Tabloid, People’s Tonight. – JC Nigado, Manila Standard, Apr 20, 1988 (READ MORE)

Note: Lorna Tolentino won the 1987 Star Awards as well as the Film Academy of the Philippines. Vilma won the 1987 FAMAS and the CMMA. The Manunuri refused to hand out their Gawad on 1987. Vilma will not win the Star Awards despite several nominations until 1989 where she declared co-winner, together with Nora Aunor. Since then she had won several Star trophies.

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