Life After Debt

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I last interviewed Vilma Santos a little over two years ago when she was still doing Mike de Leon’s landmark film, Sister Stella L., I was impressed. I thought then that she was the most beautiful and the best smelling star I have ever come across – face to face with. After the interview on the set of the old VIP show in Broadcast City, I recall buzzing her check and holding her perfumed hand. Her scent was so “powerful” that it had somewhat rubbed off on my shirt and hands. So that even hours after I parted with her, her fragrance still stayed with me. Recently I had the chance to talk with Santos again on two occassion, both at the Metropolitan theatre after her show, Vilma! Well, she still knocked us out. She has lost some pounds (due to the gruelling shooting of her recent film, Tagos ng Dugo, but she is still the same radiant beauty. At 33, she still possesses that sensual, teasing quality about her. And yes, she still smells as if she bathed herself with musk or rosemary perfume. Again, one can’t help but notice that she is indeed the most fragrant-smelling star this side of Hollywood. When asked, the actress did not say what scent she uses but she talked about many other things – spiritedly, as usual; her son, Lucky; Edu Manzano; and her singing.

But she was particularly more concerned abou two things. First was about the transfer of marketing whiz Freddie Garcia and Network Marketing from GMA-7 to ABS-CBN 2. She’s upset about this development, she said. Late last year, it will be recalled that it was Garcia who successfully negotiated the transfer of her show from the old Benedictocontrolled City 2 to GMA-7. Now, the actress is in quandary because she is reportedly being wooed by Garcia to again switch to 2. She, however told us that she cannot, as yet, join the exodus of GMA shows to ABS. “Negotiations are still on-going,” Santos said. “So far, nothing is definite. Ang gulu-gulo nga, Mr. (Menardo) Jimenez (GMA head) told me they will support me and all that, Si Freddie naman, sabi, they’re going to make Vilma! stronger on 2. People tell me transfering at this point maybe bad for the show dahil kakalipat ko lang sa 7. But I told Freddie, “Please don’t close the door on me.” Her options, she said are still open. “I don’t mind doing shows on 2; after all hindi naman ako exclusive sa 7.”

Santos is likewise bugged by the observation (presumably by some Nora Aunor supporters) that her performance in Tagos ng Dugo, wherein she portrayed a psychopath, was “Norang-Nora.” She could not divine how the comment was made in the first place. Was it becauise, in the film, she was handled by Maryo de los Reyes who is known to be a close friend and one of the favorite directors of Nora Aunor? Or, was it because her role in Tagos called for a lot of the so called Nora-style acting -expressive eye movements, prolonged byt quiet crying binges? Is she, in the eyes of some Aunor loyalist, as good as actress now as their idol? “Wala akong ginagaya,” defended the actress. “That was Pina, the role, I was acting out. I did not think of Guy or anybody else when I was doing the film. “But you know, that (comment) is good,” she said as an after thought. “Kinukumpara pa rin kami hanggang ngayon. That means kami pa rin – the rivalry is still strong.” On the other hand, one is hard put to imagine Aunor attempting Santos’ “patented” acting style (the ease and confidence in delivering kilometric line, among others). If and when she does in any of her future films, I told the actress, we would also say “Vilmang-Vilma” siya! She burst out laughing.

At present, Santos is completing Ibigay Mo sa Aking ang Bukas for producer Esperidion Laxa. The movie, slated for opening first week of March, was originally scheduled to be shown this week (simulaneously with Sharon Cuneta’s Kung Aagawin Mo Ang Lahat Sa Akin, but Laxa apparently decided otherwise, “Medyo hilaw pa sa promotion,” said the actress. In the movie, Santos is once again playing the role she’s best known for, that of a liberated woman. “D’yan naman talaga ako nagustuhan ng tao, you know, women who fight for their personal happiness.” She is again paired with Gabby Concepcion, who incidentally, is rumored to be her boyfriend. There is definitely nothing between her and Gabby, she clarified. “Ah, si Mayor?” she gleefully replied to the question, “we’re just comfortable with each other. Minsan na akong napikon sa tsismis na iyan. We’re friends and I hope people would just leave it at that.” “Is she really that liberated in real life?” Parrying the question, Santos rationalized, “Well, I deserve to be happy, too!”

Is she happy? Is her life, so to speak, as good as she smells? The actress answered the questions obliquely. “I’ve gone through a lot. But I’m comfortable now. After this films, bayad na lahat ang P6 million na utang ko sa Bancom. I have Lucky…and my life is still gong great. With regards to her career, Santos’ hands will be full in the next two to three years. After Ibigay, she will do two movies for Viva, one re-uniting her with former screen partner Christopher de Leon, and two other for Regal Films. Aside from these, she is slated to do 15 more movies for the two outfits. The actress, however has a good reason in looking forward to these projects. “Lahat ng kikitain ko sa akin na mapupunta!” she said beaming like a happy child. – Mario V. DumaualManila Standard, Feb 19, 1987 (READ MORE)