Si Ate Vi, Gintong Ina

Vi in GraphicsIn 1997, Dove Foundation awarded Ms. Vilma Santos the Celebrity Mother of Gintong Ina Award. This award is very special to ate Vi, because the role of a mother is far more important than her illustrious career. Not that she loves her movie career less, but she knows that being a mother is a lifetime commitment. At walang retakes, pag nagkamali ka. Talagang celebrity, dahil sa dalawang beses niyang pagsisilang ay parehong front page siya sa mga newspapers! Meron bang nakagawa ng ganoon? Si ate Vi lang at wala ng iba. Ate Vi’s dedication as a mother was documented many times by writers from showbiz, politics and even the business sector.

In 1995, the late Inday Badiday wrote at the Phil. Daily Inquirer the following. “WHEN Vilma Santos cried unabashedly for the second time in front of a big crowd of movie reporters (which was later recorded on TV), I sensed that the tears no longer hinted sadness over the demise of her popular show nor her temporary vacation from showbiz. Those were joyous tears that could only be shed by a woman who’s happily in love and who’’ll stop at nothing to make her husband happy and their relationship more beautiful than ever. She later confided, in between sobs, that she was proud of and glad for herself for having arrived at a major decision even if it would mean some sacrifices. ‘Sabagay, parang hindi na rin sacrifice,’ she qualified. ‘Akala ko, sa pelikula lang nangyayari ito, pero kahit ano pala, pwede mong gawin para sa taong minamahal mo.’ But hasn’t she been there before? ‘I was young, carefree and ambitious. I was probably more in love with my career.  Hindi ko namamalayan, naisasakripisyo ko na pala ang personal life ko noon.’

How did Ralph Recto react to her decision? ‘I could see happiness in his eyes,’ she beamed. ‘But I felt, parang nalungkot din siya, parang nanghihinayang not because I’d be losing a lot in terms of financial rewards and other opportunities but because he knows that showbiz is a big part of my life.’ It was at this point when I asked…

‘Is he worth it, Vi? Either I had grown too cynical or thought I was an expert on men. ‘Oh, yes, Ate Luds,’ she said, eyes brimming with happiness. After flashing a sweet smile, she added pointedly: ‘Oh, yes!’ Because I have always believed in Vi’’s words, I decided to make no further comments. But if you were in my place, wouldn’’t you want to know Ralph’s own feelings?

Ralph Recto has always impressed me as a gentleman of the first order. While he has no qualms about being lampooned a ‘Mr. Vilma Santos’, he has conveniently distanced himself from the image of his wife as a star for all seasons. After all, he’s also a star in his own right, a budding politician who’s destined to become an important figure, not to mention his famous surname and illustrious background. Movie writers are always frustrated with Ralph who very rarely grants interviews. The frustration grows even more when he talks because he manages to keep their love life ‘sacred’. But Ralph must have been overwhelmed by his wife’s public display of her love for him that he has allowed himself to be on the spot and say a mouthful.

On their relationship ‘We’ve been fair to each other ever since and that’s one of the reasons our union works. She’’s already in showbiz when I met her. Vilma Santos na siya, hindi ko na puwedeng baguhin ‘yun. I admire her work. I want her to work because I know she’ll grow some more. I’m not the type who believes his wife should stay at home. She also understands I will always be in public service.

On Vi’s decision Nothing to worry about because she’’s not quitting for good. She’ll be back soon, perhaps in a better show with a better format. Hindi naman panghabang-buhay ‘yung sing-and-dance career na ginagawa niya sa TV. Pero ipinagmamalaki ko talaga na may legacy nang maiiwan si Vi. I have been amused by people’’s reactions to her decision. ‘Yung isang kaibigan ko ngang hindi naman taga-showbiz, ibinalita sa ‘kin na nalulungkot daw ang buong bayan nila dahil mawawala na ang show ni Vi. ‘Yung iba, they’re happy for us, especially for Vi who’ll have more time for me daw. Actually, hindi naman ako nagko-complain sa schedule niya talaga because she doesn’t also complain about mine.’

On their vacation ‘It’s for Vi’s benefit. She’s pressured here and she needs to take a good rest. Hindi rin pahinga sa ‘kin because I have to work kahit na sa malayo kami. Pero sandali lang kami talaga. I’d like to reiterate that Vi’s staying in showbusiness.’

On having a child ‘What Vi and I wish is a child who can be a future movie star like her or a politician like me. Or both, why not? Kung hindi pa maging fruitful ngayon, well, we’ll try our luck next time. There’s no need to hurry. I do believe that it will happen in God’s time.

More dreams for Vi ‘In a way, Vi’s decision to quit her show is a sign of her maturity. She’s definitely growing up some more. In the process, she can educate a lot of people aside from entertaining them. She can share her gift to those who believe in her. I want her to be more productive. Lahat naman po tayong mga Pilipino ay kailangang alagaan natin at palakihin pa natin ang talentong ibinigay sa atin ng Panginoon”. This article came out after ate Vi bid goodbye to her long running TV show, to give Ralph a baby. A big sacrifice, considering that she’s earning millions of pesos a month for that show!

Ms. Rina Jimenez-David, a known political columnist, wrote this also at the PDI  “A FEW weeks ago, I dreamt I had a baby. I don’t even know if the baby was a girl or a boy. All I remember is that my family was having a picnic and I was carrying a laughing infant, about five months old, dressed in a white terry-cloth overall, its hood snug over its head, and we were all chuckling and cooing over the baby’s antics. When I told him about my dream the next morning, the hubby looked at me askance, with a scowl that seemed to ask: ‘So what do you want me to do about it?’ Approaching 35, my self-imposed deadline for pregnancy, I would often day-dream about having a third child. But I was brought up short, when, sharing this possibility with the hubby, he pointed out: ‘We hardly have enough time to share with the two kids we have. It would be unfair (to the child) to have a third child when we’re so busy.’ A few days after turning 40, long past the deadline, I fell into an unexplainable blue funk, sunk so deep into despondency I couldn’t even work up the energy to write a column for two straight days. It was, I realize now, a ‘mid-life crisis episode’, but after my dream, I have another explanation: I was bidding my ‘child-bearing years’ goodbye. Our dream analyst Lucito de Jesus may offer a more cogent and reasoned explanation for my ‘dream’ baby (which reminds me, I did plan to write a note to him about it).

But I have come up with my own theory Even if I had rationally and reasonably accepted the fact that I would no longer be getting pregnant, my subconscious was expressing a barely suppressed yearning to hold an infant in my arms again and call the baby mine. Which is why I felt for Vilma Santos, reading about her tearful press conference in which she announced that she was putting a stop not just to her frenetic dance numbers on her weekly TV show, but to her entire showbiz career, in a last-ditch attempt to bear Ralph Recto’s child. I have often thought it evidence that God has been playing favorites that he should make me around the same age as the Star for All Seasons and yet make Ms. Santos look two decades younger. But Eskinol and good genes can only go so far. Inside, the plumbing ages at the same inexorable pace. It is entirely possible for Vilma Santos to get pregnant again, but it will be more difficult to bring the pregnancy to full term without complications.

Which is why pregnancy at her age exacts such a heavy price The abandonment of what for Vilma show before she became a congressman’s wife had been the central focus of her life. How to explain the value of Vilma’s sacrifice? The only way I can understand it, is to wonder how I would feel if I had been asked to stop writing.

Another respected writer, a former Press Secretary of the Aquino administration and founder of FOCAP, the late Mr. Teodoro C. Benigno wrote at The Phil. Star: “No, she was never Venus carved out of a marble statue, or a vamp which she acted out in one or two movies, or a heifer in heat like Sharon Stone. She was not made for any of these roles. If imagination were needed to describe Vilma Santos, she would be the girl inside a floor length shower curtain of sheer gossamer and white lace. On cue, she would come out adorably pretty and entrancing, all lighted up like a Christmas tree, eyes merry and twinkling, the child in her in perpetual battle with the woman in her. The world of entertainment shook mightily several days ago when Vilma, unable to hold back her tears, announced her 15-year-old TV show Vilma on GMA-7 would end very soon. And, yes, she would also stop starring in movies. Why? I suppose nobody else but Vilma Santos could have decided the way she did. She wanted to have a baby with husband Ralph Recto. She wanted to conceive so avidly, so insatiably and desperately she was laying her whole career on the line.

I think I know how she feels. Many, many years ago Sophia Loren felt the same way. Twice, she had a miscarriage, unable to carry a baby inside her womb for more than three months. Sophia and Carlo Ponti were at their wits’ end. When finally she got pregnant for a third time, the whole world of Sophia Loren stopped. Carlo Ponti, on medical advice, hustled her off to a hotel beside a lake in Geneva. There she stayed in bed for nine months, hardly moving, no telephone calls. Only television. She ate her meals in bed. A doctor was in constant attendance. For Vilma and Ralph, it’s like waiting for Godot.

Remember Samuel Beckett’s Waiting for Godot? It’s an allegory . Two persons wait for somebody who could be God, the waiting almost a cry of impotence, grief ad helplessness seeking the miracle of creation, seeking God’s intercession. Is not all that is wondrously alive His? Except that God helps only those who help themselves. Ralph and Vilma cannot have a baby until now because both – due to their busy lives and careers – have always missed the prefect trysting hour in bed. The time to make love was when Ralph was at his best and lustiest and Vilma at her most fertile period. And that never happened. Now, it will happen, or should be guaranteed to happen. Love will still be a many-splendored thing to be performed in the boudoir. There will be no recourse to artificial insemination or in vitro fertilization. Not yet anyway. If this last chance at having a baby in the normal way under ideal conditions should fail, then and only then will they resort to in vitro. We have to give it to Vilma and Ralph.

Finally we find two people who listen to whispers of the beautitudes, who consider having a baby much more important than all the spires and gilded temples of Apollo. Hundreds of couples in the same predicament will just adopt a baby and that’s that. But Vilma is the Eternal Woman in the sense that love and what love creates should seek no other outlet than Nature’s way. Even if what is to be set aside is one of the most successful and spectacular careers in the movie and entertainment world.

Once, when I co-hosted with her during the 25th anniversary of GMA-7, we conversed on the side about her having a baby with Ralph. And she said, ‘Tito Teddy, talagang sabik na sabik na kami, please for us.’ We did a boogie number then, and the audience lapped it up. Vilma just loves to dance, but dances will be verboten after Vilma on GMA-7 closes down. Anything strenuous will be verboten. For if life should ever flicker in her womb, Vilma will do as Sophia Loren did, nurse that first divine shudder of sperm and egg into a fetus. From there, she has to protect her womb with it’s unborn child like a fortress against the elements. Vilma’s is now the cry over the precipice for the Creator to render her pregnant through Ralph. It has been the cry of mothers and would-be mothers since time immemorial.

As a volcano wants to emit the first murmur of pregnancy, so does a mother. Vilma has had a son with Edu Manzano, her first husband, but life today would be almost meaningless without a child with Ralph. It was with her sick and bedridden son Lucky that I saw her for the first time at the Makati Medical emergency ward three or four years ago. She was Vilma with-out makeup, Vilma forlorn and seemingly all alone in this world, Vilma so suddenly vulnerable and helpless. I wanted to talk to her but didn’t. I felt this would be violating the temple of her loneliness, her desire to be alone with her stricken son. It was the first time I ever saw her in person. And so I wrote about that experience in my column titled

Vilma: Vamp or Virgin? The morning the column appeared, Vilma called me up from a shooting location, saying she liked the column very much. I told her later I was thrilled no end by her calling up, a thrill I never felt when talking with VIPs over the phone. And now, Vilma is bidding goodbye. She has not been fetishized like Nora Aunor, with whom she grew up in the movies and the entertainment world. But she stood her own, lasted and endured even as la Aunor long ago fell by the wayside. Vilma had the secret of perpetual wonder, exuberance and adolescence. Even with the passage of decades, she remained perfect for a Lux advertisement. She won a clutch of awards and acting honors. She could emote, she could laugh and cry, she could dance, she could entertain.

She was a good girl who could not be a vamp no matter how she sometimes tried in the movies. Most of all, she was a perfectionist. Once I asked Lea Salonga who she admired most in the world of entertainment. Among the names she mentioned in the US was Barbra Streisand. ‘I admire her a lot, she is a perfectionist,’ Lea said. When it came to the Philippines, Lea mentioned only two names if I recall, the first Vilma Santos. ‘She too is a perfectionist,’ Lea told me. This is the supreme accolade an internationally celebrated performer like Lea Salonga can confer on a fellow performer. What is more, never did the taint of lurid scandal smear Vilma’’s name. Bye Vilma, have your baby. Hope you have twins.

These writers said it all. Iba talaga si ate Vi. Talagang karapat-dapat na hangaan at bigyan ng respeto. Masuwerte sina Luis at Ryan dahil may ina sila na gaya ni Ate Vi. Masuwerte rin si Sen. Ralph dahil may asawa siyang gaya ni ate Vi. Masuwerte si Mama Santos (at maging si Papa Santos) dahil may anak silang gaya ni Ate Vi, sina Emelyn, Maritess, Winnie at Sonny dahil may kapatid silang gaya ni ate Vi. Masuwerte tayong mga Vilmanians dahil may hinahangaan taong gaya ni Ate Vi. Masuwerte ang buong Pilipinas dahil may isang Vilma Santos na nagbigay ningning sa pelikulang Pilipino. Sa mga kasamahan kong Vilmanians, let us strive to be good more than to be happy. After all, not everything that will make us happy is good, but everything that is good will make us happy. Ingatz po tayong lahat. – Eric Nadurata, V magazine Mother’s Day Issue No. 8 (READ MORE)

Eric Nadurata is based in Manila. He is the proud owner of the unofficial Vilma Santos Web-site.