After 55 years in the business, 200 films, four Grand Slam Best Actress Awards, and a Hall of Fame recognition from FAMAS, Vilma Santos is still one of the most sought after and effective actresses of our time. No wonder she is called the Star for All Seasons. If you will tell me that I am ‘The Vilma Santos,’ that is because I worked hard for this,” said the actress-turned-Batangas Governor.
BORN TO BE A STAR – Maria Rosa Vilma Tuazon Santos was born on November 3, 1953 to Milagros Tuazon, a pharmacist from San Isidro, Nueva Ecija, and Amado Santos, a former movie extra from Bamban, Tarlac. As a child, Vilma loved listening to radio dramas. “Bata pa ako maarte na talaga ako! Kapag fiesta sa lugar namin maraming taong pumupunta sa bahay namin, ang mama at papa ko ‘Sige, Vi, sayaw! Ipakita mo, anak!’ At dahil maarte ako sasayaw naman ako.” At a family reunion when Vi was nine years old, the brother-in-law of her mother’s cousin, G. Amaury Agra who was a cameraman for Sampaguita Pictures, came for a visit. Agra convinced Mrs. Santos to bring Vi to the studio to audition for a part in the movie Anak, Ang Iyong Ina. There they saw a long line of children with actors Bella Flores and Eddie Garcia. “Pumila ako pero sabi ng mama ko hindi daw doon, sa ibang audition ako dapat. Pero nagpumilit akong pumila,”she re-called. With her improvised dialogue and acting, she wowed Doc Jose R. Perez and Azucena Vera of Sampaguita Pictures. Doc Perez then told the young Vilma, “Ikaw si Trudis Liit.”
MEETING ‘BOT’ – In 1969, the 14-year old Vilma met Edgar ‘Bobot’ Mortiz, a rising recording star and undefeated champion in Tawag ng Tanghalan,” at a teen show entitled “Eskwelahang Munti.” Movie producers thought of establishing a Vi and Bot love team, and in 1970, the two were launched in the film “Young Love.” Thrown together constantly, Bobot and Vilma became a real-life couple in 1971. But Bobot feels shy talking about the details of the teenage relationship with SSM. Nagka-inlaban din naman kami. Ayoko na nga pinag-uusapan e! Pero sandali lang naman. “Nagka-develop-an din kami, dala na rin siguro ng madalas na magkasama kami.” Sadly, the relationship ended three years later, and the love team was eventually disbanded. Vilma and Bobot never did a movie after that but have managed to remain good friends.
GREAT ACTING, BAD ATTITUDE – Vilma is not ashamed to admit that even she was a “bad girl” in her mid-20s. Typical of her behavior then was her refusal to show up for a film shoot. The call time was 9AM; at 1PM, she got into her car. On the way to the shooting, she told her driver, “Ayoko na mag-shooting. Ihinto mo na lang diyan. Kakain na lang ako. Sabihin mo masakit ang tiyan ko.” Another time, she ran off to Baguio, just for the heck of it, without informing the producers of a TV Christmas special that she wasn’t planning on showing up. Veteran entertainment writer Ronald Constantino believes Vilma’s crazy days were a result of her private struggles, from tax problems to personal heartaches. Siguro din kasi dahil hindi pa siya nagma-mature as a person at baka ‘yun ‘yung time na marami siyang problema, finances and love life. Pinagdaanan niya ‘yun pero nalampasan din niya.” Later, as she matured, Vilma became more serious with her work. Rory Quintos, the director of Vilma’s 2000 Star Cinema film Anak, says Vi’s professionalism made her job much easier. “Dumadating si Ate Vi sa set nang naka-costume at make-up na. Kapag naka-set up na ‘yung mga gamit sa location, pagdating niya start na agad. That was a big help most especially when we shot in Hong Kong. Wala siyang pakialam na siya si Vilma Santos. Natulog siya doon sa maid’s quarters, kumakain ng kung ano ano, umuupo kahit saan. Natulog siya sa sidewalk, nasubsob sa basurahan. Wala siya talagang arte sa katawan.”
FAMILY, POLITICS, CAREER – After her first marriage to Edu Manzano ended, Vi met Ralph Recto, the grandson of the late stateman Claro M. Recto. Vi married Ralph in Decembver of 1992, the year when Ralph was first elected as Congressman of Lipa City, Batangas. Wanted to devote more time as a wife an try to have a child with Ralph (they had Ryan Christian Recto in March 1996), Vi wrapped up her long-running variety show “Vilma” in 1995. From then on, Vilma did only movies and was seldom seen on TV. She also entered politics, first as Mayor of Lipa City, then as Governor of Batangas. Constantino believes that this further elevated Vi’s star status. “Mabuti nga rin siguro na bihira na siya makita ng mga tao kasi nami-miss siya. Masd lumalakas nga ang excitement ng mga tao every time na siya ay gagawa ng pelikula.” Now she is ready for an onscreen comeback. This year, after six years of not making movies, Vilma is starrin g in In My Life, a film produced by Star Cinema with John Lloyd Cruz and her son Luis Manzano. She has as simple formula for career success. “Love your career and it will love you back. Don’t take your career for granted. Also, kailangan ng hard work, smart work, grace of God. Kapag may kulang sa tatlong ‘yan, mahihirapan ang kahit sino. Sa Ano mang larangan o propesyon kailangan ng hard work para magtagumpay.” – Napoleon Quintos, Star Studio, September 2009 (READ MORE)