FILM REVIEW: KARMA

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Plot Description: Sarah (Vilma Santos) is forced to defer her wedding when she scheduled to flight was delayed. At a hotel where she is staying, Sarah encounters Eric (Ronaldo Valdez), a regular guest who forces himself on her. The incident leaves a stigma not just on Sarah but more so on her fiancé, Alfredo (Tommy Abuel) whose dream of marrying a “virgin” is dashed. Strangely, Sarah and Eric’s paths cross again at a time when their respective marriages are in disarray. Their meeting strikes both as “déjà vu.” Could it be that they have met each other in the past? Their suspicious are confirmed after Eric consults a psychic. As it turns out, Sarah and Eric are the reincarnation of Guada and Enrico, two lovers who had an illicit affair sixty years ago. When Guada’s husband, Limbo (Ruel Vernal), learned of her affair, he went on a murderous rampage. Now Sarah and Eric seem destined to follow the same path. But in whose spouse does the spirit of Limbo rest? Is it the disabled Alfredo? Or Eric’s estranged wife Cristy (Chanda Romero)? – Viva Films

Film Review: The technical preview of “Karma” the other night was delayed for about an hour but I did not mind waiting because I was quite certain that I’d be seeing a fine film. To while away the time, “Firecracker,” co-starring American actors with local talents like Chanda Romero, Vic Diaz, and Rey Malonzo was shown. Chanda and Vic delivered their lines themselves but surprisingly Rey didn’t. Before one whole reel could roll, the prints of “Karma” arrived. “Don’t stop it yet, a bed scene is coming,” Mario Bautista protested. Happily, “Karma” turned out to be as good as I expected. It’s performers are first-rate – Vilma Santos, Ronaldo Valdez, Tommy Abuel, Chanda Romero – so their award-winning acting didn’t surprise me at all. The script was outstanding but even that was expected, coming from director Danny Zialcita. What impressed me was that minor parts were played by name actors. The housekeeper who appeared in one short sequence could have been played by any elderly woman but those who made the movie wanted nothing less than Etang Discher. The psychiatrist could have been played by any decent-looking man but they didn’t settle for anybody less than Vic Silayan. The male lover at the start of the story had to be acted out by Dante Rivero, that at the end by Christopher de Leon. The movie boasted of several bold scenes. Those involving Vilma weren’t much as we know for a fact that Vilma could show only so much. One scene showing Chanda was a different story. It showed her with absolutely nothing on, yet it didn’t offend anybody as it was executed in style, shot with great care. There was just one thing, which looked unnatural to me – the way in which one of the main characters killed himself. “That’s all right,” Danny assured me. “Before we shot it, we double-checked its possibility.” Reincarnation and transference are undoubtedly mind-boggling subjects but, to his utmost credit, Danny managed to present them simply, bringing them down for everybody to understand. “Bala lang yan. Katawan lang ito. Babalik at babalik kami sa mundong ito,” Dante vowed. Come back they did as they promised building the foundation of the story. – Bob Castillo, People’s Journal Dec. 12, 1981 (READ MORE)

Sa pagbabago ng estado ni Vilma Santos, tila nagbabago na rin ang kanyang approach sa kanyang career. Dahil hindi na career ang unang priority niya sa buhay, lalong nagiging professional ang kanyang tingin sa trabaho. Dahil hindi na twenty-four hours a day ang kanyang buhay artista, alam na niyang I-apportion ang bawat minuto na walang aksaya. Sa set ng Relasyon ni Ishmael Bernal, hangang-hanga ang director sa bagong pang-unawa ni Vilma sa trabaho. Dumarating sa oras, kabisado ang linya (memorizing lines for Vilma, of course, was never a problem even the days she was shooting five pictures simultaneously), full attention sa sinasabi ng direktor, walang problema. Kung pagbabasehan sa naging resulta ng Karma, lalong maganda ngayon si Vilma, mas mariin ang kanyang pagganap, mas mature ang kanyang approach at understanding sa kaniyang papel. Swerteng-swerte ang pagkapanalo niya ng best actress sa nakaraang Film fest. Sayang at wala siya upang tanggapin mismo ang tropeo. Pero lalong naging makabuluhan para sa kanya ang sinabi ng kapwa niya artista sa Karma nang sabihin ni Chanda Romero na “napakaganda naman ng karma ni Vilma. Mayroon na siyang Edu, mayroon siyang Lucky, ngayon ay mayroon pa siya nito (ang ibig sabihin ay ang best actress trophy),” sabay tilian ng mga fans sa loob ng Cultural Center, walang makapigil, walang makasaway. Pero, gaya ng dati, hindi naging madali kay Vilma ang pananalo. Nagpatas ang botohan ng dalawang beses – triple tie sila ni Gina Alajar at Charo Santos, hanggang ma-break ang deadlock at nakaungos ng isang boto si Vilma sa dalawa pa niyang kalaban. Tinawagan si Vilma ni Cirio Santiago, pinasundo sa isang limousine, pero nagdahilan ang Vilma. Ayaw niya sigurong umasa dahil minsan, sa isang awards night din, sinigurong siya ang mananalo pero hindi ganun ang nangyari. (I understand that Vilma really won but the verdict was changed afterwards through the representations and machinations of some influential press sectors.) Kunsabagay, wala rin si Charito Solis noong awards dahil sabi sa akin ni Chato, talagang hindi niya inaasahang manalo ang maliit na papel na iyon sa Kisapmata. Noon pa mang preview pa lamang, maugong na ang balitang baka si Charito ang manalo bilang supporting actress pero hindi niya yun pinansin dahil tiyak na tiyak siya na si Vic Silayan ang mananalo. Sinabi pa niya sa interview niya kay Armida Siguion-Reyna sa Let’s Talk Movies na napakagaling ni Vic. Sa set pa lamang daw, natitiyak na niya halos na si Vic ay mananalo sa Kisapmata. Sa naturan ding programa, sinabi ni Armida sa pagre-review niya ng Karma na talagang magaling ang pagkakaganap ni Vilma sa Karma na parang nakuha nitong punuan ang ilang mahalagang kakulangan ng pelikula. – Oscar Miranda (READ MORE)

“26 years after we first seen “Karma,” the film remained Vilmanians’ favorites and one of Dany Zialcita’s best film. Glossy with crisp dialouge, the film was a big hit at the 1981 Metro Manila Film Festival and earned Vilma the festival’s best actress. Here was what movie reporter Mario Bautista said about her acting: “Ibang-iba” rin ang Vilma Santos sa “Karma.” Subdued na subdued ang performance ni Vi rito unlike in other films na all out ang emoting niya. Dito’y restrained siay at napaka-effective. Halimbawa sa eksena after the rape sa kanya ni Ronaldo Valdez. Nang sabihin niyang siya’y patungo sa kasal niya’y halos hindi na marinig ang kanyang tinig pero talaga namang damang-dama mo ang kirot sa kanyang dibdib. O kaya’y sa mga tagpong sinusumbatan siya ni Tommy Abuel na nanatili siyang kalmado at soft-spoken. We never thought Vilma can be that versatile!” – RV (READ MORE)

Zialcita’s first movie with Vilma was the 1980 festival entry, a drama about bigamy, Langis at Tubig. The following year, Zialcita and Santos joined forces again in antoher festival entry, Karma. The film earned Vilma her second Metro Manila Film Festival Best Actress. The following year, Ziacita’s Gaano Kadalas Ang Minsan broke box office record, Earned P7.3 million during its first day of showing in Metro Manila and assured Vilma Santos the box office queen of 1982. The total number of Vilma Santos and Danny Zialcita colloborations were four (Gaano Kadalas ang Minsan? 1982, Karma 1981, Langis at Tubig 1980, T-Bird at Ako). – RV (READ MORE)

“One of the most misunderstood occult concepts. The nearest equivalent in European thought is contained in the idea of fate, though the oriental term indicates the fate is not a haphazard sequence of events of experiences, but is dependent on actions of previous lives or spiritual conditions. The idea is that a spirit undertakes to live in an earthy body for a given period of time, usually in order to learn something which cannot be learned in a disembodied state, and has to accept rewards and punishments for good and bad deeds committed in previous incarnations. In order that understanding may grow, any evil committed against another person will have to be experienced by the perpetrator. The working out of Karma is not done consciously by ordinary people. The real reasons for the majority of people’s actions and relationships may be understood only when nature of their Karma is grasped – which is tantamount to saying that it is virtually impossible to understand or judge another person when seen in the context of one material lifetime only. Vilma Santos fits the role to a T. For the past years that she has suffered a string of major misfortunes and setbacks in real and reel life, she has hone herself as promise, a common objective: to give the viewing public what it wants – entertainment with a capital E. For Danny Zialcita, aside from having a good screenplay, good direction and brilliant actors and actresses, the movie should have artistic values. Karma promises to be a very good vehicle not only for Zialcita but also for Vilma Santos and the rest of the cast. Will this movie be a good KARMA for director Danny Zialcita, Vilma Santos and the rest of the cast? Watch the movie! It’ll be a different kind of feeling you’ll get after viewing it.” – Bond De Leon (READ MORE)

“…First, Karma is a quality picture. According to Mr. Ernie Rojas ng Sining Silangan, it was produiced not only to make it good in the box-office kungdi maging sa mga awards. Kungsabagay, may laman ang sinabi ni Mr. Rojas simply because Langis at Tubig, which was also producede by Sining Silangan last year, placed second in the tops earners and bagged the Best Actor Award for Dindo Fernando. Second, matagal na ring naipalabas ang latest film ni Vi na Hiwalay. Samakatuwid, maganda ang spacing ng mga pelikula niya, ‘Ika nga, hindi over-exposed ang beauty ni Vi. Dahil dito, nandiyan pa rin ang pananabik ng manonood kaya’t siguradong dudumugin ang Karma. …” – Manny A. Valera (READ MORE)

“…In my limited understanding it takes lifetimes to work off one’s karma. Movies, however, only run for two hours so filmmakers have to take liberties. In Danny Zialcita’s 1981 film Karma the protagonists have the added advantage of knowing exactly who they were in their past lives, thanks to a psychiatrist (Vic Silayan) who practices regression hypnosis. Eric (Ronaldo Valdez, who is smoking, and not just in the library where he researches his former incarnation) and Sarah (Vilma Santos) have already met under awful circumstances, but it turns out they’ve known each other much longer than that. In the past they were Enrico and Guada, illicit lovers murdered by Guada’s husband, Limbo. Limbo vows to follow them to the next life, but which form does he take? Is he now Enrico’s mentally unbalanced, pathologically jealous wife Cristy (Chanda Romero), or Sarah’s cruel, sadistic husband Alfredo (Tommy Abuel). It’s not a whodunnit, it’s a who-will-do-it? Vilma Santos turns in another fine portrayal of emotional turmoil. Nora Aunor had the advantage of expressing volumes with her eyes; Vilma expresses with her face, hands, and entire body. Nora was inward, Vilma outward. Ronaldo Valdez gives an understated performance, coolly delivering lines like, “In love there’s no measure of time”. Tommy Abuel overacts ridiculously, even for a guy so suspicious that he has his wife examined by a gynecologist to see if she’s had sex. Chanda Romero is fabulous. Her Cristy is a psychotic who never raises her voice; you can tell she has tranquilizers for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. The first time Cristy and Sarah meet is at the antique store Sarah manages at the old Virra Mall. Cristy breezes in, picks out a bunch of stuff, and announces that she doesn’t carry cash or credit cards, just send the bill to her husband. She points to another piece she buys, and Sarah says, helpfully, “That’s P9,500.” “Ok lang,” Cristy says, “Nagtanong ba ako? (Did I ask?)” One thing about Danny Zialcita movies: his rich people looked and sounded like rich people. He made movies for sophisticated grown-ups. If they don’t make movies like Zialcita’s anymore, it’s because people are no longer that articulate. Nobody casually tosses off bon mots anymore, everything has to be overstated for the dim. So we Zialcita fans are reduced to reciting favorite lines from his movies: “Puede bang makausap ang asawa ko na asawa mo na asawa ng buong bayan?” (May I speak to my husband who’s your husband who’s everybody’s husband?)…” – Jessica Rules The Universe (READ MORE)

FILM REVIEW: MODELONG TANSO

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The Plot: Directed by Cirio H Santiago. Serialized from comics story of Nerissa Cabral. Film with Charito Solis.

The Reviews: “…The multi-awarded actress even related her personal experience about feeling inadequate when she did the 1979 movie Modelong Tanso with the late Charito Solis who played her mom in the story. “Ako ang naintimidate noon. Naranasan ko yun noong araw kay Ms. Charito Solis na ngayon parang yun naman ang nangyayari sa akin [with the young stars.] So tinuro ko sa kanila na kahit may ka-eksena kayo na senior stars, kapag sinabi ng direktor ni’yo na kailangan niyong sampalin/sigawan sila, wala kayong choice. Gawin ni’yo yun, kahit sabihin niyong senior or respected star man yun, hindi kayo pwedeng magpa-intimidate. Kasi lahat sila kinakabahan lalo na nung pinapasampal ako kay Megan…” – Rachelle Siazon (READ MORE)

“…Sa 1979 FAMAS, Nora bested Lolita, who, with her performance in Brocka’s Tinimbang Ka Ngunit Kulang, beat Aunor in 1974. Ang “katapat” ng Nora-Lolita duo ay ang acting tandem nina Vilma Santos at Charito Solis in Bancom Audiovision’s Modelong Tanso, directed by Cirio Santiago. Sa 1979 Gawad Urian, it was neither Nora nor Lolita as Best Actress; the award instead went to Charito Solis for Brocka’s Ina, Kapatid, Anak…” – William Reyes (READ MORE)

“…the film that defined her 1970s career was not an adult film, but a dramatic film, her specialty. Pitted with the “other dramatic empress” Lolita Rodriguez, she contrasted her usual acting style with Rodriguez’ restrained, quiet style in Ina, Kapatid, Anak (1979). At that time already acknowledged as Philippine Cinema’s Hall of Famer for Best Actress, Charito Solis showed her acting prowess in a way that did not swallow Rodriguez nor did not allow to be shadowed by Rodriguez’ subtle style. Come FAMAS time, she had another Best Actress nod but lost to Nora Aunor for Ina Ka ng Anak Mo, but the “other” awards, the Gawad Urian, granted her its Gawad para sa Pinakamahusay na Pangunahing Aktres (Best Actress). Interesting enough, her penchant for top-billing persisted: the usual tool for billing two actresses demanding top billing was employed (see left). She also appeared with Vilma Santos in Modelong Tanso, a pale competitor to Rodriguez’ and Nora Aunor’s Ina Ka ng Anak Mo. Because Vilma Santos was another actress known for her penchant with billing, the same tool was used…The 1990s saw Charito Solis graduate to mother and grandmother roles, which she had done with frequency in the 1980s. In another nod to her age, she finally allowed herself to be billed above Vilma Santos, then acknowledged as the Longest-Reigning Box Office Queen of Philippine Movies, albeit above-the-title in films such as Ipagpatawad Mo (1992) and Dahil Mahal Kita: The Dolzura Cortez Story (1993)…Charito Solis’ “antics” were the toast of the tabloids when she was younger, from the admirable to the ridiculous. Her volatile outbursts on sets when professionalism was not observed was a common story written in the movie magazines. Ever a stickler for promptness and professionalism, she was said not to allow any one to make a noise during her performances because it detracts from her concentration. She would even go to the lengths of bringing her acting trophies on movie sets so that she can show the younger stars that they were dealing with a competent and award-winning actress that they have to respect in terms of promptness and performance. Both Vilma Santos and Nora Aunor, future FAMAS Hall of Famers, were said to have experienced this…” – FAMAS (READ MORE)

“…Charito Solis, who initially had a tempestuous and hostile relationship with Vilma while making the ill-fated but box-office MMFF champ Modelong Tanso, had a change of heart when the reborn versatile/professional/charismatic actress Vilma impressed her through the years, at idineklara niya sa buong mundo, without batting an eyelash. na di hamak na mas magaling na aktres si Vilma kaysa kay Nora Aunor. Walang kumontra kay Chato dahil totoo ang sinabi niya, si La Solis yata iyan, at pati nga si Amalia Fuentes, another certified Vilmanian, at “kaaway” na mortal ni La Solis, ay sumang-ayon sa kanya. Si Susan Roces, ano naman kaya ang opinion niya sa obserbasyon ni Chato? Ah, Nida Blanca. Ang dami nilang pinagsamahan ni Vilma, mula TV hanggang sa movies. Dati ay una sa billing si Nida, subali’t dahil nga sa gulong ng buhay ay kailangang maging praktikal at handa ka sa katotohanang magiging second lead ka lang in the future. Walang problema sina Nida at Vilma – ke mag-Ate o mag-Ina sila sa mga proyekto, may chemistry sila and mutual respect. Patok ang kanilang pagsasama. Remember their mother and daughter roles in Ibulong Mo Sa Diyos? Sayang at wala na ang original versatile movie and dancing queen Nida – mapa-aksiyon (Babaing Isputnik), musical (Huwag Kang Sumingit with Gloria Romero), comedy (Waray-waray) at drama (Miguelito at Magdusa Ka!). Kung tutuusin ay tunay na maigsi ang ating hiram na buhay. Kung buhay nga lang ang mga nabanggit sa itaas ay mas lalu sanang makulay ang daigdig ng sining. Subali’t ang lahat ay may katapusan. Ating suriin ang mga sumusunod na talata….” – Mario O. Garces (READ MORE)

“…Vilma in 1979 was a picture of self-assured bankable star. She did two movies with Elwood Perez, Magkaribal and Pinay American Style both were box office hits. She also produced an Eddie Rodrigues starrer Halik sa Paa Halik sa Kamay, and teamed-up with comedy king, Dolphy in Buhay Artista. As the year 1979 ends, she battled the drama queen Charito Solis in the local festival entry, Modelong Tanso. The end of the decade marked her stronghold as the box office queen. Clearly, Vilma Santos’ versatility as an actress was the secret weapon of her box office success. And this weapon was in full display in Pinay American Style…” – RV (READ MORE)

“Ooops! Keep your cool, dear Noranians, and listen to Charito Solis’ explanation before you accuse her of being, uh, “maka-Vilma. “Vilma has a wider range as an actress while Nora is limited and typecast in certain roles,” Charito said in a tone devoid of intrigue, answering our question in a straightforward, matter-of-fact manner. “Si Vilma, puede kahit anong role, kahit bold. You can’t imagine Nora doing a bold role, can you?” But, and that’s the big but, “Nora has more depth than Vilma,” Charito added, “and it’s because of her expressive eyes. Nora is very effective in scenes where she doesn’t say anything, just act with her eyes, at “yan ang kulang ni Vilma. Vilma has to say something to be effective.” Charito has worked with Vilma twice (in “Mga Tigre ng SierraCruz” and “Modelong Tanso”) and with Nora once (“Minsan May Isang Ina”). Speaking in general now, said Charito, “Vilma is the better actress.” We asked Charito that ticklish question during the lunch presscon for her latest movie, the star-studded Mother’s Day offering of Regal Films titled “Dear Mama,” which also stars Gloria Romero, Laurice Guillen, Snooky, Janice de Belen, Julie Vega, Manilyn Reynes, Jaypee de Guzman, Rey “PJ” Abellana and Alicia Alonzo in the title role. Our own personal opinion somehow jibes with that of Charito whose “throne,” I suppose, will be inherited by Vilma (while Nora will inherit the “throne” of the other drama queen, Lolita Rodriguez).” – Ricardo F. Lo, The Phil. Star April 031984 (READ MORE)

“…what the non-winning dramatic films (Modelong Tanso, Alabok na Ginto, and Julian Makabayan) have in common are disappointments. Cirio H. Santiago’s Modelong Tanso is another of those Electra-complex explorations which lately have become so strangely fashionable in local cinema: in fact one of the festival winners, Ina Ka, falls in the same category. Modelong Tanso is about the conflict between a materialistic mother and an idealistic daughter, each of whom gets what she wants and pays the proper price for it. Santiago also pays a price: stereotypical acting, carelessly executed multiple roles, and embarrassing approximations of social sophistication. As in the other entries, Modelong Tanso attempts at significance through developmentalisms (i.e., favorable references to the barangay and the Bagong Lipunan Sites and Services program); as in the other entries, the attempts deservedly fail. Antonio C. Martinez’s Alabok na Ginto may have been the festival’s dark horse, a love triangle consistent in many ways, mostly technical. Thematically, it falls short of realizing the ambitious statements it makes about fairness (or the lack of it) in love and war. As its title suggests, the movie glitters, but it certainly isn’t gold. As least it is better than the uneven alloy Modelong Tanso turned out to be…” – Joel David, WHO, 19 January 1980 (READ MORE)

Remembering Charito Solis

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Body of Work – “…Sa 1983, ang mga mapagpipilian lamang ay…Karnal…Now that we have discussed this year’s better films and the directors who made them, tunghayan natin ang listahan ng best screen performances…Kung ang paraan sa paghatol sa Best Actress ay for the actress with most commendable body of work, tiyak nang ang mananalo, hands down, ay si Charito Solis. Charito Solis is very good as the bitter lola in Boyfriend Kong Kano, laudable as the stern mother who nearly ruined her children in Minsan May Isang Ina, terrific as the impoverished mom who slowly loses her sanity in Don’t Cry For Me, Papa and simply pathetic as the derange ex-prostitute in the released Pusakal. Idagdag pa nga rito ang matindi rin niyang pagkakaganap sa Karnal, talagang top contender si Chato for best actress this year…” – Movie Flash Magazine, January 5, 1984 (READ MORE)

Acting Trophies – “…Charito Solis’ “antics” were the toast of the tabloids when she was younger, from the admirable to the ridiculous. Her volatile outbursts on sets when professionalism was not observed was a common story written in the movie magazines. Ever a stickler for promptness and professionalism, she was said not to allow any one to make a noise during her performances because it detracts from her concentration. She would even go to the lengths of bringing her acting trophies on movie sets so that she can show the younger stars that they were dealing with a competent and award-winning actress that they have to respect in terms of promptness and performance. Both Vilma Santos and Nora Aunor, future FAMAS Hall of Famers, were said to have experienced this. She was also said to “meddle” with directors in terms of movie directing, an accusation that she had denied and explained: she was not meddling with the direction of the film but with the direction of her acting. She was an active artist; she would suggest ways on how to better her performance, but the director’s approval was needed to seal it, which she obeyed. She was just disappointed that because she was Charito Solis that her directors usually do not bring out the best in her, believing and excusing themselves that what she was giving was already the best. Other tabloid rumors were that she slept in a temperature-controlled room to preserve her beauty and that she brought her own arinola (potty) on film sets as she refused to use public toilets. She is also known to drum up interest with her name through her personal makings, such as the beggar garb in the 1968 FAMAS Awards. Her career was top one in her life, a probable reason why she never married. After her death, it was revealed that the only boyfriends she ever had were the King of Philippine Movies Fernando Poe, Jr. when they were both starting out and film director Danny Zialcita…” – Gypsy Baldovino and Yolly Tiangco (READ MORE)

Lolita Rodriguez – “…Lolita and Charito maintained mutual respect and fondness, unusual to find in top actresses. Actually, the “clashes” exist largely in the minds of the public. Lolita says she has always been in the best of terms with LVN stars, among them Charito. Echoing the same sentiment, Charito say she works well with professionals “and who can be more professional than Lolita?” In the “clashes” in Larawanm one couldn’t say who really “won.” Lolita, having the stronger role (Candida) and being more familiar with the medium, dominated Larawan. But Charito turned her awkwardness with the stage into a virtue. She gave Paula an endearing quality…” – Ronald K. Constantino, Expressweek Magazine, April 19, 1979 (READ MORE)

Ishmael Bermal – “…So far, lahat naman siguro ng magagaling na directors noong araw, I’ve worked with na. Sa bagay, iba rin ang style nila noon, iba kaysa sa ngayon. At iba’ng galing nila, iba rin naman ang galing ng mga director ngayon.:” She paused and thinks awhile. “But I take special note of Bernie (Ishmael Bernal, who directed her late last year in “Walang Katapusang Tag-araw). Ibang klase siyang director, e. ‘yung bang pipigain ka niya nang husto. When he doesn’t like what you’re doing, he tells you. Kasi, kadalasan ang mga director ngayon, ano, just because I’m Charito Solis, it seems they don’t even bother to correct me. ‘Yung bang kundi pa ko magtatanong, hindi pa nila sasabihin. Si Bernie he can even tell me, “O, wala ka yata sa mood ngayon, a.” Things like that. And he really insists on what he wants you to do “hanggang sa makuha mo. Okey lang yon. Meron din naman akong ka-vives na director, kasundo ko sa shooting, I like him pero I cannot really, honestly respect him as a director, ganyan. Sa LVN din noon, iba. Mahigpit sila diyan. Hindi puwede ‘yung pa-wise guy wise guy ka. You have to obey everything they tell you…” – Mario E. Bautista, Philippines Daily Express, October 5, 1978 (READ MORE)

Better Actress – “…Oops! Keep your cool, dear Noranians, and listen to Charito Solis’ explanation before you accuse her of being, uh, “maka-Vilma.” “Vilma has a wider range as an actress while Nora is limited and typecast in certain roles,” Charito said in a tone devoid of intrigue, answering our question in a straightforward, matter-of-fact manner. “Si Vilma, puede kahit anong role, kahit bold. You can’t imagine Nora doing a bold role, can you?” But, and that’s the big but, “Nora has more depth than Vilma,” Charito added, “and it’s because of her expressive eyes. Nora is very effective in scenes where she doesn’t say anything, just act with her eyes, at ‘yan ang kulang ni Vilma. Vilma has to say something to be effective.” Charito has worked with Vilma twice (in “Mga Tigre ng SierraCruz” and “Modelong Tanso”) and with Nora once (“Minsan May Isang Ina”). Speaking in general now, said Charito, “Vilma is the better actress.” We asked Charito that ticklish question during the lunch presscon for her latest movie, the star-studded Mother’s Day offering of Regal Films titled “Dear Mama”, which also stars Gloria Romero, Laurice Guillen, Snooky, Janice de Belen, Julie Vega, Manilyn Reynes, Jaypee de Guzman, Rey “PJ” Abellana and Alicia Alonzo in the title role. Our own personal opinion somehow jibes with that of Charito whose “throne”, I suppose, will be inherited by Vilma (while Nora will inherit the “throne” of the other drama queen, Lolita Rodriguez)…” – Ricardo F. Lo, The Phil. Star, 03 April 1984 (READ MORE)

Charito Solis (6 October 1935 – 9 January 1998) was a FAMAS and Gawad Urian award-winning Filipino film actress. Acknowledged as one of the leading dramatic actresses of post-war Philippine cinema, she was tagged either as the “Anna Magnani of the Philippines” or as “the Meryl Streep of the Philippines. – Wikipedia (READ MORE)

Charito Solis and Vilma Santos Trivia

  • Contrary to popular belief, Charito Solis and Vilma Santos’ first project together wasn’t the festival entry, Modelong Tanso (this was their second film), It was a Cultural Center of the Phillipines’ passion play titled, “Ang Hari.”
  • According to film critic, Mario Bautista, on his interview with the screen legend, Carmen Rosales, both Santos and Solis are distant relative to her.
  • Charito Solis was one of the instigator of the Ralph Recto and Vilma Santos romance, she insisted on Vilma to give Ralph a chance after he asked her for a dance inside Kingkong Disco owned by director, Marilou Diaz Abaya. The group was unwinding after the rigid night of television work.
  • Charito Solis and Vilma Santos joined forces for the second time in the hit film, Modelong Tanso where Charito slapped Vilma several times. This scene was used to promote the film.
  • While Vilma Santos tried to be sexy in several films, it was Charito Solis who exposed herself literally. Her film, Igorota required her to show her breast, a very controversial scandal during that perod.
  • During her heyday and to make a point about professionalism, Charito Solis will bring her FAMAS trophies to the set, saying: “…tapatan mo ang mga trophies na yan (match these trophies),” probably insinuating, before you act like a diva, match these trophies! And Vilma Santos took noticed, she surpassed La Solis, in quantities and qualities.
  • Charito Solis and Vilma Santos both started their career through the help of their respective uncle, both connected in film productions.
  • Charito Solis played mother to Vilma Santos five times.
  • In 1963, Charito Solis won her third FAMAS best actress for Angustia and Vilma Santos her very first as best child actress for Trudis Liit.
  • Charito Solis and Vilma Santos both FAMAS Hall of Fame awardees
  • Charito Solis won the FAMAS best actress for: Kundiman ng Lahi, 1959; Emily, 1960; Angustia, 1963; Igorota, 1968; Don’t Cry for Me Papa, 1983 (also, she received 14 Best Actress nominations and 2 Best Supporting Actress nominations
  • Vilma Santos won the FAMAS best actress for: Dama de Noche, 1972; Pakawalan Mo Ako, 1981; Relasyon, 1982; Tagos Ng Dugo, 1987; Ibulong Mo Sa Diyos, 1988 (also, she received 12 Best Actress nominations, 2 Best Supporting Actress Nominations and won one Best Child Actress award).
  • Because of their talent, versatility and several acting awards, both Charito Solis and Vilma Santos are tagged at one point in their career, as the Meryl Streep of the Philippines.
  • Charito Solis’ Dahil sa Isang Bulaklak, was the Philippines’ entry to the Oscar’s best foreign film of 1969 while Vilma Santos’ Dekada 70 and Anak were the Philippines entries in 2003 and 2000.
  • Also in 1969, Charito Solis won the Asian Film Festival’s best actress honor for Dahil sa Isang Bulaklak (Because of One Flower) while Vilma Santos surpassed this by winning the best actress trophies in 1999 Brussels Festival of International Independent Films, for Bata, Bata…Paano Ka Ginawa? (Leah’s Story) and 2003 CinaManila International Films Festival, for Dekada ’70 (The Seventies).
  • Both Charito Solis and Vilma Santos did drama anthologies on small screen. Solis did “The Charito Solis show” while Santos did “Ang Talambuhay ni Rosa Vilma” both for ABS-CBN. Solis stiff competition was Marlen Dauden’s “Salamisim” while Santos’ was Nora Aunor’s “Makulay na Daigdig ni Nora,” these shows were from rival station, RPN channel 9.
  • Charito Solis and Vilma Santos transformed themselves into mature actress venturing into the sexy films, Solis via Araw-Araw, Gabi-Gabi and Santos via Burlesk Queen, both films were entries to the Metro Manila Film Festival. They both won the best actress awards.
  • Charito Solis and Vilma Santos portrayed the role of a burlesk dancer, Charito in Huwad na Mananayaw and Vilma in Burlesk Queen.
  • While Charito Solis did two films with Japanese actor Kojiro Hongo in 1960 (The Life of Gautama Budha) and 1961 (The Princess and I), Vilma Santos did Twin Fist of Justice in 1975, with Chinese actor, Meng Fei.

Charito Solis and Vilma Santos Films

Hanggang Ngayon Ika’y Minamahal (1997) – “…You know, it’s amazing because we’ve never been linked to each other and yet the public loves seeing our movies together. Siguro it’s because we have this unbelievable chemistry. We know each other so well that tinginan lang on screen, we already know what to do to make a take very good…” – Mario E. Bautista (READ MORE)

Dahil Mahal Kita: The Dolzura Cortez Story (1993) – “…The 1990s saw Charito Solis graduate to mother and grandmother roles, which she had done with frequency in the 1980s. In another nod to her age, she finally allowed herself to be billed above Vilma Santos, then acknowledged as the Longest-Reigning Box Office Queen of Philippine Movies, albeit above-the-title in films such as Ipagpatawad Mo (1992) and Dahil Mahal Kita: The Dolzura Cortez Story (1993)…” – Gypsy Baldovino and Yolly Tiangco (READ MORE)

Ipagpatawad Mo (1991) – “…Ninety percent of these autistic children are very good-looking and are good in numbers but they have a world of their own. If you teach them something, yon kung ang alam nila, no other world exists. Autism is like virus and it is not hereditary. Hindi malalaman na autistic ang isang bata until they are about three or four years old. But doctors know, when a baby is born that he or she is autistic, only they don’t dare tell the parents about it. This movie should be an eye opener for such doctors and parents…” – Nena Z. Villanueva, Manila Standard, Oct 28 1991 (READ MORE)

Modelong Tanso (1979) – “…The multi-awarded actress even related her personal experience about feeling inadequate when she did the 1979 movie Modelong Tanso with the late Charito Solis who played her mom in the story. “Ako ang naintimidate noon. Naranasan ko yun noong araw kay Ms. Charito Solis na ngayon parang yun naman ang nangyayari sa akin [with the young stars.] So tinuro ko sa kanila na kahit may ka-eksena kayo na senior stars, kapag sinabi ng direktor ni’yo na kailangan niyong sampalin/sigawan sila, wala kayong choice. Gawin ni’yo yun, kahit sabihin niyong senior or respected star man yun, hindi kayo pwedeng magpa-intimidate. Kasi lahat sila kinakabahan lalo na nung pinapasampal ako kay Megan…” – Rachelle Siazon (READ MORE)

Happy Days Are Here Again (1974) – “…In 1974, the Big 3 studios of the 50s, LVN Pictures, Sampaguita Pictures and Premiere Productions reproduced a full-length movie showcasing a compilation of the musical comedies produced by the three studios. It was a painstaking job for the researchers since most of the best musicals produced by the three studios were either lost or destroyed. At the start of the project, director Lamberto V. Avellana was supposed to direct the film but eventually replaced by Cirio Santiago after so many changes in the project including the script. He ended up as consultant of the movie. The film was HAPPY DAYS ARE HERE AGAIN, with brief narrations by movie stars like Gloria Romero, Nida Blanca, Susan Roces, Leopoldo Salcedo, Jaime de la Rosa, Eddie Gutierrez, Tirso Cruz III, Pugo, German Moreno and Ike Lozada…” – Pelikula Atbp (READ MORE)

Mga Tigre ng Sierra Cruz (1974) – “…Charito Solis, who initially had a tempestuous and hostile relationship with Vilma while making the ill-fated but box-office MMFF champ Modelong Tanso, had a change of heart when the reborn versatile/professional/charismatic actress Vilma impressed her through the years, at idineklara niya sa buong mundo, without batting an eyelash. na di hamak na mas magaling na aktres si Vilma kaysa kay Nora Aunor. Walang kumontra kay Chato dahil totoo ang sinabi niya, si La Solis yata iyan, at pati nga si Amalia Fuentes, another certified Vilmanian, at “kaaway” na mortal ni La Solis, ay sumang-ayon sa kanya. Si Susan Roces, ano naman kaya ang opinion niya sa obserbasyon ni Chato? Ah, Nida Blanca. Ang dami nilang pinagsamahan ni Vilma, mula TV hanggang sa movies. Dati ay una sa billing si Nida, subali’t dahil nga sa gulong ng buhay ay kailangang maging praktikal at handa ka sa katotohanang magiging second lead ka lang in the future…” – Mario O. Garces (READ MORE)

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FILM REVIEW: DAHIL MAHAL KITA THE DOLZURA CORTEZ STORY

ARTICLES - Vi in Dolzura Cortez

The Plot: “Dahil Mahal Kita (Because I Love You): The Dolzura Cortez Story 1994, This Philippine drama chronicles the colorful life of Dolzura Cortez, the first publicly recognized AIDS patient in the Philippines. The film begins with a brief examination of Cortez’s pre-AIDS life. Initially she lived in a small village with her cruel husband and three kids. The spunky woman leaves them and moves to the big city where she engages in several affairs. Her second marriage to a rich foreigner does not last long. To support her children, Dolly begins an all woman “contract worker” agency. This also serves to facilitate her love of night-life. Tragedy comes to Dolzura after she collapses on a dance floor one night and learns that she has full-blown AIDS. At a Manila hospital she meets ex-lover Paulo, an AIDS researcher who encourages to tell her story publicly. The courageous woman does and she becomes instrumental in spreading AIDS awareness to the islands.” – Sandra Brennan, All Movie Guide, The New York Times (READ MORE)

The Reviews: This Philippine drama chronicles the colorful life of Dolzura Cortez, the first publicly recognized AIDS patient in the Philippines. The film begins with a brief examination of Cortez’s pre-AIDS life. Initially she lived in a small village with her cruel husband and three kids. The spunky woman leaves them and moves to the big city where she engages in several affairs. Her second marriage to a rich foreigner does not last long. To support her children, Dolly begins an all woman “contract worker” agency. This also serves to facilitate her love of night-life. Tragedy comes to Dolzura after she collapses on a dance floor one night and learns that she has full-blown AIDS. At a Manila hospital she meets ex-lover Paulo, an AIDS researcher who encourages to tell her story publicly. The courageous woman does and she becomes instrumental in spreading AIDS awareness to the islands. It was the first movie on AIDS in the Philippines that provided ‘a name and a face’ among the 50 recorded lives that were lost to AIDS in 1992. This movie was utilized as a focus of discussion by some health care personnel to express their thoughts, opinions and recommendations regarding the use of cinema as a powerful tool for AIDS information dissemination. – You and Aids web-site

The “Dolzura Cortez Story” was the Philippines’ first movie on AIDS that provided ‘a name and a face’ among the 50 recorded lives that were lost to AIDS in 1992. This movie was utilized as a focus of discussion by some health care personnel to express their thoughts, opinions and recommendations regarding the use of cinema as a powerful tool for AIDS information dissemination.

Responding to a newspaper advertisement looking for a person with AIDS, Ms. Dolzura Cortez agreed to have her life story serialized in print and later developed into a movie. The “Dolzura Cortez Story” was subsequently produced as the Philippines’ first movie on AIDS which documented the real experiences of a person living with AIDS in the country. The author reports findings from a study conducted to determine the social impact of the movie as perceived by some health care personnel. Specifically, it aimed to identify the messages that health care providers derived from watching the movie and to make recommendations on how this and subsequent films could serve as an effective tool for AIDS education. 134 health care personnel representing 13 regional hospitals from all over the country watched the film, then answered a questionnaire. The sample was of mean age 35.6 years, 84.3% female, and with mean experience of 10.1 years. 20.1% were doctors, 21.6% nurses, 32.4% social workers, and 25.4% other health personnel. 22.9% had direct experience caring for persons with AIDS and 32.8% knew someone with AIDS. Although these participants perceived some simple and subtle messages from the movie, they also noted its shortcomings. The movie lacked realism; overemphasized the dangers of having multiple sex partners at the expense of warning about other risk factors for HIV transmission; the counsellor pressured the patient and failed to provide enough information on infection control; the psychosocial, economic, and spiritual concerns of people with AIDS were not addressed; and there were some misinterpretations and twisted truths about AIDS facts and the story itself. The respondents suggested that health care providers and people directly involved in AIDS education and counseling be involved in the production of such movies. Moreover, documentary pictures and testimonial footage of the woman would have added realism, while additional basic information about AIDS could have been mentioned in either the movie or a trailer. – NCBI

‘Dolzura Cortez Story’ is an artistic and brilliant film from Manila’s finest director. The movie’s leading actress, Ms. Santos, played her part so powerfully, and is very convincing as Dolzura, the first Filipino HIV/AIDS patient to come- out to the public. The movie is a thought- provoking film, ready to challenge the Filipino idea of what is right and what is wrong. – Jonard, “A thought- provoking, honest film from Philippine’s finest director,” IBDB, March 11, 2000

“…In 1992, wala ni isang pelikulang tinampukan si Nora, samantalang si Vilma starred in only one: Maryo J. delos Reyes’ Sinungaling Mong Puso, na hindi niya pinagtamuhan ng anumang major Best Actress award. In 1993, gumawa si Vilma ng pelikula na ang kuwento’y base sa unang Pilipinang nag-reveal ng pagkakaroon niya ng AIDS (Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome), si Dolzura Cortez. Directed by Laurice Guillen for Octoarts Films, Dahil Mahal Kita (The Dolzura Cortez Story) won Vilma the Best Actress honors at the 1993 Manila Film Festival, Star, Gawad Urian and FAP…” – William Reyes (READ MORE)

“Still bearing activist weight is Vilma’s effort in Laurice Guillen’s Dahil Mahal Kita: The Dolzura Cortez Story in which she fleshes out a body and a mind for a person with AIDS. This initiative constitutes an advocacy not only for people afflicted with the dreaded pandemic, but also for women who have to overcome strata of ostracism in the process of survival and resist their being reduced to an aberration, in this case, a pathology.” – Patrick Flores, Manila Standard Today Jan 11, 2003 (READ MORE)

“…Previously, HIV/AIDS “victims” were seen either as homosexual men, or women who worked in the sex industry. The former stereotype was even turned into a mainstream 1993 Hollywood movie Philadelphia that won a best actor Academy Award for Tom Hanks. The latter, on the other hand, was the subject of a 1993 Filipino film The Dolzura Cortez Story starring Vilma Santos. As a disease, AIDS was highly misunderstood two decades ago. Religious fanatics considered it “a punishment from God” for the sexual excesses of its victims. While a complete falsehood, there was some truth to the other mistaken belief about AIDS—that it would lead to certain death for whoever had the disease, which had no known cure. Fast forward to 2013 and Filipinos still generally remain in the dark about HIV/AIDS…” – Beting Laygo Dolor, Manila Times, 14 August 2013 (READ MORE)

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Vilma Santos’ MMFF recognitions

Aside from Gawad Urian, Star Awards, Film Academy Awards and FAMAS, the annual local festival, called MMFF or Metro Manila Film Festival has become a part of Vilma Santos’ film career. From the 70s to the new millennium, Vilma Santos was able to entered memorable films that earned her awards, record-breaking ticket revenues, career breakthrough performances and even some memorable heartache. Spanning four decades, the MMFF earned Vilma 7 acting nominations with four wins.

The Martial Law established the amalgamation of the surrounding cities in Manila. Prior to 1975, three local film festivals showcase Filipino films, Quezon City and Manila each has their own festivities and another one in Southern part of the country, Bacolod City. The local festivals started the acting competition between rival, Vilma Santos and Nora Aunor. In 1970 Manila Film Festival, Nora’s Nora in Wonderland and Young Heart compete with Vilma’s sole entry, Love Letters. Two years afterwards, the acting race will heat up in Quezon City Film Festival when the two collided with Nora’s And God Smiled at Me and Vilma’s Dama De Noche. After the Martial Law, cities were amalgamated with Manila. And the Quezon City Film Festival and the Manila Film Festival ends creating the December festival in 1975. Occasionally, Manila will have their own festival every summer in connection to city’s “Araw Ng Manila” celebration. Tthe last time Vilma entered a film at MFF was in 1993 via Dahil Mahal Kita: The Dolzura Cortez Story where she won the best actress. Meanwhile, Nora Aunor’s last venture to MFF was in 2004’s Naglalayag where like Vilma, she won the best actress too.

The Metropolitan Manila Film Festival, now simply called, MMFF, (the “politan” was dropped eventually) or Metro Manila Film Festival exhibits only local films in all its theatres from Christmas Eve to the first week of the following New Year. The festival has its street parade at the eve of Christmas Day and each films contesting for best float. The festival has its awards night at the third or fourth nights.

Not surprisingly, both Nora and Vilma have competed in the first MMFF. Nora’s entry was her self-produced film directed by Luciano B. Carlos, Batu-Bato sa Langit and Vilma’s entry was the melodrama, Karugtong ang Kahapon. The big winner was the pre-presidential, Joseph Estrada. Directed by Augosto Bunaventura, Estrada’s Diligin Mo ng Hamog ang Uhaw na Lupa won the major awards: Best Picture, Best Director, and Best Actor. Best Actress went to Charito Solis for Araw-Araw, Gabi-Gabi.

The second year, the festival was noticeably the precursor to the awards race. It was a showcase of who’s who in the local film industry. Lino Brocka, Eddie Romero, Lupita Concio were among the big name directors competing. Romero’s Ganito Kami Noon, Paano Kayo Ngayon dominated the awards night winning the best director and Christopher de Leon the best actor. Hilda Koronel was proclaimed the best actress for her impressive performance in Insiang. Concio’s Minsa’y Isang Gamo-gamo, Brocka’s Insiang and Romero’s Ganito will be the top films competing for the first Gawad Urian.

The third MMFF, brought controversy to Vilma Santos. Now starting to accept offbeat roles and learning to adopt versatility to her arsenal, she bravely entered the festival with Celso Ad Castillo’s Burlesk Queen. The gamble paid off as the film became the top grosser and won eight awards out of ten. Burlesk won best picture and best in direction, lead actor, actress, screenplay, supporting actress/actor and cinematography.

Burlesk defeated Lino Brocka’s Inay, Mario O’Hara and Romy Suzara’s Mga Bilanggong Birhen, Mike de Leon’s Kung Mangarap Ka’t Magising, Eddie Romero’s Banta ng Kahapon, Ishmael Bernal’s Walang Katapusang Tag-araw, Joey Gosiengfiao’s Babae, Ngayon at Kailanman, Gil Portes’ Sa Piling ng mga Sugapa. A very impressive list, no wonder some critics loudly complained about the awards results. And according to Armida Sigueon Reyna, in her newspaper column, Brocka walked out the awards night in protest and even cursed the juror on the way out ot the auditorium. It was also reported that the organizer asked the winners to return their medals (they hand out medals that year) but no such things happened, Vilma still has her medal in her fully loaded cabinet of hardwares.

The success of Burlesk Queen commercially and critically brought down some senses to some Nora Aunor followers. Clearly, Vilma Santos’ willingness to accept mature and offbeat roles became a threat to Nora Aunor’s standing as the number one actress. Vilma Santos’ entry was Lino Brocka’s true to life film about rape victim, Rubia Servios. Critics and media have predicted Vilma was dead lock for the best actress. Come awards night, the juries’ award Nora’s film about a maid abused by her employer, Atsay won the major awards including best picture and best director for Eddie Garcia. The top acting award was changed to best performer that Nora Aunor won. A vindication from last year’s result? Wait, there wasn’t even an Aunor film last year. For some consolation, Rubia won two technical awards, one for editing and screenplay for Mario O’Harra. The film also became the top grosser of the festival even with the lost to Aunor. According to Isagani Cruz on his TV Times article in 1979: “…Nora does an excellent acting job; but so does Vilma Santos, and Rubia is a much more demanding and difficult role….Overall, Atsay may be much more impressive than Rubia Servios. In terms of challenging our moral and legal convictions, however, Rubia Servios is much more significant.”

1979 brought the tandem of Charito Solis & Vilma Santos versus Lolita Rodrigues and Nora Aunor. The clear winner was the latter team. Although Solis and Santos film did much better at the box office. Ina Ka Ng Anak Mo, a much better film, directed by Lino Brocka won the major awards, best picture, director and acting awards for Raul Aragon and Nora Aunor. For film aficionado, the scene where Solis slapped Santos in Modelong Tanso was memorable. Many reprised that scene, Vilma did it in Anak (with Claudine) and recently Sharon Cuneta with Heart Evangelist in the recent Mano Po.

By 1980, Nora Aunor kept on pushing for festival supremacy and like last year, she entered two films. This time, with Lino Brocka’s Bona and Laurice Guillen’s Kung Ako’y Iiwan Mo. Vilma’s lone entry was Danny Zialcita’s Langis at Tubig. Nora came up short, as both of her film missed the major awards. The big winner was Christopher De Leon and Bembol Roco’s film Taga Sa Panahon. Taga won the top awards while Marilou Diaz Abaya’s film Brutal won directing and best actress for Amy Austria. Langis At Tubig won best actor Dindo Fernando.

After winning in 1977 and a big loss in 1978, Vilma’s enthusiasm in winning at the MMFF subsided significantly. Her film entries were now focused on entertainment value aimed at getting commercial success instead of awards. 1980 and 1981 was a big example. Danny Zialcita’s Langis At Tubig did very well at the box office in ’80 and her entry the following year was a glossy production, Karma. Karma was a big hit and earned nominations but one film dominated all the 1981’s MMFF, Kisap Mata, directed by Mike De Leon won eight out of ten awards except for best actress, that award went to Vilma Santos. Vilma didn’t attend the ceremony, her co-star, Chanda Romero, accepted the award.

Nora’s absence in 1981 add motivation to her camp, she entered the festival with the epic film, directed by Ishmael Bernal, Himala, now considered by many as one of the best Filipino film of all time. Himala won seven major awards including best picture, director, screenplay and actress. Vilma’s entry Haplos was a distant third, with a win for lead actor, Christopher De Leon. The following year, Himala harvested nominations from four award-giving bodies particularly the best actress nominations for Nora but failed to win any, all the trophies went to Vilma, earning her first grand slam best actress. The next six years, no film by Vilma Santos in the festival. The big winners during these years are: 1983 – Karnal, 1984 – Bulaklak ng City Jail, 1985 – Paradise Inn, 1986 – Halimaw sa Banga, 1987 – Olongapo, 1988 – Patrolman.

The 1989 MMFF brought back the team of Vilma Santos and Christopher De Leon. Viva film’s Immortal directed by Eddie Garcia won major awards including best picture, director and the acting for Christopher and Vilma. Not to be undone, Nora Aunor entered the race the following year via Elwood Perez’ Andrea Paano ba ang Maging Isang Ina. The film won best picture, director and actress for Nora. Best actor went to Dolphy for Espadang Patpat. Then 1991 was a repeat for Nora as her film, again directed by Perez, Ang Totoong Buhay ni Pacita M. won major awards.

The next twelve years seems to be non-existent for Vilma followers as there were no entries from Vilma Santos in these years. There were no films that stands out compare to the high caliber films entered during the peak of the Vilma-Nora rivalry. There are six films that were praised by the critics though, Chito Rono‘s films Nasaan ang Puso (1997) and Bagong Buwan (2001), Marilou Diaz-Abaya’s Jose Rizal (1998) and Muro-ami (1999) and Laurice Guillen’s Tanging Yaman (2000). In the acting category, only Elizabeth Oropesa win in 1999 for Bulaklak ng Maynila and Gloria Romero’s win in 2000 for Tanging Yaman stands out.

By 2002, it was déjà vu all over again, Vilma Santos convinced by many as a sure bet for the best actress lost again for her festival entry, Dekada 70. The award was given to Ara Mina for her supposed to be supporting role in the very first Mano Po. Dekada will dominate the awards race the following year, Vilma will win several best actress awards. Vilma’s co-star, Piolo Pascual will win all the best supporting actor making him a grand slam winner. The next year, Crying Ladies, starring Sharon Cuneta, Hilda Koronel and Angel Aquino won the best picture, best actor for Eric Quizon, best supporting actress for Hilda while Maricel Soriano snatched the best actress for Filipinas. The next year, Vilma came back again with Regal’s third installment to the Mano Po series. Titled, Mano Po 3: My Love and directed by Joel Lamangan, the film won best picture and the lead acting for Vilma and Christopher De Leon. Cesar Montano’s self-produced and directed film, Panaghoy sa Suba won best actor.

No Vilma Santos or Nora Aunor films the next five years. Vilma visibly concentrated with her political career and Nora retired in the United States. The film festival continued its annual fan fare with some memorable films. Zsazsa Padilla and Cherry Pie Picache continued the Mano Po series with a comedy, Ako Legal Wife, Mano Po 4 won the female acting awards in 2005. Judy Ann Santos comedy film, directed Joey Reyes, Kasal, Kasali, Kasalo top the 2006 festival. Maricel Soriano received another best actress the following year for Bahay Kubo, The Pinoy Mano Po. Anne Curtis arrived in the big league as she wins best actress for Baler in 2008 and then this year, Bong Revilla won best actor for Ang Panday and Sharon Cuneta best actor for Mano Po 6: A Mother’s Love, both first time winner.

Vilma Santos’ MMFF Best Actress from 1975 to 2008

For some, Vilma Santos MMFF recognitions in terms of awards wasn’t as significant compare to lets say, her number of URIAN or FAMAS awards but all the shortcomings were forgotten when you think about the successful recorded revenue of her festival entries.  From Burlesk Queen, Rubia Servios, Karma, Langis at Tubig and to her last one, Mano Po 3, all did very well.  At the end of the day, producers would still prefer a little profit than trophies. – RV

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Collection of brief articles (repost)

Vilmanians, diehard fans of Vilma Santos, 45, the renowned actress-politician and the longest-reigning box-office queen in the Philippines. Last year, hundreds of screaming Vilmanians jammed the Quezon City tax office as Santos showed up to pay delinquent taxes. Many of them had come to seek her authograph. Santos, whose full name is Rosa Vilma Tuazon Santos-Recto, began her career as an award-winning child actress and singer in 1963. In 1992, she married Ralph Gonzalez Recto, scion of a famous political clan in Batangas province, just south of Manila. Recto, then only 28, parlayed his wife’s name to win a congressional seat in Batangas. He ran as “Mr. Vilma Santos.” Last year, Santos herself contested and won the elections for mayor of Lipa City in Batangas. She has denied accusations that her family is trying to build a political dynasty. People vote for the Recto clan, she said in a television interview before the elections, because “they had done a good job in the province.” Vilmanians would unhesitatingly agree. – June 25, 1999 Asiaweek

Vilma Santos ranked 86th in BizNewsAsia Magazines’ 100 Most Powerful Filipinos – Education: Crash course on local governance, primary health care, human resource development and fiscal administration, UP. The Star for all season has proved cynics wrong that movie people have little between their ears, aside from a beautiful face or a handsome profile. As mayor of burgeoning Lipa, she has been chosen “most outstanding city mayor” in 2000 by the Civil Service Commission. Her popularity helped her husband Ralph Recto win a senate seat in 2001, and she can easily win a senate seat for herself if she gets tired of running Lipa city. The mayor with an ageless face received the Ten Young Achievers award in 1992. – BizNewsAsia Magazine, June 2004

Charito Solis: “Vilma is a better actress than Nora” – OOPS! Keep your cool, dear Noranians, and listen to Charito Solis’ explanation before you accuse her of being, uh, “maka-Vilma.” “Vilma has a wider range as an actress while Nora is limited and typecast in certain roles,” Charito said in a tone devoid of intrigue, answering our question in a straightforward, matter-of-fact manner. “Si Vilma, puede kahit anong role, kahit bold. You can’t imagine Nora doing a bold role, can you?” But, and that’s the big but, “Nora has more depth than Vilma,” Charito added, “and it’s because of her expressive eyes. Nora is very effective in scenes where she doesn’t say anything, just act with her eyes, at ‘yan ang kulang ni Vilma. Vilma has to say something to be effective.” Charito has worked with Vilma twice (in “Mga Tigre ng SierraCruz” and “Modelong Tanso”) and with Nora once (“Minsan May Isang Ina”). Speaking in general now, said Charito, “Vilma is the better actress.” We asked Charito that ticklish question during the lunch presscon for her latest movie, the star-studded Mother’s Day offering of Regal Films titled “Dear Mama”, which also stars Gloria Romero, Laurice Guillen, Snooky, Janice de Belen, Julie Vega, Manilyn Reynes, Jaypee de Guzman, Rey “PJ” Abellana and Alicia Alonzo in the title role. Our own personal opinion somehow jibes with that of Charito whose “throne”, I suppose, will be inherited by Vilma (while Nora will inherit the “throne” of the other drama queen, Lolita Rodriguez). – Funfare by Ricardo F. Lo, The Phil. Star – 03 April 1984

Vilma is the first Filipino actress to be featured in Time Magaziine. – The Philippines: Let Them See Films. When politics became pretty much a one-man show in the Philippines, the people lost a prime source of entetainment. Part of the gap has been filled by a burhome-grown film industry, which displayed nine of its new productions at the Manila Film Festival last month. Some 2 million moviegoers saw the films. Some of the movies were historical dramas pointing up the search for a Filipino identity during the long years of Spanish rule. But the most acclaimed were contemporary stories with a heavy populist touch. The festival’s smash hit was Burlesk Queen, starring Filipino Superstar Vilma Santos. It tells the syrupy tale of a poor girl who turns to burlesque dancing to support a crippled father. She falls in love with the son of a politician, elopes with him, and then tragically loses him back to his possessive mother. The treacle is supplemented with some gritty argument about the rights and wrongs of burlesque, with a lefthanded dig at censors. Huffs the burlesque impresario at one point: “Who are they to dictate what the people should see?” – Time Magazine Feb. 13, 1978 Vol. 111 No. 7

Actress-politician Vilma Santos Recto receives a picture frame containing her image and that of the gumamela named after her, Hibiscus-Rosasinensis, from plant breeder Reynold Pimentel.

Manila – TV artist Mari-Len Martinez’ single debut on Villar is “If You Could Read My Mind.” her signing fee is one fo the highest here….Jean Young, another TV artist whose national breakout years ago was “Nikki Hoeki,” also was signed by Villar. Formerly, she was recording artist of Jonal, now in the verge of closing up…The new male contractees of Villar are the Two of Us (Jojit Paredes and Ronnie Henares) and balladeer Jun Polistico. Single debut of the Two of Us is “Snow Queen of Texas” while Polistico’s is “Theme from “Godfather.” Alice Mendez, grand national champion of the institurional “Tawag ng Tanghalan” radio-TV amateur program, debuted in the release of a “A House is Not a Home” on Pioneer, a label of Vicor Music. The song was her winning piece last year…Vicor is preparing the album debut on Badjaoof TV host and columnist Justo C. Justo. The LP will be in the Visayas-Mindanao region of the Philippines. Film artist Walter Navarro (Vicor) will have his first LP, “King of Balladeer,” this month. He is a contract star of Lea Productions and principal mainstay of the El Bodegon Club. Navarro is doing a film musical with Vilma Santos (Wilear’s) with Mirick Productions…the film musical “Winter Holiday,” which stars Nora Aunor (Alpha) and Tirso Cruz III (Vicor) was second top grosser in the recently concluded Manila Film Festival. The team’s movie musical “Guy and Pip” was the top grosser last year…”Remembrance,” another film musical, was chosen “best musical” in the Manila Film Festival. The film stars Vilma Santos (Wilear’) and Edgar Mortiz (Wilear’s). The film also won in the categories of best film editing, best sound and best script…Vicor artist Victor Laurel will do a film with Lea Productions opposite Hilda Koronel. – Oskar Salazar, Billboard July 29 1972

Filipino Movie Queens with Vilma Santos in Films

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Gloria Romero (born December 16, 1933) is a Filipino a multi-awarded actress whose career spans 60 years. Acknowledged as the original Queen of Philippine Movies. She hold two record in FAMAS award history: She is the only actress in Philippine movie history to win the FAMAS Best Actress Award for a comedy role and the oldest FAMAS Best Actress winner, receiving the prestigious accolade in 2001 when she was 67 years old. (Wikepedia)

Total Number of films with Vilma: 13 (Anak ang Iyong Ina, Iginuhit ng Tadhana, De Colores, Pinagbuklod ng Langit, Anak ng Aswang, Lipad Darna Lipad, Happy Days are Here Again, Karugtong ang Kahapon, Nakakahiya?, Hindi Nakakahiya, Makahiya at Talahib, Saan Nagtatago Ang Pag-ibig?, Kapag Langit Ang Humatol)

RELATED READING: DIVA TO DIVA: TERMS OF ENDEARMENT

Movie Queens – Vilma Santos & Gloria Romero from SFAS – VSR on Vimeo.

 

Nora Aunor (born Nora Cabaltera Villamayor on May 21, 1953) is a multi-awarded Filipino actress, singer and producer. Aunor has also topbilled several stage plays, television shows, and concerts. She is regarded as the “Superstar in Philippine Entertainment Industry”. In 1999, Aunor received the Centennial Honor for the Arts awarded by the Cultural Center of the Philippines (CCP). She was the only film actress included in the prestigious list of awardees. In 2010, she was hailed by the Green Planet Awards as one of the 10 Asian Best Actresses of the Decade. (Wikepedia)

Total Number of films with Vilma: 8 (Happy Days are Here Again, Dugo at pag-ibig sa kapirasong lupa, Young Love, Big Ike’s Happening, Mga Mata Ni Angelita, Ikaw ay Akin, Pinagbuklod ng Pag-ibig, T-Bird at Ako)

RELATED READING: Sino ba talaga ang mas mahusay umarte, si Vilma o si Nora?
Vilmanians and Noranians Surveyed
‘VERY LONG RIVALRY”
NORA AND VILMA, APART AND TOGETHER

 

Marlene Dauden, (born in Philippines) is considered one of the greatest Filipina drama actresses of all time. She achieved her legendary status as a film thespian during her film career that spanned from the 1950s up to the 1970s. During the height of her fame, she was one of the most bankable stars of Sampaguita Pictures, which used to be one of the leading Philippine movie studios of the era. (Wikepedia)

Total Number of films with Vilma: 7 (Sa Bawat Pintig ng Puso, Kay Tagal ng Umaga, Maria Cecilia, Hindi Nahahati ang Langit, Kasalanan Kaya?, Sino ang may Karapatan?, Happy Days are Here Again)

RELATED READING: Marlene Dauden
MARLENE DAUDEN: 50s-60s DRAMA ICON

 

Charito Solis (6 October 1935 – 9 January 1998) was a FAMAS and Gawad Urian award-winning Filipino film actress. Acknowledged as one of the leading dramatic actresses of post-war Philippine cinema, she was tagged either as the “Anna Magnani of the Philippines” or as “the Meryl Streep of the Philippines. (Wikepedia)

Total Number of films with Vilma: 6 (Happy Days are Here Again, Mga Tigre ng Sierra Cruz, Modelong Tanso, Ipagpatawad Mo, Dahil Mahal Kita The Dolzura Cortez Story, Hanggang Ngayon Ika’y Minamahal)

RELATED READING: Charito Solis, the Empress of Drama
CHARITO SOLIS HALL OF FAME FOR BEST ACTRESS

Movie Queens – Vilma Santos & Charito Solis from SFAS – VSR on Vimeo.

 

Celia Rodriguez ay isang artista sa Pilipinas. Una siang nakitang gumanap sa mga pelikula ng Premiere Production noong huling dekada 1950. Siya ay nanalo ng apat na FAMAS Awards: isa bilang pinakamahusay na aktres ng 1971 para sa pelikulang Lilet at tatlo pa bilang pinakamahusay na pangalawang aktres ng 1964 (Kulay Dugo ang Gabi), 1966 (The Passionate Strangers) at 2003 (Magnifico). (Wikipedia)

Total Number of films with Vilma: 6 (Lipad Darna Lipad, Biktima, Karugtong ang Kahapon, Mga Rosas sa Putikan, Coed, Darna at Ding)

RELATED READING: Lilet’s Little Secret (Or How Celia Rodriguez made my life worth living.)

 

Lolita Rodriguez, {Dolores Clark in real life} was born on January 29, 1935 in Urdaneta Pangasinan. In 1953, at the age of 18, she entered the movies. She was given walk-on roles. As an extra, she used to earn 5 pesos per appearance. Her first movie was Ating Pag-ibig, followed by Gorio at Tekla, El Indio, Cofradia, Kiko, Reyna Bandida, Sa Isang Sulyap mo Tita and Diwani. (Video48)

Total Number of films with Vilma: 6 (Trudis Liit, Kay Tagal ng Umaga, Hindi Nahahati ang Langit, Kasalanan Kaya?, Sino ang may Karapatan?, Happy Days are Here Again)

RELATED READING: DRAMA QUEEN LOLITA RODRIGUEZ Circa 1954-60

 

Amalia Fuentez Amalia Fuentes was born on August 27, 1940 in Philippines and she is a famous TV and film actress. Fuentes started her career in 1956 with the film called “Rodora”. She acted in many other films and TV series such as: “Inang mahal”, “Pretty Boy”, “Kahit isang saglit.” (FamousWhy)

Total Number of films with Vilma: 5 (De Colores, Bulaklak at Paru-paro, Happy Days are Here Again, Mga Reynang Walang Trono, Asawa ko, Huwag Mong Agawin)

RELATED READING: AMALIA FUENTES BIOGRAPHY

 

Barbarra Perez, dubbed as Audrey Hepburn of the Philippines was a famous Filipina movie star of the fifties and sixties. Born in the year 1938, Barbara is married to another actor Robert Arevalo. Barbara made several hit movies under the defunct Sampaguita Pictures. Both Barbara and her husband won the best actor awards in 1966 for the movie “Daigdig ng mga Api” or the world of the downtrodden. (Wikipilipinas)

Total Number of films with Vilma: 4 (Ito ang Pilipino, Hatinggabi Na Vilma, Nakakahiya?, Ibulong Mo Sa Diyos)

RELATED READING: WHY BARBARA PEREZ SAID NO TO HOLLYWOOD

 

Nida Blanca Dorothy Acueza Jones, (January 6, 1936 – November 7, 2001) popularly known by her stage name Nida Blanca, was a Filipina actress. She starred in over 163 movies and 14 television shows and received over 16 awards for movies and six awards for television during her 50-year film career. She was named one of 15 Best Actress of all Time by YES magazine. She was stabbed to death in a parking lot in San Juan City on November 7, 2001.

Total Number of films with Vilma: 3 (Ibulong mo sa Diyos, Happy Days Are Here Again, Pag-ibig masdan ang ginawa mo)

RELATED READING: NIDA BLANCA LOOKS BACK

 

Rita Gomez The first Filipino to be billed with a title before her name. On a comeback stint in the Bomba (Bold) Era of Philippine movies, the title “Ms.” was added by her manager before her name to maintain her stature as one of the Philippines’ most revered actresses. (movie-industry.blogspot.com)

Total Number of films with Vilma: 2 (Anak ang iyong ina!, Takbo Vilma Dali)

RELATED READING: RITA GOMEZ BIOGRAPHY
10 Most Loved Babaeng Bakla

Other Filipino Movie Queens who are still active and who made films with Vilma are: Gina Pareno (Ibigay Mo Sa Akin Ang Bukas), Maricel Soriano (Yesterday, Today and Tomorrown), Lorna Tolentino (Sinasamba Kita), Claudine Baretto (Anak), Alma Moreno (Magkaribal), Rio Locsin (Haplos). Hilda Koronel (Gaano Kadalas Ang Minsan).

RELATED READING: FEMALE COSTARS (PHOTOS)

Vilma, the Glad Girl

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Unlike Nora la Dolorosa, the durable Vi Santos has made happiness her career By Quijano De Manila

Durable is a word that shifts nuance when applied to Vilma Santos. Yes, you can say that, for instance, Gloria Romero, Nida Blanca and Charito Solis are durable because they are still on view as performers, if no longer at center stage. But when you say that Vilma Santos is durable you mean she is still at center, in front, on top. Now that’s phenomenal because in Philippine cinema 10 years seems to be the limit for female stardom. After 10 years you slip to character and supporting roles. But Vilma is on her 28th year in showbiz and the spotlight is hers yet as leading lady, the only one to match the record of Dolphy and Ronnie Poe. When she started out, Amalia Fuentes and Susan Roces were the glamour queens. Then she and Nora outshone them. Today, after several changings of the guard, the prima donnas are Sharon Cuneta and Gretchen Barretto. Nora Aunor is no longer in the running, at least not at the moment. But Vilma is. Very much so. And she can romance a whole new generation of leading men like Gabby Concepcion and Richard Gomez with no sense of strain or disparity.

Ishmael Bernal, who claims to have directed Vilma’s best pictures, believes she has endured because she has physical, emotion and mental endurance. ‘She could work for 24 hours straight without getting tired, without flagging in her acting. There were times when we had to shoot for three or four successive days, getting very little sleep, but there Vilma would be: fresh, enthusiastic, rarin’ to go. Physical endurance is very important to a star. Another thing I noticed was her strong sense of competition. At that time, though of course, she didn’t say so, it was Nora she wanted to beat. Vilma was out to be the bigger star, the better actress. And so she geared her career for a zoom to the top.” Bernal first directed her in Inspiration (1971), produced by Tagalog Ilang-Ilang from a script by Nestor Torre. ‘This was at the height of the Nora-Vilma rivalry and the competing love teams were Nora-Tirso[Cruz] and Vilma-Edgar[Mortiz]. But in Inspiration, Atty. Laxa decided to pair Vilma with a rising new star: Jay Ilagan. That early, I noted that Vilma had the potential to become a great dramatic star. At that time she was not yet doing actress roles, only juvenile fan movies. Her assets were the expressiveness of her eyes, very important for the camera; the creaminess of her complexion, very important on the screen; and the ability to make her audience sympathize if not identify with her. Another thing I noticed was that she’s perfectly relaxed in front of the camera: no sense of compulsion. She just stands there and with a flick of the eye, a movement of the hand, she communicates whatever emotion has to be communicated to the audience. Unlike theater actors who feel they have to use the entire body to communicate, she achieves her effects with the simplest gestures. She already had perfect timing.” 

Inspiration was a comedy and Vilma, to Bernal’s delight, needed very little rehearsal. ‘She didn’t enjoy too much rehearsing, preferring to give all on take one, confident in her spontaneity. Which was what her director wanted. Another thing I remember about the early Vilma: she was a travelling department store. She had a van that looked like the fourth floor of Rustan’s filled with clothes, clothes, clothes, and hundreds of shoes, hats, bras, panties, and costume jewels, all of them nursed by loving alalays who followed her everywhere she went. If the director required an evening gown, a negligee, a pajama top, she had it in her van.” Bernal next worked with Vilma in 1972, on Now and Forever, scripted by Rolando Tinio and co-starring her with Edgar Mortiz and Tommy Abuel. It was a dismal flop, says Ishmael Bernal: ‘So let’s not talk about it.” It wasn’t until six years later that he and Vilma worked together again, on Dalawang Pugad, Isang Ibon. ‘It was written by Jose Nadal Carreon, the former police reporter and UP literary apprentice, and currently one of our best directors. It was an adult film and it started a new trend for Vilma: playing the other woman. The film was very hot copy because it was the comeback vehicle of Romeo Vasquez, with whom she was then having an affair. I found Vilma different: she had already matured. She must have been around 23 or 24. She was up in the clouds, being very much in love with Romeo Vasquez, and having already beaten Nora in the game of Who’s No. 1? This was in 1978. Nora was doing action movies like Super Gee that were flopping miserably. But Vilma’s career had taken a new path: heavy drama.”

The change in Vilma was not all to be good. ‘I noticed that she was often tired, often had difficulty keeping up her energy or concentration. The message projected was that the business of acting and the pressures of showbiz in general were beginning to tell on her.” The prime reason was the exhausting affair with Romeo Vasquez. ‘That affair was blown up by the press to scandalous proportions and I could feel that she was under pressure. Still, she tried to keep up a brave front, to be always polite: the smiling professional, and to hide from the public her inner turmoil. She was getting a bad press because of this affair with an older man, a notorious playboy, but the affair was a big factor in the maturing of Vilma Santos. When she made Dalawang Pugad, Isang Ibon she was saying goodbye to adolescence. She was saying: ‘I am a woman, I am entitled to happiness, I am entitled to the love of the man I want to love!’ It was during this period she uttered the most famous of Vilma quotes when she said of those who were bad-mouthing her: ‘To hell with all of them!’ this was her declaration of independence, of adulthood, of resistance. The film proved to be a very big success, nominated for various awards, though she didn’t gain an acting award.”

Vilma’s next Bernal film was 1978’s Ikaw ay Akin, again scripted by Joe Carreon, and starring Vilma and Nora together, with Christopher de Leon as their leading man. In this film, says Bernal, was set the persona Vilma would portray in a series of sex melodramas. ‘She played a liberated woman who had grown up in the States: very witty, very nervous, very aggressive, a chain smoker and fast talker, who’s trying to steal Christopher de Leon from Nora Aunor. Her character was neurotic, a free spirit, unpredictable; and I noticed again that Vilma herself was on edge from too much hard work. I could understand her arriving late on the set because I knew she was doing four or five movies at the same time. She would just sleep in the car while rushing from one location to another and she would arrive looking groggy and exhausted. Sometimes she would just give up and beg that the shooting be postponed because her body just couldn’t take it any more.”

She was then the top box-office queen and the top dramatic actress and it’s always a strain to keep on top. But the ‘glad girl” that’s the basic Vilma Santos continued to shine through the murk of those harrowing days, as Bernie Bernal recalls. ‘However tired or sleepy, she remained carinosa, always polite, and all smiles to the crew. She would buy them merienda and at the end of shooting would throw a feast for them: lechon and pancit. She was always considerate with the crew.

Some movie stars get carried away by a sense of their importance: they know they are carrying the movie, are responsible for its success, are making big money for their producers. And so they become temperamental. Vilma is quite aware of her importance and make no mistake about it: she has the qualities needed for survival in a cruel ungrateful world. She is a fighter, she has a killer instinct. All movie stars, especially the superstars, necessarily have this instinct. But in Vilma it goes with a real concern for others. And she wants her public image to be positive.”

So, even in a time of crisis, Vilma preserved her image as a glad girl – while Nora was busy setting herself up, or down, as la Dolorosa. If Vilma works at happiness, Nora has made a career of masochism. Bernal says that in Ikaw ay Akin Vilma was already conscious of her own particular style of acting, which can be described as minimal: less is more. The fewer and simpler the gestures, the greater the effect. The stripped style won her a grandslam when she did Relasyon with Bernie, which he rates as her most memorable film. It got her all the awards on the market. ‘In Relasyon Vilma made the character of a mistress very human and sympathetic, not just a contravida. The film was her comeback after her pregnancy. She and Edu Manzano had just had their baby boy, Lucky. Her next film, Broken Marriage, set another trend for her; the role of a modern urban working girl, as sophisticated as her Makati office and her personal problems. Her fans are growing up and Vilma’s image is becoming more and more complicated.

But it was in the last film we did together, 1988’s Pahiram ng Isang Umaga, that I noticed the big change in Vilma. She had become an artist. She was no longer just a movie star following the director’s instructions. She was very hyper, very high, eager to experiment: a cooperative and mature actress. She had studied the script in advance and she had sensible suggestions about it. I felt I was no longer working with a movie star but that she and I were two artists collaborating on an objective statement about life and death and human relationships.” How did a girl who began as purely ‘pang-masa” develop into so fine an artist? Vilma herself gives the credit to her willingness to learn. The process was sometimes painful but, says Vilma, she knew it was all part of her education. I am now 28 years in this business and everything I have learned has made me a stronger woman. Even the troubles, the intrigues – they have made me a stronger woman. I’m always learning. For example, there was a part of my career that was for me a very expensive education.” She had set up a production company of her own that, it turned out, was mostly producing debts.‘ That was about 15 years ago. I tried producing and I made about five movies for VS Films, my own outfit. It was managed by my mother, not by me personally, and Mama is so good people take advantage of her. Before I knew it I was drowning in debt. I was pregnant at the time, 1980, when I learned I had a debt of six million pesos! And I didn’t even know if, after giving birth, audiences would still accept me. How was I to survive? I prayed; I told God I was willing to work, sarado ang mata, just to pay off all those debts. And with his blessings I was given a second chance. After giving birth to my son, my career got a second chance and became even more successful: not only did I continue to be box-office but I was winning awards right and left.”

Before Lucky’s birth she had no contract with any studio but after his birth the two leading studios, Regal and Viva, asked to place her under contract and she signed up with both! ‘It was arranged that everything they paid me went straight to the banks, to pay off my debts. Not a centavo of my movie earnings passed through my hands. We lived on my television earnings. I had been offered this TV show, VIP Vilma in Person. It was a Sunday show and Sunday was the only day I could spend with my family but I had to sacrifice my day with them because that weekly show provided us with maintenance money. Unfortunately, my marriage suffered because of that. At that time, Edu wasn’t active in the movies yet; he was working in an office and, of course, his schedules and my schedules were in conflict. I think he suffered some kind of culture shock. Oh, he tried to be understanding but imagine him coming home at seven o’clock in the evening and me coming home at four o’clock in the morning. That won’t work – but I had to work.” She says

she didn’t feel guilty about the marriage breaking up. ‘Definitely not. If that was bound to happen to our life, what could I do? Even if I had just stayed at home, our marriage would have suffered, because of all my debts. And what would have happened to us without any money?” She knows the importance of money because she grew up in security and has learned that insecurity is being without money. ‘I wasn’t born poor but I wasn’t born rich either. I had a comfortable childhood. I went to a private school, St. Mary’s Academy, and I had a new pair of shoes whenever the school year opened. We could buy what we liked and though our house wasn’t very big it was a cozy home.” Her father was in the government service and she had an uncle, Maurie Agra, who was a cameraman for Sampaguita Pictures.

It was this uncle who got her to audition for Sampaguita when she was only nine years old. ‘Whenever he came to the house I’d sing and dance for him. I loved to watch TV and listen to radio dramas and at school I was always on the programs. Once, my uncle watched me imitating Pilita Corrales, a white sheet all over me for evening gown, and he asked would I be interested in going into showbiz and I said I’d just love to become an artista.” The role she was called to Sampaguita to test for was as Rita Gomez’s daughter in Anak, ang Iyong Ina, but on the same day Sampaguita was testing about a hundred other children for the role of Trudis Liit, a komiks character. The little Vilma kept wandering into that larger group where, as her mother kept telling her, she didn’t belong. But here was Doc Perez himself, head of Sampaguita, beckoning to the child. ‘Mama says I don’t belong there,”said the little Vilma. ‘But I want you,” said Doc Perez. Ang Mama consenting, Vilma took the test for Trudis Liit: speaking a line or two of dialogue, crying out when hit by Bella Flores, even ad-libbing already. ‘And I was chosen to play Trudis Liit! So, my first time in movies, I was into two movies right away: Trudis Liit and Anak, ang Iyong Ina. And I got the Tessie Agana treatment: chicken and apples every lunch. Sampaguita was very nice to me. I was its baby.”

And she was its No. 1 fan, gaping to see Gloria Romero passing by and chasing after Amalia Fuentes for her autograph. ‘Ate Nena snubbed me. She just said: ‘Later!’ But I loved her and we’re very close now.” Vilma the child star was in a string of movies playing the daughter of Lolita Rodriguez or Luis Gonzales or Dolphy. And she was also in the TV soap opera Larawan ng Pag-ibig with Rosita Noble, Willie Sotelo and Eva Darren. That six o’clock p.m. tearjerker rose to No. 1 in the ratings. Meanwhile, what was happening to Vilma the growing girl? ‘What was happening was a lot of school absences and a lot of special exams. The Sisters at St. Mary’s were very understanding: if I had too many absences, they gave me special exams. But when I was in fourth year high school I was practically not attending classes any more because that was the height of the Nora-Vilma competition. What was done, with the permission of the Bureau of Education, was that I had a tutor during shootings and then I was given the test for the last grading period. Thanks to God, I passed it and I got my high school diploma. But there could be no thought of going on to college.” She had by then graduated from child star to teenage superstar.

‘Despite showbiz, I was able to enjoy my childhood. It was my teens that suffered. Those were the days of jam sessions (no discos yet) and I missed them. I was dying to attend but I couldn’t. I was too busy promoting my love team with Bobot Mortiz. So I didn’t have the chance to be a teenager. But when I reached my 20s that was when I experienced iyong being a woman: going out on dates, candlelight dinners, enjoying life. I enjoyed my 20s.” During her teens she was mostly a song-and-dance girl on the screen, but after seeing The Miracle Worker she dreamed of tackling roles like the one done by Patty Duke in that film.  However, she felt her true line was dancing: ‘Definitely not singing; I sing just for the sake of my fans.” Doing pop teen movies by the score, would she ever have a chance to act like Patty Duke in The Miracle Worker?

Loveteams were then the wheels of teenage superstardom. Vilma and Edgar Mortiz were a prize pair of wheels. The Nora-Tirso tandem formed the rival pair of wheels. It was an endless frenzied race. Vilma says that during her Bobot Mortiz phase she was doing multiple movies at the same time. ‘Actually Edgar didn’t start with me. He started with Nora and Tirso: they were a triangle. My loveteam then was with Jay Ilagan: we were doing Operetang Putol-Putol on the radio and going out on personal appearances for the fans. Jay was still slim then, very good-looking. Bobot was already chubby but not as fat as he would become later: he was guapo and moreno. Tirso was truly the mestizo type. Nora was even shorter than me though I think she’s older by a year; she was very thin then, with long hair. It’s our complexion that’s usually compared: she is kayumanggi and they say I am fair. Edgar dropped out from their triangle when it was noted that the public preferred Nora to be paired with Tirso. And Jay Ilagan dropped out when I was paired with Edgar. So when we all went on TV, on rival programs, it was the loveteam of Bobot and me versus the loveteam of Guy and Pip. That was in 1967.”

Inevitably, Bobot Mortiz came to share more than the spotlight with Vilma. ‘He was my first boyfriend, though ours was no more than puppy love. He’s a nice guy, very intelligent. In fact, I suspect that the ideas in Going Bananas are mostly his. No, we never talked marriage. We were a team for about five years. Then I did movies solo.” More serious was her next love affair, with Ronnie Henares, son of the famed news columnist. ‘I met Ronnie on TV, when he was guesting on shows with Jojit Paredes. He started courting me – this was in the early ‘70s – and our relationship had the blessings of our families. His family and mine became very close. We planned to marry but I felt I was not ready yet: I was still too concentrated on my career – though at the time the movies I was doing were merely pang-masa, nonsense musical like Lets’ Do the Salsa. I was not yet very conscious of artistic cinema: I wanted my movies to be for the boxoffice, Ronnie was the kind of boyfriend who gifts you not with rings or flowers but with books. I never went to college but Ronnie was a good equivalent: I learned a lot from him. He corrected my English, improved my pronunciation, and introduced me to new words, all through the use of cue cards that he made for me and made me read aloud to him. He gave me books to read and helped me understand them by explaining their meaning. Our relationship lasted a year and a half. We had our lover’s quarrels and the sweet thing is that even during our breaks our families stayed close. And Ronnie and I are still friends today. He composed a song for me.”

Tantamount to the Erap episode in Nora’s life is Vilma’s moment of appasionata with Romeo Vasquez, an older man with a past. ‘Romeo Vasquez was a turning point in my personal life. I really gambled with my life when I fell in love with him. He had come back to the country after being away for years. He was already separated from Amalia. Then I met him and we were offered a movie to do together: Nag-aapoy na Damdamin, for the Santiagos. The time we were together he was okay. We also did Dalawang Pugad, Isang Ibon, and Pulot-gata. And the movie that had him and me together with Nora nad Tirso: Pinagbuklod ng Pag-ibig. Our relationship lasted two years. Even after we parted, we still did a movie together.”

Vilma dismisses as mere chismis the rumor that Ronnie Poe became wildly enamored of her after they did Batya’t Palupalo and Bato sa Buhangin. But local cinema legend has the King coming to blows with Romeo Vasquez because of this jealous rivalry. Even the scene of the duel is specified: the lawns of a Joseph Estrada abode, during an Erap birthday party. An amused Vilma, however, shakes her head in denial. ‘Fernando Poe and I became close but we did not have any relationship. I’ll admit I was very impressed by him when we made our movies together. Totoong humanga ako sa kanya. He knows how to ‘carry’ people, how to deal with them in such a way as to command their respect. He is really the King. We became very very close: he’d send me food, like a dish of fish, during shootings. But that was all.”

While recovering from Romeo Vasquez, Vilma became a disco habitue, and in these excursions to the haunts of night people she often bumped into a young man who thus became a nodding acquaintance: someone she knew by face long before she knew him by name. One movie she did during this period was Yakapin Mo Ako, Lalaking Matapang, with Lito Lapid, which was shot in Cebu City. And as usual at night she went disco-hopping. And one night, at one disco, there he was again, this young man who had become a nodding acquaintance: Edu Manzano. ‘That was the first time we had a chance to talk. He’s really a charming guy and very handsome. We danced, we chatted, we danced – gano’n. Then I went back to my hotel.” She was getting ready for bed when the phone rang: Mr. Edu Manzano calling. ‘But how did you get my number?” ‘You know me, I’m resourceful. When do you go back to Manila?” ‘Tomorrow,” said Vilma. ‘What time is your flight?” ‘Two o’clock. What time is your flight?” ‘Three o’clock,” said Edu. ‘Bon voyage. And good night.” Next day, loaded with the mandatory hojaldres and rosquillos, she boarded the afternoon plane for Manila. And who should be sitting across the aisle from her but Mr. Manzano. Well! He really was resourceful. But they couldn’t converse. She was sitting beside Lito Lapid; Edu was sitting beside an Iranian. Only upon landing could they snatch a moment of exchange. Of course he wanted to know if he could date her.  “Can I invite you out or do you have a boyfriend?” “No.” “No, I can’t take you out?” “No, I don’t have a boyfriend.”

But a week passed; two weeks; a whole month – and no word from Edu. He’s not taking me seriously, shrugged Vilma. ‘Ako naman, at that time,” she says now, ‘I wasn’t taking him seriously either.” Then one night, at the Alibi Bar, she saw him again. But she was with a date with whom she went nightclub-hopping until four in the morning. When she came back to her hotel, there was a note from Edu: he was waiting in the lobby. She went down to see him, and he invited her to breakfast. What a terrific topping for the night before and her morning after. ‘So we stepped out again and had breakfast at the Manila Hotel. We talked and talked until daylight. Then he brought me back to my hotel. And that was how it started. After that, we were seeing each other every day.” During the Grand Passion that was Romeo Vasquez, her critics had hooted that she was Vilma the mad girl. But La Belle, La Perfectly swell, Romance with Edu Manzano was the real coming-out party for Vilma the Glad Girl. Miss twinkletoes had met the boy next door. Of the men in her life, Vilma Santos says it was Edu Manzano who had the most stunning style of courtship. He didn’t treat her like the superstar, the love goddess, the sex symbol, the glamour queen that she was; he treated her as if she was an ordinary kanto girl.‘ He didn’t take me to dine at five-star hotels; we ate at small pizza houses. We didn’t go dancing at elegant ballrooms; he took me to little discos. It was completely the opposite of how I had been treated by other suitors: kabaligtaran ng lahat. And how I loved it! Once, early in our relationship, he invited me to lunch. I assumed we would be going to a luxury bistro and so I dressed to the teeth. But he arrived on a motorcycle, wearing Levi’s and rubber shoes. When he saw me in all my finery, he flipped. He told me to go back up and change. So I change to jeans and rubbers. And off we sped on his motorcycle, me behind clinging to him.” Naturally, all those who spotted her – bus passengers, street vendors, pedestrians on the sidewalks – could hardly believe their eyes. ‘Si Vilma! Si Vilma!” they cried in amazement. And there indeed was the superstar, the love goddess, the sex symbol, the glamour queen, in jeans and rubber shoes, riding bumper on a motorcycle.  Vilma says it was as if she had moved into another world. ‘I really enjoyed it: riding on his motorcycle, walking in the rain. And then, after three months, he asked me to marry him. This was in 1980.” She was about to leave for the United States, to shoot a movie. She said to him: ‘Let’s give ourselves time, let’s test each other. This movie will take two months to do over there. If after two months we still feel this way, then we are really meant for each other. And we’ll get married. But not now, not right now when I’m going away.”

The decision was to make no decision yet. And Vilma left for California. She really was testing herself, for the stateside movie she was doing was with Romeo Vasquez. Had she really and truly got over him? Was she really and truly in love with Edu? The answer hit her like a bolt from the blue when Edu Manzano suddenly showed up on location and she felt, not annoyed, but enraptured, though he had broken their agreement to stay apart for two months. That he had so impulsively followed her bespoke ardor on his part. She did wonder if her producer, Atty. Espiridion Laxa, had anything to do with the surprise. But: ‘Definitely, it pleased me!” The news that lover boy Edu had leapt across the Pacific to join his lady love had Philippine moviedom ga-ga with the thought of how bigger a blockbuster than a Vilma-Romeo movie would be a Vilma-Edu picture.

The Vilmanians, as her fans are tagged when arrayed against la Aunor’s Noranians, were clamoring for a view of their glamour queen’s consort. Vilma, ever astute as businesswoman, was only too glad to deliver. ‘But before making that movie, we got married in the States.” Actually, it was an elopement. ‘My Mama didn’t know about it. Edu and I simply ran away. We got wedded in Las Vegas and we honeymooned in Disneyland and at Knottsberry Farm. Two weeks we were in hiding. Then we went back to Los Angeles. And that was when we broke the news to Mama. She cried. Oh, my Mama is good: sobrang bait nga. She was never a stage mother – except in the matter of singing, which she was always pushing me into. ‘Go ahead, sing,’ she would tell me, even if I didn’t want to. Maybe I used to be too dependent on her, as in the time of VS Films, when her goodness was being abused and when I learned about that it was too late.  One thing about my marriage; there were never any differences between Mama and Edu.”

In Los Angeles Vilma really worked at housekeeping. ‘Edu and I made a home for ourselves, just for the two of us. And I was a real housewife. I made the beds, I swept the floor, I did the cooking, or tried to. But in the States you can buy everything ready to cook. I had to be housewife because Edu is conservative and I had to be the kind of wife he wants for a wife. He called me Babes, I called him Doods.” She says that as a husband Edu was ‘mabait’. ‘He had already done a movie, Alaga, but was not yet well known. I promised him that on returning home I would lie low as movie star and just attend to being housewife. Unfortunately, on arriving in Manila, I found I was pregnant: Lucky is a honeymoon baby. At the same time I learned I had a six-million -peso debt. I told Edu about it and he said he would find some way we could work it out. But there was really not much he could do about so huge a debt. So, after giving birth to my son, I returned to work. Of course, that meant I had little time for my husband and my baby. There was a yaya to take care of the baby and as much as possible I tried to mother him but of course I couldn’t give him one hundred percent attention. Edu wanted me to be home at least by ten o’clock in the evening but it was oftener four o’clock in the morning before I could rush home.” With her feeling so exhausted and him feeling so neglected, impatience could not but become their ambiance during their four years of marriage.‘ 

In fairness to Edu, he did try to understand the situation. And he did care for me. But I simply couldn’t give up my career until I had paid off my debts. I only finished paying in 1987. And by that time Edu had left.” Possibly, for Edu Manzano, the real cruz of the marriage was having to suffer being Mr. Vilma Santos. But she says that theirs was a very loving parting. ‘We had a beautiful talk, the two of us. We agreed that our love was still there but, because we kept clashing, we shouldn’t wait until we started hating each other. We should give ourselves time to breathe and to think, apart from each other. That was already our fifth separation; the first, second, third and fourth had all ended within two months. I was expecting the fifth to end just as quickly but when it had lasted eight months already I wondered if we had not indeed gone our separate ways. Kanya-kanyang buhay na. Then I learned he had a girlfriend. He was first.” If she had hoped for a happy ending to their fifth separation it was for the sake of their son. ‘ Before Edu and I parted, we stepped out, the three of us: Lucky was then four years old. And we explained to him what was happening. We felt it was better to be honest with the child: when he grew up he would understand. He himself would not be affected: Edu and I assured him that both of us would take care that he was not affected. He is nine years old now and his name is Louis Philippe Manzano. He weighed 7.7 pounds when he was born on April 21 – and 21 is a multiple of 7. That’s why we call him Lucky.”

Vilma says she felt bad when she heard that Edu was running around with another girl. ‘I said to myself: ‘My God, why should I go on suffering like this: I’ll only grow old.’ I decided I’d like to run around too, enjoy myself. So I went out but I chose a safe place: King Kong, a club frequented by movie people, owned by Marilou Diaz-Abaya. That was the first time I had stepped out since the separation and that was the first time I met Ralph Recto. He’s a nice young man, very intelligent, very down to earh. He has a degree in economics and is taking his masters now, at the UP. I learn a lot from him, my substitute for college, like Ronnie Henares. He is very interested in politics but I don’t meddle in his politics. Our relationship is now on its sixth year. When we met, Lucky was only four and now he is nine. Lucky and Ralph are very close. No, we don’t talk marriage.” The decade since her marriage has seen Vilma developing, as Ishmael Bernal says, into an artist. Vilma smiles to recall that she started out just wanting to dance. What’s singular about Vilma’s career is that, as a child star, she went through no awkward age, and now, as superstar, she seems to have been set no deadline.

The nine-year-old who starred in Trudis Liit had a steady four years of playing little daughter of Lolita Rodriguez and Marlene Dauden but never suffered an ugly-duckling phase of no-longer-a-child and not-yet-a-teener. The difficult 13-14-15 period was smoothly bridged by roles like that of Imee Marcos in Iginuhit ng Tadhana and Pinagbuklod ng Langit. And right afterwards she became the teen queen in the pop entertainments she did with Bobot Mortiz. Then at 19 she began to veer towards heavy drama. ‘I was 19 when I made a film with Eddie Rodriguez, playing a girl falling in love with an older married man. The wife was Barbara Perez. If I remember right, that was the first time I wore a bikini.” Nary a hitch in the Vilma career; no pauses in the action as she grows up from child to girl, or from sweet young thing to red-hot mama. Or from innocuous movies to daring films. ‘Compared to my teenage partners, Eddie Rodriguez was far and away the leading man, the actor, the gentleman. Very different in manner, in the way he moved, the way he carried his clothes. He helped me refine my acting and little by little I learned poise.”

The decisive divergence is Burlesk Queen. ‘I took a risk playing Burlesk Queen, Celso Ad. Castillo directing. I was 24. My American manager, William Leary, had persuaded me to accept the role. He had been my manager since he convinced me to do a record, Sixteen, that made good. I was no longer with Sampaguita but I went back there from time to time to make sweet sweet movies or musicals. That was my style. Then I did Burlesk Queen. It turned out to be a turning point. I won an acting award. Suddenly I was the drama queen. Celso Ad. Castillo is really good. In a way it was that film that made me a real actress. It changed my sweet image. And it made good at the boxoffice. ”However, later relations with Castillo proved to be painful. ‘I already had my production company, VS Films, and I got him as director for Pagputi ng Uwak. He really gave me a hard time on that film: it was two years in the making! And it sank VS Films into debt. Celso and I had a fight. As a director he’s very good but as an artist he has his quirks: merong sumpong. I hear he now works in Malaysia: sayang, he was good for Philippine movies. Pagputi ng Uwak nearly ruined me, financially and mentally, but it turned out to be a firstrate film and it won a lot of awards, it won VS Films a lot of prestige. But I still prefer Burlesk Queen.” The five productions of VS Films, which included Rosas sa Putikan, directed by Maning Borlaza, and Halik sa Paa, Halik sa Kamay, costarring Vilma with Eddie Rodriguez, all made money, including Pagputi ng Uwak. Nevertheless, by the time she had to shut it down, VS Films had her drowning in six million pesos’ worth of red ink. It took her some seven years to pay off that montrous debt. And it meant having to go back to making movies that were ‘pambata at pangmasa” movies like Darna and Dyesebel and Wonder Vi.

Still, this ‘comeback’ period (after the birth of Lucky) was also the start of a series of vintage pictures, beginning with Relasyon, where she played a free soul living in with her lover. The lover was played by her most compatible co-star, Christopher de Leon. ‘Christopher, of all my leading men, is the one I’m most comfortable with. We really make a team. And yet we never had any relationship, except on the screen.  Just how comfortable I am with him can be seen in the fact that it’s with him I have made the biggest number of movies: around 18 or 20. There was a year when we made four movies together! So often did we play opposite each other that we felt we had to vary the situations, to avoid becoming monotonous. We’d say: Let’s sit down and think of a new situation in which to find ourselves. But there came a time when we simply could no longer think of anything new for us to play. We seemed to have exhausted all the possible love angles. And that’s when we decided to stop teaming up for a while. I went on to trying other leading men. Actually it’s not I who choose my leading men but the producers. I just accept whoever they pick for me.” A kind of homage is paid her when she’s paired with younger stars like Eric Quizon and Aga Muhlach.

‘Definitely, I feel flattered. But then I feel very very secure in my age and with myself. It’s a matter of self-confidence, of knowing that when they look at you they see a woman, period. Age doesn’t matter: I have no insecurities about it.” She knows she can look as young as, or younger than, her new leading men – as long as she herself feels young inside. Her effect on the folk around her has been most graphically expressed by, of all people, director Lino Brocka, who directed her in three of her most applauded vehicles: Rubia Servios, Adultery and Hahamakin Lahat. ‘When you work with Vilma,” says Brocka, ‘you get this feeling of having just emerged from a bath and of being drenched all over with Johnson’s baby cologne. You feel so fresh, so youthful.” He adds that when they first worked together she seemed scared of him. Now he gushes: ‘Ang sarap niyang katrabaho.” The chief reason, of course, is: ‘She has matured and grown up as an actress. At this point of her career, she is very good, she is really big. Before, she had a hard time making herself cry, but now how fast she can do it. And she has become sensitive to direction: in that repect she has overtaken Nora.” Brocka says that the sensitivity he noticed at once in Nora Aunor was what he missed when he started directing Vilma. ‘So I assumed that, as an actress, she was really just second to Nora. But Vilma takes good care of herself not only physically – there’s always this aura about her – but intellectually too: so she grows and develops tremendously. The second time I worked with her, in Adultery, I realized she had become as good as Nora, or better. And by the time of Hahamakin Lahat there was the complete sensibility already – a difference in the way she expressed pain and hurt. Talent was welling out like spring water, and flowing from her most naturally, no longer courtesy of Vicks or whatever.”

What would explain this outburst of talent? ‘Possibly her coming of age as a woman. She had become more sure of herself. And this self-confidence grew as her private life became calmer, as she found herself with fewer problems, both financially and emotionally. How a director would feel about her at the moment is that he can do anything with her now. She has become so supple that his tendency would be to challenge her still further, make her come up still higher, open up more doors. She can give you so much more now.” Brocka snorts at the complaint Vilma is currently making: that so utterly has she done all the roles she can do there’s no new role left for her to do. ‘She can do the same role over and over again as long as, with the right direction, she does it always a bit more profoundly than the last time and makes it a bit more complex than the last time. She should have no problem at all with roles. In fact, I would advise her now to play roles that are not glamorous. Yes, she’s too associated with glamour to do that. But maybe in another year or two she can afford to take off her make up and act her age. Then she’ll really be on par with Nora, whose chief concern is seldom her looks. With Nora, it’s not her face that’s on sale. The problem with Vilma is that she feels she has to live up to her image as The Glamour Girl. I’m waiting for the day when glamour will have no truck -walang pakialam! – with the acting.

Bemusing how up to now Vilma continues to be bracketed together with Nora, so that to speak of Vilma is to speak of Nora. They have been rivals, opponents, antagonists for so long that it’s impossible to tell their careers apart. Spur to each other from the start, they have realized they need each other as goad and goal, the achievement of one goading the other to an equal, or greater, achievement. Vilma-Nora is the back-to-back monster of Pinoy showbiz. Vilma sees it as sibling rivalry. ‘If Vilma is there, Nora is there. There was a point in our career [note that Vilma uses the collective singular] when we were both so affected that the rivalry became a personal feud between us. There was even a point in our career when we were fighting each other – for honors, for awards, for acting prizes. But there also came a point in our career when we realized we were not getting any younger and we started becoming very close. I think that was the time her father died and I went to the wake. We hadn’t been together since we did a movie together when we were feuding hotly: no talking to each other during the shooting; she stayed on one side with her fans, and I stayed on the other side with my fans: no communication. But when I attended her father’s wake, that was when we realized we could be friends. And we started helping each other: she’d invite me to guest on her TV show, and vice-versa. Then her mother died and again I went to the wake. And that was the time when Nora and I became so close we were telling each other the most intimate details of our life.”

And the details range from ledger to boudoir. ‘Today Nora and I are still competing but it’s a friendly competition now; in fact, I’m the godmother of her adopted child. We want that there should still be a competing between us, but with nothing personal to it. So it has become a healthy competition. Nora is a very sensitive person. Me, I’m not very sensitive. But make no mistake about Nora: she is also a strong woman. What I know of Nora: though there may be many advising her, ultimately it’s her own feelings she follows. She does what she wants to do; it’s herself she obeys: that’s her attitude. I guess what she needs at present is the right person. Nora is 37 years old now. I am 36 – a true friend who loves her. A friend who will love her whether she’s down, whether she’s up, or whatever.”

What puzzles is the difference in image between Nora la Dolorosa and Vilma the Glad Girl despite the fact that actually both of them underwent very similar experiences: rash infatuations, career ups-and-downs, a failed marriage, business fiascos, the heavy cross of huge debts. Why did such ordeals produce the sad look in one but a glad look in the other? To be sure, there are those who say that Vilma’s image as the Glad Girl is just that: an image; and that the reality behind it may not be quite as pleasant. The real Vilma, aver these know-it-all’s, is cold-blooded: sweet na sweet pero deadly; nothing matters to her but her career. She was playing herself ruthless in films like Hahamakin Lahat. When she found she couldn’t displace Nora as the nation’s sweetheart, she did violence to her own persona by enacting Burlesk Queen, the kind of role Nora cannot do: she risked her career because that was the only way to beat Nora. Vilma herself shrugs off such misreadings of her history with the remark that the intrigues of others only help her become ‘a stronger woman.” Even the world’s malice can’t be made useful in building up character. ‘I am Rosa Vilma Santos, who grew up in Bambang, Trozo, and then in La Loma, and my life is an open book. What people say about me – that’s a problem I must live with. I guess it’s the price I pay for my career: the price of no privacy. I can’t do anything about that anymore. However I may want to keep my personal life private, it’s impossible: lalabas at lalabas talaga. However discreet I may try to be, I’m sure to be found out.” So she chooses to let it all hang out. ‘Of course, I hate having no privacy: I’m really suffering from that. Sometimes I wish I were an ordinary person so I can go where I like, go shopping for groceries with my son, go for a walk and enjoy it. But how can you enjoy it when you’re always getting mobbed? But, as I said, that’s the price you pay.” And certainly she has no intention of retiring just to gain that precious privacy. ‘Nor no plans either of getting married. Not yet. maybe someday, yes. As of now, I’m very comfortable and happy with my personal life. But another marriage? I’m not prepared for that.” 

What she’s prepared for right now is more career. ‘I have reached a position when I’m not contented with just acting: I’d like to experience all the other works of moviemaking. But most of all I want to be a director. I want to be given a chance to direct a movie. So that this time I myself will be the captain. I have ideas I want to try out.” She confounds the Cassandras by expressing hope and confidence in the Philippine cinema. ‘There has been progress, there has been improvement. We started in black-and-white: now we’re in color. Yes, there are frustrations. It’s frustrating to come up with a film of relevance, to upgrade the cinema in general, and see it fail at the box-office. A painful experience – like my movie Sister Stella L. I felt bad when it didn’t make good because I like that movie very much. It wasn’t my first time to do a quality movie that had to be yanked out in seven days. You can’t blame the producers: it’s their money at stake. If I were in their place, would I risk my money on something that won’t sell? And yet how I wish there were some producers willing to risk their money on movies with significance… I hear even the scriptwriters are feeling frustrated because, when they do a quality script, they only see it changed into something with lots of shrieking and slapping. But those are the movies that sell.” Nevertheless, she looks forward to a classier tomorrow for Philippine cinema.

‘And what’s tomorrow for Vilma Santos? I’m trying to be more stable because I know that show business is not stable. I’m planning to produce a movie next year. This time I’ll manage production myself. I’ve already started with telemovies. The first was Lamat sa Kristal, with Richard Gomez. Next was Katuparan, directed by Marilou Diaz-Abaya. And the third is this one I’m doing right now with Aga Muhlach, Once There Was a Love, directed by Maryo J. delos Reyes.” Her own TV show just celebrated its 10th anniversary – and with a scandal yet. It got kicked out of its usual venue, the Metropolitan Theater, because, complained the Met honchos, Vilma’s live audiences wrought havoc with the Met’s upholstery. Which, to take the Pollyanna, or Glad girl, approach, proves that Vilma’s audiences today are not matrons and seniors but still the young, the wild, the reb. She says she has no hang ups about age. But how does she keep herself looking young? ‘I don’t know. I don’t do anything special. I used to swim but I don’t have the time now. I don’t cut down on anything. I drink occasionally but I’m not really a drinker. My true enemy is tobacco:

I smoke. Aside from that, I know no other vices. On facing the camera, whether movie or TV, I put on make up. But Vilma Santos the person, when in her house, puts nothing on her face.” She is positive it’s not make-up that makes her go over on the little or big screen as young-looking. ‘But like the old beauties of Sampaguita Studios. I know that someday I will be the ex-superstar. When that time arrives, I hope I’ll be stable – financially stable enough to ensure a future for my son, present comfort for my family, and for myself a personal life that’s tranquil because I have a stable business and a comfortable income. Those are my dreams now that I am 36.” Not that she has any complaints about the present tense. ‘More than half of my life has been spent in show business,” says the Glad Girl. ‘For all the blessings I am enjoying, I should be thankful!” Happiness, Inc.

Publisher’s Note:  Quijano de Manila (Nick Joaquin) is a National Artist for Literature, while both Ishmael Bernal and Lino Brocka are National Artist for Film.  Our cover story is about the indestructible and unfading screen beauty, Vilma Santos, who has become even more accomplished and seductive as the years pass. Quijano de Manila (Nick Joaquin in journalistic disguise) captures the secrets and the charms of this enduring beauty, a triumph of art over time. – Juan P. Dayang

Source: Written by Quijano De Manila (Nick Joaquin), Philippine Graphic Magazine 05 November 1990

Filmography: Mga Tigre ng Sierra Cruz (1974)

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Basic Information: Directed: Augusto Buenaventura; Screenplay, story: Augusto Buenaventura, Ruben Rustia; Cast: Charito Solis, Vilma Santos, Dante Rivero, Eddie Garcia, Paquito Diaz, Ruben Rustia, Raul Aragon, Estrella Kuenzler, Ernie Zarate, Mandy Bustamante, Ruel Vernal, Robert Talby, Bert Laforteza, Angero Goshi, George Henson, Sam Jorge, Pons De Guzman, Mary Martin, Lito Cruz, The PMP Boys, The SOS Daredevils; Executive producer: Emilia Blass; Original Music: Restie Umali; Cinematography: Fortunato Bernardo

Plot Description: No Available Data

Film Achievement: One of six (and the first!) Solis and Santos’ collaborations (Happy Days are Here Again, Mga Tigre ng Sierra Cruz, Modelong Tanso, Ipagpatawad Mo, Dahil Mahal Kita The Dolzura Cortez Story, Hanggang Ngayon Ika’y Minamahal) – RV (READ MORE)

Film Review: “Ooops! Keep your cool, dear Noranians, and listen to Charito Solis’ explanation before you accuse her of being, uh, “maka-Vilma. “Vilma has a wider range as an actress while Nora is limited and typecast in certain roles,” Charito said in a tone devoid of intrigue, answering our question in a straightforward, matter-of-fact manner. “Si Vilma, puede kahit anong role, kahit bold. You can’t imagine Nora doing a bold role, can you?” But, and that’s the big but, “Nora has more depth than Vilma,” Charito added, “and it’s because of her expressive eyes. Nora is very effective in scenes where she doesn’t say anything, just act with her eyes, at “yan ang kulang ni Vilma. Vilma has to say something to be effective.” Charito has worked with Vilma twice (in “Mga Tigre ng SierraCruz” and “Modelong Tanso”) and with Nora once (“Minsan May Isang Ina”). Speaking in general now, said Charito, “Vilma is the better actress.” We asked Charito that ticklish question during the lunch presscon for her latest movie, the star-studded Mother’s Day offering of Regal Films titled “Dear Mama,” which also stars Gloria Romero, Laurice Guillen, Snooky, Janice de Belen, Julie Vega, Manilyn Reynes, Jaypee de Guzman, Rey “PJ” Abellana and Alicia Alonzo in the title role. Our own personal opinion somehow jibes with that of Charito whose “throne,” I suppose, will be inherited by Vilma (while Nora will inherit the “throne” of the other drama queen, Lolita Rodriguez).” – Ricardo F. Lo, The Phil. Star April 031984 (READ MORE)

“…To the right are the living quarters, including the high ceiling bedrooms topped with transoms or carved room vents for air circulation. The expansive dining room features an old-fashioned banguerra, where tableware and glasses are left to dry. This area of the house figured prominently in the 1972 shooting of the Vilma Santos-Dante Rivero-Charito Solis war-themed movie, Mga Tigre ng Sierra Cruz…” – Heritage Conservation Society (HCS) (READ MORE)

“…Charito Solis, who initially had a tempestuous and hostile relationship with Vilma while making the ill-fated but box-office MMFF champ Modelong Tanso, had a change of heart when the reborn versatile/professional/charismatic actress Vilma impressed her through the years, at idineklara niya sa buong mundo, without batting an eyelash. na di hamak na mas magaling na aktres si Vilma kaysa kay Nora Aunor. Walang kumontra kay Chato dahil totoo ang sinabi niya, si La Solis yata iyan, at pati nga si Amalia Fuentes, another certified Vilmanian, at “kaaway” na mortal ni La Solis, ay sumang-ayon sa kanya. Si Susan Roces, ano naman kaya ang opinion niya sa obserbasyon ni Chato? Ah, Nida Blanca. Ang dami nilang pinagsamahan ni Vilma, mula TV hanggang sa movies. Dati ay una sa billing si Nida, subali’t dahil nga sa gulong ng buhay ay kailangang maging praktikal at handa ka sa katotohanang magiging second lead ka lang in the future. Walang problema sina Nida at Vilma – ke mag-Ate o mag-Ina sila sa mga proyekto, may chemistry sila and mutual respect. Patok ang kanilang pagsasama. Remember their mother and daughter roles in Ibulong Mo Sa Diyos? Sayang at wala na ang original versatile movie and dancing queen Nida – mapa-aksiyon (Babaing Isputnik), musical (Huwag Kang Sumingit with Gloria Romero), comedy (Waray-waray) at drama (Miguelito at Magdusa Ka!). Kung tutuusin ay tunay na maigsi ang ating hiram na buhay. Kung buhay nga lang ang mga nabanggit sa itaas ay mas lalu sanang makulay ang daigdig ng sining. Subali’t ang lahat ay may katapusan. Ating suriin ang mga sumusunod na talata…” – Mario O. Garces (READ MORE)

“…The best part of the shoot was meeting the stars of the movie in person. I became an instant Ate Vi fan when she obliged the townpeople gathered outside the gate with a personal appearance, waving her hands to the crowd below from the balcony. The whole town just went mad. Later, with my portable cassette recorder, I even managed to interview Ate Vi, asking how she could possibly retain her composure despite her stardom. I asked a lot of showbiz questions that would put Ricky Lo to shame. I kept playing our recorded conversations for months after that, until I lost the cassette tape. Co-starring with Vilma in the movie was another Kapampangan, Dante Rivero (aka, Luisito Mayer Jr., from Floridablanca). Unlike Ate Vi who was always game, Dante was not too accommodating, brushing my request for interview with a terse “Can I talk later?”. But he took a shine to my cousin Beng, who later asked her for a date. I was also luckless with supporting actor Ruel Vernal, who intimidated me with his height. Charito Solis, a co-starrer, was unfortunately not part of any scenes that were for shooting here…When it was all over, the house and its garden were a mess, with most of the flowering plants in the garden dead and trampled. Worse, when the movie was finally shown in local theaters after months of anticipation, the house was just seen on screen for a minute or so, I could barely recognize it. Even the part of the Filipina househelp played by a local Mabalacat girl was edited out, her 15 minutes of fame down the drain. I don’t think “Mga Tigre ng Sierra Cruz” made a killing in the box office, either. Many shootings have been held at the grand Morales mansion since then—the most recent one was undertaken by U.P. film students in March 2009. But old folks who pass by the street still point to the old mansion and refer to it as “the house where they shot the movie ‘Mga Tigre ng Sierra Cruz’ starring Vilma Santos and Dante Rivero…” – Alex R. Castro (READ MORE)

“…The expansive dining room features an old-fashioned banggera, where table ware and glasses are left to air-dry. This area of the house figured prominently in the 1972 shooting of the Vilma Santos-Dante Rivero-Charito Solis war-themed movie, “Mga Tigre ng Sierra Cruz”. A utility wing is conjoined with the dining area. A small veranda and the white-tiled bathroom are found here, complete with claw foot porcelain tubs and modern plumbing. Space flows from one room to another leading you to the kitchen and semi-enclosed azotea with stairs that you down almost down the Sapang Balen bank…” – Alex R. Castro, Views from Pangpang, Dec 10 2008 (READ MORE)

“…She had come to Mabalacat to film the war movie, “Mga Tigre ng Sierra Cruz”and several key scenes were to be filmed in my granduncle’s old house in Sta. Ines, conveniently right next to ours. That meant instant access to the production, as we were the designated caretakers of the Morales mansion. The enviable task of fetching Vilma from an undisclosed hotel to be brought to the house was assigned to my father. To get to the shooting venue without attracting the attention of the motley crowd to get a glimpse of the stars, Vilma was whisked off to our own house which had a connecting passage to my relatives’place. For the next three days, I fell under the spell of Ate Vi—easily transforming me from a Noranian to Vilmanian. More so when, during a lull moment in the shoot, I had the gumption to talk to her (her co-star Dante Rivero refused to be interviewed!), and I even managed to put on tape our short conversation which began with her greeting ”To all the people of Mabalacat, I love you all!!”. Who wouldn’t be charmed by her sweetness? (Though I bet that was a standard line she said to ALL the people in ALL the towns she visited)…” – Alex R. Castro, Views from Pangpang, Sep 10 2012 (READ MORE)