Vilma Santos’ Top 10 Film Directors 5/6

Introductions: 204 films, 70 directors, 5 decades, Vilma Santos, one of the original Philippine movie queens, rose up to become the versatile actress that has been given the fitting title of “Star for All Seasons” because of her capacity to adapt to the changing mores and values of the Filipino woman, giving a face to their plight and struggles, albeit in success both critically and box-office wise in some of Philippine cinema’s classics such as Trudis Liit (1963), Lipad, Darna, Lipad (1973), Burlesk Queen (1977), Relasyon (1982), Sister Stella L. (1984), Alyas Baby Tsina (1984), Pahiram ng Isang Umaga (1989), Dahil Mahal Kita: The Dolzura Cortez Story (1993), Anak (2000) and Dekada ’70 (2002). This are top ten directors who contributed to her success.

Here is the continuation of our list…

3. Chito S. Roño also known as Sixto Kayko, is a Filipino multi-awarded TV and film director. He is the director of the blockbuster films Feng Shui and Sukob. In 2010, he is one of the directors of the top-rating supernatural–fantasy horror TV series Imortal on ABS-CBN (Wikipedia). In 1984, Roño directed his first feature film, titled “Private Show” starring Jaclyn Jose. It was released locally in 1985 and won Jose the Star award for Best Actress. Chito used the pseudonym Sixto Kayco in the credits.

HIGHLIGHTS: Roño gave Vilma Santos her first international recognition winning the best actress in 1999 Brussels International Festival of Independent Films. At the same time, he was recognized as the festival’s Best Director both for Bata Bata Paano Ka Ginawa. The film also gave Vilma Santos her third grand slam winning all the best actress awards from several local award giving bodies. In 2003, Vilma received another international recognition, this time from Cinemanila International Film Festival winning the Best Actress for Dekada 70. The film was screen in the international film festival circuit and was the official entry of the Philippines in the 76th Academy Awards (OSCAR) for the best foreign language film category.

Total Number of Films and Films in our list of VSR’s Top 50 films = 3 (#2 Bata, Bata…Paano Ka Ginawa? 1998, #3 Dekada’70 2002, #36 Ikaw Lang 1993)

RELATED READINGS: IMDB: Chito S. Roño
Wikepedia: Chito S. Roño’s Filmography
Dekada 70, Chito Rono’s filmization of a tumultuous era
An Original Movie Musical by Chito S. Rono
video 48: Sixto Kayco’s “Private Show” (1985)

2. Celso Ad. Castillo began directing films mid-60’s at an early age, but he has since then gained reputation for many other aspects of the craft particularly scriptwriting and acting. In the Filipino movie industry, he holds the unique repuation of being controversial, trendsetter,enfant terrible and messiah of Philippine cinema, and his track record justifies it: he introduced artistry and commercialism in sex films (nympha) when the two were considered incompatible, and introduced sex in artistic projects ( Ang Pinakamagandang Hayop sa Balat ng Lupa/The Most Beautiful Animal on Earth)when moralistic repression was in vogue. An unfortunate and unfair consequence of the controversy is the recognition due him as one of the finest film commentators on the Philippine social scene, with a visual fluency unmatched by any other contemporary filipino film director. – CELSOAD.tripod.com

HIGHLIGHTS: Castillo gave Vilma Santos her first mature role in Burlesk Queen resulting with her first local film festival best actress award. He also directed Pagputi Ng Uwak Pagitim Ng Tagak where Vilma Santos starred and produced. The film received several best picture awards and was considered one of Castillo’s best works.

Total Number of Films and Films in our list of VSR’s Top 50 films = 3 (#1 Burlesk Queen 1977, #15 Pagputi ng Uwak Pag-itim ng Tagak 1978, #20 Tag-ulan sa Tag-araw 1975)

RELATED READINGS: Lumbera’s Review of Pagputi
Video 48: Vilma Santos As “Burlesk Queen” (1977)
The Maverick Director Celso Ad Castillo
Celso Ad. Castillo’s Biography
QandA With Direk Celso Ad Castillo Part One Two Three Four Five (VIDEO)

…next our number one director!

Vilma Santos’ Top 10 Film Directors 4/6

Introductions: 204 films, 70 directors, 5 decades, Vilma Santos, one of the original Philippine movie queens, rose up to become the versatile actress that has been given the fitting title of “Star for All Seasons” because of her capacity to adapt to the changing mores and values of the Filipino woman, giving a face to their plight and struggles, albeit in success both critically and box-office wise in some of Philippine cinema’s classics such as Trudis Liit (1963), Lipad, Darna, Lipad (1973), Burlesk Queen (1977), Relasyon (1982), Sister Stella L. (1984), Alyas Baby Tsina (1984), Pahiram ng Isang Umaga (1989), Dahil Mahal Kita: The Dolzura Cortez Story (1993), Anak (2000) and Dekada ’70 (2002). This are top ten directors who contributed to her success.

Here is the continuation of our list…

5. Catalino Ortiz Brocka (April 3, 1939–May 21, 1991), director for film and broadcast arts, espoused the term “freedom of expression” in the Philippine Constitution. Brocka took his social activist spirit to the screen leaving behind 66 films which breathed life and hope for the marginalized sectors of society — slumdwellers, prostitute, construction workers, etc. He also directed for theater with equal zeal and served in organizations that offer alternative visions, like the Philippine Educational Theater Association (PETA) and the Concerned Artists of the Philippines (CAP). At the same time, he garnered awards and recognition from institutions like the CCP, FAMAS, TOYM, and Cannes Film Festival. Brocka has left behind his masterpieces, bequeathing to our country a heritage of cinematic harvest; a bounty of stunning images, memorable conversations that speak volumes on love,betrayal and redemption, pestilence and plenty all pointing towards the recovery and rediscovery of our nation. To name a few, Brocka’s films include the following: “Santiago” (1970), “Wanted: Perfect Mother” (1970), “Tubog sa Ginto” (1971), “Stardoom” (1971), “Tinimbang Ka Ngunit Kulang” (1974), “Maynila: Sa Kuko ng Liwanag” (1975), “Insiang” (1976), “Jaguar” (1979), “Bona” (1980), “Macho Dancer” (1989), “Orapronobis” (1989), “Makiusap Ka sa Diyos” (1991) (NCCA.gov.ph). On May 21, 1991 Brocka met an untimely death in a car accident in Quezon City, Metro Manila. In 1997 he was given the posthumous distinction of National Artist for Film.(Wikipedia)

HIGHLIGHTS: Brocka gave Vilma one of the most controversial film after “Burlesk Queen,” her milestone role as a rape victim in 1978′s “Rubia Servios.”  The film failed to secure Vilma the local festival’s best performer award after so much speculations despite this, the film was a big hit.  Brocka will direct Vi two more times, “Adultery” in 1984 and “Hahamakin Kita” in 1990, a year before his untimely death in May 21, 1991.

Total Number of Films and Films in our list of VSR’s Top 50 films = 3 (#6 Rubia Servios 1978, #14 Adultery: Aida Macaraeg 1984, #27 Hahamakin Lahat 1990)

RELATED READINGS:

4. Laurice Guillen is an award-winning Filipino director and actress. She was born on January 29, 1947 in Butuan City. She is married Johnny Delgado, a notable and prominent actor. Daughters, Anna and Ina Feleo are both into stage acting as well. Laurice won international notice for her direction of the 1981 film, Salome(Wikipilipinas).

HIGHLIGHTS: Guillen gave Vilma her fifth and sixth Gawad Urian Best Actress awards for 1991’s Ipagpatawad Mo and 1993’s Dolzura Cortez. The later also gave Vilma her second grand slam, winning all the best actress awards from local award giving bodies.

Total Number of Films and Films in our list of VSR’s Top 50 films = 3 (#4 Dahil Mahal Kita The Dolzura Cortez Story 1993, #24 Ipagpatawad Mo 1991, #34 Kapag Langit Ang Humatol 1990)

RELATED READINGS:

next…

Vilma, the Glad Girl

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

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: Rubia Servios (1978)

“Hayup! Hayup! Hayuuuup!” – Rubia Servios

“Nahihibang ako sa pagnanasa sa iyo, ilang libong beses na kitang hinuhubaran sa aking isipan, pinagsasamantalahan sa aking pangarap!…Ito’y isang pagsubok sa ating pagmamahalan, kahit ano pa ang nangyari sa iyo, mahal kita, kailangan kita!…” – Willie Trizon

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Basic Information: Direction: Lino Brocka; Screenplay: Mario O’Hara; Cast: Vilma Santos, Mat Ranillo III, Phillip Salvador, Estrella Kuenzler, Esther Chaves, Carpi Asturias, Jess Ramos, Leah de Guzman, Mark Verzosa; Cinematography: Conrado Baltazar; Editing: Jose H. Tarnate; Music: Freddie Aguilar; Production Company: Sampaguita Pictures, Inc.; Release Date: December 25, 1978; “Rubia Servios (Case No. 63572)” (1978); Office Entry to The 4th (1978) Metro Manila Film Festival Entry; Based on an “Unforgettable Legal Story” by Aida Sevilla Mendoza; Theme Song: “Pag-subok” composed and sang by Freddie Aguilar

Plot Description: Medical intern Rubia Servios (Vilma Santos) is engaged to Dr. Norman Ignacio (Mat Ranillo III), but persistent suitor Willy Trison (Phillip Salvador) refuses to give up. On the day of the death of Norman’s father, she is abducted by Willy and brought to an island. She is repeatedly raped and offered marriage by Willy. She turns him down and warns him that she will bring matters to the police. However, he is confident that she will not press a case against him as she will not want the stigma of a rape victim. Rubia is released and she brings him to court. Willy is sentenced to six to ten years in prison. Rubia discovers she is pregnant and the steadfast Dr. Norman Ignacio proposes marriage. She gives birth to Willy’s daughter, Vivian, and they leave for Canada. Rubia wants a child by Norman and they have a son. Years later, they return to Manila. There are mysterious calls on the telephone. It is Willy and he wants his daughter. Rubia and Norman hide Vivian and plan to leave for the American continent. However, Willy is able to kidnap the child with the help of an ice cream vendor. She is brought to the island and she begins to look to him as her real father. But she also wants her mother. Willy calls Rubia and tells her to join them in the island. Rubia refuses. There is a confrontation between Norman and Willy. Norman is beaten up. Still Rubia is adamant. She becomes terrified when Willy sets up a headless child in a remote area, the discovery of which is sensationalized in the tabloids. Finally Rubia agrees to join him. She takes the motorized banca with Willy as the pilot. In the middle of the sea, she takes a paddle and hits Willy. Willy falls into the water. Rubia takes her gun and shoots him. The banca reaches the island. Rubia is happy to see Vivian alive. As an epilogue, Rubia and Norman leave for the States where they are presently residing. – Lino Brocka: The Artist and His Times, reposted Simon Santos, Video48, 29 December 2018 (READ MORE)

Sa umpisa ng pelikula, makikitang nag-aaral pa lamang si Rubia (Vilma Santos), Norman Ignacio (Mat Ranillo III) at Willie Trizon (Philip Salvador). Masugid na manliligaw ni Rubia si Willie kahit na alam na nito na may nobyo na siya’t pakakasal na sila sa pagkatapos ng taon. Nang malaman ni Willie na pakakasal na si Rubia ay naging desperado ito’t plinano na kidnapin si Rubia. Isang araw habang naghihintay ito ng taxi sa kalye ay hinablot siya nga pat na lalaki na tauhan ni Willie. Dinalo siya ni Willie sa isang cottage sa Cavite. Nagtangka si Rubia na tumakas at tumakbo sa labas. Duon siya ginahasa ni Willie sa tabing dagat. Matapos gahasain ay nagtangkang magpakalunod si Rubia ngunit pinigil siya ni Willie at binalik sa cottage. Pinag-isipan ni Rubia kung paano niya mapipilit si Willie na pawalan siya. Tinanong niya si Willie kung anong gusto nitong mangyari. Sinabi nitong gusto niyang pakasalan siya. Pumayag si Rubia na magpakasal ngunit kailangan nitong ipaalam sa kanyang mga magulang ang nangyari sa kanya. Natagpuan naman ng pamilya ni Rubia siya sa ospital at duon nito nagpasya na maghabla. Matapos ang hearing sa korte sa kabila ng pagmamakaawa ng pamilya ni Willie ay nasentensiyahan siya ng anim na taon sa bilanguan at magbayad ng 70,000 pesos. Samantala nanatiling nakakulong sa kuwarto si Rubia matapos ang kaso. Pinilit ni Norman na kausapin ang katipan at dito nalaman niya na ang dahilan ng pagkukulong sa kuwarto ni Rubia’y buntis ito. Pinasya ni Norman na bigyan ng pangalan ang pinabuntis ni Rubia at nagpakasal ang dalawa.

Nanatiling tahimik ang buhay ng dalawa’t nagkaroon pa sila ng isa pang anak. Nang 3 years old na ang batang naging anak niya kay Willie’y nag-umpisang mangulo na naman ito. Si Willie’y nakalabas ng kulungan pagkatapos ng tatlong taon lamang. Nung una’y pinagkaila ni Rubia sa asawa ang mga tawag ni Willie. Ngunit napuna na rin ito ni Norman nang mapuna niyang madalas ang asawa na umuuwi ng maaga sa bahay at nag-umpisang uminom ng valium at naging magugulatin ito. Pinagtapat na rin ni Rubia sa asawa ang panggugulo ni Willie at pumayag ito na payagan si Rubia na makipagkita kay Willie. Nang malaman ni Rubia kung saan sila magkikita’y si Norman ang pumunta sa usapan. Ang resulta’y nabugbog ito ng mga tauhan ni Willie. Dahil rito’y naging maliwanag na hindi sila titigilan ni Willie lalo pa’t minsa’y takutin si Rubia nang wala si Norman sa bahay at pumunta si Willie’t pinatay ang aso nila. Wala naman magawa ang mga polis dahil wala silang hard evidence na si Willie nga’y nanggugulo sa buhay nila. Pinasya ni Norman at Rubia na umalis na nang bansa at bumalik sa Canada kung saan sila ilang taon ring nag-aral bago naging doctor. Pinasya rin nila na ibigay sa kanyang mga magulang ang dalawang bata para sa kanilang safety.

Sa kasamaang palad, kinidnap ni Willie ang anak nila ni Rubia na si Vivian. Nagpunta sila sa mga pulis ngunit wala pa ring magawa ang mga ito dahil wala silang ebidensiya. Kinontak ni Willie si Vivian at gusto nitong makipagkita siya rito. Pumayag si Norman ngunit sumonod rin ito sa usapan. Kasama ng kanyang mga alagad iniwanan ni Willie ang magasawa at binantaan na sa susunod magsisisi sila sa kanilang ginawa dahil nga ang usapan ay si Rubia lamang ang gusto niyang makita. Tinakot pa ni Willie si Rubia’t kumuha ito ng bankay na bata at isinuot ang damit ng anak ni Rubia. Nalathala ito sa mga diyaryo at pinuntahan ni Rubia ang bankay laking pasasalamat nito’t hindi ang anak ang bangkay. Dahil rito’y nagpasya na si Rubia na kitain si Willie na hindi alam ni Norman. Kinita nga ni Rubia si Willie ngunit nasundan rin pala si Rubia ni Norman. Sa tulong ng mga alagad ni Willie ay itinali ng mga ito sa puno si Norman at muling ginahasa nito si Rubia sa harap ni Norman. Nagsisigaw ito ngunit walang siyang nagawa. Kahit ayaw ni Rubia ay napapayag rin siya dahil papatayin ni Willie ang kanyang asawa. Pagkatapos nito’y binugbog ng mga tauhan ni Willie si Norman at sinama si Rubia papunta sa kanilang anak. Sa dagat papunta sa isla kung saan naruon si Vivian ay kinausap ni Willie ang dino-dios niyang si Rubia. Pinangako nito na matututunan rin niyang mahalin siya. Hindi napansin ni Willie na nakahawak si Rubia sa sagwan ng bangka at ilang ulit nitong pinalo sa ulo ang nabiglang si Willie habang sinasabi ang salitang “hayup!” Hinanap nito ang baril at pinagbabaril rin niya ang nahulog sa dagat na si Willie. Narating ni Rubia ang isla at duon nito nakita ang kanyang anak na buhay na buhay at tinatawag ang kanyang pangalan. The End. – RV

Film Achievement: 1978 FAMAS: Best Picture Nomination; 1978 Gawad Urian: Best Cinematography Nomination – Conrado Baltazar; Best Editing Nomination – Jose Tarnate; 1978 Metro Manila Film Festival: Best Performer Nomination – Vilma Santos; Best Editing – Jose Tarnate; Best Screenplay – Mario O’Hara; Box Office Revenue – Top Grosser

Film Reviews: Mula sa screenplay ni Mario O”hara, ang Rubia Servios ay may mabilis na paglalahad ng buhay ni Rubia at ang mga kahayupang dumating sa kanya sa palad ng isang anak ng makapangyarihan pamilya. Halatang binusisi ni Lino Brockha ang pelikula’t binigyang pansin ang mga eksenang may pagkabayolente. Dalawang beses na ginahasa ni Philip si Vilma at sa bawat eksena’y makikita ang kahalayan at pagnanasa sa mga mata ni Philip at makikita ang sakit na dulot nito sa katauhan ni Vilma. Maraming eksena kung saan inalagaan ni Lino ang pagarte ni Vilma. Hindi lamang sa rape scenes kungdi sa mga tahimik na eksena. Una na nang umagang gumising siya pagkatapos ng unang rape scene. Makikita sa mukha ni Vilma ang pagkalito at ilang sandali pa’y ang pagtanggap ng nangyari sa kanya ng gabing una siyang ginaahasa sa tabing dagat. Pangalawa, nang pumayag si Philip na pakawalan si Rubia at mapunta ito sa ospital. Pagkabukas nang kanyang mata at makita si Norman, makikita sa mga mata niya ang hirap na dinanas. Sa court scene kung saan sinasabi niya na “gusto ko siyang patayin” ng paulit-ulit. Sa bandang huli kung saan nalaman niya na hindi ang anak niya ang putol putol na batang bangkay makikita sa mata niya’t mukha ang biglang pagkatuwa’t hindi ito ang kanyang anak. At sa bandang huli pa rin kung saan ginahasa siya muli sa harap ng kanyang asawa. Makikita ang pagsuko niya’t pagkatalo. Makikita sa kanyang mukha ang pagod at hirap hanggang sa boat scene kung saan pinalad siyang makuha ang sagwan at nagkaroon ng pagkakataong paluin si Willie ng pa-ulit-ulit at hindi pa ito nasiyahan at binaril pa niya ang nangahasa sa kanya. Sa eksenang ito makikita ang kaibahan ng kakayahan sa pagarte ni Vilma. Sa eksenang ito kung saan sinasabi niya ang salitang “hayup!” sabay palo sa nabiglang si Willie. Buong katawan niya ang umaarte. Ito ay hango sa tunay na buhay. Hindi katulad ng arte ni Nora Aunor sa Ina Ka Ng Anak Mo kung saan nahuli niyang nagsiping ang kanyang asawa sa kanyang ina. Nakapokos ang kamera sa mukha niya at nag-emote ng parehong salita: “Hayup!” ang paulit-ulit niyang salita. Aba kung sa tunay na buhay iyan eh nagkasabunutan na at nagwala na ang mag-ina!

Para sa akin naging matagumpay si Vilma sa kanyang pagganap bilang si Rubia Servios. Isang tour de force. Nuong una ko itong napanood sa Avenida ay namangha ako sa kanyang galing. Ngayon pagkatapos ng dalawanput siyam na taon pinanood ko muli ito’y hindi nababawasan ang aking pagkamangha sa galing niya. Paano mo ba isasalarawan ang babae na nagahasa? Paano mo ba isasalarawan ang babaeng nakidnapan ng anak at muling nagahasa sa harap pa mismo ng asawa mo? Isang mahirap na papel. At naisalarawan ito ni Vilma nang makatotohanan. Walang mga pagpopokos ng kamera para mag-emote. Makatotohanang pagganap. Special mention sina Mat Ranillo III at Philip Salvador. Dapat ay napahalagahan sila sa pamamagitan ng nomination subalit naging maramot ang organisasyon ng pestibal at isang acting awards lamang ang binigay nila. Panalo sana si Philip Salvador ng best actor award rito dahil damang dama mo ang kanyang karakter. Makikita rin kung gaano kaganda ng kanyang katawan. Meron eksena siya na nakaswimming trunks lang at talagang alaga pa niya ang kanyang katawan nuon. Si Mat naman ay sana nanominate bilang best supporting actor. Mahusay rin siya lalo na sa eksena kung saan nakatali siya sa puno at wala siyang nagawa ng pagsamantalahan muli si Rubia sa harapan niya ni Philip.

Technically, nang panoorin ko itong pelikulang ito ay maganda ang resulta ngunit nang panoorin ko muli ng ilang beses ngayon ay makikita ang ilang flaws. Una na ang cinematography ni Conrado Baltazar. Maraming eksena ay hindi nasa tamang angulo. Merong eksena na nagsasalita si Ate Vi pero ang nakikita lamang ay ang kanyang nuo. Ang musical score ni Freddie Aguilar ay parang hindi bagay sa tema ng pelikula. Pati ang theme song na “Pagsubok” parang pang-politika at very “folksy” ang dating. Merong isang butas ang screenplay ni Mario O Harra. Nang umalis si Philip para iwanan si Vivian, ang anak niyang kinidnap, nang umalis ito’y sumakay ito ng kotse, pagkatapos nang dalhin niya si Rubia sa banding huli’y sumakay naman sila ng boat. Medyo nakaligtaan nila ang isang detalye na ito. Mabilis ang pacing na pelikula at maraming mga eksena talaga si Vilma na makikita mo ang pagaalaga ni Lino. Sayang nga lamang at hindi ito nakita ng mga hurado ng pestibal at maging ang mga manunuri ng taong iyon. – RV

Undoubtedly, the two best entries in the 1978 Metro Manila Film Festival are Atsay and Rubia Servios. Atsay is remarkable in several ways. It has a strong social message, aimed at primarily those who forget that house cleaners are also human beings. In the character of Mrs. Anton (Angie Ferro), screenwriter Edgar M. Reyes is able to embody the thousand faults which middle-class housewives are heir to. Atsay can also pride itself on being truly Filipino. Its mood is set by its Pilipino credits (in sharp contrast to the English credits of the other entries). The film deliberately exploits local color, dwelling not only on rural but also on picturesque urban scenes. The story, needless to say, can happen only in the Philippines, where domestics and beerhouses are national institutions. But the most striking thing about Atsay is its cinematography (Romeo Vitug). The slow dissolves, the multiple exposures (such as the brilliant train sequence), the surprising angles, the flawless composition—this border on genius. The cinematography is so extraordinary, in fact, that it covers a multitude of sins. The most grievous sin of all is the ending. In the end, Nelia (Nora Aunor), after having been humiliated, beaten, raped, dehumanized by the vultures of the city, decides to stay in the city anyway in the hope that an impoverished construction worker (Ronald Corveau) will make her live happily ever after. Such ending, while assuring the viewer that human nature is not totally evil, is unmotivated and, in fact, goes against the very theme of the story. For Atsay is the story of how the city dehumanizes, of how human beings become swine (this point is made through blatant symbolism in a shot of Nelia inside a cage-like jeep), of how Manila is a prison (note Vitug’s several shots of cage-like structures). “Atsay” is a story of how individuals are no match against the cruelty of the city. The construction worker, for example, becomes the victim of a construction accident. A young pretty virgin from the province is raped while she’s drugged. A kind-hearted old man is shot down while protesting against exploitation. The ending of Atsay contradicts the film’s affirmations. It would have been much more in keeping with the theme (not to mention the current concerns of the national human settlements program), if Nelia were shown rejecting the city and, in hope, returning to her province for a new life.

Rubia Servios, on the other hand, does not dilute the message. Willy (Phillip Salvador), the son of a powerful and wealthy figure, is portrayed as totally evil, devoid of any redeeming quality. To screenwriter Mario O’Hara and director Lino Brocka, the province is the same as the city. Rubia Servios (Vilma Santos) is raped both in the city and in the country. Rubia kills Willy in the country. Violence unites all places. It is the “unity” of conception, scripting, design, and direction, in fact, that Rubia Servios is superior to Atsay. Lino Brocka does not waste shots in his attempt to create a Filipino classical tragedy. He subordinates everything to the building up of one emotion in the viewer, that of hatred of Willy. So despicable does Willy become at the end that, when he is murdered by Rubia, no viewer can say that Rubia is at fault. And yet, morally speaking, no one is allowed to take the law into his own hands. The law, in fact, put Willy in prison for the first rape. There is no reason to think that the law will not put Willy to death for the second rape. By conditioning the reader to condone Rubia’s revenge, Brocka succeeds in questioning one of our deeply rooted moral beliefs. The unity that characterizes Rubia Servios contrasts sharply with the tendency of Eddie Garcia in Atsay to exploit Vitug’s versatility even at the expense of tightness. There are shots in Atsay, for example, which could easily be cut without hurting the film’s integrity. Even the train sequence, one of the best sequences in Atsay, is far too long. Rubia Servios is Lino Brocka’s film; Atsay is Romeo Vitug’s. Nora does an excellent acting job; but so does Vilma Santos, and Rubia is a much more demanding and difficult role. Edgardo M. Reyes is an established literary figure, but Mario O’Hara is much better screenwriter. 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. – Isagani Cruz, TV Times, 1979

Kung uri ang paguusapan, de-kalidad ang Rubia Servios. Kaya lamang, may sabit. Maraming butas ang iskrip ni mario O’Hara. Ang istorya ng Rubia Servios ay batay sa mga legal story ni Aida Sevilla Mendoza, at ito’y pumapaksa sa babaeng ginahasa ng kanyang masugid na manliligaw. Si Rubia (Vilma Santos) ay isang medical student na may kasintahang kaeskuweala, si Norman (Mat Ranillo III). Balak nilang magpakasal pagkatapos ng kanilang pag-aaral. Karibal ni Norman si Willie (Philip Salvador) na ayaw tumanggap ng kabiguan sa pag-ibig. Anak siya ng mayaman at maipluwensiyang pamilya sa Kabite. Kaya nang tapatin siya ng dalaga na wala siyang maaasahan, kinidnap niya si Rubia sa isang bahay-bakasyunan at ginahasa ito. Nang magkaroon ng pagkakataon ang babae, tumakas ito at isinuplong si Willie. Idinemanda ang lalaki at nahatulang mabilanggo ng anim na taon. Paglabas ng lalaki sa bilangguan, ginulo na naman niya ang buhay ng babae na ngayo’y asawa na ni Norman at may dalawang anak (ang una’y anak niya kay Willie). Dahil sa pananakot ng hui, nakipagtagpo si Rubia, at muli na namang ginahasa sa sementeryo sa harapan pa naman ng asawa. Kinidnap ni Willie ang anak niya para gawing pain sa pagtatagpo nila ni Rubia at para sumama na tio sa kanya. Ngunit nagkakaroon na naman ng pagkakaton ang babae na lumaban at sa bangka, hinampas niya si Willie ng sagwan, at pagkatapos ay binaril ang lalaki hanggang sa ito’y tuluyan nang malunod.

Simplistiko ang materyal at lalong simplistiko ang pamamaraan ni O’Hara sa karakterisasyon. Nagmumukha tanga ang mga tauhan (si Rubia at si Norman) samantalang medical students at naturingang doktor pa naman sial. Tinatakot na sila’y hindi pa sila humingi ng proteksiyon sa pulis. Ginahasa na si Rubia ay nakipagtagpo pa sa sementeryong madilim nang nag-iisa at nagpaganda pa mandin siya nang husto. At ang asawa niya’y wala ring utak. Biro mong sinundan ang asawa sa sementeryo nang nag-iisa! Dapat nga palang magkaganito sila kung napakakitid ng kanilang utak. Sa direksiyon ni Brocka, lumitaw ang galing ni Vilma Santos, at nakontrol ang labis na pagpapagalaw ng kanyang labi. Mahusay din ang eksena ng gahasa. Si Philip Salvador naman ay tulad sa isang masunuring estudyante na sinusunod lahat ang direksiyon ng guro. Kitang-kita mo sa kanyang pagganap ang bawat tagubiling pinaghihirapan niyang masunod: kilos ng mata, buntong-hininga, galaw ng daliri, kislot ng kilay. Limitado ang kanyang kakayahan at makikia ito sa kanyang mukha (na limitado rin). Walang-wala rtio si Mat Ranillo III, na parang pinabayaan para lalong lumitaw ang papel at pag-arte ni Salvador. Samantala, ang kamera ni Conrado Salvador ay hindi gaanong nakalikha ng tension at suspense, bukod sa napakaliwanang ng disenyo ng produksiyon ang pagbabago ng mga tauhan sa loob ng pitong taon batay sa estilo ng damit at buhok. – Justino M. Dormiendo, Sagisag, February 1979 (READ MORE)

“…Mula sa isang real life legal story ang Rubia Servios, namumuhunan ito sa ideya na ang masasaksihan ng mga manonood sa iskrin ay hindi likhang-isip lamang kundi talagang nangyari sa tunay na buhay. Hinimok ni Lino Brocka sa kanyang pelikula na pagmasdan ang babae sa konteksto ng ating lipunan. Bakit ganito ang nangyayari sa kababaihan? Dahil tinatanggap nating maging ganoon ang kanilang kundisyon sa lipunan. Kung pagkakasala ang pabayaang maghari ang mayayamang may kapangyarihan, nararapat lamang na ituwid ang pagkakasalang ito. Sa mga nakakaalam ng mga pelikula ni Brocka, pamilyar ang paggamit sa estratehiya ng melodrama. Sa ganitong paraan, ang focus ay ang paghihirap na pinagdaraanan ng pangunahing tauhang babae at ito ang nakababagbag sa damdamin ng manonood. Ngunit sa pagpuntirya ng emosyon, hindi matamaan ang paglinaw sa tunay na isyu. Si Vilma Santos bilang Rubia Servios ay hindi lamang mahusay na gumanap sa buhay ni Rubia kundi naging isa ring makapangyarihang talinghaga na nakapagpalusog sa teksto ng pelikula. Sa kabuuan, inaangkin ng pelikulang Rubia Servios ang kapangyarihan nitong lumikha ng katotohanan mula sa masalimuot na materyal ng reyalidad. Sa ganitong proseso, nailalantad ang isang piraso ng reyalidad upang mapanood, masuri at mabigyang-kahulugan. Sa kabilang banda, hindi rin makakatakas ang pelikula sa mga diskursong kumakanlong sa mismong puinupuna at tinutuligsa nito…” – Jojo Devera, Sari-saring Sineng Pinoy (READ MORE)

The Screenplay – “…Mario Herrero O’Hara (born April 20, 1946 – died 26 June 2012) was an award-winning Filipino film director, film producer and screenwriter known for his sense of realism often with dark but realistic social messages…In 1978, he wrote the screenplay for Lino Brocka’s Rubia Servos. This led to the first award in his film career (Best Screenplay at the Metro Manila Film Festival)…” – Wikipedia (READ MORE)

“…There are certain themes that keep the public captive and enthralled through relentless manufacture of a thematic repertoire which ensures the preponderance of sex in stories and daily narratives. These themes need not be perceived as always proferring false consciousness, but as reiterating the social problems implicated by cinematic and industrial mediation of sexual expression. The theme of rite of passage, from innocence and youth to carnal knowledge, fastens the narrative to the body of the virgin whose initiation into the desires of the world transforms her into a “whore.” The stigma of this rite of passage is exploited from every possible angle, from ablutions in the river to rape scenes and on to the erstwhile virgin suddenly craving flesh herself…Rape likewise presents an occasion for baring the body. Brutal (1980), Rubia Servios (1978), Angela Markado (1980), and even the massacre films hatched in the bizarre mind of Carlo J. Caparas discuss rape almost clinically and therefore subject the body of the woman to another round of autopsy, this time through the prying eyes of a public reared in a daily history of sex…” – Patrick D. Flores, Bodies of Work: Sexual Circulations in Philippine Cinema (READ MORE)

New Screen Persona – “…After years of this unfair competition, Vilma decided to stop playing the also-ran, and opted to essay the roles that Nora preferred not to do, -the other woman, rape victim, burlesque dancer, etc. Vilma’s sexy movies were more suggestive than anything else, but they gave her a new screen persona that made her a distinct movie entity from Nora. Fact is, Nora could also have played sensual characters, but she felt awkward doing so, and Vilma benefited from her reticence. In time, Vilma was also winning acting awards and starring in big hits, so the competition between her and Nora peaked…” – Nestor U. Torre, Philippine Daily Inquirer, 2002 (READ MORE)

RELATED READING:

Filmography: Aida Macaraeg Adultery Case No. 7892 (1984)

“Huwag mo nang itanong. Baka mas masakit kung malaman natin ang sagot.” – Aida Macaraeg

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Basic Information: Directed: Lino Brocka; Story: Aida Sevilla Mendoza; Screenplay: Jose Javier Reyes; Cast: Vilma Santos, Phillip Salvador, Menggie Cobarrubias, Tita De Villa, Alvin Enriquez, Anita Linda, Mario Montenegro, Deborah Sun; Executive producer: Lily Monteverde; Original Music: Lutgardo Labad; Cinematography: Conrado Baltazar; Film Editing: Rogelio Salvador; Production Design: Joey Luna

Plot Description: Dreaming to be released from her miserable life of poverty, Aida, a waitress, abandons her bedridden father, her moralistic mother, her jobless brother and her good-for-nothing sister to live-in with her boyfriend Carding, whom she believes could give her salvation. But her plan only gives her more misfortunes. Carding gets jailed for drug peddling. Aida opts for an abortion. She later lives with a wealthy man to feul her ambition. Carding is released from prison and finds out about his wife’s illicit affair. – ctfabian (READ MORE)

Aida Macaraeg’s only dream is to be released from her miserable life of poverty. She is sick and tired of working day and night as a waitress to be able to feed her jobless brother and his family, her good-for-nothing sister, moralistic mother and bedridden father. One day, Aida decides to turn her back on them and settles for a live-in arrangement with her boyfriend Carding, who gives her a short-lived salvation. But her first attempt to escape a misfortune only brings her face to face with one after another. Carding gets jailed for drug peddling. Aida finds out she is pregnant and opts for an abortion. Forced by need and fueled by ambition, she lives with a wealthy man and has a son by him. Carding is released from prison and finds out about his wife’s illicit affair. They finally see each other again, in court. – Database of Philippine Movies

Film Achievement: 1984 Star Awards Best Actress nomination – Vilma Santos

Film Reviews: Adultery (Aida Macaraeg Case No. 7892) is not one of filmmaker Lino Brocka’s best works. It definitely cannot be lined alongside masterpieces like Tinimbang Ka Ngunit Kulang (You Were Weighed But Found Wanting, 1974), Maynila: Sa Mga Kuko ng Liwanag (Manila in the Claws of Neon, 1975), and Insiang (1976). At best, Adultery is a well-made melodrama that puts a social issue, that of marital infidelity as escape from poverty, at the center of its affairs. Jose Javier Reyes’ well-crafted screenplay (the story is credited to Aida Sevilla Mendoza) is supposedly sourced from a real life account, but one wonders if convenient happy endings (which the film unfortunately struggles with) exist in these kind of cases, especially ones as emotionally charged as in the film. In the Philippines, adultery cases stretch for years and any emotion resembling marital love and concern is replaced with scorching hate, the primary ingredient that fuels litigation.

Aida (Vilma Santos giving a very mature performance) is the sole breadwinner for her family, consisting of a bedridden father, a nagging mother, a good-for-nothing brother, his unemployed wife and baby. Unable to bear the hardships of living with her family, she takes the offer of her boyfriend Carding (Phillip Salvador) to simply live together, resisting his invitation to marry him despite the possible scandal that might arise out of their living arrangement. Carding gets caught peddling prohibited drugs and gets imprisoned, leaving Aida all alone to fend for herself. Years later, Carding gets released from prison and finds Aida, now a mistress of a wealthy executive (Mario Montenegro) and mother to a child that is not his. Aida is then sued for adultery by Carding, which if she is proven guilty would separate her from her son.

There’s one sequence in the film which clearly shows Brocka’s mastery. Aida visits Carding in prison, telling him of her pregnancy. Carding again offers to marry her, fearing that their child would be a bastard child. Supposedly out of pity, Aida agrees. The marriage is solemnized then and there. The prison chaplain officiates the ceremony where Aida is draped in an ordinary dress while Carding wears the orange colored uniform. Around are the witnesses of their marriage, felons all donning the same orange outfit Carding is wearing. Of course, these are mere background details, emphasizing the sullenness of the event that is ordinarily jovial and lively. Brocka concentrates on Aida. He closes up on her face, worried about the uncertainty of her future: she is after all pregnant and now married to a convict with absolutely no source of income. It is Aida’s point of no return and Brocka understands it as such, thus he presents it with understated elegance; no dialogue, just Lutgardo Labad’s swelling music and Brocka’s emphatic close-up of Vilma Santos’ apprehensive face.

The film attempts to criticize marriage, which is depicted not in its traditional sense (as the key to life’s bliss) but as a harrowing cage where women are left with no choices. It seems to advocate infidelity, especially when the requirements of life overtakes the facile concerns of societal and religious norms. Interestingly, Brocka does not antagonize any of his characters. Aida is a hardworking woman who we first see as the selfless sufferer who is charged with her family’s survival, a mere victim of fate and circumstance. Also, one cannot doubt Carding’s affection for Aida. His decisions in life may have been off, leading to his incarceration and Aida’s continuing suffering, but it cannot be denied that his love for his wife is indubitable. The blame does not go to any person but to the social institution of marriage, its sometimes shallow roots and the unbendable veneration the law and society gives to it to the detriment of the unique needs of individuals.

I am impressed as to how Brocka directed the courtroom sequence, without the usual pomp and unnecessary drama. The courtroom sequence gives the impression as to how the justice is bookish and blind to personal plights. One lawyer asks Aida a question, and she shies away saying that the question is too personal. Of course, the judge demands that she answer the question, which she does so unwillingly. In the eyes of the law, emotions, circumstance, fate, and needs are denied materiality. This should have been the instance wherein we’ll fall for Aida’s plight: that despite her being guilty for adultery, she does not deserve to be punished because she was forced to infidelity not by innate evil but by circumstances in her life. However, instead of dishing out an ending that would operate as the culmination of such criticism, Brocka and Reyes decided to succumb to sentimentality. Husband forgives wife. Wife gets her son back. Everybody’s satisfied. Unfortunately, reality, which the film tried so hard to emulate, isn’t anything like that. – Oggs Cruz, Lessons From The School of Inattention, Oggs’ Movie Thoughts (READ MORE)

Dalawang pelikula ni Vilma Santos ang napanood namin sa special previews: Adultery at Sister Stella L. Pinatunayan ng mga pelikulang ito na Vi is still the leading actress of the season and performances in both movies make her again the actress to beat in next year’s award derbies. No doubt, Vilma, right now, is at her peak. Adultery is a well made melodrama deftly written by Jose Javier Reyes and masterfully directed by Lino Brocka. Ang pangunahing tauhan, si Aida Macaraeg, ay isang dalagang breadwinner ng kanyang pamilya. May sakit ang kanilang ama at siya ang bumibili ng mga gamot nito. Nag-asawa nang maaga ang kapatid niyang lalaki at siya ang nagpapakain pati sa asawa t anak nito. Siya rin ang nagpapaaral sa bunso nilang kapatid na babae. Receptionist sa isang restaurant, may boyfriend si Aida na wala namang regular na trabaho. Ito ay si Carding (Phillip Salvador) na kumikita lamang kapag sumasama sa mga illegal na gawain ng sangganong si Bumbay. Nang malaman ni Aida na nagdadalantao na naman ang asawa ng kapatid niya, niyaya niya si Carding na magsama na sila. May kapatid si Aida na isinumpa ng kanilang ina dahil nakisama ito sa isang lalaking may-asawa. Si Aida lamang ang nakauunawa kay Miriam (Deborah Sun) at wala siyang kamalay-malay susundan pala niya ang mga yapak nito. Akala niya’y malulutas ng pagsama niya kay Carding ang mga problema niya ngunit lalala lamang pala ito. Nahuli si Carding sa pagsama sa pangkat ni Bumbay at nabilanggo. Naiwang nagdadalantao si Aida. Nang malaman ito ni Carding ay pinilit siyang pakasal na sila para hindi maging bastardo ang isisilang niya. Ikinasal sila ng pari sa piitan.

Nagbalik si Aida sa kanyang trabaho ngunit natuklasan ng may-ari na buntis siya. Naiisip ni Aida na lalo lamang siyang maghihirap at nadadamay pa pati ang kanyang magiging anak kung itutuloy niya ang kanyang pagbubuntis kaya t ipinasya niyang ilaglag ito sa tulong ni Miriam. Nang magaling na siya y napasok siyang tagapamahala sa isang kantina at dito niya nakilala si Tito Pangilinan (Mario Montenegro). Nagsama sila at nagkaroon ng isang anak. Si Carding naman ay nalipat sa Davao Penal Colony at nagtaka na lamang siya nang huminto na sa pagsulat si Aida. Lumaya si Carding pagkaraan ngpitong taon at hinanap agad si Aida. Nakita niya ito at si Aida ay nagsimulang maglubid ng buhangin. Ang batang kasama niya’y anak daw ni Miriam at mahigpit ang bagong kinakasama nito kaya’t hindi sila maaaring laging magkita. Ngunit natuklasan ni Carding ang katotohanan at sa galit nito’y sinaktan si Aida. Inihabla siya ni Carding at ang kaso y humantong sa husgado. Mabibilanggo kaya si Aida sa salang adultery? That, you’d have to find out for yourself. Mawawala ang suspence kapag ibinunyag namin agad sa inyo ang ending.

Based on a true legal story, nagawa nina Reyes at Brocka na very convincing ang pagkakalahad ng kuwento. Maingat ang development at talagang magsi-sympathize ka sa mga tauhan. Ang kaso ni Aida ay isa ring moral dilemma. Dapat ba siyang sisihin sa kanyang ginawa? Sa kanyang paglalaglag sa sanggol and finding the easy way out through having an affair with a rich old man? Maraming katulad ni Aida sa ating lipunan sa ngayon. Nagipit sila, humanap ng lubid na makakapitan upang huwag tuluyang mahulog sa bangin, kasalanan ba ang kanilang praktikal na solusyon sa kanilang mga problema? Morally, masasabi agad na mali nga sila. Pero madaling humusga kung hindi ikaw mismo ang nakaharap sa mga problemang iyon. Tao lamang si Aida. At ang kahinaan niya ang siyang dahilan kung bakit naging very human ang istorya ng Adultery. Kung bakit naging tutoong-tutoo angmga sitwasyon at ang lahat ng characters dito. Alam mong melodramatiko ang kuwento pero alam mo ring nagaganap ang gayon sa tunay na buhay, na talagang maraming Aida Macaraeg sa ating paligid. Namumukod-tangi ang mga aspetong teknikal ng pelikula: ang sinematograpiya ni Conrado Baltazar, ang musika ni Lutgardo Labad, ang editing ni Rogelio Salvador, ang disenyong pamproduksiyon ni Joey Luna at pati pagkakalapat ng tunog.

Mahusay rin ang acting ng lahat ng tauhan: si Deborah Sun bilang Miriam, si Anita Linda bilang ina, si Tita de Villa bilang tiyahin ni Carding. Maikli lamang ang papel ni Mario Montenegro bilang Tito pero epektibo ang pagkakaganap niya, lalo sa tagpong sinumbatan niya si Aida: “Pitong taon na kitang tinutulungan at pitong taon mo na rin akong niloloko.” Napakahusay ni Vilma sa mga eksenang nagngingitngit siya sa mga kapatid niya sa pagkawala ng uniporme o muling pagbubuntis ng mga ito. You can really feel the sense of rage, and futility that she is experiencing. Pero maging sa iba pang quiet scenes ay mahusay rin siya, o kaya y maging doon sa eksenang muntik na siyang mabuko ni Mario, at nang magkomprontasyon na sila ni Phillip. Pero, sa tingin namin, mas lumutang si Phillip sa pelikulang ito at tiyak na in the running na naman siya for best actor next year. Kung minsan ay mata lamang ang kanyang pinaaarte at wala siyang dialogue (like nang mabasa niyang nakunan si Aida o nang makita niya itong sinasalubong si Mario sa gate). Very touching din ang final scene na tinanong siya ni Vi: “Ano ng nangyari sa ‘tin?” At sumagot siya ng: “Huwag mo nang itanong. Baka mas masakit kung malaman natin ang sagot.” Maraming iba pang magagandang touches ang pelikula, tulad ng pagdalaw ng mga babaing taga-block rosary kina Aida at ang sagutan sa court scenes.

The movie also offers another view of prison life. Sa mga pelikulang lokal na tungkol sa piitan, karaniwan nang nalalagyan ng tattoo ang bida, ginagahasa ng kapwa bilanggo at ginugulpi ng husto. Dito, maayos ang naging kalagayan ni Carding habang nasa bilangguan at wala siyang naenkwentrong mga problema na gaya ng usual na napapanood natin sa prison movies. Maganda talaga ang Aida Macaraeg. – Mario E. Bautista, Movie Flash May 31, 1983

“…Masinop ang mga elemento ng pelikula sa Adultery (Regal Films, Inc., 1984). Madulas ang daloy ng dulang pampelikula ni Jose Javier Reyes, konsistent ang disenyong biswal at sinematograpiya, malinis ang editing, akmang-akma ang tunog at musika. Ang maalam at matatag na pagganap ni Vilma Santos ay nagsasaad ng pagkaunawa at metodo sa layuning dramatiko ng kanyang pelikula. Ang pagganap ni Phillip Salvador bilang Carding ay nagpahayag ng mithiin sa lahat ng di magkatugmang aspeto nito at nagbigay ng naiibang sigla sa tradisyon ng pagganap sa pelikula. Sa halip na unidimensiyonal ang pagsasalarawan sa karanasan ng isang babae ay binigyan ito ng maramihang posibilidad sa pamamagitan ng sinematikong pagsasadula ni Lino Brocka, ang istereotipong ito ay isinalaysay sa paglalakbay ng kababaihan tungo sa sariling pagkilala at katuparan.” – Jojo Devera, Sari-saring Sineng Pinoy (READ MORE)

“…Vilma Santos’ restrained acting in Adultery: Aida Macaraeg 7892 was due to Brocka’s expert direction. We wish he did the same thing to Tolentino and Bonneive in this film. But then, Maging Aking Ka Lamang is a big box-office success. Brocka probably feels that it’s high time he gives the masses what they want. And on this score, Brocka succeeds enormously…” – Luciano E. Soriano, Manila Standard, May 19 1987 (READ MORE)

“…Statistically, there are really more husbands who betray their wives than the other way around. And since films basically mirror life, there are more movies about philandering husbands than adulterous wives. In the eternal love triangle of Eddie Rodriguez, Lolita Rodriguez and Marlene Dauden, it is always the man who is at fault. And then, there are those film bios of our super cops who are always portrayed as having mistresses – like Joe Pring (played by Phillip Salvador), who had a legal wife in the film (portrayed by Aurora Sevilla) and yet maintained a mistress (Maila Gumila) on the side. Films about wives fooling around are actually fewer. However, these movies seem to be more exciting because they often have drama and suspense. This is likely because the adulterous character has to dangerously tread on the ego of the husband. In local cinema, I remember a few films about women characters playing with fire. Amalia Fuentes playing a married actress in love with co-star Eddie Rodriguez in Pag-ibig Mo, Buhay Ko; Hilda Koronel (married to an older man, Mario Montenegro), who falls for the charms of Orestes Ojeda in Marupok, Mapusok, Maharot; Vilma Santos agreeing to become the mistress of Mario Montenegro in order to have a better life – in spite of being married to Phillip Salvador in Adultery; Vilma Santos again, bored with her old husband (Eddie Garcia) and carries on an affair with Gabby Concepcion in Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow and Anna Marie Gutierrez in the aptly titled Unfaithful Wife…” – Butch Francisco (READ MORE)

“…When Aida (Vilma Santos), in Adultery (Aida Macaraeg Case No. 7892) (1984), offends the pride of her husband, he invokes the law to punish her. This mother, however, does not just accept the status quo. She actively fights for her rights — up to the extent possible for a woman judged by men — within the four walls of the courtroom which is ruled by patriarchal ideology. The mother finally reunites with her son in the end, notably, not because her husband pities her, but because her husband understands her as a person who fights for her rights…” – Jose C. Gutierrez III (READ MORE)

Working title – “Obsession (Separasyon Legal)” – “…By the time they got to be thirty, unti-unti nang nawala ang kanilang charisma sa publiko, at hindi na kagaya ng dati. Pero hindi ito nangyari kay Vilma. It is a fact na kung kailan pa siya nagkakaedad ay saka pa siya lalong tumatatag, lumalakas. And by almost all indications, it seems like magtatagal pa ito. Take a look at her harvest this year: “Ayak Kong Maging Querida,” “Paano Ba Ang Mangarap?,” “Broken Marriage,” “Obsession (Separasyon Legal),” “Minsan Pa Nating Hagkan Ang Nakaraan” and “Sor Stella L.” Although it appears na tila dalawang pelikula ang maaaring hindi na maipalabas sa taong ito (Obsession and Sor Stella L), hindi na rin maikakaila from the list above that Vilma Santos is still the biggest star of the season and the busiest among her contemporaries. At mayroon pa siyang mga nakatakdang gagawin sa pagpasok ng bagong taon. At the time when most stars are already collecting memoirs and reminiscing fond memories of past glories, Vilma is still soaring into newer heights as she goes from one competent film director to another and manages to become the highest paid actress in the country today. From Ishmael Bernal (Broken Marriage) to Lino Brocka (Obsession) to Marilou Diaz-Abaya (Misan Pa Nating Hagkan Ang Nakaraan) to Mike de Leon (Sor Stella L), the reigning movie queen is getting most of the choicest assignment these days and with the accompanying royal treatment…” – Julio Cinko N., Movie Flash Magazine, December 8 1983 (READ MORE)

“…Malalaking komplikasyon ang kinasuotan sa buhay ng isang babaeng nabilanggo ang asawa at naging kerida ng isang mayaman at may edad na lalaki. Ang tinamasang seguridad ni Aida Macaraeg, ang pangunahing tauhan sa istorya sa piling ng kanyang pangalawang “asawa” ay biglang naglaho ng lumabas sa piitan ang kanyang tunay na asawa. Humantong sa hukuman ang kaso, hanggang sa di-inaasahang masayang pagtatapos ng istorya, na lubhang taliwas sa mga naunang obra ni Brocka…Sa aspektong teknikal, superor ang pelikulang ito, ebidensiya ng mabusising pagkahawak ni Brocka ng renda niya bilang direktor. Ang akting ng mga pangunahing tauhan ay kapansinan din ng tatak Brocka. Tulad ng nangingislap na mata ni Phlip habang nagbibitiw ng mga mabibigat na linya, ng sinukat sa tiyempong pagpatak ng luha sa kaliwang gilid ng kaliwang mata ni Vilma Santos, ng masusing pagkaka-orkestrang komprontasyon ng dalawa mula sa salas hanggang kuwarto at maraming maliliit na tagpong dramatiko ang lapat…Kasabay ng kanyang pag-alsa bilang reyna ng takilya (si Vilma Santos), ay ang nakakakumbinse niyang pagganap sa no mang tauhang binibigyan niya ng buhay sa sinema. Sa hanay ng mga pelikulang ginawa niya sa nakaraang taon, namumukod ang kinang niyang iyon…sa “Adultery,” kung saan siya naging biktima ng isang materyalistikong kapaligiran…” – Star Awards 1984

Filmography: Hahamakin Lahat (1990)

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Basic Information: Directed: Lino Brocka; Story, screenplay: Ricardo Lee; Cast: Vilma Santos, Snooky Serna, Gabby Concepcion, Eric Quizon, Dennis Roldan, Perla Bautista, Ruben Rustia, Maritoni Fernandez, Gina Perez, Pocholo Montes, Archie Adamos; Executive producer: Lily Y. Monteverde; Original Music: Jaime Fabregas; Cinematography: Pedro Manding Jr.; Film Editing: George Jarlego; Production Design: Benjie De Guzman; Sound: Joe Climaco, Ramon Reyes

Plot Description: Lucinda (Vilma Santos), a hard-nosed scheming power hungry woman is married to a young politico, Gerard (Eric Quizon). Theyère the ideal and perfect partners in life and in crime. Their lives take a new shape with the re-entry of Renato (Gabby Concepcion), Lucindaès first love and now married to cousin Teresa (Snooky Serna). What follows is another colorful drama – swapping partners to satisfy their burning passion. But the moment of truth arrives – Lucinda and Gerard outwits each other to assure power and reach the top to the extend of plotting their lover’s murder. – Regal Films (DVD box description)

An oppressed housemaid has transformed herself into a wealthy and powerful business mogul through sheer dint of talent, ambition and driving need to avenge herself on her tormentors. She comes back to the scene of her most abject debasement with the sole intent of humiliating the family who once made her life such a living hell. Unknowingly, she gets to exact revenge on the very person who turns out to be her own daughter by the son of her former mistress. – Databases of Philippine Movies (READ MORE)

Film Achievement: 1990 Star Awards for Movies Best Supporting Actress – Snooky Serna; 1990 FAMAS Nomination Best Supporting Actress – Snooky Serna; 1990 FAP Nomination Best Actress – Vilma Santos; 1990 Gawad Urian Nomination Best Best Actor – Gabby Concepcion

Film Reviews: “…Can the specificities of a film genre dictate the nature of roles available to actors according to their sexual differentiation? In the instance of a specific local genre, melodrama, it appears that not only the nature of the roles but the advantage of the performer is predetermined in a manner opposed to the original foreign norm. Two of the better releases in 1990 by the country’s top competitors for studio supremacy prove this point indirectly, by applying for us one outstanding performance each – both by female actors essaying distinctively female roles…Regal Films’ Hahamakin Lahat has the reliable Vilma Santos in a successful (in popular terms) modification of her other-woman persona, placing her work here on the order of Tagos ng Dugo and Pahiram ng Isang Umaga. Both films can be roughly classified as melodramas of the Filipino variety, specifically by their emphasis on moral issues, complicated plots, and strong female roles – characteristics that serve the thesis that local melodramas are, for want of a better term, prejudiced in favor of women, complaints from feminists notwithstanding…while that of Vilma Santos resolves not to fall emotionally for her flavor of the moment; in the end, when Mr. Seemingly Right happens along, all their notions of self-sufficiency get discarded like so much excess baggage, as off they go after the walking incarnation of the True Meaning of Life…

Compared with the director-writer team-up’s previous effort, Gumapang Ka sa Lusak, Hahamakin manages to go deeper into the psyche of the female oppressor (a secondary character in the earlier film, which concentrated on the victim instead). On the other hand, several crucial establishing details in the latter work had to be relegated to lines of exchanges, and a demonstration of how social cancer spreads through the body politic is never pulled off, precisely because the filmmakers had to confine themselves to the major characters. Nevertheless both recent films, plus Gumapang Ka, represent our state-of-the-craft when it comes to melodrama movie making, and I can think of no higher compliment than posing a challenge for the future: since every conceivable female lead role has been explored, with varying degrees of success, in local melodrama, and since action films have long allowed for strong women characters even in lead capacity, how about refashioning the former genre to suit non-female leads? The clash between gender and genre might yet result in certain long-overdue insights into love and anarchy as only a truly confused culture can make it…’ – Joel David, National Midweek, 17 October 1990 (READ MORE)

Brocka did Hahamakin Lahat for Regal Films. This would be his third team-up with Vilma Santos. The role called for Vilma to be dark, daring, and innovative—something that totally deviated from characters usually portrayed by the sweet-faced actress . It showed a heroine entering into a marriage of convenience with a ruthless, scheming mayor—a character Brocka created to expose the hypocrisy and corruption of society. – Mario Hernando

“…In his book, Don Jose & The Early Philippine Cinema, Joe Quirino credits jose Nepomuceno pioneer in producing movies that not only entertained but also informed. Wrote Quirino: “His screen adaptation of Noli Me Tangere, Jose Rizal’s novel exposing the social cancer that festered during the Spanish occupation of the Philippines, captured the sardonic and satirical contents of the imflammatory noel.” Satire was a popular device through which producer aired their views on social issues. In 1929, a satirical movie called Patria Amore caught the ire of the local Spanish community who went to court to stop its exhibition. A counterpart incident took place in 1965 when the Liberal Party tried to stop the showing of Iginuhit ng Tadhana, the propagandistic movie of the life of Ferdinand Marcos. The same motion picture propelled Marcos to the presidency. Movies of social significance often face this dillemma on their way to the big screen. Because of their strong public statement, they invite uproar from concerned sectors, an experience that became almost a daily ordeal for the late director, Lino Brocka. In recent years and until his death in 1991, Brocka had been the prime mover of Tagalog movies of social significance. Some of his works that easily fall under this category are, in no particular orderL Orapronobis (about vigilantes and rebels in the countryside), Bayan Ko (on labor unrest), Gumapang Ka sa Lusak and Hahamakin Lahat (on political corruption), Maynila: Sa Mga Kuko ng Liwanag (on moral degradation and exploitation)…” – Nestor Cuartero, Panorama, dated June 13, 1993 (READ MORE)

Snooky Also Shines – “…Do you know who has improved a lot in her acting especially in her last movie? It’s Snooky. In “Hahamakin Lahat,” she was almost at par with the star for all seasons, Vilma S. kung acting ang paguusapan, says an ardent admirer. Nag-underacting siya but there were moments na akala mo siya ang bida sa pelikula. I remember a hysterical Snooky in highlights scenes of her movies. I think it’s only Lino Brocka who directed her in her first movie, “Wanted, Perfect Mother,” when she was only four or five years old, who can control her acting as he did in “Hahamakin.” Snooky has gained more character and a certain maturity in her acting. I’m sure she’ll garner several nominations for this movie come awards time next year…” – Nena z. Villanueva, Manila Standard, 05 Sep 1990 p16 (READ MORE)