The line is lifted from a Christmas song with a little alteration. But the message and the spirit of the season is still there. Intact. And that is Vilma Santos these days: glowing and with high spirits radiating. Who wouldn’t be, anyway? At thirty, she has still maintained that youthful look every woman is trying to hold on to as she goes celebrating from one birthday to the next. The actress is at peak of her career, and no matter what others say about the phenomenal legend and her unmatchable niche in local cinema, Vilma is slowly creating a legend all her own. At ito ang magiging pagkakaiba niya sa lahat. Kadalasan, ang mga movie queen ng local movies ay unti-unting nawawala sa eksena the moment they get to near thirty or that. Maging si Nora Aunor ay hindi nakaligtas sa “aging syndrome” na ito sa ating pelikula. Ilang taon na ba nang magsimulang manghina ang movie career ng brown phenomenon? Ganito rin halos ang mga nangyari sa ating past movie queens like Gloria Romero, Amalia Fuentes and Susan Roces: 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.
Sabi pa niya: “Wala na yata akong mahihiling pa at this stage in my life. Maligaya ako sa aking pamilya, lumalaking listo si Lucky at nalutas ko na rin ang mga problema ko. I think it would be too much kung maghahanap pa ako ng kung anu-ano pa. Kuntento na ako sa buhay ko ngayon at siguro, ang dapat ko na lang gawin ay pagbutihin ang aking ginagawa.” With husband Edu around and some of her loved ones with her, Vilma can’t help but be contended with all the things coming her way. That glow in her eyes is unmistakable kahit na madalas siyang magpuyat and at one time or some other ay nagkakasakit. Katulad na lang nang matapos ang kanyang VIP birthday celebration sa Celebrity Sports Plaza noong November 5. Nagkasakit kinabukasan ang aktress at may dalawang araw ring naratay sa higaan. Maybe because of fatigue. Pero maligaya pa rin siya dahil nasa piling niya si Edu at si Lucky. In fact, she even made some effort to set an appointment the moment she gets well. But she didn’t have to, I thought. The next time I called up, nasa set na naman siya ng Minsan Pa Nating Hagkan… at kailangan niya itong matapos bago mag-November 15 dahil sisimulan na nila ang Sor Stella L sa Regal with Mike de Leon.
Halos mapang-abot na ang dalawang pelikula dahil the day na natapos ang dubbing niya sa Minsan…, kinabukasan, nag-umpisa na kaagad siya sa Sor Stell L. It was a good thing na hindi nagtuloy-tuloy ang shooting ng pelikula ni Mike de Leon. Ang yet, maligaya pa rin si Vilma. Iba na nga naman ang nagagawa ng pag-ibig. Sana wala ng tanong kung hanggang kailna ang lahat. Pero, dapat pa rin nating harapin ang katotohanan. As she has always said time and again, “Parang natatakot pa rin ako kung ano nga ang magiging kasunod nito. With all the good things happening to me now, there’s always that fear at the back of my mind na baka kung ano nga ang sumusonod nito. Sana wala naman.” Most people can’t really help thingking about it. And it’s good thing Vilma isa aware of that. But why worry of things that are based on unfounded fears? Right now, the world of Vilma Santos is all aglow and it is what should matter. So why spoil the good times and think otherewise? The world will not stop because one day you’ll be sad, Vilma. Keep going. Life is made of such stuff. – Julio Cinko N., Movie Flash Magazine, December 8 1983 (READ MORE)
Sa langit-langitan ng pagganap sa pelikula ay walang aktres ang makakatapat kay Vilma Santos sa husay at versatility nito. Maging si Nora Aunor na mahigpit niyang karibal sa larangang ito ay nagsimulang nagpakita ng gilas at halos pinaluhod ang QueenStar noong ginawa niya ang Minsay Isang Gamu-gamo, Tatlong Taong Walang Diyos, Bona at Ina Ka ng Anak Mo. Sa katunayan, unang narecognize si Nora sa Urian at sa international film community sa Cairo Film Festival kung saan hinangaan siya sa Flor Contemplacion Story at nakopo niya ang best actress award, mula YCC hanggang sa Cairo nga. Ito lang ang tanging grand slam niya. Hindi nagpatalbog ang former Scream/Gripo Queen kay forever Ice/Eye/Diin Queen by reinventing herself magmula noong mapangahas niyang pagganap sa Burlesk Queen at nang talunin siya ni Nora sa 1978 MMFF kung saan nilampaso siya ng Atsay at umuwi siyang luhaan like Rubia Servios. As fate would have it, at dahil na rin sa kanyang competitive spirit at nerve of steel, she re-grouped and vowed never to be second banana sa kapuwa bulilit niyang karibal. “Anything she can do, I can do better, I can do anything better than her.” Yes, I can, oh yes I can! ang bulalas ng most awarded actress and mayor ng bansa sa sarili. And she did it. By George, she got it! And she could dance all night, along with her millions of fans. Nag-aral siya, nagmasid, nagtanong, nagtiyaga, ibinuhos ang kaalaman niya sa sining, at inalagaan ito ng husto. At mula noong naka-grand slam siya sa Relasyon in 1982 ay para bang nabuksan ang langit at ang mga paghihirap at tiyaga niya ay tinumbasan ng walang katapusang ulan ng mga tropeo, honors and citations bilang pinakamahusay na aktres ng kanyang henerasyon, at possible sa buong kasaysayan ng pelikulang Pilipino. Na-validate pa nga ito ng pagkawagi niya as exemplary media practitioner for film via the prestigious U.P. Gawad Plaridel Award recently. Nominations pa nga lang ay eliminated na kaagad ang supposedly strong contender na si Nora Aunor.
Napasama ang Reyna sa last three finalists at mantakin mong sina Mike De Leon at Eddie Romero ba naman ang kahelera mo at talunin mo ay daig pa ang manalo ka sa lotto. Talagang hindi basta-basta aktres ang the longest reigning movie and box-office queen of Philippine Cinema: Isa na talaga siyang icon or national treasure ng bansa. Kasunod na kaya ang National Artist Awsrd? Abangan! Nakagawa na siya ng mahigit 200 na pelikula, kasama na ang mga special guesting niya, at nagtamo nga ng pinakamaraming acting awards, mula sa Trudis Liit hanggang sa Mano Po 3 – My Love. Kamanghamangha talaga! Atin ngayong suriin kung sinu-sinong director ang pumiga sa Meryl Streep of the Philippines at sa the Filipino Cinematic Diva (ayon sa U.S. Variety magazine) at tuloy ay nagkamit ng mga di matatawarang karangalan sa kahusayan sa pagganap. Sa mga batikang director natin, tanging sina Lino Brocka (SLN) at Marilou-Diaz Abaya ang di pinalad na panalunin si La Vilma sa mga klasikong Rubia Servios, Adultery and Hahamakin Lahat for Brocka, at Alyas Baby Tsina naman kay Abaya. At ang mga ilan sa matitinik nating direk na di nakatrabaho ng Reyna ay sina Lupita Kashihawara at Mario O’Hara na pawing identified kay Nora Aunor. Malay natin, baling araw ay may mga pelikula na silang gagawin. Narito ang talaan ng mga director na nagpanalo sa Greatest Actress of Philippine Cinema…
- Jose de Villa – in 1963 for Trudis Liit. Vilma’s first acting trophy (FAMAS best child actress).
- Luis Enriquez (aka Eddie Rodriguez, SLN) – 1968 best supporting actress for Kasalanan Kaya? mula sa San Beda College Awards; 1975 best actress for Nakakahiya?, Bacolod City Film Festival. The most successful May December acting team in Philippine Cinema, ever.
- Emmanuel Borlaza – 1972 FAMAS best actress (her first as an adult actress and her one of five from the FAMAS), for Dama De Noche.
Celso Ad. Castillo – 1977 best actress, MMFF, for Burlesk Queen. Her change of image changed everything. The best career move she ever did. There was no looking back.
- Danny Zialcita – 1981 MMFF and Cebu City Film Festival for Karma.
Elwood Perez – 1981 FAMAS best actress (Pakawalan Mo Ako) and 1988 FAMAS best actress (Ibulong Mo Sa Diyos).
- Ishmael Bernal (SLN) – hold your breath! 1982 Grand slam for Relasyon (her first of four grand slams, a record!); 1983 Urian best actress, Broken Marriage; 1989 Urian best actress, Pahiram ng Isang Umaga. Sayang at pumanaw na si ‘Ishma” – ang dami pa sana nilang pelikulang pagsasamahan. The most successful actress/director collaboration in Pinoy Cinema. Pinasabog na ang takilya, inulan pa ng awards.
- Maryo J. De Los Reyes – 1987 FAMAS best actress, Tagos ng Dugo; 1992 New Fame Mag Readers’ Choice Award for best actress, Sinungalinng Mong Puso. Sana matuloy iyong Vilma-Christopher project sa Violet Films’ Huwag Hatulan ang Puso. Sana. It’s time for a Maryo J. and a Vilma reunion – perfect for each other – they’ll make a splash at the local and foreign markets. Abangan!
- Mike de Leon – 1984 Urian best actress, Sister Stella L. In the recent U.P. Gawad Plaridel award for exemplary film practitioner, La Santos bested De Leon. Whew! Will Mike lure Vilma or vice-versa to make a movie together? Heaven, must be missing an angel: Mr. Mike De Leon, that is. It’s time for a reunion. Isa pa nga, oh! Hold your breath. I can see it coming. Mover over, Madam Auring!
- Laurice Guillen – ah, the woman’s director – who better understands women but the outstanding actress cum director herself, Laurice? Her presence at Vilma’s coronation at the U. P. last July 4 is proof that Ms. Guillen is a true-blue Vilmanian. She gave the Queen two best actress awards: 1993 Grand slam (her second) for Dolzura Cortez; and in 1991 at the Urian for Ipagpatawad Mo, halting Nora’s almost second grand slam win for Pacita M. Laurice’s presence at the U.P. Cine Adarna is, probably, an open invitation for Ms. Versatile Vilma to say – OK – to Guillen’s script about a woman who spent most of her life taking care of family business, only to be abandoned or dumped like a hot potato by the ones she loved to death – with nowhere to go – no career/office skills – nothing. Do I hear a fifth grand slam? Aw, cmon, Vilma, grab the script before it lands in anothers lap. Si Guillen yata iyan! Atat na ata na, umoo ka na, oh!
- Chito Rono – is he Bernal II? His approach, his dark comedy, his overall style is vintage Bernal, yet very original, with Chitos stamp of excellence all over it. Two grand slams for Vilma, for a total of four grand slams, plus 2 international acting trophies from the Brussels and CineManila, (1998s Bata-bata and 2002’s Dekada ’70), is not bad. Is there a reunion in the offing? Direk Rono: “Vi, gawin na natin iyong script, bago ni Lualhati, bagay sa iyo iyon?” Vilma: “Naku, Chito, litung-lito na ako sa dami ng offers. Di ko alam ang uunahin. Ang hirap i-pass by. Nakapanghihinayang. Kung puede ko lang i-clone ang sarili ko, gagawin ko lahat ng offers sa akin. Kaso mo, so many good movies, so little time.” Chito: “Ako hintay sa iyo. Ayaw ko sagot mo Pagputi ng Uwak, Pag-itim ng tagak. Basta ako hintay sa iyo.”
- Rory Quintos – Anak shattered box-office records in 2000 and was the highest-grossing Pinoy film ever until Ang Tanging Ina (Solid Vilmanian Ai-Ai) zoomed to the top of the box-office. The 2000 best actress awards from the PMPC Star and PASADO are puede pasar, but millions of luhaang viewers swear she should have brought home the bacon. All they were saying, please give Glo a chance! Sige na nga, senior citizen kasi eh. Doon nga sa Urian when Ms. Gloria Romero gave her speech: “I-share this award with Vilma who was so good in Anak.” BOW! Respect begets respect. Biglang sing si Aretha Franklin ng R-E-S-P-E-C-T.
- Joel Lamangan – the newest Vilma convert after he made Vilma grab best actress awards in the 2004 MMFF (Mano Po III), at the PMPC Star (her sixth), Tanglaw (her second) and Gawad Suri. He was so impressed by the QueenStar that he offered her a script she couldn’t resist, about the slums, a role to die for. Vi: “Joel, ang hirap naman, awa ako time. Gulong-gulo nga ang isip ko kung ano ang tatanuan ko eh. Puede bang next year na lang iyan?” – Mario O. Garces (READ MORE)
Director For The Moment – “…The general public does not really know that Mike comes from the famous de Leon clan of showbusiness, his father being Atty. Manuel de Leon (erstwhile president of the Film Academy) and his grandmother being the late Donya Sisang, famous starmaker of LVN Pictures. Mike indeed grew up in a milieu that is purely showbiz. He is used to being surrounded by movie stars. Kaya naman hindi katakataka na sa kanyang paglaki ay hangarin niyang mapabilang din sa daigdig ng pelikulang kanyang kinamulatan. His first formal brush with moviemaking was in 1975 when he co-produced Lino Brocka’s Maynila: Sa Mga Kuko ng Liwanag. He was also the one who handled the film’s cinematography, and he won a Famas award for his marvelous sifirst job. The following year, he produced and directed his first full length fils, Itim. Mike’s early movies, Itim and Kung Mangarap, were hailed as gems of technical excellence. One can really see the effort to make the cinematograph, the sound recording, the production design, the editing and the musical scoring highly polished. But Mike was chided for the scarcity of relevant content in his films. Itim was merely an excursion to the realms of the occult while Kung Mangarap is basically a small drama about a confused youth and his brief affair with a lonely wife. Some even concluded that Mike cannot be expected to deal with subject that are socially conscious for he was born with the proverbial silver spoon in his mouth. With Kakabakaba Ka Ba?, Mike surprised his critics with a musical comedy that is a thinly disguised attack against the enroachment of foreign businessmen in our country. The Chinese and the Japanese were portrayed as wily capitalists earer to pillage their unsuspecting victims. For us, the movie was also a triumph for Armida Siguion Reyna and Johnny Delgado, who portrayed their neocolonialists roles with much fervor and enthusiasm. The movie also attacked organized religion and its involvement in deluding the people. Batch ’81 further enhanced Mike’s growing reputation as a conscienticized moviemakers. It dealt with oppression and tyranny using the basically cruel initiation practices of fraternities as an allegory. In Sister Stella L., de Leon’s politicalization is in full bloom…” – Mario E. Bautista, Movie Flash Magazine, July 19 1984 (READ MORE)
Focus on Filipino Director: Mike de Leon – “…de Leon spent his childhood in the family owned LVN studio, one of the three major studios of the forties and the fifties. He studied cinematography in Germany and the United States and worked to create the quality that LVN laboratory is known for. In 1975, he formed his own company, CineManila, whose initial offering was the monumental Maynila: sa Kuko ng Liwanga, of which he was also the cinematographer. In 1976, he directed his first film, Itim (Pitch-Black), a psyhological drama of a psychic who is haunted by a past muder, in which the supernatural is suggested rather than exploited. His second film, Kung Mangarap Ka’t Magising (Moments in a Stolen Dream, 1977) touched on the bourgeois values of the upper class as two lovers meet and separate in Baguio ans Sagada. His film Kakaba-kaba Ka Ba? (Will Your Heart Beat Faster? 1980) is a fine, innovative sppof of the country’s sacred cows, using Mother Goose language to hit at, among others, the Japanese and Chinese presence in the Philippines. His fourth film Batch ’81 depicts the initiation rites of aspiring neophytes into quasi-tribal fraternities, and is injected with so much double meaning that the gory initiation rites become a disturbing metaphor of post-Martial Law Phlippines. His last film, Kisapmata (In the Wink of an Eye) delves into the misuse of authority in a closely-knit family. The Mike de Leon style always hints at meanings otehr than those plotted out and creates powerful, disturbing images. Mike de Leon’s last tow films Batch ’81 and Kisapmata were shown together at the 1982 Director’s Forthnight in Cannes, marking the first time in its history that two films by the same director were ever exhibited…” – Focus On Filipino Films, A Sampling 1951-1982 (READ MORE)
The thin line between genius and sanity – “It’s easy to call Mike de Leon one of the greatest if not the greatest Filipino filmmaker who ever lived; he’s done only a handful (nine features and three shorts), but every one displays an amazingly high level of technical proficiency. In terms of sound design, cinematography, and editing, his films sound and look and flow better than almost any other Filipino filmmakers’; it may be argued that De Leon has never made a bad film–that his batting average runs a near-perfect 95 or even 100%. That said, De Leon does seem to have his blind spots. He’s never done a big-budget picture before (the only one he’s ever attempted, GMA Studio’s “Jose Rizal,” he walked away from after spending so many months and so many millions of pesos preparing). He never does explicit sex scenes, and almost never shows human sensuality in any form. He also seems to have trouble portraying women–they are either passive or impotent or almost totally absent from his films. For all of De Leon’s supposed range and versatility, you could almost chart his career on what he will or will not do, as if some complex formula secretly ruled his life. And perhaps there is. De Leon’s reputation for technical perfection is both boon and bane for anyone trying to assess his films; most critics only see the surface perfection–bow to it, hang garlands upon it, burn incense and chant hosannas to its holy presence. They don’t seem in any way aware of the turmoil beneath that perfect surface, a hidden turmoil the dynamic of which mars as often as strengthens his films, and is the true source of their power….Judging from his recent work, De Leon seems to have exorcised his demons and is content to do clever, even brilliant, comedies; the anguished artist has given way to the urbane, sophisticated satirist. Which is fine and good, unless you happen to catch a screening of “Kisapmata,” either in a retrospective or on cable, and notice how ten years later it still hasn’t lost any of its power to disturb or shock–that, in fact, it’s one of the greatest Filipino films ever made. Then you want to ask: “When is De Leon going to do something worth obsessing over again? When is he going to do films that matter again?…” – Noel Vera (READ MORE)
Miguel Pamintuan de Leon, also known as Mike de Leon (born May 24, 1947) is a Filipino film director, cinematographer, scriptwriter and film producer. He was born in Manila on May 24, 1947 to Manuel de Leon and Imelda Pamintuan. His interest in filmmaking began when he pursued a master’s degree in Art History at the University of Heidelberg in Germany…De Leon explored subjects such as incest, fraternity violence, and the Filipino workers’ cause. These were themes that were portrayed in the films Kisapmata, Batch ’81 and Sister Stella L. respectively. These films became cinematic masterpieces in Philippine History of Filmography and were later listed as the Philippines’s Ten Outstanding Films of the Decade: 1980-1989 by the Philippines’ Urian Awards. Later on, Batch ’81 was voted best picture by the Film Academy of the Philippines (FAP) where de Leon also won a best screenplay award. For Sister Stella L., De Leon won best director and best screenplay in the Philippines’s Urian Awards in 1984. Kisapmata and Batch ’81 were presented during the Directors’ Fortnight at the 1982 Cannes Film Festival. The film Sister Stella L. was an entry during the 1985 Venice Film Festival…Mike de Leon received the Parangal Sentenyal sa Sining at Kultura at the Cultural Center of the Philippines in February 1999. His Batch ’81 and Sister Stella L. had been among the 25 Filipino films shown in New York from July 31 to August 1999, organized by the Film Society of Lincoln Center, in partnership with the Philippine Centennial Commission, the Cultural Center of the Philippines, IFFCOM, the Philippine Information Agency, the Consulate General of the Philippines in New York and the Philippine Centennial Coordinating Council – Northeast USA. These series of Filipino films were presented at the Walter Reade Theater of the Lincoln Center, in celebration of the 100th year of Philippine Independence. – Wikipedia (READ MORE)
- 24 Filipino movies bound for Spain
- Kabayan Central: Mike de Leon
- IMDB: Sister Stella L. (1984)
- Mike de Leon’s ‘Sister Stella L.’ 25 Anniversary special screening (2009)
- Video 48: The Films of Mike de Leon (Photos)
- Sister Stella L (Photos) 1/2 (Photos)
- Sister Stella L (Photos) 2/2 (Photos)
- Mike De Leon in Wim Wenders’ Room 666 (Video)
- SSL (Videos)
We were very much surprised to see Mike de Leon sitting at the presidential table at Mother China during the recent press conference of Sister Stella L. Alam naming pinakaiwas-iwasan niya ang ganitong mga klase ng “pakikipagtuos” sa movie press, always preferring to stay on the backstage when it comes to the publicity and promotions of his movies. Kaya naman sa simula pa lamang ng pagsasalit niya sa mikropono ay idineklara na niya agad:”I was told by Lily Monteverde that it’s going to be a small press conference. Had I known that it would be this big, I wouldn’t have come. But I guess this is her idea of small.” But once he started talking, Mike became very open to all queries thrown his way. He never rejected any of them. As a matter of fact, one could very well see that he tried to answer all of them as best he could. Although he has been directing movies for the past eight years, Mike is not that well known to local moviegoers. Probably because he has a small output (only a total of six movies made in eight years). Probably because he generally tries to avoid the press. But despite the fact that he has made very few movies, he and his works have won a number of awards. Itim was the winner of best picture in Asian Film Fest. Kung Mangarap ka’t Magising won the award for most technically well-made movie in the 1977 Metro Manila Filmfest. Kakabakaba Ka Ba? won the Urian best director award in the 1980. Kisapmata made sweep of several awards in the 1981 Metro Manila Film fest and also won Urian acting trophies for Vic Silayan, Charito Solis and Jay Ilagan. Batch ’81 won the Urian best screenplay trophy and the Film Academy best picture prize last year, and a lot of people are predicting that Stella L. will harvest more awards next year.
The general public does not really know that Mike comes from the famous de Leon clan of show business, his father being Atty. Manuel de Leon (erstwhile president of the Film Academy) and his grandmother being the late Donya Sisang, famous star maker of LVN Pictures. Mike indeed grew up in a milieu that is purely showbiz. He is used to being surrounded by movie stars. Kaya naman hindi katakataka na sa kanyang paglaki ay hangarin niyang mapabilang din sa daigdig ng pelikulang kanyang kinamulatan. His first formal brush with movie making was in 1975 when he co-produced Lino Brocka’s Maynila: Sa Mga Kuko ng Liwanag. He was also the one who handled the film’s cinematography, and he won a Famas award for his marvelous first job. The following year, he produced and directed his first full length fils, Itim. Mike’s early movies, Itim and Kung Mangarap, were hailed as gems of technical excellence. One can really see the effort to make the cinematography, the sound recording, the production design, the editing and the musical scoring highly polished. But Mike was chided for the scarcity of relevant content in his films. Itim was merely an excursion to the realms of the occult while Kung Mangarap is basically a small drama about a confused youth and his brief affair with a lonely wife. Some even concluded that Mike cannot be expected to deal with subject that are socially conscious for he was born with the proverbial silver spoon in his mouth. With Kakabakaba Ka Ba?, Mike surprised his critics with a musical comedy that is a thinly disguised attack against the encroachment of foreign businessmen in our country. The Chinese and the Japanese were portrayed as wily capitalists earer to pillage their unsuspecting victims.
For us, the movie was also a triumph for Armida Siguion Reyna and Johnny Delgado, who portrayed their neocolonialists roles with much fervor and enthusiasm. The movie also attacked organized religion and its involvement in deluding the people. Batch ’81 further enhanced Mike’s growing reputation as a conscienticized movie maker. It dealt with oppression and tyranny using the basically cruel initiation practices of fraternities as a allegory. In Sister Stella L., de Leon’s politicalization is in full bloom. One surmises that the awakening of Stella Legaspi, the movie’s central character, fundamentally parallels Mike’s own realization of the wrongs in our society. And this is what Mike himself says: “It is a conscientization film, which is the start of politicalization. It’s for those who still feel uninvolved.” Wasn’t he afraid that he, the producer, the film, would be branded as anti-government? “The film is critical of the government, yes, But I don’t agree with some people who say that it’s subversive. Because, what is subversive? It’s the advocation of the overthrow of one’s government. The film does not advocate that. What it advocate is organization. If you want to fight, you can’t do it by yourself. You have to do it as a body, then you present your demands. They’re asking me if it’s critical, yes, it’s critical of this government.” Mike also emphasizes that the film is not propaganda. “This is not a propaganda of the united democratic front or the opposition. It is just a film about people who go through a particular process and came out changed in the end.” Mike then narrates how the movie started as an idea in his head more than two years ago. He has met some members of the clergy whose views have grown from submission to the will of God to total awareness and involvement about socio-political issues.
The idea really is good material for a now movie. The movie was first offered to Viva Films with Vilma Santos playing the title role. Somehow, the project never pushed through and it was offered to other interested producers. When Vilma learned about it, she was immediately enthusiastic in playing the role and with the prospect of being directed by Mike de Leon. For a while, both Mike and Vilma felt the project would never get beyond the planning stage. Until Lily Monteverde of Regal called for Mike and said she is willing to finance it. Someone asked Mike if the L. in the tile really stands for the word Laban? “The title Stella L. was given to the project two years ago. The purpose is really to distinguish Stella Legaspi from Stella Bautista. A lot of people are really asking if it means Laban. But I always tell them na nagkataon lang. When Lily picked up the project, I think more than the story, it’s the title that she really liked.” The name of the establishment against which the workers in the story staged a strike is Republic Oil Factory. “Someone is curious if it is a symbol for our very own Philippine Republic. “Yes and no,” Mike answered. “The word Republic is really the production designer’s choice, Cesar Hernando. When we were hunting for a location, it so happened that Lily has this oil factory in Bankal, Makati. We made use of it in the movie. As with regard to the double meaning of the word republic, I guess that’s true. It stands for our country. Some of my staff even wanted to name it New Republic Oil Factory, but I rejected it. Masyado nang garapal.” Mike also narrated that because of the various changes that happened in the course of the movie’s being offered to other producers, members of the original cast he had in mind were also changed.
“Chanda Romero was originally assigned to play the role of Sister Stella B.,” Mike said. “But she was busy with some other projects when shooting started so she was replaced with Laurice Guillen. Joseph Sytangco was originally cast in the role of the reporter. When we brought over the project to Regal, Lily wanted Joel Torre instead. We tried revising the script to suit Joel. Pero talagang masyado siyang bata. So we suggested Jay Ilagan instead and Lily gave her approval.” The rest of the cast like Tony Santos Sr, as the labor leader, Anita Linda as his courageous wife, Liza Lorena as the magazine editor and Gina Alajar as the unwed mother who later kills herself were all personal choices of Mike himself. It was common knowledge that he has an initial misunderstanding over shooting schedules with Vilma Santos when shooting of Stella L. started finally at Regal. Would he have continued with the project without Vilma in it? “No,” Mike answered unequivocally. “The whole rationale behind the film was Vilma. Kung wala siya, hindi ito matutuloy.” The film that will be released to local audiences ends immediately after Stella L. talks directly to the audience about her transformation from being a mere bystander to that of a more actively involved individual. The version that was meant for international film fest audiences shows another final scene. After that solo scene of Stella talking straight to the camera, a special footage on the now famous and historic Lakad ng Bayan (Lakbayan) is exhibited. It shows impassioned Filipinos marching in a the streets wearing yellow Ninoy T-shirts and carrying anti-establishment placards. We have seen this ending ourselves and we personally feel that it is indeed a more fitting, more apt, more accurate finale for the story of Stella L.
“The Lakbayan ending is not originally in the script,” Mike reveals. “But since the Lakbayan was then going on at that time and since I believe in it, I decided to film it. I think that with that in the ending, mas malinaw ‘yung naging transformation ni Vilma. But when I shot it, Lily and I had an agreement that it is not going to be for local release. I was actually pushing for its inclusion intact in the local version but Lily reminded me of our government. But the print abroad has that ending. Is it true that the picture had rough sailing with the censors and this is the reason why the approval or permit was not released at once? “I went to the censors office together with a group of some fifteen nuns, priests, and pastors to inquire about the permit,” Mike narrated. “Mrs. Maria Kalaw Katigbak said that the problems was procedural. There was a vote of four against two for approval without cuts and she admitted that. The permit was released in time for the premiere. But if some people intended to harass the film, we were determined to bring the matter in court, even to the supreme court.” Mike was asked if the story was actually patterned after a real-life nun whose story ends with her being detained for eleven months in prison? “She is one of those interviewed by writer Pete Lacaba,” Mike replied. “But this is not her story alone dahil malayung-malayo na ito doon. Naka-part four or part five na ‘yon dahil namundok na ‘on. Stella L, is mainly the beginning. Conscientization stage lang it.” The formal open forum of the press conference ended with a touching pledge of allegiance to the movie by those who are involved. The staff of DZRH who were present promised: “We will be with you to the end.”
The press people also said they would support the film, specially after a rumor that is broadcast advertisements have been stopped. But the most poignant testimonials came from the members of the cast themselves. Vilma Santos declared: “I will fight for the picture!” Pahayag naman ni Laurice Guillen: “I’ll support whatever actions will be taken by the producer and the director.” And from Gina Alajar: “Sama-sama naming ginawa ‘yan, sama-sama din naming pagtutulungan.” Mula kay Anita Linda: “Isang salita lang: laban!” And Tony Santos announces: “Kung saan sila naroroon, doon na rin ako.” Pagkatapos nito’y nagtayuan na ang lahat. Namigay ng posters ng Stella L, at halos lahat nang nakatanggap ay nagpapirma kina Vilma Santos at Mike de Leon. Hindi namin ugaling magpapirma ng autograph sa movie celebrities pero this is one landmark film na we felt ay dapat lang na magkaroon ng more lasting memento with us kaya’t iniladlad namin ang aming poster at lumapit na rin sa presidential table. Gulat na gulat pa si Vilma nang sabihin namin: “Puwede pong magpapirma?” Pinalo niya kami sa braso at agad siyang sumulat ng isang mahaba-habang dedication -na ang gamit ay isang pentel peng kulay pula. Sumunod naming nilapitan ay si Lily Monteverde na producer ng pelikula at pagkatapos ay si Mike na mismo na siyang direktor nito. By this time, kakaunti na lamang ang naiwan sa Mother China. Together with Ethel Ramos, binalikan namin si Vi na nakaupo pa rin sa presidential table. Nang umupo na kami’y sumunod na rin sina Mother Lily, ang father ni Vi, Ricky Lo, Tony Santos, and Liza Lorena, who came late dahil nagbenta pa raw siya ng mga kalamansi na siya niyang business ngayon. Mike has gone out too by that time.
When everybody started ordering some coffee, natiyak naming magtatagal ang daldalang ito. Questions were started to be thrown towards Vi and Liza. Masarap ang kuwentuhan. Maya-maya’y lumapit si Viring, ang special alalay ni Vi. “Tinatawag ka na ni Mike,” sabi nito kay Vi. “Kanina ka pa raw niya hinihintay sa ibaba.” “Sabihin mo,” ani Vi, “umakyat na lang uli siya rito and join us.” Umalis si Viring at maya-maya’y bumalik uli. “Ayaw magpunta rito,” aniya. Sabi naman ni Vilma: “Sabihin mo, sandali na lang.” Maya-maya, bumalik na naman si Viring: “Ang tagal-tagal mo raw,” anito. Tumayo na si Vi. “Sandali lang,” aniya sa amin, “pupuntahan ko lang si Mike.” Nangantiyaw si Ethel Ramos: “Uhum, para na kayong mag-boyfriend niyan, ha. Natawa si Vi. “Ito naman. Naging close lang talaga kami.” Nang bumalik si Vilma sa mesa, kasama na nito si Mike. That was our first time to have a close encounter with the director. Although we have seen each other at previews of this and that movie several time, we never were really introduced to each other. We have asked him earlier kung bakit hindi naipalabas and Stella L. sa Cannes Film fest at ngayon ay mas nilinaw niya ito. “It wasn’t shown simply because I withdrew it from the screening,” he said. “To begin with, when I arrived in Paris, I learned that it was not subtitled at all. They had the print for almost a month but subtitling was not done. Then it was supposed to be shown in the directors fortnight section of the film fest. But the director general of the fortnight said he didn’t like the film and he’s not going to take it. A group of critics volunteered to sponsor its showing and I consented. Iniisip ko kasi baka makatulong. The film is facing a lot of problems in Manila and I was thinking that whatever favorable opinion it might got will help its release here.
But then I learned that while I was away, the film was shown to various audiences during several previews and we now have all the support we wanted, from the clergy, from the press, from the labor. And I felt that this is the more important thing. Without local support, no amount of international support will help the film. So I decided not to show it any more. What I did was I supervised the film’s subtitling until it was finished. Now, there’s a possibility that it might enter the Venice Film Festival which will be held in September.” With all the acclaim that the movie is receiving from different quarters, how is he reacting personally? “Well, of course, I’m very happy. But more than anything else, I believe that people who saw the film liked it so much because of several factors. First, it’s the first movie of its kind that tackled that sort of a subject matter. Napapanahon rin kasi ito, what with all the protests going on. So it’s a congruence of these things that made viewers like it.” Doesn’t he believe in the inherent goodness of the film? ” I do. Modesty aside, I think it can stand the test of time.” Will he and Regal be making more films of this sort? “It all depends on how this film will be received commercially and otherwise. Up to now, there are still those who doubt that it’s going to ever get shown in downtown theaters. Hinihintay muna namin ang resulta nito. But I have another movie intended for Vilma and this time she would be playing a journalist.” We extended our hand to Mike and, for the first time, personally congratulated him for Sister Stella L. We honestly feel that the movie is a personal triumph for him, for Lily Monteverde and the rest of the people involved in making it. So much has been said about local movies being inane and trivial and worthless. Mike proved that local filmmakers can be socially aware and responsible, too. Those who have been avoiding local movies for years and years, we now strongly advise you to see Sister Stella L. I concerns our country, our people, and it most certainly concern you! – Mario E. Bautista, Movie Flash Magazine, July 19, 1984 (READ MORE)
Miguel Pamintuan de Leon, also known as Mike de Leon (born May 24, 1947) is a Filipino film director, cinematographer, scriptwriter and film producer. He was born in Manila on May 24, 1947 to Manuel de Leon and Imelda Pamintuan. His interest in filmmaking began when he pursued a master’s degree in Art History at the University of Heidelberg in Germany…De Leon explored subjects such as incest, fraternity violence, and the Filipino workers’ cause. These were themes that were portrayed in the films Kisapmata, Batch ’81 and Sister Stella L. respectively. These films became cinematic masterpieces in Philippine History of Filmography and were later listed as the Philippines’s Ten Outstanding Films of the Decade: 1980-1989 by the Philippines’ Urian Awards. Later on, Batch ’81 was voted best picture by the Film Academy of the Philippines (FAP) where de Leon also won a best screenplay award. For Sister Stella L., De Leon won best director and best screenplay in the Philippines’s Urian Awards in 1984. Kisapmata and Batch ’81 were presented during the Directors’ Fortnight at the 1982 Cannes Film Festival. The film Sister Stella L. was an entry during the 1985 Venice Film Festival…Mike de Leon received the Parangal Sentenyal sa Sining at Kultura at the Cultural Center of the Philippines in February 1999. His Batch ’81 and Sister Stella L. had been among the 25 Filipino films shown in New York from July 31 to August 1999, organized by the Film Society of Lincoln Center, in partnership with the Philippine Centennial Commission, the Cultural Center of the Philippines, IFFCOM, the Philippine Information Agency, the Consulate General of the Philippines in New York and the Philippine Centennial Coordinating Council – Northeast USA. These series of Filipino films were presented at the Walter Reade Theater of the Lincoln Center, in celebration of the 100th year of Philippine Independence. – Wikipedia (MORE READ)
Those who have seen “Sister Stella L.” in its various previews and premieres nights are one the same in their opinion: it is indeed Vilma Santos’ best screen portrayal in the history of her long moive career! Si Vilma mismo ay inamin sa amin ito: “It is a once-in-a-lifetime movie role na talagang puedeng ipagmalaki ng kahit na sinong artista. Ang tagal bago tuluyang naisapelikula at natapos ang “Sister Stella L.” pero talagang mula nang ialok sa akin ‘yan, hindi na naalis sa isip ko. Kung kani-kaninong producer na nga inalok ‘yan. Like sa Viva noon na akala ko’y matutuloy na, pero hindi pa rin pala. Kaya’t kahit anong pelikula ang ginagawa ko noon, at the back of my mind, talagang nakareserba pa rin ang “Sister Stella L.” Itinatabi ko talaga ko ‘yan. Parang dream role na lagi kong binabalik-balikan. At finally, nang gawin na namin sa Regal, nabuhos na talaga ang buong atensiyon ko, ang lahat ng panahon ko. Ang now, after hearing all the favorable comments about the movie, and siyempre about me and my performance too, talagang tumataba ang puso ko at maha-high ako.
First and foremost, talagang it’s a great honor na makatrabaho ang isang direktor like Mike de Leon. Dati ko na siyang nirerespeto, pero after working with him and making “Stella L.”, lalo pang tumaas ang pagtingin ko sa kanya, First rate talaga!” Vilma recognizes the fact that without Mike’s help, she will not be able to give the right characterization that her role required. “Kaya paulit-ulit ko isyang tinatanong kung tama ang mga kilos ko bilang isang madre,” aniya. “and maniniwala ka ba, I met the real Sister Stella L.!” Nakakataw niya pahayag. Nagulat kami. You mean, sabi namin sa kaya, this is really a true story? Na ang kuwento ng madreng naging aktibista sa pelikula ay talagang ibinatay sa totoong tao? Akala namin kasi ay fiction lamang ito. “From what I heard,” sabi ni Vilma, “may kaibigan talagang madre si Mike na siyang naka-inspre sa kanya para gawin ang pelikulang ito. One day, dumating si Mike sa set na kasama niya. She is very pretty. Sa ganda, parang hindi madre.” Akala mo raw ay isa itong socialite. Ayaw sanang ipasabi ni Vi ang tunay na pangalan nito, pero we personally feel na wala namang masama dahil dapat pa nga siyang purihin sa kanyang prinsipyo. Kaya ire-reveal namin sa inyo ang tunay niyang identity. Her name is Sister Consuelo Ledesma, anak ng pinagpipitaganang si Pura Kalaw Ledesma at pamangkin ng ating current censors chief na si Maria Kalaw Katigbag or MKK. Now, isn’t that a very interesting sidelight of the movie? Ayon kay Vilma, tuwang-tuwa siya dahil naaprubahan ang pelikula nang walang anumang putol. “That means the censors now are broadminded enought to realize na wala namang talagang masama sa pelikula,” aniya. “Noon pa man, sinasabi ko nang ang ipinakikita lang ng movie, ‘yung totoong nangyayari, ‘yung mga prinsipyo lang ng taop ngayon. Like ‘yung mga strikes, manonood ka nga ng newscast sa TV, di ba makakapanood ka rin ng mga ganyan? Kaya I’m really very happy na it was passed without any cuts.
Kung pinutulan kasi, parang makukulangan na ‘Yung pelikula.” How does it feel when people keep on saying na siguradong mananalo na naman siya ng best actress award ss susunod na taon? “Naku, ha,” natatawa niyan wika, “ang layu-layo pa noon. Siyempre pa I’m flattered, pero ayaw ko munang isipin ‘yon. Ang tagal pa bago matapos ng 1984 at maraming-marami pang puedeng ibang mangyari. Malay natin kung marami pang ibang magagandang pelikula ang magawa featuring the equally good performaces ng ibang mga artista? Basta natutuwa ako’t ngayon pa lang, may panlaban na ko. ‘Yong lang.” With her fine performances in “Adultery” and “Sister Stella L.”, marami ngang movie insiders ang nagpapalagay that Vilma can easily rest on her laurels for this year. Sabi pa nila: “Maski huwag na siyang gumawa ng ibang pelikula at next year na uli siya magkaroon ng bagong release, okay lang.
For this year, talagang she has already proven herself.” We Believe similarly, too, but Vilma is apparently not content with just two good movies this year kaya she is on her way to making a third one. She is currently doing “Alyas Baby Tsina” for Viva Films. This time, reunited siya with Famas best director Marilou Diaz Abaya. “It’s a period movie, set in 1969-70 when unrest was at its peak,” ani ni Vi. “We’ve started shooting pero ilang ulit ding na-delay dahil ulang nang ulan, e. Tapos, nagkasakit pa ako for three days.” She will be completely deglamorized in the movie. Ang papel niya ay isang babaing naging puta at nabilanggo sa correctional kung kaya’t nilagyan doon ito ng tattoo. In several scenes, wala siyang make-up at ipinakikitang naglilinis ng kubeta. Clearly, this is another challenging acting vehicles for Vilma. Kaya nga may katwiran talagang magreklamo yung mga ibang artistang babae natin. How come she is getting the best roles in the best projects? What did she do to deserve such a wonderful, enviable fate? Vilma dismisses all these with a simple shrug of her frail-looking shoulders. ” I guess I’m just lucky,” aniya. “Talagang Somebody up there loves me. Wala naman kasi akong atraso sa kanya eh.” The bloom in Vilma these days is unminstakable. Talagang lalo siyang gumanda. And whatever joys and good fortune she is enjoying these days, we are sure she deserves all that bounty. – Mario Bautista MovieLIFE Magazine 1984
It was a sweet sweep for Sister Stella L., the movie which garnered ten of the twelve trophies at stake during Friday night’s 9th Urian Awards rites. The Regal Films production was hailed the Best Fil; Sister Stella L., herself Vilma Santos, Best Actress; Jay Ilagan, Best Actor; Mike De Leon, Best Director; Laurice Guillen, Best Supporting Actress; and Tony Santos, Sr., Best Supporting Actor; Still Stella L’s Jose Lacaba, Jose Almojuella, and Mike De Leon were cited for the Best Screenplay category; Jess Navarro, for Best Editing; Ding Achacoso, for Best Music; and Ramon Reyes, for Best Sound. This is more than enough to compensate for its poor performance at the box office. ECP’s Misteryo sa Tuwa went home with two remaining awards for Best Production Design by Don Escudero and Rodel Cruz; and for Best Cinematography by Rod Ilacad. For his outstanding contribution to the film industry, the Manunuri ng Pelikulang Pilipino bestowed a special award to William Smith for bringing into the country the first colored film laboratory. Some people could use a lesson in courtesy. At his age, Smith, understandably, could harlly walk, speak well or display clarity of thought, therefore, the need for him to read his remark of thanks from a piece of paper. While national artist Lamberto Avellana and veteran actress Mary Walter paid due respect for Smith, a young man seated beside us took note of this and declared, “Pare, ‘yung speech niya binabasa pa niya, o!” Although the presentation ran smoothly and briefly (yes, of long waits and intermission), notable was the marked seriousness about the atmosphere that night. Champoy’s twosome’s (emcee Cherie Gil and Noel Trinidad) efforts to perk up the audience were futile. The Urian show, furthermore, lacked star luster. Several guest stars failed to attend the ceremony as shown by the many vacant seats. Some presentors even had to go upstage twice. Have we suddenly grown weary of awards rites? Even the major awardees were not present to claim their trophies, thus, only Vilma posed for photographers at the end of the show. (Photos: Luis Garcia Jr.)