Maria Rosa Vilma Tuazon Santos-Recto (born Maria Rosa Vilma Tuazon Santos November 3, 1953 in Bamban, Tarlac), commonly known as Vilma Santos-Recto or Ate Vi is a Filipino actress and box office queen for almost four decades. One of the original Philippine movie queens, she 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). She is currently the governor of Batangas, Philippines (2012)(Wikipedia).

For More Informations, Visit: Vilma Santos-Recto's Official Web-site

Monday, September 30, 2013

Remembering Ishmael Bernal


Ishmael Bernal, 58, leading Filipino movie director who made about 60 films on social injustice. He studied diplomacy at the University of the Philippines and was in the diplomatic service until he switched to filmmaking in the early 1970s. Over the last quarter-century, he used satire to describe social and political problems, often angering the late President Ferdinand Marcos and his wife, Imelda. The couple often had large portions of Bernal's films cut by censors, including 1982's "Manila by Night," a film illustrating the poverty that drives people to act irresponsibly. Bernal overcame the censorship by having his films shown in their entirety at film festivals around the world. On Sunday in Manila of a heart attack. - L. A. Times, June 08, 1996 (READ MORE)

Worthy Films "...Of the 39 films he has made, at least 20 are worthy of his name, out of which seven are quite good, nine others are very good or outstanding - Pagdating sa Dulo (1971), Ligaw na Bulaklak (1975), Nunal sa Tubig (1976), Dalawang Pugad Isang Ibon (1977), Ikaw ay Akin (1978), Aliw (1979), City After Dark (1980, and Relasyon and Himala (1982). With all these films to his credit, Bernal has already assured himself of a prominent position in the history of Philippine cinema even if he decides to stop working now. as many of these films prove, he has done what was earlier cosidered to be impossible - reconcile the box-office with aesthetic daring and intellectual dynamism, virtues hardly found together before in Philippines movies...Every aspect of a Bernal film may not always be successfully realized, but his weakness is outshine by his strengths. In every film, he seems to be ready to try something new, whether it be a theme, conflict, character or scene. He is also out of the few major local directors to have covered the broadest range of film genres and theme with varying levels of success, from the historical drama, like the Bonifacio episode in the unreleased multi-million peso omnibus Lahing Pilipino (1976), to the disco musical Good Morning Sunshine (1980) and the personal, experimental films Nunal sa Tubig and Himala..." - Mario A. Hernando (READ MORE)

Hataw Na! - "...Direk Joey has fond memories of the legendary Bernal whom he worked with as screenwriter for 'Pahiram ng Isang Umaga" in 1989...Since I was a screenwriter during the Second Golden Age of Philippine cinema, I met Bernal, along with Lino Brocka. The only script of mine that Bernal directed, "Pahiram ng Isang Umaga," won for me my first Urian (critics' award) for Best Screenplay. I will never forget how Bernal sent a message to my Pocketbell unit, congratulating me for "Hataw Na!" in 1995. (He was a big fan of Gary Valenciano kasi.) Or how he hugged me after seeing "Iisa Pa Lamang," the second film I wrote and directed in 1992. A director like Bernal is a rarity. He saw his peers not as competition, but as comrades. His life to the very end was to inspire young filmmakers to be original and to fight for their identities. Apart from "Working Girls," what are your favorite Bernal films? "Relasyon," "Broken Marriage," "Manila by Night" are three films that have sunk into my very being. [They represent] the image of the ultimate Filipino filmmaker...." - Bayani San Diego Jr., Philippine Daily Inquirer, Apr 18 2010 (READ MORE)

Last Film - "...Bernal’s film career was characterized by a highly successful combination of form and content. He was as passionate about the techniques of scriptwriting and camera movement as he was about the use of his art to impart scathing social commentary. As is usual in the film industry, Bernal started out with commercially-oriented films before he could venture into cause-oriented cinema. In fact, even when he was already identified with socially-committed film, he did a commercially-oriented film every now and then. But he took care not to make films that ran counter to his basic principles. Thus, even as he occasionally made commercially-oriented films, he made sure they were not films that reinforced the societal values he abhorred. Socially committed films—the likes of his classics “Nunal sa Tubig,” “Manila After Dark,” “Himala,” and “Wating” — made the bulk of his work. The ruling classes’ employment of deceit to make the people accept social injustice, the hypocritical values that prevail in society, unequal gender relations—these were the themes he frequently dealt with. He is best known for the 1980 film “Manila by Night,” a film that depicts the decadence of the night life in Manila. In the 1990s, he got disillusioned with the trend of degeneration in the film industry which started in the late 1980s—a reversal of what he and his contemporaries Lino Brocka, Behn Cervantes, and Mike de Leon had achieved in the 1970s. After making his last film, “Wating,” an action movie which is at the same time an attack on the religious establishment, he decided to quit filmmaking. He turned to theater and directed plays for the militant mass movement while occasionally making television commercials..." - Alexander Martin Remollino, Bulatlat.com (READ MORE)

Bernal and Rodriguez - "...After he got back from India, Manila’s art scene reverted to its “normal” state of inspired insanity, and he went about trying to get his movie produced. No, I told the film students—and they were “shocked” to hear it—it wasn’t “Pagdating sa Dulo,” as they had been taught in their film history subjects, but a Virgo Productions movie titled (take a deep breath) “Ah, Ewan, Basta sa Maynila Pa Rin Ako!” Virgo, by the way, was the production company of “drama king” Eddie Rodriguez. Ishmael’s brilliance, wit, loquaciousness and volatility had impressed Eddie, and he agreed to produce the first Bernal opus, which was meant to be a “loving” satire on the city of Manila. During the production’s shooting phase, Ishmael invited us to watch some rushes with him, and we were delighted at how funny and spot-on his satirical scenes were. We remember one series of sequences in particular in which Ishmael spoofed the many vendors who came up to cars and other vehicles caught in traffic, selling all sorts of wares, from apples to zebras (well, you get the picture). In one especially droll scene, a vendor lugged an entire aparador past the camera! In another, the traffic jam took so long to unravel that, by the time it flowed again, the little seedling a vendor had sold a customer had grown into—a tree! Really outrageously funny stuff like that…But it turned out that, while we were laughing our heads off, the producer wasn’t having such a fun time. The way we see it now, he may have been worried that Ishmael’s acerbic kind of wit would not be all that easy for ordinary local moviegoers (used to more slapstick stuff, perhaps) to relate to. So, it appears that he and his young writer–director had a talk, during which he asked for changes—and the result was, Ishmael bowed out of the project! That’s right, with the movie not completely finished, it lost its director, and Eddie had to finish shooting the movie himself. We watched “Ah, Ewan…” when it opened in theaters, and quite expectedly, it was pretty much a mish-mash that didn’t amount to much. What was interesting and instructive to us was the fact that we could readily tell which scenes had been shot by Bernal, and which had been appended by Rodriguez. Eventually Ishmael got over his unfortunate first experience in filmmaking and went on to do “Pagdating sa Dulo,” which was a singular success, along with the many other fine films that followed..." - Nestor U. Torre, Philippine Daily Inquirer, September 18, 2011 (READ MORE)

Bernal's Family - "...Ishmael Bernal grew up in the Santa Mesa district where a mestizo streak persists to date, with his mother Elena Bernal, in an extensible family setup under the proximate wings of a maternal grandfather Lope K. Santos, who had survived a jazz age image of a man in white sharkskin, beloved of ideologues and obreros, Rizalistas and fragile Spanish-speaking Tagalas. They lived not far from where the conquistadores had built in late-18th century a pied-a-terre, its back to a river which bisects the city before debouching into Manila Bay. It would pass on to American civil governors at the turn of the 20th century and to Filipino presidents since the end of the Pacific War, as the Yanks reference the backdrop to the Filipinos’ cameo role in a theater of World War II. But a more important landmark than Malacanang Palace to Bernal was Embassy theater, a minute’s dash from his childhood niche, which provided him with an early arsenal of images to use later in what we called Project Wham+a, for Winning Hearts and Minds plus arse, after an American hybrid of Madison Avenue stratagems vis-a-vis the exigencies of the war in VietNam where victory was elusive in the 60’s. We affixed arse as a realistic ancillary target and motivation of a film director’s career...For some years after we first met Ishmael never mentioned his father. He did make brief references to an uncle in Mariano Toledo to whom his mother was married: a tall man who lumbered unsmiling across our field of vision for many years, at their house in Caloocan, whose windows he would shut when Nena would play an opera; then upstairs of When It Is a Grey November in Your Soul Coffee Shop in Malate, where I often crashed in the late Sixties, before Ishmael left for India and the Poona Film Institute.

I would be a conspirator in the task of making it known to Nena that her only child had long known who his biological father was; that they had met ( I tried to annoy him by asking if it was like James Dean in a scene from East of Eden but I never succeeded) before he went aboard a cargo ship that would take him to France (among the passengers was an Indian who would borrow his toothbrush) to get a licentiate in French at Aix-en-Provence; and that cinema was instrumental in introducing him to his father’s family as well as in getting him to call Tio Mar “Father” toward the end of their lives which had come in fairly quick succession, for Nena died within a year of Ishmael (I could not bear to see her, she was never quite the same, she told someone who had asked her why she never visited Ishmael’s old room that she would not be responsible if she never came down again), and Tio Mar within a year of the woman he had taken care of with unquestioning devotion. Bernal used to say, in getting me to agree to write his biography, that there was nothing I forgot and pretended to overlook the fact that I remembered only odds and ends and irrelevant details. He tempted me with the admonition to by all means “Tell all”. He even agreed to record a number of conversations on subjects usually considered germane to a biography. The tapes were mercifully lost in a fire that destroyed everything I had ever owned except what I was wearing and, by happenstance, a suitcase bursting with Bernal’s photos, notes, and occasional journals, enough surely to start a bio...." - Jorge Arago (READ MORE)

Cinema Bernal "...As artist lock horns with Malacanang and the Church over freedom of expression, a novelist, an experssionist painter, a dramatist and a filmmaker have been named the country's newest Natiional Artists...Ironically, one of the newest National Artist, Bernal had had a storied career battling state censors over the social content and sexy scenes of his movies which had won acclaime here and abroad. Bernal (1938-1995) studied literature at the University of the Philippines and obtained a licentiate in French literature and philosophy at the Universtiy of Aix-en-Provence in France. He became a Colombo Plan scholar and studeied film directing at the Film Institute of India in Poona, under the tutelage of the Indian master Satyajit Ray. Returning to the PHilippines, Bernal established himself early on as a leading voice of the cinema with his first movie, "Pagdating sa Dulo" (1971), a gritty movie about the "bomba" (soft-porn) film industry before martial law. Starring the irreverent Rita Gomez in what was perhaps the high point of her career, the movie had the hall marks of what was to become the cinema of Bernal: campy wit, accerbic dialogue, sexy tenor, trenchat characterization, and inventive camera work. In the following years, Bernal, together with Lino Brocka (who was also awarded the National Artist posthumously) made some of the most memorable films of so-called second golden age of Philippine cienma. He directed the innovative "Nunal Sa Tubig," which despite the criticism of conservative groups, went on to win the best picture in the Catholic Mass Media Awards in 1977and was named one of the top international movies of the 1970s by the Internatinal Catholic Committee of the Cinema. Bernal's other notable films were "City After Dark" (1980), "Himala" (1982), "Relasyon" (1982), and "Broken Marriage" (1983), Last Saturday, the Manunuri ng Pelikulang Pilipino named, "Wating," Bernal's last movie as one of the best movies of the 1990s..." - Lito B. Zulueta, Philippine Daily Inquirer, March 27, 2001 (READ MORE)

The Mistress as The Heroine - "...In the documentary, Santos admitted that working with Bernal brought out the best in her as an actress. "She made me do this scene in 'Relasyon' that was really tough as it was unpredictable. I think Bernal was the first director to risk putting the character of The Mistress as The Heroine. In the past, the roles of mistresses were mere punching bags of The Wives in many confrontation scenes in Filipino movies," she added..." - Pablo A. Tariman, VERA Files (READ MORE)

Ishmael Bernal and Vilma Santos

Bernal gave Vilma Santos her first grandslam best actress awards and two consecutive Gawad Urian best actress (1982 and 1983). Their first film together was Inspiration (1972) and last was Pahiram Ng Isang Umaga (1989).

Inspiration (1972) - "...In a musical era of 1970s, “Inspiration” was quite an experimental film, with no musical numbers, better screenplay, well-written characters. Nestor and Bernal works well in establishing the character of Jay and Vilma. Their dialouges are not “corny” and very realistic. There is no over the top dramatic scenes inserted between musical numbers here..." - RV (READ MORE)

Now and Forever (1973) - "...1973 turned out to be a banner year for Vilma Santos as she emerged on top with box office hits one film after another. Nine films altogether that featured her in different genres (comedy – “Tsismosang Tindera;” fantasy – “Maria Cinderella,” “Dyesebel at ang Mahiwagang Kabibe” and ”Ophelia at Paris;” action/fantasy – “Wonder Vi,” “Lipad, Darna, Lipad,” and “Darna and the Giants;” horror – “Anak ng Aswang” and teenybopper – “Carinosa” and “Now and Forever”). While Vilma was productive Bernal, like the past two years did only two films, one was the comedy fantasy starring television host and comedian Ariel Ureta in a spin off of Superman, “Zoom, Zoom, Superman!” and his film wih Vi, “Now and Forever” with Edgar Mortiz..." - RV (READ MORE)

Dalawang Pugad Isang Ibon (1977) - "...Bernal, testing the tensions of triangular love (for geometry books, one of his characters wittily says) for some time now, plunges deeper into character analysis and metaphorizing… In Lumayo, Lumapit ang Umaga, the triangle was unevenly explored: the first love was sketchily drawn. Dalawang Pugad, Isang become a choice for a more stable relationship. Walang Katapusang Tag-araw was a strange reverse of characters for two women and an unusual development of love into hatred and hatred into love, where therefore the triangle was essentially illusions. Ikaw ay Akin finally sets an interlocked triangle on its bases and looks at it (from all 3 angles) squarely in the face..." - Petronila Cleto, Pelikula Atbp (READ MORE)

Ikaw ay Akin (1978) - "...The film is greatly enhanced by Jose Carreon’s vibrant script, Mel Chionglo’s superb production design, the Vanishing Tribe’s fine musical score, and Augusto Salvador’s brisk editing (few scenes last longer than a couple of minutes). But the lion’s share of credit goes to Bernal. I particularly like his splendid use of meaningful pauses and oppressive silences, as in Sandra and Tere’s accidental first meeting at Rex’s house, Sandra’s soundless dinner with her father that leads to her breakdown, and the long, quiet ending scene where Sandra and Tere never say a word and yet succeed in finally communicating with each other. Our viewers are discomfited by this exhausting process, what with the underdeveloped tastes of our mass audience perpetuated by irresponsible irectors. But one fervently hopes for Bernal, who apparently believes he owes the audience his best even if they are more likely to love his third best more, that they would get the film’s message and, perhaps, even accept and like it..." - Mario E. Bautista, Philippine Daily Express, 1978 (READ MORE)

Good Morning Sunshine (1980) - "...Junior – Now 66 years old (can you believe that?), he was Vilma Santos’ leading man in Good Morning Sunshine in 1980. Born Antonio Morales Barretto, he was born in Manila, but moved to Spain with his family when he was 15. He was already a popular singer in Spain when he tried Pinoy showbiz. After doing a series of local movies (another one of his films was Disco Madhouse with Lorna Tolentino and Rio Locsin) and record albums (Yakap is still memorable to me), he went back to Spain (his wife and kids were all living there) where he continued singing. Eventually, he managed the showbiz career of his wife, Rocio Durcal, but she died of cancer in 2006..." - Butch Francisco (READ MORE)

Relasyon (1982) - "...The writers have fed significance into the conversations by filling them with popular ideas on marriage and relationships, engaging the viewers to respond with their own beliefs. There is irony though in the confessions of Emil and Marilou – in happier times – that each had been a better person upon being loved by the other. But their life together contradicted that statement. Her selfishness is revealed. “Ikaw lang ang iniintindi mo” he says and it uncovered his insensitivity. “Ako rin, may ego”, She replies. Vilma Santos confidently showed she felt the character she was portraying. Her depiction of feelings and emotions easily involve the viewers to share in her conflicts and joys. In this film, she has peeled-off apprehensions in her acting. Christopher de Leon has also been supportive in emphasizing the characterization of Marilou. He suitably complements Vilma’s acting. The director, Ishmael Bernal, displays his flair for taking scenes of Vilma putting on make-up. Unwittingly, he has suggested that whatever make-up is put on over adultery, it is still adultery..." - Lawrence delos Trinos, Star Monthly Magazine, July 1982 (READ MORE)

Broken Marriage (1983) - "...Vilma Santos is not about to be a letdown, not this time when the most important female roles are coming her way. A new intelligence she infuses in the character Ellen. Like De Leon, she turns Ellen into a woman-child, but the stress is less on her part as she has done similar roles before. Her beautiful face is flush receptive: the quiet moments of just observing the people around her are moments of perfect acting. Her body moves with an agility that is both funny and dramatic. Her two monologues – the first with her friends in the cafe when she informs them that she is bored, and the second with Rene when she tells him that they are not children anymore – are her best scenes: the camera lingers upon her countenance and she enunciates in return with ironic ease. She should watch out for next year’s awards race – there is simply no stopping her at the moment..." - Joselito Zulueta, Sine Manila – 1983 (READ MORE)

Pahiram ng Isang Umaga "...Director Ishmael Bernal has seen in the material an opportunity to put substance to what has often been denigrated as the unthinking man’s entertainment, and to a considerable degree, his attempt has been a success. Pahiram is both effective as a tearjerker and meaningful as a depiction of people in crisis. Using a traditional element of the genre, the theme of death, Bernal and writer Jose Javier Reyes probe into the life of a woman who has been told that the end is near. Juliet (Vilma Santos, one of the two reigning Philippine female superstars for the past two decades now) is told that she has eight or maybe seven months to live. As a progressive advertising creative director who has been promoted (rather late) as vice president of her company, she has the means to attend to the less mundane demands of life, examine what may have been an unexamined life, and make the most of the limited time left..." - Mario A. Hernando, Malaya – 5 March 1989 (READ MORE)

Physical Endurance - "...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..." - Quijano De Manila (Nick Joaquin), Philippine Graphic Magazine 05 November 1990 (READ MORE)

Ishmael Bernal, a filmmaker of the first order and one of the very few who can be truly called a maestro. Critics have hailed him as “the genius of Philippine cinema.” He is recognized as a director of films that serve as social commentaries and bold reflections on the existing realities of the struggle of the Filipino. His art extends beyond the confines of aesthetics. By polishing its visuals, or innovating in the medium, he manages to send his message across: to fight the censors, free the artists, give justice to the oppressed, and enlighten as well as entertain the audience. Among his notable films are “Pahiram ng Isang Umaga” (1989), “Broken Marriage” (1983), “Himala” (1981), “City After Dark” (1980), and “Nunal sa Tubig” (1976). He was recognized as the Director of the Decade of the 1970s by the Catholic Mass Media Awards; four-time Best Director by the Urian Awards (1989, 1985, 1983, and 1977); and given the ASEAN Cultural Award in Communication Arts in 1993 (NCCA.gov.ph). Bernal was born in Manila on September 30, 1938, the son of Elena Bernal and Pacifico Ledesma. He studied at Burgos Elementary School and Mapa High School before entering the University of the Philippines, and graduated in 1962 with a degree of Bachelor of Arts degree in English. For a time he worked with Lamberto Avellana’s documentary outfit. He went on to earn his Licentiate in French Literature and Philosophy at the University of Aix-en-Prevence in France, and then in 1970 his Diplomate in Film Directing at the Film Insititue of India in Poona, under the Colombo plan scholarhip. Bernal was a board member of the Concerned Artists of the Philippines and the Directors Guild of the Philippines, Inc., an organization that studies the role of film as an instrument of entertainment, education and development. He actively crusaded for the rights and welfare of artists for as long as he lived. He died in Quezon City on June 2, 1996. - Wikipilipinas (READ MORE)





Saturday, September 28, 2013

Discography: SIXTEEN (1970)

Listening to Sixteen: "...Vilma’s first album was pure fun and still very relevant today. Consist of twelve songs six on each side. The vinyl record on side A starts with its carrying single, Sixteen. Composed by Dannie Subido, Sixteen talks about "making out" in the park. This might alarm some of the religious zealots in the 70s but Ate Vi’s wholesome sweet voice makes the song wholesome and child like. The hidden sex - "making out" - kissing and hugging in public place - message of the song would probably the reason why "Sixteen" became the favorites of teenagers. The song catapulted Vilma’s signature song. A feat that even her closest rival, Nora Aunor can’t replicated (Nora Aunor despite successful singing career lacked a signature song). Remember this is the hippie era and the start of the feminist movement. A clear reason why "Sixteen" was a major hit with the free love care free young generation of this era. The next songs, Dry your Eyes and Bring Back Your Love both arranged by Dannie Subido are love songs that boils down to frustration of a girl in love. Followed by a turned around in terms of mood with Vi’s version of a Bacharach composition, Raindrops Keep Falling On My Head, a funny but out of place song. One of the two final songs on side A, came as a surprise. "When The Clock Strikes One" was an original composition of Robert Medina and like “Sixteen” was about “making out” – kissing and hugging but this time its more fun because of its unusual up-tempo mood that’s actually more like a hip-hop song.

Side B of Sixteen was pure fun too. Three songs that stands out were the original compositions of Dannie Subido, "Sometimes," "It is Wonderful to be In Love" and "Then Along Came You Edgar." The lyrics of these songs are simple and obviously catered to the massive followers of the Edgar – Vilma love team. Before Britney Spears came up with her hit song, “Sometimes,” Vilma has her own song titled “Sometimes.” Both Britney and Vilma’s songs are about teenage love confusion. It’s a Wonderful To Be in Love is self-explanatory, yes Ate Vi is in love and she expressed it nicely in this song. The up-tempo and simple lyrics of this song makes it more like a children rhyme song except that it’s about almost "adult-kind" of love. The puppy love theme of the album continued with an uplifting song, well at least for the Vi and Bot fans with "Then Along Came You, Edgar." This song confirmed Vi's puppy love to the dark and handsome but not so tall cutie-pie, Edgar Mortiz. Once again, Dannie Subido’s arrangement and lyrics are simple but playful, a perfect fit to Ate Vi’s sweet range.

The success of Sixteen can be attributed to the playfulness and simplicity of the song selections. It suited the sweetness and purity of Vilma’s almost child like voice. The album earned Vilma her first golden record award and a remarkable signature song, “Sixteen.” The album established her as a successful recording artist. If I will compare her to today’s list of contemporary artists, I will compare Vilma to the likes of Jennifer Lopez, Britney Spears, and Madonna. Jennifer, Britney, and Madonna has thin but sweet voices just like Vilma. Like Vilma, these pop superstars have to work hard to achieve almost perfect products that their fans loved. Like Vilma, the three pop stars are great dancers which they all used to the max in their choreograph production numbers. The reluctant singer came out on top. Vilma Santos’s debut album made history. Sixteen made Vilma Santos a remarkable singer..." - RV (READ MORE)

Sixteen
Kissing on the park
Hanging on the fort
Holding hand in hand
Down the avenue
Strolling down the lane
A castle in the air
A Kissin’ or lovin’
A kissing’ or lovin’
A kissing all night long
They said I’m only Sweet Sixteen
I’ve never been Kiss
I’ve never been loved
And all I want is Candy
Ice Cream teddy bear Lollipop
Riding on the sun

A lot of things we do
Whispering to my ears
I love you so
Strolling down the lane
A castle in the air
A Kissin’ or lovin’
A kissing’ or lovin’
A kissing all night long
Kissing on the park
Hanging on the forth
Holding hand in hand
Down the avenue
Strolling down the lane
A castle in the air
A Kissin’ or lovin’
A kissing’ or lovin’
A kissing all night long
(fade)

SIXTEEN (1970)

Arranged and directed by Danny Subido with the Barons
Side A
1. Sixteen (Danny Subido)
2. Dry your Eyes (Danny Subido)
3. Bring Back Your Love (Danny Subido)
4. Raindrops Keep Falling On My Head
5. When The Clock Strikes One (Robert Medina)
6. So With me (Freddie Stalton)

Side B
1. Sometimes (Danny Subido)
2. It's Wonderful To be In Love (Danny Subido)
3. Baby Baby Baby (Danny Subido)
4. Sealed With a kiss (Udell Gold)
5. Then Along Came You Edgar (Freddie Stalton)
6. Love Love (Danny Subido)

Back cover text:

ONE: Filipinos are particularly and inherently keen in music. We have that very sharp ear for music. We know if one is a singer or not. Vilma Santos is a singer.

TWO: That's why when her debut single "SIXTEEN" (this album's title song), "IT"s wonderful to be in Love" on the flipside hit the record barsm, she became an instant discolandia celebrity, a national discolandia star, because Vilma Santos is a singer.

THREE: Stop comparing now. Her voice is not similar to the voice of this and that singer. Furthermore, she has her own style. Her very own. Inimitatable. Incomparable.

FOUR: Her voice is angelic, her voice is silky, her voice is versatile, her voice is beyond description.

FIVE: But let me describe it. Let me try. Her voice is fragile.

SIX: Fragile. But in this her first album, in all her songs, not a note is broken. Fragile, yet strong, vigorous, forceful.

SEVEN: But most of all, her voice has soul. A young soul. Very young.

EIGHT: Her "Sixteen" is lifting. Bithe. Sparkling. So are "It's Wonderful to be in love," “Bring back your love" and "Raindrops keepfalling on my head."

NINE: Listen to "Dry your eyes" Dreamy. Almost like a lullaby. Gliding. Listen to "Baby baby baby" and "Sealed with a kiss." Floating. Breezy. Very cool. Tender. Caressing.

TEN: Suddenly her voice become frisky, bouncy in "Love love," "Sometimes," "When the clock strike one," "Then along came you Edgar, " et al. Full of verve. Enough to turn you on.

ELEVEN: Consider the talents pooled together in the album. Consider Bacharach, David, Udell, Geld, Stelton, Medina, The Barons and Danny Subido. Consider Vilma Santos. This is the album for the young. For the young at heart.

TWELVE: This is your album, This is our album. This is my album.

THIRTEEN: This collection is more than half-hour of listening delight.

FOURTEEN: But I bet, the youthful artist will entice you to listen to this album for hour and hours and hours. I bet. I win.

FIFTEEN: Because the songs are irresistble, as irresistible as the voice and its owner itself.

SIXTEEN: Vilma Santos. Yes. Vilma Santos. Singer.

Friday, September 27, 2013

Vima Santos on Motherhood

A fresh-looking Vima Santos greeted us at the presscom of her movie, "Anak." Full of energy after a three week vacation in the States, she answered our question about her film with zest and pride.

Favorite song

What is your memory of "Anak?" It was a favorite song of mine. I always ran to the radio whenever they played the song. When the project was offered to me, I responded favorably to it right away.

Do you still feel challenged by the dramatic situations of the story? Of course. The challenge is always there Kahit na nasa Hall of Fame 'ko. We have lots of comfrontation scenes in this movie and they are all difficult. I remember doing a scene in which I had two pages of dialogue. After doing the blocking. I asked for time to concentrate because the director would take a continuous shot. The point is to never be over-confident and always turn to the director for help.

How significant is "Anak" to you? This is the first time I am portraying a domestic helper and our one week of shooting in Hong Kong enabled me to talk to some of them and understand them better.

Lonely

Most of them are sacrificing mothers and they're lonely because they are far away from their families.

Was it easy for you to relate to your character in the movie? I internalized my being a mother is real life and the fact that I am also working, hindi nga lamang abroad. It helped me a lot remembering what Mama did to me when I was young.

As a mother, what are your particular about? The health of my children. If you want me to get upset, just tell me that one of my sons is sick!"

What kind of a mother are your to your teenage son Luis? I am quite liberal dahil iba naman ang henerasyon ngayon as compared doon sa kinagisnan ko. Curfew hour for me then was midnight. But now, ganung oras pa lamang nagsisimula ang kanilang mga happenings.

No communication gap

I have no communicatin gap with my son. We talk about everything under the sun, including sex. Also, I allow my son to reason out with me since the saying mother knows best is not applicable in all circumstances.

Has Luis given you a headache? Sa awa ng Diyos ay wala pa namang grabeng sakit ng ulo idinudulot sa akin. Mabait siyang bata and he knows his responsibilities. But I recall punishing him over a failure to deliver good grades. I am particular about his studies. When he showed me his low grades, he promised he would do something about it. The third grading period came and there was no improvement, so I reminded himd of his promise. He was grounded for one week and was not allowed to use the telephone.

Was ther a time when you neglected your motherly duties? It was campaign season and you know how busy candidates are. Hindi ko nabantayan si Luis because I was busy campaigning, and he stayed in somebody else's house at nagtampo. Vilma says her greatest joy is being a mother to Christian who is only four and Luis who is already a handsome teenager. Her greatest fear is to "lose" them one day, when they move out to have their own families. She says 85 percent of her life is devoted to being a loving mother! - Remy M. UmerezPhilippine Daily Inquirer, May 12 2000 (READ MORE)

"...To best understand how Filipino women have changed in the course of time, let us quote Lea's final words: "OO, natuklasan ko ang mga bagay na hindi ko siguro natuklasan kung pinahawakan ko lang sa iba ang pagkatao ko. Hindi ako nagpakulong, sinikap kong lumaya. At mula sa paglaya ko sa makitid na papel ng isang babae, natiyak ko na ang kalayaan nga pala, sa higit na pangmalawakang kahulugan nito, ay hindi nahihingi kundi ipinakikipaglaban. Hindi lahat ng hinuhuli'y kriminal, at hindi lahat ng diyos ay may dangal! Hindi ako natatako. Babae ako at malakas ako. Ako ang tagapagsilang ng tao, pambuhay ng sanggol ang dibdib ko. Hindi porke ina na 'ko'y tumigil na 'ko sa paglaki. Hindi porke babae ako'y maiiwan ako sa labanan. Para sa kaligtasan ng lipunan at kinabukasan ng mga anak ko sa digmaan ng mga uri't prinsipyo, sa mapayapa man o madugong pagbabago, magtiwala kayo...sasama ako!" We need more Josies adn Leas in our society tody, The time is ripe for Filipino women to rise above the society's traditional views and coventions. Although ultimate freedom and due recognition of gender equlity remain a struggle and a serious concern, Filipino women are slowly gaining a strong foothold. In a book dedication written by Bautista to this writer, she wroteL "Ang mga kamay na nag-uugoy ng duyan ay kaya ring magtumba ng alon sa dagat." And we belive that a freer woman is better mother. And every Filipino family needs her. Every family must have her. We remember what Vilma said in our interview with her during the last shooting day of her film "Bata, Bata..." "I would like to be remembered as a mother who would give her life to her children anytime..." She's an accomplished actress, and many will remember her for that. But Vilma would rather be a mother in her films, in her life..." - Veron Dionisio, Philippine Daily Inquirer, Jul 29, 2000 (READ MORE)


Thursday, September 26, 2013

Vilma, the Glad Girl


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
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