Vilma’s career distinguished by exceptional performances

MANILA, Philippines―After our article on Nora Aunor’s “amazing” filmography came out, we received requests from some Vilmanians for “equal time” for their idol Vilma Santos’ own career output in the movies.

Since we’re a Noranian and a Vilmanian at the same time (we have no principles), we hastily and delightedly comply:

Vilma’s filmography, from 1963 to 2004, turns out to be even more extensive than Nora’s, for the simple reason that she started acting at an earlier age―and had fewer inactive periods than the Superstar.

Almost 200 movies in 40-plus years―that’s a major achievement, especially since quite a number of those films are so choice.

Vilma’s first major film outing was in the title role of “Trudis Liit,” when the wee actress was only nine years old. She made such a good impression in the plum role that she was cast in four other movies in 1963. Talk about starting your career with a big bang!

In 1965, Vilma played Irene Marcos in “Iginuhit ng Tadhana.” By 1969, however, the erstwhile child star had grown up enough to star in teen romances, like the quintessential kilig flick, “My Pledge of Love,” co-starring her first ka-love team, Edgar Mortiz.

Many other such films followed, interrupted only by unexpected action movies like “Takbo, Vilma, Dali!” (1972).

That same year, Vilma was directed by the Ishmael Bernal in one of her better movies, “Inspirasyon.” For the first time, movie people realized that the popular teen star could also be a fine actress!

Major landmark

That heartening possibility peaked later that year, when Vilma won her first Best Actress award for her performance in “Dama de Noche.” That was a major landmark for Vilma, who had always played second fiddle and also-ran to Nora Aunor in the awards department.

By 1974, the maturing actress was tackling even more demanding roles in movies like “Biktima,” while appearing in the occasional musical (“King Khayam and I”) and going the komiks fantasy route with “Dyesebel” and “Lipad, Darna, Lipad!”

Vilma’s more substantial movies during the mid-’70s include “Bato sa Buhangin,” “Dalawang Pugad, Isang Ibon” and “Masarap, Masakit ang Umibig.” Then, she took her biggest and most daring step forward as a young-adult thespian by starring in the (then) “shocking” “Burlesk Queen,” directed by Celso Ad. Castillo.

In 1978, she made another important film, “Pagputi ng Uwak, Pag-itim ng Tagak,” also by Castillo. Then came “Rubia Servios,” “Pakawalan Mo Ako,” “T-Bird at Ako,” “Relasyon,” “Broken Marriage”―capped by her superlative portrayal of an activist nun in “Sister Stella L.”

The good roles―and awards―came fast and furious by this time. Soon enough, Vilma decided to take time off to focus on her family―and, later, to enter politics (with similarly great success).

Still, she would occasionally come up with gems like “Dahil Mahal Kita (Dolzura Cortez),” “Bata, Bata, Paano Ka Ginawa?,” “Anak” and “Dekada ’70.”

Vilma may not have acted on the big screen since 2004’s “Mano Po, 3” but she remains a major star of Filipino movies, and film buffs look forward to viewing another exceptional portrayal by her in 2008.

Her political star may be rising―and it could reach stratospheric heights in 2010, as some political observers excitedly speculate. But Vilma “owes” it to the Filipino movie-going public to inspire her loyal fans with another masterful characterization. She’s the Star for All Seasons, remember?

NESTOR U. TORRE
Philippine Daily Inquirer

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