Vilma Santos

The longest-reigning Queen of Philippine Cinema, also widely known as the Star for All Seasons and the QueenStar, Vilma Santos celebrates her golden anniversary in showbiz. She has starred in more than 200 films and has given the public some of the most memorable performances in Philippine motion picture history. An icon of film and popular culture, her magnetic screen presence has captured the hearts and minds of generations of Filipinos. Her enduring charisma and popularity have made her filmdom's most durable female superstar. CLICK HERE TO READ MORE

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Thursday, November 1, 2012

Vilma Santos - The Queen of Philippine Cinema



The longest-reigning Queen of Philippine Cinema, also widely known as the Star for All Seasons and the QueenStar, Vilma Santos celebrates her golden anniversary in showbiz. She has starred in more than 200 films and has given the public some of the most memorable performances in Philippine motion picture history. An icon of film and popular culture, her magnetic screen presence has captured the hearts and minds of generations of Filipinos. Her enduring charisma and popularity have made her filmdom’s most durable female superstar.

Brilliant Performances     

Vilma is the only Filipino actress who boasts an impressive body of work that is eclectic and an acting style that is versatile. Her best portrayals are an embodiment of the varied and changing roles of the Filipino woman and her ongoing fight for empowerment, and her movies represent realities of Philippine society and the nation's aspirations and struggle for change.

She is the ultimate Pinoy wonderman, Darna, the defender of the helpless and the aggrieved; a politicized nun in Sister Stella L.; a wife and mother during the turbulent Martial Law era who undergoes enlightenment in Dekada '70; a liberated mother who defies social conventions in Bata, Bata, Paano Ka Ginawa?; a sympathetic mistress in Relasyon; a career woman battling marital problems in Broken Marriage; a dying cancer patient who consummates life during her final days in Pahiram Ng Isang Umaga; a homicidal, psychologically disturbed nymphomaniac in Tagos Ng Dugo; a prostitute-turned-convict fighting for love and changes within the penitentiary system in Alyas Baby Tsina; an OFW who addresses family conflicts in Anak; an AIDS-stricken protagonist who struggles for sympathy and understanding in Dahil Mahal Kita (The Dolzura Cortez Story); a stubborn and old-fashioned mother who has to come to terms with her son's homosexuality and has to deal with life, in her middle age, alone after her son's eventual demise in In My Life; and a rape victim crying for justice in Rubia Servios. These and her other unforgettable roles demonstrate her versatility and wide range as an actress.

Ultimate Fantasy Film Heroine

Vilma started as a precocious child actress in the '60s, then became a teen idol in the early '70s. Her box-office appeal was cemented in 1973 by the mega blockbuster Lipad, Darna, Lipad, the most successful Darna movie ever which broke existing box-office records at that time. She holds the record for having played the iconic superhero four times. Her Darna iterations, her Dyesebel at ang Mahiwagang Kabibe, and her slew of fantasy films (Kampanerang Kuba; Wonder Vi; Phantom Lady; Vilma and the Beep, Beep, Minica) showcased Vilma as movie heroine and the masa’s champ, champ at the box-office and in the hearts of the movie-going public. For the record, she is the only Filipino actress who has played both Darna and Dyesebel, two of the most loved fantasy characters in Pinoy popular culture, on film. Her successful portrayals of these iconic roles, plus the other fantasy characters she played, make her the ultimate Pinay fantasy film heroine.

Box-Office Champ

Vilma enjoyed continued box-office successes for her drama outings in succeeding years and was crowned Box-Office Queen many times by different organizations. To this day her movies continue to attract audiences. In 2001, the Guillermo Mendoza Memorial Scholarship Foundation, which years prior had elevated her as a Hall-of-Famer for having been a box-office winner for many years, decided to again crown her, already in her late '40s, the Box-Office Queen for the record-breaking box-office success of her movie Anak (2000), thus making her reign as a female box-office superstar the longest. Anak holds the distinction of being the Pinoy film that sold the most number of tickets at the box-office . 

In My Life, which co-starred her with John Lloyd Cruz and son Luis Manzano, despite its sensitive gay theme and being shown in the midst of a tropical storm, emerged as 2009's second highest-grossing movie. Her recent project, Star Cinema’s The Healing, was a monster hit which grossed more than 100 million and is included in the Top 10 top-grossing movies for 2012.

Best Actress

Her first film at age 9, Trudis Liit (1963), which earned for her a FAMAS Best Child Actress tropy, and her follow-up solo starrer Ging (1964), where she plays a child performer exploited by her discovers/managers, were early proof of Vilma's talent. Her acting prowess as an adult, though, first got serious notice in 1977 with her landmark performance as the doomed striptease dancer in Burlesk Queen. And the rest, as they say, is history. From then on, there's no stopping her from reaping all the important awards from different award-giving bodies. After winning 5 times as best actress at the FAMAS, the country's oldest awarding organization, she was elevated to the Hall of Fame in 1989 and was bestowed the Circle of Excellence award in 1992 and 1993. The Manunuri Ng Pelikulang Pilipino, the most credible critic group that presents the yearly URIAN Awards, has given Vilma 8 citations, the most number of wins ever for an actor, and voted her Actress of the Decade twice, for the 1980s and the 1990s. The PMPC Star Awards has voted her Best Actress 7 times and honored her with the Dekada Award in Acting in 2004, while the Film Academy of the Philippines has given her 4 Best Actress trophies. Vilma also received awards from the CMMA, Young Critics Circle, the Metro Manila Film Festival and other award-giving bodies (Click here to see list of awards).

Overall, Vilma is the most awarded Filipino actress and has the most number of grand-slam wins as best actress, four times, for Relasyon in 1982, Dahil Mahal Kita (The Dolzura Cortez Story) in 1993, Bata, Bata, Paano Ka Ginawa? in 1998, and Dekada '70 in 2002.

Topping her achievements in acting are her two international Best Actress awards, one for Bata, Bata Paano Ka Ginawa? from the Brussels International Film Festival and another for Dekada '70 from CineManila International Film Festival.

Critical Acclaim and Commercial Success

Vilma is the only superstar who has managed to enjoy both critical acclaim and commercial success, and at a time and age when superstars have already seen better days and should have already retired. A recent example is her commercial feature In My Life. It is a veritable box-office hit and it gave Vilma some more awards to add to her already impressive resume.

Lifetime Achievement Awards

For her immense contribution to the movie industry, Vilma has received dozens of Lifetime Achievement awards from various organizations. In 2003, she was likewise conferred a Lifetime Achievement award by the CineManila International Film Festival. Two years later, in 2005, she was given the Outstanding Achievement in Film Acting award by the Feminist Centennial Film Festival.

The academic community has also recognized Vilma’s achievements as a film icon. In 2005 the University of the Philippines honored Vilma with the Gawad Plaridel for being a media practitioner who has “excelled and performed with the highest professional integrity and in the interest of public service,” the first and only film artist who has been accorded this distinction thus far. In 2006, she was one of the four artists feted with a lifetime achievement award at the University of the Philippines’ First Diwata Awards, the only actor among the honorees (Click here to see list of Lifetime Achievement Awards).

Foray Into Recording

During her teenage days, Vilma also ventured into singing to compete with her golden-voice-endowed rival, Nora Aunor. She sang in a host of drama-musical flicks which paired her with the hottest male actors of the time, notably her perennial love-team partner, Edgar Mortiz. While her singing didn’t actually make her a real singer, her recording stint earned for her two “Golden Record” awards and produced her now classic signature song “Sixteen.”

TV Queen

Vilma’s far-reaching influence was not limited to the movies. She also conquered the boob tube. In the ‘70s, she danced and sang on the variety show The Sensations and starred on the soap opera Dalambuhay ni Rosa Vilma. The peak of Vilma’s presence on Philippine TV was in the ‘80s and the ‘90s, during which she did some some dramatic performances and staged her highly successful musical variety show, Vilma!, where she wowed the audience with her breathtaking and death-defying dance routines. Vilma! went on to become the most awarded musical variety show in local TV history. During her show’s run and its eventual end in 1995, she was considered the queen of GMA 7, her home studio, where she also produced and starred in memorable drama series such as Lamat Sa Kristal and Once There Was a Love.

Vilma may not be as visible and active on TV in recent times, due to her focus on her political career, but the public still look forward to her rare TV appearances. Her portrayal of the mother of a cerebral-palsy kid on MMK’s “Regalo,” a two-part episode, is one of the best remembered dramatic performances on TV.

Semi-Retirement, Family Life and Political Career

Vilma semi-retired in the mid-'90s, at a time when she was still very popular, to focus on her family life. She then gave birth to her second child, Ryan Christian Recto. In 1998, she entered politics and has since been a very successful and well-respected public servant. She has put her showbiz career on the back burner but still makes time for an occasional movie every two or three years.

Her dedication and good leadership as a public servant have earned Vilma dozens of awards, foremost of which are the “Outstanding City Mayor” Award that the Civil Service Commission conferred to her and the recent “Presidential Lingkod Bayan” award that she received from President Noynoy Aquino. She has just secured her third term as governor of Batangas, after having served three terms as mayor of Lipa City.

For her exemplary achievements in showbiz and in politics, Vilma is probably the most successful actor-politician in Philippine history.

Major Product Endorser

Amid the rise of new superstars and bankable celebrities, Vilma has managed to maintain her popularity and thus become one of the most trusted product endorsers in the country. No other 50-year-old-and-above veteran stars can match Vilma’s enduring mass appeal, an attribute that makes her visible still, as a product endorser, in different media. As Kris has once remarked, “I really feel na she has preserved her celebrity and we continue to respect her....”

Woman for All Seasons
 
Vilma’s enduring popularity and good reputation have made her one of the most idolized personages in the country. She is always included in “the most powerful,” “the most trusted,” and “the most influential” lists. In 2007, People Asia Magazine cited her as one of its People of the Year and Women of Style and Substance.

The different facets of Vilma as a woman, mother, wife, public servant, actress, celebrity, and role model are the reasons that make her still a very relevant fixture in Philippine society, the same reasons that continue to endear her to her loyal followers and new admirers. She is one person the Philippine film industry should be proud of.

Still the Reigning Queen

Arguably, Vilma -- despite limited time for showbiz -- is still its one and only queen, at this age where local movies are in decline. Not only her outstanding contribution to the movie industry supports this statement, but the love and the respect that the industry people and the public have for her point to the fact that no Filipino actress has endured and sustained a loyal following than Vilma Santos. No star shines brighter than her. Only FPJ (RIP) and, perhaps, Dolphy (RIP) enjoy the same stature.

As Vilma celebrates her 50th anniversary in showbiz, still the reigning Queen, the people and her legion of fans are looking forward to more years of brilliant screen performances. 

                                                                    - R.R.I. ESPINOZA

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