Everything About Her.
Contrary to the title of her new Star Cinema starrer (showing nationwide starting on Wednesday, Jan. 27), directed by Bb. Joyce Bernal, the story doesn’t tell all about Batangas Gov. Vilma Santos (who’s running for Congresswoman in the lone district of Lipa in the May elections).
“The movie is not really about me,” Ate Vi (as she is fondly called even now that she’s into her scintillating 60s) told Conversations. “It’s about a character that I find so fascinating na medyo may pagka-ako, hahahaha!” And then she proceeded to talk more about it, including her co-stars Xian Lim (as the estranged son) and Angel Locsin (girlfriend of Ate Vi’s son Luis Manzano).
Back to the “tell-all” book she’s planning to write if her tight calendar as Batangas Governor and actress allows her.
“It will be complete,” she promised, meaning she wouldn’t spare anything or anyone. “I will start on my days as a child actress, then go on to when I started growing up and survived my awkward stage, how I re-invented my career by doing daring roles (Burlesk Queen, etc.), how I got married and had children, how I became a public servant…tell all nga, eh!”
But before that, Ate Vi talked about Everything About Her, the movie her fans and her “constituents” in Batangas are waiting for.
“I asked my constituents’ permission before I started work on the movie,” said Ate Vi. “Sabi nila, ‘Okey.’ Na-miss na rin daw nila ang pagiging artista ko.”
Everything About Her is your first movie in almost three years (after the highly-praised indie Ekstra, directed by Jeffrey Jeturian). Are you choosy with roles?
“Not really maselan (choosy). I just want something different naman. It has really been my dream to do a role inspired by The Devil Wears Prada (the Meryl Streep starrer). Hindi eksakto, but only the gist of the story.”
Of all the scripts presented to you, why that one?
“I like this one because it’s a light comedy-drama, about love for the family. It has drama but not so heavy; it has comedy but not total comedy. It’s not a rom-com.”
Is your acting very Meryl Streep?
(Laughs) “No naman. I would describe Vivian, my character, as masungit na impaktita.”
How do you see yourself in the character?
“People may perceive me as sweet pero once pushed against the wall, nawawala ang sweetness ko.” (Laughs) “I would say that mahaba ang pasensya ko, mahaba ang pisi, but when you push me too hard, you won’t like my reaction.”
And Angel plays your caregiver.
“My character has issues with her son (played by Xian) and Angel’s character also has some issues with her own mother. That’s the movie’s theme — children who feel neglected by their parents.”
How was your confrontation scene with Angel?
“Matindi! I won’t tell you how intense, ayokong magbigay ng spoiler alert. Basta, just watch it.”
What about Xian?
“His role is very important. He has a deep resentment toward his mother who left him when he was a kid. He comes back from abroad and he doesn’t know how to deal with his mother who is sick. Very challenging ang scenes niya. You will see a different Xian in this movie.”
So the rumors are not true that Xian has a hard time portraying his character, so he required several takes?
“That’s not true. Ako na ang makapagsasabi. He’s okay, mahusay siya. Puede naming maipagmalaki si Xian dito. ‘Yung several takes, no problem. Even veteran actors like me sometimes need several takes. Joyce is a meticulous director who won’t settle for less. It’s my first time to work with her. Masaya sa set. I can consider her a director who is good in motivating her actors.”
How does she do it? (Peque Gallaga plays music to put his actors in the mood while some “shocks” actors into giving their best.)
“For example, in my scenes with Xian we were supposed to be magkagalit. In one scene, Xian’s character just arrives from the States, first time he’s meeting his mother, my character. Bawal magkita o mag-usap sa set. There should be a distance between us. Joyce separated Xian and me on the set, and rehearsed us separately. We met only during the take. Sabi ni Xian, ‘Direk, baka magalit si Ate Vi kapag hindi ko binati.’ Joyce said, ‘Wala akong pakialam. Basta huwag mong batiin si Ate Vi sa set.’ It’s very effective. Xian greeted me only after we shot the scene.”
Speaking of Ekstra, what lessons about extras (bit players) did you learn from the movie?
“The extras should be given respect. Watch the movie again and you will realize na hindi aandar ang isang pelikula kapag walang mga extra.”
Have you ever been screamed at (cursed) by a director? (She has been directed by the finest in the industry including Mike de Leon in Sister Stella L, Lino Brocka in Rubia Servios, Celso Ad. Castillo in Pagputi ng Uwak, Pag-itim ng Tagak, Ishmael Bernal in Relasyon, Gil Portes in Miss X, etc.)
“Oh yes, nasigawan din ako but I never take it against my directors. I have never been an extra pero nasigawan na rin naman ako. Remember, I started as a child actress and I have experienced everything. During the shooting, ‘yung pagmumura (ng direktor) is part of the process, not exactly directed at a particular actor. Never did I take it personally. Every individual is different; you don’t expect everybody to understand the situation and we can’t blame them. In showbiz, ang pagmumura ay hindi personal; parte lang ng shooting.”
By the way, people have been wondering how you look so young after all these years. Have you found the fountain of youth?
“Uy, I’m not getting any younger. I’m 62. I’m careful with what I eat; I exercise. You know what I do? I turn off the aircon in one of my rooms and that’s where I work out in my sweat shirt. It feels nice to sweat it out.”
Aren’t you bothered by growing old(er)?
“Everybody grows old, lahat tayo tumatanda. All of us will have lines in our faces. Natural ‘yan. But what’s important is to learn how to grow old gracefully. It helps if you are truly happy, and you are contented in life.”
You have everything. Anything else missing in your life? A grandchild?
(Laughs) “That’s what I am waiting for.”
Aren’t you rushing Luis to give you an apo?
“I don’t pressure him. All I do is talk to him.”
But, of course, the apo should come after Luis and Angel get married?
“Sana. Hmmm, ayoko makialam. It’s all up to them.”
Any advice to Luis (and Angel) about marriage?
“That they should be prepared. Ang pag-aasawa ay hindi biro. ‘Yon lang ‘yun.”
Now that the movie is in the can, are you prepared for the gruelling campaign?
“I’m prepared for it. My concentration is the 72 barangays. I know that I can still do many things for Lipa. Tatanaw ako ng utang na loob (sense of gratitude) sa mga constituents ko sa Batangas, especially in Lipa.”
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