CRIS VILLONCO: Every Girl's Role Model
- Ricky Lo () - March 5, 2000 - 12:00am

ent1Things don't come easy for Cris Villonco just because she happens to be the granddaughter of Censors Chief Armida "Tita Midz" Siguion-Reyna. Neither do doors automatically open for her just because she's the daughter of Monique (Siguion-Reyna) and Opap Villonco (a lawyer whose many cases include the 1994 Filmfest Scam where he defended star witness Gretchen Barretto) nor showbiz offers come pouring in like pennies from heaven just because she's the niece of top movie director Carlitos Siguion-Reyna.

What she has achieved so far is the result of her own individual talent and qualities. For sure, Cris is the sum total of the best qualities of her parents and grandparents -- and other relatives besides -- and she's making a name of her own as a singer (and, soon, as an actress) solely on her own efforts.

ent1It's true that she was born with the proverbial silver spoon in her mouth but she doesn't flaunt that spoon. A sweet sixteener, Cris is a level-headed girl, very prim and proper (fit for the convent, an observation that prompts her to exclaim, "Oh, no, I don't want to be a nun! I also want to get married and have a family"), not haughty nor snooty at all like most rich kids are.

In short, she's the perfect role model for girls her age, or even those older.

Recently, Cris was notified by Time magazine that she was chosen one of the Heroes for the Planet invited to a Salute to the Heroes for the Planet special event in San Francisco on April 15, to participate in a Heroes Parade and environmental dedication ceremony to be held at the historic and beautiful Huntington Park and to perform at an exclusive concert also featuring 14-year-old Welsh soprano Charlotte Church at the Nob Hill Masonic Center. In June, she'll sing for the Pope at the Jubilarium concert to be held in Vatican. (Note: A parish priest, Fr. Raul Enriquez of Sariaya, Quezon, was also named Hero for the Planet on account of his being head of Kaakbay, an environmental organization in Quezon.)

What makes Cris a role model?

The following Conversation will show us why.

Of course, you're excited about the Time recognition.

"Not just excited. I'm very excited! I look at it more as a responsibility than anything else. It makes me aware of the fact that I also have to sing for a cause, like what I'm doing for Piso Para sa Pasig."

Your concern for the environment is a big factor in your getting this recognition.

"I guess Time wants to focus on the fate of Mother Earth. In my case, I'm always ready to sing for a good cause, like I also did for the I Love The Ocean project and the government's clean-and-green project. Anything for the environment."

Not every girl your age would be concerned with this issues, especially the preservation of environment. Other girls would be more preoccupied with "malling" and some such trivial pursuits.

"In school (Woodrose), we're really bombarded with public awareness and the main concern is the cleaning of the Pasig River. You see it on TV all the time, don't you? And hear it on radio all the time, too."

You're not full-time into singing, are you? Since you're in school weekdays, how much time do you devote to your career? Is it a career?

"Oh, yes, it's a career. I'm trying to make it a career, while at the same time I want to finish my studies. I'm now a junior high school and after five or six more years I'll be through with college. Perhaps, by that time I can devote full time to my career."

What are you taking up in college?

"BSE (Bachelor of Science in Education). Yes, I want to be a teacher. I love children, so I should be teaching nursery or primary school students. But not high school, my God! Hindi ko sila kaya! I'm in high school now and I should know! Ay naku, you should hear all the criticisms my classmates are making against our teachers! I don't want to be in the position of a high school teacher. My students might criticize me relentlessly! I don't think I can handle it."

You're not taking a course in, say, music? Or are you already taking music lessons?

"I have a vocal coach, Jai Sabas. On and off. I have sessions with her once a month, sometimes once a week."

You have the genes and I guess when you were born, you were already vocalizing, having taken after your Lola Armida (and other singers in the clan, like Chito Ponce-Enrile and Irma Ponce-Enrile Potenciano).

(Laughing) "Well, it's still under discussion -- you know, who I inherited my singing talent from. Although my Lola has the 'right,' ang may karapatan, I must tell you that my Dad and other members of his family also love to sing. Maybe I got my singing genes from both sides of my family."

What tips do you get from your Lola Armida?

"Not really tips on singing... She usually talks about my diction in Tagalog. Before kasi, I mispronounced some words. She was always there when I was recording and she would correct my mispronounciation every step of the way."

What about tricks on dealing with showbiz intrigues and controversies? Your Lola is an expert on that.

"She keeps on reminding me, 'Ay naku, you have to learn to handle all these things. But always remember, stick to the truth!' Huwag daw akong magsisinungaling."

You're lucky you haven't been involved in any intriga.

(Knocking on wood) "I'm glad."

You're well-protected. Do you think your Lola will take the cudgels for you if and when?

"I'll confront the issue and the intrigues myself!"

You're turning 17 (Oct. 17). How old were you when you joined showbiz?

"I was nine when I started in theater (as the young Eponine in the Meralco Theater presentation of Les Miserables). My Lola was so happy with my performance that she watched Les Miz twice. So happy, in fact, that she even got me for Aawitan Kita. My parents and I were not taking (a showbiz career) seriously, but when my Lola got me for Aawitan Kita, that sort of got me started in showbiz."

But you've always loved singing.

"I used to sing during family parties -- I was always the little entertainer!"

What's your favorite piece, your most requested song?

"It varies. From my Lola's side, mga Bituing Walang Ningning. From my Daddy's side, 'yung mga Piece of Sky, mga Barbra Streisand songs."

Is it an asset or a liability being the granddaughter of Tita Midz?

"No, I don't think it's a liability. In showbiz, yes, they do associate me with my Lola but not all the time. Most people naman appreciate me for my own talent, my own qualities as a person and as a performer. I tell you something. . . When I did Ang Dalubhasa (the FPJ mega-blockbuster), Tito Ronnie (FPJ) didn't even know that I'm the apo of Armida Siguion-Reyna. I met Tito Ronnie at my Lola's birthday party in November last year and that was before we started shooting our scenes together. Doon lang niya nalaman that I'm Armida Siguion-Reyna's apo when he was introduced to my father and my mother."

How did FPJ discover you for Ang Dalubhasa (where she played the victim who died while FPJ, as a neuro-surgeon, was operating on her)?

"I think he saw me in the Pop Cola commercial."

Oh, that's the one I see on TV all the time and on giant billboards and at the back of Pop Cola delivery trucks.

(Laughing some more) "Oh, that one in the truck. . . in some of them, may sungay na ako, may pangil, mga ballpen marks -- wala na akong ngipin!"

The work of sick minds, I'm sure, mga naiinggit sa 'yo, mga walang magawa. Are you close to your Lola?

"In a way, yes, although we don't see each other as often as we want to. On weekends, we do visit her at her place. What I do is make her kuwento and I just listen. She has a lot of kuwento, especially about showbiz."

When you (and your parents) have to make decisions related to showbiz, do you consult your Lola?

"When it's a big decision, then we consult my Lola. Like the FPJ movie. We'd already made up our minds when we told my Lola about it. She said. 'Do it!' Ganoon lang."

Would you like to do more movies?

"Oh, I would love to! I like it. I enjoyed my experience in Ang Dalubhasa. Everybody was nice to me."

What's your schedule like from Monday to Friday?

"I'm up at about 6 a.m. and I'm in school from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. everyday of the week. If I have rehearsals (for a concert, etc.) I attend to them after school but I have to be home by 11 p.m. By 12 midnight, I'm asleep. I'm now working on my second album, also for BMG Records Pilipinas, Inc., so my schedule is a bit crowded."

Being a Siguion-Reyna and a Villonco, coming from well-respected families, are you aware of your responsibility as a role model? You're one, whether you like it or not, especially now that you're in showbiz.

"I've grown up being aware that my father is my father, my mother is my mother and my Lola is my Lola, and I've got used to what they are and what they're doing. I don't really have to go out of my way to live up to being, as you said, a 'role model.' Me and my cousins just have to follow the teachings of our elders and live by the rules, lead Christian lives and be responsible citizens. That's the normal life for us, before I joined showbiz and now that I'm in it."

Which quality of your Lola do you admire most?

"Her strength of character -- wow! Her discipline. Her fighting spirit -- unbelievable!"

Aren't you intimidated by your Lola?

"Not really, because I'm used to her na. But I do get scared of her, especially when she gets mad. She can be very mataray but I haven't heard her scream or get really, really, really mad. I see her that way only in the movies."

And on TV talkshows. . .

"No naman. On TV, I think she's relatively calm, even when she's trying to drive home a point."

What about when she's at odds with somebody?

(Amused) "I prefer not to watch her. When she's in a bad mood, you don't want to get in her way, do you? Otherwise, malilintikan ka, di ba?"

What about your relationship with your mom? Are you open to her?

"I am. She's also like a big sister to me."

Were you brought up the way your mom was brought up?

"I guess so. For 16 years, they've brought me up, and my sisters, knowing what's right and what's wrong; what's good and what's bad. Neither liberated nor restrictive ang upbringing namin. We're given choices. May freedom naman kami to make choices." (Note: Cris' sister Dara, 24, is a Humanities graduate and younger sister Tere, 11, is in Grade 5 also at Woodrose.)

Don't you find it hard to blend into the showbiz milieu?

"Not at all. Just as long as you're true and sincere and nice to everyone, I don't think there's any difficulty."

How are you in school?

"Oh, I'm crazier in school!"

What sort of life do you lead after school, when you have no showbiz commitments?

"I read -- a lot! I like watching movies in theaters."

What's the last movie you saw?

"Minsan, Minahal Kita. I love romantic movies."

What's the most romantic movie that you've seen?

"Ever After. I like the idea of a modern-day Cinderella in that setting. She's a more liberated Cinderella."

Favorite comics characters. Snow White?

"Yuck! She's one character I can't stand, maybe because of her voice in the Disney movie."

And the company that she keeps?

"Oh, I love the dwarfs, though!"

So who's your favorite comics character?

"Garfield. He doesn't care about anything and I like that attitude, although I'm not like that."

Books?

"My personal favorite author is Roald Dahl, the one who wrote Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (done into a movie) and Matilda. The last book I read? To Kill a Mockingbird. It was an assignment in school."

Are you hard to feed?

"Nooooo!!! I love to eat. I'm eating all the time! I love Filipino food."

Aside from singing, what's your special talent?

"Mimicking people!"

Whom do you love to mimic?

"I'm not saying who!"

Siguro, si Tita Midz.

(Laughing) "I'm still studying her!"

Any role models?

"Martin Nievera is No. 1. Why Martin Nievera? Well, disiplinado siya sa pagkanta and he's always on a performance level; mataas ang energy level niya. He can make people laugh. I also like Regine Velasquez. I don't know her personally but I've watched her perform. She's a good singer and she has won several awards. Also, Mikee Cojuangco. She has finished her studies and I admire her for that. Mabait siya. There's Jaya, too. She has a powerful voice."

Having come from a well-to-do family, you didn't join showbiz for the money, I'm sure. What do you do with your earnings?

"My parents keep them for me, giving me some to spend. Part of it goes to charity."

One last question. If you're in your Lola's "hot seat" as MTRCB chief, would you do the same thing?

"I know what she's fighting for and I would so the same. The whole family is behind her. I am behind her all the way!

AAWITAN KITA ANG DALUBHASA DON LOLA LOLA ARMIDA LOVE SCHOOL SHOWBIZ SIGUION-REYNA TIME
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