Remembering Nestor

STARBYTES - Butch Francisco () - February 26, 2004 - 12:00am
Nestor de Villa had always been associated with Nida Blanca and their musical/comedies in black and white that were made by LVN Pictures in the ’50s and repeatedly shown on afternoon TV in the ’60s and ’70s.

Nestor de Villa’s life and career, however, was not strictly in black and white. Born Gines Francisco Soriano on July 6, 1928 in Cabanatuan City, Nueva Ecija, his youth was fun and colorful – thanks to his dancing prowess that enabled him to develop friendship among other young people.

According to the LVN book, Doña Sisang and Filipino Movies, Nestor, then a medical student at the University of Santo Tomas, used to hang around with the group of LVN actress Celia Flor. One summer break, he and the rest of the gang went with the actress in one of her shootings where Nestor was spotted by director Susana de Guzman who encouraged him to join the movies.

Scriptwriter Nemesio Caravana, who was then doing the screenplay for the Rogelio de la Rosa-Lilia Dizon movie, Dimas, also saw him shortly after and offered him a part in the film. Given that kind of encouragement from respected movie people, Nestor finally considered getting an audience with LVN matriarch Doña Sisang de Leon, who lost no time giving him a build-up contract. Among his early films were Rodrigo de Villa, Amor Mio and Dimas.

In 1952, he was teamed up for the first time with Nida Blanca in Romansa sa Nayon and their tandem was born. The list of films he subsequently did with Nida is long: Dalawang Sundalong Kanin (also with Pugo and Togo), Hijo de Familia, Tumbalik na Daigdig, Iskwater, Hiyasmin, Waray-Waray, Luneta, Tinedyer, Darling Ko, Ibong Adarna, Handang Matodas, Talusaling, Ikaw Kasi, Easy Ka Lang Padre, Bahala Na, Sebya, Mahal Kita, Kalyehera, Wala Kang Paki, Turista, Baguio Fever, Tingnan Natin, Ganyan Ka Pala, Medalyong Perlas, Anak ni Waray and My Serenade.

Nestor de Villa, however, also made films with other LVN leading ladies: Delia Razon in Dalagang Taring, Charito Solis in Big Shot, Ang Langit Ko’y Ikaw, Unos sa Laot, Dahlia and Villa Milagrosa, Carmencita Abad in Bayanihan and Luz Valdez in her launching movie, Chinita.

He may have become a big star during his first year in the movies, but his early success in show business was bittersweet. Busy with filmmaking, Nestor decided to drop out of medical school to the disappointment of his father, Emiliano Soriano, who wanted him to become a doctor. As a result of Nestor’s decision to quit his studies, the old man, who belonged to Nueva Ecija’s landed gentry, refused to speak to him for about a year.

The LVN book says it was Doña Sisang who arranged for the father and son reconciliation during the premiere night of Ibong Adarna. Doña Sisang had invited Nestor’s father to the special occasion and the old man beamed with pride over the success of his son in the movies. (With his movie earnings, Nestor was able to send his father a tractor that became very useful in their farm in Nueva Ecija.)

After his stint in LVN, Nestor went on to do movies for other film companies and for a while even produced movies with Nida Blanca. Twice, he was nominated in the FAMAS for best actor – in Mga Yapak na Walang Bakas and in Siete Dolores. Later he, was also named Mr. Philippine Movies.

On ABS-CBN, he did The Nida-Nestor Show (at 8 p.m. every Thursday) for more than half a decade. A comedy show (it had different stories every week) that opened with a rousing dance number with Nida Blanca, this program gave Nestor de Villa the Best Male Performer award in the 1967 Citizens’ Award for Television (CAT).

In 2001, Nestor had another crack at television when he starred in the sitcom Biglang-Sibol, along with Celia Rodriguez, Delia Razon, Sylvia la Torre and a cast of young talents that included Alessandra de Rossi and Jeffrey Quizon.

On the big screen, he became active again in the ’80s and when Viva Films revived his team up with Nida in Forgive and Forget (also starring Sharon Cuneta and William Martinez). Other films he did for Viva were Cross My Heart (with Charito Solis, Sharon Cuneta, and Rowell Santiago), Saan Darating ang Umaga? (with Ms. Blanca and Maricel Soriano) and Like Father, Like Son (with Niño Muhlach, Leroy Salvador and Herbert Bautista.

For Regal he did Anak ni Waray vs. Anak ni Biday in 1984. I believe, however, that he gave his best performance around this period in the Mike de Leon movie, Hindi Nahahati ang Langit. Nestor’s last movie was Forevermore for Star Cinema two years ago.

In 1967, he had an unsuccessful bid in politics and during the time that he was inactive in the movies and on TV, he spent most of his time doing photography, which eventually became a lucrative second career for him since his services as photographer became in demand for print ads. His photography studio was in the posh Bricktown near the old Quad in Makati and below it was the family-owned restaurant.

Middle of last year – at the wake for the mother of Celia Rodriguez – I learned that Nestor had cancer and was in the United States for treatment. He was brought home during the last quarter of 2003, but apparently his condition did not improve.

Last Saturday morning, I was startled by this text message from Coney Reyes: "From Pastor Joby Soriano (Nestor’s son) – Dad is at home with the Lord. We rejoice with him." Nestor de Villa had died peacefully in his Alabang home, surrounded by his family, who – in the past many years – had embraced the good Lord.

It was with sadness that I read this message from Coney Reyes. Nida Blanca had gone ahead of him in 2001 and with Nestor now also gone, we are finally closing this most glorious chapter in Philippine movies.

Fans and other movie aficionados who followed his showbiz career will only have to take consolation in the fact that his beloved tandem with Nida Blanca may yet be revived in celestial heights. Who knows? Nida and Nestor may be dancing among angels right this very moment. No, not anymore in black and white, but in full heavenly color this time.

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