Vilma Santos and director Chito Roño recall fondly their nearly three-decade-old film

Leah C. Salterio - The Philippine Star
Vilma Santos and director Chito Roño recall fondly their nearly three-decade-old film
Star for All Seasons Vilma Santos graces the special sceening of the 1998 film ‘Bata, Bata Paano Ka Ginawa?’ — an event presented by the National Commission for Culture and the Arts (NCCA) and The Metropolitan Theater, in cooperation with the Film Development Council of the Philippines (FDCP) and ABS-CBN Sagip Pelikula.
Photo from Metropolitan Theater’s Facebook page

MANILA, Philippines — When Star for All Seasons Vilma Santos said goodbye to her showbiz career in 1998, albeit only temporarily, that year also marked her successful foray into politics, when she served initially as mayor of Lipa, Batangas, followed by governor and congressman.

Vilma’s last film was director Chito Roño’s “Bata, Bata, Paano Ka Ginawa?” based on the novel of award-winning writer, Lualhati Bautista.

“If I remember right, during the dubbing of ‘Bata, Bata, Paano Ka Ginawa?,’ when I was asked if I would run for mayor of Lipa,” Vilma recalled. “I was talking to direk Chito at that time and there were press people who wanted to confirm the news. That’s why ‘Bata, Bata, Paano Ka Ginawa?’ was memorable to me.”

The film, however, was not Vilma’s first project with direk Chito. They earlier worked together in the drama thriller, “Ikaw Lang” (1993), with Cesar Montano and Ronnie Ricketts.

The rights to “Bata, Bata Paano Ka Ginawa?” were earlier acquired by Viva Films. However, no film was being made for a long time.

“I convinced Malou Santos of Star Cinema to buy the rights of ‘Bata, Bata, Paano Ka Ginawa?’ from Viva,” direk Chito shared. “So, the project went to us and it was Ate Vi, of course, who starred in the film. In fact, 10 years after we did the film, Lea Bustamante pa rin ang pangalan ni Ate Vi sa phone ko.”

Vilma with her ‘Bata, Bata, Paano Ka Ginawa’ director Chito Roño (right) during the talkback session.

When “Bata, Bata, Paano Ka Ginawa?” was offered to the Star for All Seasons 26 years ago, she didn’t think twice about doing the project.

“When I first learned that the story was by award-winning writer Lualhati Bautista, there was no reason to say no,” Vilma maintained. “Then, the one who will direct (Chito Roño) was an ace director whom we all respect.”

“Thirdly, the life of Lea Bustamante, the lead character in the film, that’s my story. She’s a liberated woman. Every woman now is shouting ‘woman empowerment.’ Lea Bustamante is a perfect example of that,” she said.

“There’s nothing wrong if you have two husbands and two kids from different men. That’s me. My two sons came from different fathers. But no one can judge me. What is important is how you will face them and play your character as a woman, wife and mother.”

Vilma and Chito accept the Hiyas ng Sining certificates from the NCCA who coursed it through Met and the FDCP.
Photos from Metropolitan Theater’s Facebook page

The theme of “Bata, Bata, Paano Ka Ginawa?” is meticulous, as described by Vilma. “If the film was not conceptualized and directed well, there were ideas that might be misinterpreted. The good thing is that it was a very good and ace director like Chito Roño for me to appreciate a Lea Bustamante role. He often told me that Lea is very admirable.”

The role of Lea Bustamante as a mom is not easy for Vilma. “It’s not easy to be a mom, much more a single mom,” she explained. “The responsibility of a mom, just like Lea Bustamante in ‘Bata, Bata, Paano Ka Ginawa?,’ is enormous. We just celebrated Mother’s Day and I was with my two sons, Lucky and Ryan.”

“If you are able to raise your children as decent, humane and productive human being, that’s not easy. You will have to go through many challenges. There will come a time your children will lead their own lives and make their own decisions, as a mother, you need to adjust,” said she.

“The saying, ‘Mother knows best,’ doesn’t always work, especially now in this computer age, we need to adjust with our millennials. Being a mother is a gift from our Lord and we are the ones to enhance that so we will have good children.”

The veteran actress signs the ‘Bata, Bata, Paano Ka Ginawa?’ posters.

“I reiterated in the film, ‘Mga anak na desente and makatao,’ para magkaroon tayo ng desente at makaka-taong lipunan.”

Vilma admitted her life as a mother is never perfect through the years. “You probably thought, from what you see on the outside, I am a perfect person or woman or mother. Hindi rin.”

“There are many challenges and trials in life. My life is not really perfect. But there will come a time when you will find a solution for your problem, for your family or even for your children.”

She advised: “Face the truth. Just wait. Just give them a good reminder and at the end of the day, they will hopefully make the right decision. You will be surprised because later on, they will realize what they want in life. You have no choice but to be a good mother and give good guidance to them.”

After six decades in the industry, which Vilma marked last year, the multi-awarded actress already psyched herself, whether or not the National Artist award will be given to her.

“In my six decades in showbiz, I kept on saying, if it’s really meant to be, it will definitely happen,” Vilma said. “But if not yet and it is not yet yours, that will not happen. What is important is what are you as a person and the things you accomplished.”

“Bata, Bata, Paano Ka Ginawa?” also stars Ariel Rivera, Albert Martinez, Carlo Aquino, Serena Dalrymple, Cherry Pie Picache, Angel Aquino, Raymond Bagatsing, Rosemarie Gil, Cita Astals, Dexter Doria, and Andrea del Rosario.

The National Commission for Culture and the Arts presented the restored version of “Bata, Bata, Paano Ka Ginawa?” at the Manila Metropolitan Theater last Sunday, with the Film Development Council of the Philippines (FDCP), ABS-CBN Sagip Pelikula, and Star Cinema.

The triumvirate of direk Chito, Vilma, and Lualhati Bautista worked together again in another blockbuster project, “Dekada ‘70” (2002). Much later, Vilma and direk Chito teamed up anew in the suspense drama, “The Healing.”

Direk Chito and Vilma are set to work on their fifth project any time soon.

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