Vilma Santos ‘deeply humbled’ by National Artist nomination

Nathalie Tomada - The Philippine Star
Vilma Santos �deeply humbled� by National Artist nomination
Vilma Santos shares her reaction to being nominated by AKTOR Ph and endorsed by industry colleagues and groups to be National Artist for Film and Broadcast Arts.
STAR / File

Vilma Santos is “deeply humbled” by the nomination to the Order of National Artists (ONA) by Aktor PH, a league of actors led by Dingdong Dantes, plus endorsements from at least 20 other groups, including film producers and educators.

The ONA is considered the highest national recognition given to Filipinos who have made exemplary contributions to the development and growth of the Philippine arts.

“I am deeply humbled and sincerely grateful to Aktor PH, led by chairman Dingdong Dantes, for its endorsement,” the veteran star, who was out of the country when she was informed of the nom on Friday, told The STAR when asked for her reaction.

“Maraming, maraming salamat po to my colleagues in the entertainment industry for this honor. My heart is full. I hope and pray for the best — that all your efforts will not be futile.

“Alam naman po natin that there are others who are equally deserving of this award. Ang maipapangako ko lamang po ay ang aking walang sawang pagsuporta sa ikauunlad ng ating sining at ng buong Philippine entertainment industry.

KTOR PH chairperson Dingdong Dantes (center) is joined by former Department of Education undersecretaries, lawyer Toni Umali and Jesus Mateo, during the presscon formally announcing the league of actors' nomination of Vilma to the Order of National Artists.

“Mabuhay po tayong lahat at mula sa puso … MARAMING SALAMAT PONG MULI!!!”

During a presscon to formally announce their nomination, Dingdong noted that Aktor PH is just one of the groups pushing for and “rallying behind” Vilma to be declared as National Artist for Film and Broadcast Arts.

“We look up to her. She’s a paragon of what it is to be an actor,” he said during the interview.

When asked if he felt it was time for Vilma to be recognized as a National Artist, the Kapuso star said, “Personally, I believe in timing, the right time. Maybe I can answer that question about how Ate Vi has impacted me.

“I would say her impact is generational, spanning all seasons and decades. My first encounter with Ate Vi that I’ll never forget was in the late ‘80s when we promoted our school play at her GMA show in Broadway Centrum. I was around seven years old, I think, at that time.

“Since then, her impact has been unique because as I entered the industry, her body of work, her persona, her presence in general — whether physical or not — really became part of my consciousness. Even up to now, she has remained very relevant, and I think that’s the most important thing.

“If this had happened 10 years ago, would it be more fitting? I don’t know, but now, after experiencing all of this, especially since she recently turned 70 and considering her 60 years in the industry — that means she started when she was 10 — this is the right time, in my personal opinion.”

In his separate speech, Dingdong said the actress has been synonymous with “unparalleled craftsmanship” in Philippine cinema.

“For 60 years, Vilma has graced the silver screen with an incomparable body of work, portraying a diverse array of characters that showcase her immense talent. Renowned for breathing life into roles described as ‘women of substance,’ she has garnered numerous awards from prestigious bodies, both local and international, solidifying her status as the most awarded actress in Philippine cinema history,” he said.

The Aktor PH chairman also looked back on Vilma’s extensive filmography that started with “Trudis Liit,” where she earned her first acting award as Best Child Actress at the 1963 FAMAS, as well as the subsequent films that covered a range of genres, themes and roles.

These included her portrayal of a nun who got involved in a labor strike (“Sister Stella L,” 1984); an AIDS patient (“Because I Love You: The Dolzura Cortez Story,” 1992); an overseas Filipino worker (“Anak,” 1998 and “When I Met You in Tokyo,” 2023); a rape survivor (“Rubia Servios,” 1978); an apolitical mother who finds her voice during the Martial Law (“Dekada 70,” 1998); a women’s rights advocate (“Bata Bata Paano Ka Ginawa?,” 1998); and a psychiatrist who helps a mentally-challenged boy (“Nag-iisang Bituin,” 1994), among many others.

Aktor PH also cited her accomplishments beyond the entertainment industry, particularly in the field of public service, when she served as mayor, governor, and then congressman before quitting politics in 2022.

“For giving voice to the Filipino in her many guises, struggles and opportunities across six decades, she has portrayed the evolution of Filipinos. Through her accomplished portrayals in both movies, television, and public service, we believe that Vilma Santos has contributed significantly to the development of Filipino cultural impact and identity,” Dingdong further said in his speech.

“We honor her as a paragon of professionalism, a protector of community, a cultural champion, and a nation-builder,” added the actor on behalf of Aktor PH’s board of directors — Piolo Pascual, Iza Calzado, Agot Isidro, Cherry Pie Picache, Mylene Dizon, Jasmine Curtis-Smith — and board of advisers, namely Christopher de Leon, Tirso Cruz III and Charo Santos.

“We wholeheartedly endorse the nomination of Rosa Vilma Santos-Recto to the Order of National Artist for Film and Broadcast.”

The groups that endorsed Vilma’s nomination included the Philippine Association of State Universities and Colleges, UP College of Mass Communication, Bicol University, Fashion Designers Association of the Philippines, Society of Filipino Archivists for Film (SOFIA), Viva Communications, University of Sto. Tomas’ Department of Communication and Media Studies, and the Metro Manila Association of Retired and Retiring Educators.

The nomination was also supported by the fan groups of the “Star for All Seasons,” such as Vilma Santos Solid International, Inc., Association of Millennials for Vilma Santos, Vilma Santos Recto - The Star For All Seasons Group, Silent Incomparable Legit Vilmanian International, Friends Forever Vilmanian, Vilma Santos Friends Forever, Inc., among others.

The selection normally goes through a tedious process of three rounds, which begins with a nomination. The third round features a voting panel consisting of the joint boards of the Cultural Center of the Philippines (CCP) and the National Commission for Culture and the Arts (NCCA), plus all living National Artists.

According to the NCCA website, recipients are entitled to the following privileges: The rank and title of National Artist; gold-plated medallion minted by the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) and citation; and a lifetime emolument and material and physical benefits comparable in value to those received by the highest officers of the land.

Previous recipients of the National Artist award included Lamberto Avellana, Gerardo de Leon, Lino Brocka, Ishmael Bernal, Fernando Poe Jr., Manuel Conde, Kidlat Tahimik, Ricky Lee, Marilou Diaz-Abaya and Nora Aunor.

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