10 things you didnât know about Charo Santos-Concio

Charo Santos-Concio in numbers 35: Total number of awards and recognition received, including Best Actress at the Asian Film Festival for Itim in 1978 and Asian Media Woman of the Year in 2014. 35: Number of years she has been married to her husband, businessman Cesar Concio. They knew each other five years before getting married, and have a 24-year age gap. 60: The time in minutes it takes for Charo to get ready in the morning. “I hardly ever bring a change of clothes in the car. Kung anong suot ko, yun nay un day to night.”1,257: Total number of Maalaala Mo Kaya episodes aired to date, since the program started 26 years ago. Photo by Mark Nicdao, courtesy of ABS-CBN Publishing Inc.

10 things you didn’t know about Charo Santos-Concio

10 THINGS (The Philippine Star) - July 8, 2017 - 4:00pm

Within our almost-two-hour sit-down interview over lunch, her secretary Hazel came in three times to hand her reminders, Star Creatives PR head Mico del Rosario came to visit (“Naku, maganda ba yan,” she teases), the chief of staff of the office of the CEO Linggit Tan went in to have something approved (“But will you be giving the feedback on ideas that were not chosen?”), and Film Restoration head Leo Katigbak came in to say a quick hello (“Mag-cruise tayo! Sige, ha?”) She’s set to record her best-selling autobiography, My Journey, for an audiobook version to be released in both English and Tagalog formats. She’s flying to Singapore soon to shoot her new film. She still holds office on the executive floor of the ABS-CBN ELJ Building. How is this the life of a retiree?

Here are 10 things you might want to know about the lesser-known side of Charo Santos Concio.

1. “Ayoko ng hindi ngumingiti!”

 “They’ve been with me 25 years and up,” she shares about her household staff. “Manang Rosie has been our cook for the past 30 years. Inday has been my PA for the past 28 years.” One of them had a son who recently passed away, and when she came back after the internment, she told Charo, “Ma’am, sa’yo na ako forever, sa’yo na ako mamamatay.”

She is motherly and nurturing even to her staff, but she does have one particular pet peeve. “They all have to be smiling! Ayoko ng hindi pleasant,” she laughs. “Kung may problema ka, punta ka muna sa kwarto. Kung gusto mo ihinga, pag-usapan natin. But I don’t want you going around the house serving people na nakasimangot. Kahit masipag ka, kung hindi mo kayang ngumiti, pasensya na, but this is not the right house for you. People take smiling for granted! But really, it brings positive energy to the entire home.”

2. “Do I ever get mad? Oh, yes.”

“I get upset when they don’t tell me,” she says, sharing how she reprimands her household staff. “Anong magagawa natin sa nabasag na baso, diba wala? Pero at least alam ko na yung isang dosena, walo nalang pala,” she laughs. “If you want to encourage the behavior that people are open and upfront to you, you also have to show them understanding and kindness. Kung lalaitin mo from head to toe o sisigawan mo, that will only encourage them to keep things from you. Kailangan maintindihan mo na tao din sila, we all make mistakes.”

How does a Charo Santos get mad? “Paano nga ba,” she laughs as she asks her colleagues behind us. “I don’t scream, I don’t raise my voice unless provoked. Hindi ako hysterical na tao, eh. Pag nasa tama ako, I will not back down. I’m very sure about what I want to say, and I process the lessons with you.”

3. On enjoying being a grandmother of three: “Wow, this is what I missed.”

She takes a deep breath, thinking of the right words to say. “The truth is that it felt like I was walking on eggshells every day,” she reveals. “Because I married into an ‘instant family,’ it was a blended home.” She starts to recall when she and her husband Cesar were starting their family. “Yung first years of motherhood, sobrang ingat ko. Naninimbang ka, nakikisama ka, pati mga anak ko, pinakikisama ko. Mahirap.

 “So with my grandchildren, parang, yay! I can open up my arms,” her face lights up. “I can scream with them, play and run with them. They’re in my bed, they’re jumping in my arms,” she animatedly shares. “One time I told my husband, ‘This is what I missed with my sons.’”

It was not a line she delivered like an actress playing a pained mother would on an episode of Maalaala Mo Kaya; she just said it as a matter of fact. “I wasn’t emotional about it, there was no big drama about it. You know, it makes for a healthy relationship that you are able to be honest with each other, without having to make one feel bad,” she says, unintentionally offering relationship advice.  

4. On life and death: “I’m so candid about life. Death is part of life, hindi ko tinatakbuhan ang death.”

I discover this when we talk about a new interest she is taking up: painting. “Sabi ng mga anak ko, ‘Mommy ha, yung painting sa amin. Baka ‘pag namatay ka, magka-presyo ‘to!’” she laughs loudly.

She is a big fan of the Impressionists, particularly Vincent Van Gogh. Among the Filipino painters, she admires the work of Fernando Amorsolo. “I’m drawn to rural images, to paintings of farmers and fisherfolk, the simple life. Maybe because of my provincial background,” says the woman from Calapan, Mindoro.

She has done three paintings as of the time of this interview, and says it takes her around two hours to finish one. “Mabilis nga daw ako matuto. Siguro kasi one, wala akong expectations. Two, wala akong takot. Hindi naman ako nagpapa-impress! Gusto ko lang matuto. I’m not gonna be a master painter! At my age, I just want to enjoy the moment, I just want to learn and discover more.”

5. She loves creating DIY centerpieces for her home: “Manang, yung mga repolyo, ilabas mo na!”

 “Mahilig talaga ako. I just go to YouTube!” the broadcasting mogul candidly says. “For our small lunches and dinners at home, we do floral arrangements, I like matching the placemats with the plates and glasses. When I go to a wedding reception or a restaurant, I’m very observant, and I think, “I can also do that!” So when I get home, ‘Halika, Inday, gawin natin ‘to! Gawa tayo centerpiece.’”

While she is into decorating, it’s her husband Cesar who is into cooking. “I don’t compete. Kung saan magaling ang asawa ko, I give it to him. Kung saan ako magaling, he gives it to me,” she again unintentionally shares relationship advice with me. “So for example, planning for a party at home, ang menu sa kanya, ang decorations sa akin. Walang conflict! Let’s be aware of each other’s strengths and weaknesses, di ba,” she giggles.

 “Do you ever get wa-poise?” I had to ask her. “Oo naman, nadudulas din naman ako. I just laugh about it. I can laugh at myself, ha! I don’t take myself too seriously. If people put me in a certain box, really, if you get to know me, I wear dasters at home. Or yung lumang sirang T-shirt ng anak ko, gagamitin ko pa yan. Sasabihin ng anak ko pag bumisita, ‘Akin yan ah!’ It’s not always glamorous. I’m a real person,” she says laughing.

6. On fashion: “I can buy a top from Divi and it will not define me.”

 “You go to Divi? You?” I ask. She laughs. “Of course! If I want to go to some place, nothing stops me. Nagfi-fit ako sa kalye! ‘Ay, ang ganda ng tsinelas!’ ‘Rubber shoes, o. Magkano ‘to?’ ‘500 po.’ ‘500?!’ Naaaliw ako!” she animatedly narrates. “Naaaliw ako mag-palengke. Nepa-Q, Farmers, kumakain nga ako ng seafood diyan sa Farmers. Hindi ako mapipigilan sa ganyan!

“I’m very observant. Akala mo nakaupo lang ako, pero tinitingnan ko lahat. Yung damit, expression ng mukha. Naku, ito may problema. Ito naman, may pagka-OC. Because really, that is television and cinema. When you have a broader understanding of humanity, you can tell better stories.”

7. She inspires excellence, even in the way people around her present themselves: “Bakit lolang lola ka na ngayon? Hindi pwede.”

 “Don’t let go,” she gently tells a colleague. “Nahuhuli kita sa ibang araw. Walang nagre-remind sa’yo, no? Dress up, and don’t forget the lipstick, okay?” This advice isn’t delivered in a condescending tone; instead, she speaks in a motherly tone, with a smile.

On more than one occasion, she has called out her MMK staff to remind them to wear heels. There’s even one story about Charo following someone walking out of the elevator in ABS-CBN because the woman had gone to work with wet hair. “She just wants you to look professional, to look the part,” Charo’s makeup artist RB Chanco shares. RB herself was motivated by Charo to get in shape, losing 62 pounds in five months, and RB has never felt better about herself. “She said to me, ‘Here I am, in the business of telling my stars to look good, and here you are, my makeup artist and you’re letting go of yourself,’ then she held my double chin,” RB recalls. “Nagising talaga ako, na oo nga, it’s not even about the weight, but it’s about looking good and feeling good about yourself. And she has done this for so many other people, artista man o staff.”

8. She’s currently convincing Lav Diaz to direct a film that she will produce: “Pero Lav, two hours lang sana, or kahit two and a half, wag naman four!”

 “Binibiro ko siya, ‘Tingnan mo, how many screenings do your films get in a day? And who are the people who watch your films? The cineastes. You are not bringing in new audiences. Sayang. You have all the good intentions, and yet you won’t compromise your art. How is that?’” she shares. “I tell him, ‘Lav, wag ka mapipikon sa akin ha, hindi ako titigil. I will keep trying!’” she laughs.

Charo has spent the past months reading through scripts given to her, but she has given her nod to play the lead in Lav’s next film. It tells the story of an OFW who is on her way home to the Philippines to bury her son, and it is produced by the Film Society of Singapore. “The Film Society sold tickets, so while we are on set, he will be talking about his directing style, the process, then he’ll do a scene or two with me. Who would not want to listen to Lav Diaz, who is a god in the international film circuit?”

9. On what made her finally join Instagram: “I made the decision after two wonderful people convinced me.”

 “Last year at my birthday celebration, two wonderful people were gracious enough to surprise me — Piolo (Pascual) and Ian (Veneracion),” she says with a giggle and sparkling eyes. “They asked me, ‘Are you on IG? I think you should be on it, it’s a venue for your to express yourself.’ Coming from Piolo and Ian, they’re very encouraging,” she pauses. “Ang dali kong na-convince!” she says laughing.

 “Sabi ko sa sarili ko, ito ang mundong kalalakihan ng mga apo ako,” she says, shifting to a more serious tone. “I’d better teach them courage, how to handle the bad stuff, that life is not perfect. That there will always be people who will not be pleased with what you do or say, and you have to roll with the punches.”

10. On how to really be a “super” woman: “You can’t do it alone.”

 “You really need the support and unconditional love of your partner in life and your family. You can’t do it alone,” she emphasizes. “They have to see the beauty of your person and allow you to maximize the gifts that God gave you. It takes a lot of talking and listening to each other, it’s a balancing act.

 “You have to be a multi-tasker. You have to be good at walking the tightrope and not losing your balance. It takes a lot of fortitude and strength of character to portray the many roles expected of us.

 “I would also advise women to stay calm and serene, to not be overly dramatic about things. Minsan kasi yung maliit na bagay, pinapalaki natin, tapos mamaya the drama is all about us and how tired we are. When in fact all you have to do is inhale, and exhale.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

* * *

“If there was an MMK episode of your life, what would the title be?” I had to ask her. She smiles. “It would be my name, Rosario. ‘Rosary.’ Diba? Kasi ang buhay, may joyous, may sorrowful, tapos may glorious, may luminous. When you look back at your life, lahat ng kwento mo ay ala-ala. So make sure you make beautiful memories.”

* * *

Photos from the collection of Charo Santos Concio. A huge thanks to Hazel Sia, Mark Nicdao, and Cinemanews. Message the author @iamsuperbianca.

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