By Marivir R. Montebon
Dancing with the Dictator is gripping, culturally nuanced, and heartily written.
New York City – Philippine veteran actress Lorli Villanueva knows what reinvention means. The celebrated multi-talented star, perhaps best known for her long-running Maxima Labandera advertisement and director for the popular TV series Flor de Luna, launched her first two self-published books on October 27, 2017 in a signing party of more than a hundred guests at the Philippine Center. The books, Dancing with the Dictator and Realms of the Unknown, were launched in Manila in June.
The Dancing with the Dictator is a memoir of Villanueva’s luminous years as actress and director and an unknown kidnapping incident by Malacanang for her to be a “gift” to a physicist supposedly commissioned for the Bataan Nuclear Power Plant project. The book is gripping, culturally nuanced, and heartily written.
Villanueva had earlier said that she decided to write about her kidnapping experience “to give closure to a secret I feel should be shared with the world. We need to move on in order to sustain life. In the end, I found a very human person in a dictator and have accepted the fact that we live in the complex world of contradictions”
Asked why she was able to muster the strength to say no to Pres. Marcos’s insistence to be a ‘gift date’ (which could have meant her death for saying no), Villanueva attributed her upbringing, her father Col. Lorenzo Dimaala, especially, who taught them modesty and hard work. “Up to this date, my family remained ordinary and modest. My father raised us to be hardworking and honest. That I think made me strong to say no to the lure of power,” she said.
The book Living and Experiencing the Realms of the Unknown is Villanueva’s personal stories. “I believe God did not create us alone but everything beyond and around us. And we yet have to understand it or accept it,” she said.
Villanueva came to the US in the mid-1980s in search of greener pasture to raise her seven children. When asked by Amb.Virgilio Reyes why she left a luminous career in show business, she said that being a popular Philippine actress does not guarantee economic stability, hence she left for the US.
In the US, she chartered a new career as a teacher, starting off as a science teacher in a Catholic high school in the Bronx. Her being an actress and director were put in good use, for Lorli designed her class to be an artistic expression for learning.
Many years later, Villanueva was chair for the Special Education graduate department until she retired in 2014. During an interview with Awesome in 5 Minutes, Villanueva was asked on which role does she love best: whether as an actress, teacher, or writer. She had quickly responded that she loved the most being a teacher, because it is being paid less, it created the great impact on the lives of students.
For copies of the books, please visit www.lorlivillanueva.com