A Book Review by Marivir R. Montebon
New York City – Lorli Villanueva’s Dancing with the Dictator is a flawless account of an odd moment in her abundant life – when she’s kidnapped by Malacanang, for a supposed romantic match date stubbornly set up by Pres. Marcos himself.
Perhaps because Villanueva is a veteran actress, director, and teacher, reading through her self-published memoir is like watching an exciting movie: fast-paced, detailed, and peppered with raw emotions.
In that five-day disappearance, Villanueva vividly recounts how she is thrust in the opulence of life and power, dining and dancing with the most powerful man of the Philippines. While she’s gone, the people she left behind, her shooting crew and family, were in disarray.
While in the pampered care of the president’s soldiers and crew, a normal person would likely give in to the political patron’s wishes, as absolute power is alluring and dreadful. Who would want to be dumped dead for refusing the president’s offer to be a ‘gift’ to someone to undertake major project in the country? But Villanueva said no and managed to keep her hysteria down, and refused Marcos’s offer.
Dancing with the Dictator is an attestation on how a woman can gracefully and sternly say no to the sweet insistence of a dictator.
Villanueva recalls that her relationship with the Marcoses had not been scarred after the incident, but rather resulted in respect and distance. After the kidnapping, she’s returned back into her normal hectic schedule by the same soldiers that whisked her away. Just like that.
Bewildered and shocked, she healed silently and kept the kidnapping a secret for so many years, grateful that she was not killed. Her life as a celebrity and a reputable teacher and administrator in the US would later unfold.
I read the book in one seating. You would not put it down too. I am glad that Villanueva lived to tell her narrative that gives an intimate look at how immense power can entitle a person to simply pick up someone (and disrupt her life), and like an object, be offered as a gift to realize a monstrous project. Villanueva’s memoir has to be a movie.
Watch Ms. Lorli Villanueva in our debut episode of Awesome in 5 Minutes video show. She talks of her books and snippets of her awesome life as an actress, director, singer, and teacher.