By Vanette Colmenares
New York City – Unlike me, my children and husband were never fond of Tagalog/Filipino movies. They grew up at a time when G.I. Joes and Barbie dolls were their favorites and the songs of Madonna and Michael Jackson were what they wanted to hear. And hubby doesn’t like Filipino dramas, what with too many of those face slapping acts with accompanying “Lumayas ka” (Get out!) speaking lines.
As for me, I like drama—Pinoy or foreign—-they don’t call me drama queen for nothing. I remember my mom telling me that I would look at myself in the mirror and cry–just to see if my acting was as good as the one on TV.
Last night, I attended a book signing event of a staunch activist during Martial Law days, and a known actress of her time—-well my time. I did see a few of her movies like “Tinimbang Ka Ngunit Kulang” by Lino Brocka as it was a school assignment.
Today, with coffee, I read her book, Dancing with the Dictator.”
I didn’t know that Lorli Villanueva came from Negros and spoke fluent Ilonggo, and was schooled at the Inmaculada Concepcion in Cebu which was just a stone’s throw away from my home during my early years of married life.
Her real family name is Dima-ala, and she just chose ‘Villanueva’ as her screen name as it can easily be remembered. The book contained snippets of her achievements in the Philippines, including her roles as an artist and activist. Having raised 7 children is a major feat to life. She has dedicated the book to them. In my opinion, Lorli Villanueva is one tough cookie and a pretty one too.
She starts her book with an escape prior to the declaration of Martial Law by the late President Marcos. I guess it started as a rumor waiting to happen because within the same time, an uncle of mine, who was the executive secretary of Marcos then, Rafael Salas, also left for the States and became the first director for the United Nations Population Fund.
When the airline industry in the Philippines first launched the Airbus, Lorli was key in handling the demonstration flights locally. As part of her job, she visited Malacanang occasionally to discuss flights that would accompany guests of the president and Mrs. Marcos.
In her book, she wrote about meeting my uncle, Rafael Salas, and mentioned him as ‘most instrumental in helping me get the approval of the demo flight. He was circumspect and a gentleman. I was totally impressed and grateful for his help.” Yes, that’s my uncle, I was beaming with pride.
Lorli Villanueva has come a long way from being a renowned artist back in the Philippines to an academic teacher here in the US. As Bibsy Carballo wrote ,” Lorli is highly talented and intelligent woman who is capable of achieving anything with the highest standard, that she sets her heart into.”
Congratulations, Lorli! (Featured photo is Lorli Villanueva and the writer Vanette Colmenares)