MANILA, NOVEMBER 4, 2003  (MALAYA) by MARIO BAUTISTA - VILMA Santos turned 50 on Nov. 3. So who says one cannot have it all? Vilma Santos is currently enjoying life to the fullest, with all its various aspects successful for her. Her family life with Sen. Ralph Recto and sons Luis Phillipe and Ryan Christian is doing very well. As an actress, she has already won so many acting honors and each new film she does enjoys both artistic and box office success. As a public servant, she is well loved by her constituents in Lipa and has won a number of honors since she became the city mayor in 1998.

"The Lord is good to me and I really cannot ask for more," she beams.

Maria Rosa Vilma Santos was born to Milagros and the late Amado Santos in Trozo, Manila on November 3, 1953. A lively tot, she got her acting genes from her dad, a former bit player himself. An uncle who was with Sampaguita Pictures, Amaury Agra, introduced her to star-maker Dr. Jose Perez who was then looking for a new child star to star in "Trudis Liit," a novel of the late Mars Ravelo in "Liwayway Magazine." Three hundred little girls applied at the audition. Ate Vi got the title role while another child, Connie Angeles (who became vice mayor of Quezon City), was cast as her younger sister. Lolita Rodriguez played their mother, with Bella Flores as the evil contravida. The film was released in February of 1963 and was a hit.

This started the showbiz career of Ate Vi. Her most unforgettable film as a child actress is the Hollywood movie, "The Longest Hundred Miles," where she co-starred with international film stars Ricardo Montalban, Katharine Ross and Doug McClure. From 1963 to 1969, she did 27 movies as a child actress. At 14, she got her first FAMAS nomination as a supporting actress in "Kasalanan Kaya?" where she played the daughter of Lolita and Eddie Rodriguez.

She also started her career as a teen star opposite Edgar Mortiz, a "Tawag ng Tanghalan" champion. Their first film was "My Darling Eddie," where they supported the late Eddie Peregrina, the most famous singer of that era. This saw the birth of the Vi-Bobot love team, the chief rival of the Nora Aunor-Tirso Cruz III "Guy and Pip" love team.

In 1970, the Vi and Bobot love team was launched in its first starring role in Tagalog Ilang-Ilang Productions' "Love is for the Two of Us." This was followed by "Karugtong ang Kahapon," "Renee Rose," "Aloha My Love" (filmed in Hawaii), "Don't Ever Say Goodbye" (filmed in Las Vegas and Reno, USA), "Kampanerang Kuba," "Biktima," and many other films, including "Dama de Noche," for which she won her first FAMAS best actress award in 1973.

Vi and Bobot became real-life sweethearts and also starred in the hit TV show, "D'Sensations." But they broke up in 1974 and Ate Vi established her solo career. Their fans felt very sad but it's really time for Ate Vi to go on her own. She hit it big solo in the trilogy fantasy, "Lipad, Darna, Lipad," which had sequels like "Darna vs. The Giants," "Darna vs. The Planet Women" and "Darna at Ding."

She was also a hit in "Dyesebel" and the thrillers "Takbo, Vilma, Dali" and "Hatinggabi Na, Vilma." She also did other fantasy films like "Phantom Lady," "Vivian Volta," "Wonder Vi," and "Vilma and the Beep Beep Minica."

Ate Vi thus became the chief opponent of Nora Aunor as the movie queen of the 1970s. Her edge is that she also became the queen of hit disco movies filled with singing and dancing, like "Swing It, Baby," "Disco Fever," "Rock Baby Rock," "Let's Do the Salsa," and the movie she did with Latin idol Junior, "Good Morning Sunshine."

In 1980, Ate Vi married budding actor Edu Manzano in Las Vegas, USA, while shooting the film, "Romansa." She was pregnant with Lucky (now called Luis) when she did "Pakawalan Mo Ako" in 1981, for which she won her second FAMAS best actress award. In 1984, her marriage to Edu ended in separation, and she did movies that mirrored her real-life affairs, "Hiwalay" and "Ex-Wife," both big hits.

Some people say that love and career do not go well together, but Ate Vi managed to be successful in both areas when she met Ralph Recto in 1986 at the King Kong Disco in Quezon City, owned by Director Marilou Abaya. The grandson of the respected Claro M. Recto, the father of the Philippine Constitution, Ralph was daring enough to ask her to dance with him and this led to an affair that culminated in front of the altar when they tied the knot officially at the Lipa Cathedral on December 11, 1992. This became a big event attended by the biggest names in showbiz and politics.

In summary, these are the most memorable films all diehard Vilmanians should review as their idol, now an icon in Philippine cinema, celebrate her 50th birthday:

"Inspiration" - Her first film with Director Ishmael Bernal, a simple but well-made teen love story where she is paired with the late Jay Ilagan.

"Tag-ulan sa Tag-araw" - She and Christopher de Leon play first cousins who fall in love with each other. Directed by Celso Ad. Castillo.

"Dama De Noche" - She plays the role of twin sisters, one of whom is a lunatic.

"Dalawang Pugad Isang Ibon" - A film about love and infidelity with Romeo Vasquez.

"Ikaw ay Akin" - A love triangle film with Nora Aunor and Christopher de Leon where she played a rich but neurotic heiress.

"Burlesk Queen" - Vilma at her most daring with the much talked about prolonged climax where she dances herself on stage to death to abort her baby.

"Pagputi ng Uwak, Pag-itim ng Tagak" - A doomed love story about a rich girl and a poor farmer (Bembol Roco) who joins the rebel movement.

"Rubia Servios" - Vilma is unforgettable as a rape victim who gets to kill her rapist after he abducts her again.

"Relasyon" - A film that shows how it is to be a married man's mistress, with Vilma scoring a grand slam as best actress.

"Broken Marriage" - A study on the disintegration of a marriage that is compared to what is happening to our country after the assassination of Ninoy Aquino.

"Sister Stella L." - A film about a nun's politicalization as she comes face to face with labor unrest.

"Saan Nagtatago ang Pag-ibig" - Vilma plays a girl who marries a retardate (Tonton Gutierrez) to give a name to her illegitimate child.

"Pahiram ng Isang Umaga" - Vilma gives a poignant performance as a career woman who puts her life in order, reconciling with the father (Gabby Concepcion) of her son (Billy Joe Crawford), before dying of cancer.

"Dahil Mahal Kita, The Dolzura Cortez Story" - Ate Vi gives a great performance in the true story of the first AIDS patient in the country.

"Ipagpatawad Mo" - Vilma delivers an affecting portrayal of a mother who will not give up on her autistic son.

"Bata, Bata, Paano Ka Ginawa" - Vilma won several awards (including the best actress award from the Brussels International Filmfest) as a single mother bringing up her two kids with two different fathers.

"Anak" - Vilma in one of her best performances as a domestic helper in Hong Kong who comes home and finds herself estranged from her children.

"Dekada '70" - Her last movie where she played the role of a mother with five sons growing up in a tumultuous decade in our country's history.

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Congratulations to GMA News and Public Affairs. Their documentary program, "I-Witness," which has won the George Peabody Award in the U.S. before, is now one of finalists in the prestigious Japan Prize 2003 for the Program Division in the Issues in the Education Category for the episode "Babalik Na Si Ma'am" ("Teacher is Coming Home"), an in-depth documentary on teachers who search for greener pastures in overseas employment.

Presented by Howie Severino, we saw the touching documentary that focuses on a teacher who, after working as a domestic helper in Hong Kong, has decided to return to the Philippines and risk suffering the same penurious conditions that forced her to leave before.

"I-Witness" airs Monday nights after "Saksi" on GMA.

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New TV shows start in the U.S. during the fall season and here are the hottest new shows.

"Skin" - A Romeo and Juliet story about the daughter (Olivia Wilde) of a porno producer who falls in love with the son (DJ Cotrona) of the district attorney prosecuting her father.

"Two and a Half Men" - The new sitcom starring Charlie Sheen who allows his divorced brother (Jon Cryer) and young son (Angus Jones) to live with him in his bachelor pad.

"Navy NCIS" - A forensic drama that combines "Jag" and the hit "CSI" starring Mark Harmon.

"I'm With Her" - Written by Chris Henchy, husband of Brooke Shields who gave birth to their first baby after seven in vitro fertilization tries and one miscarriage, this is a comedy about a high school teacher (Patrick Owen) who falls in love with a famous movie stars (Teri Polo). The story is said to be based on the own experiences of Henchy with Brooke.

"Whoopi" - A sitcom with Oscar winner Whoopi Goldberg playing a former singer who oversees a small hotel and insults guests.

"Coupling" - "Friends" is having its last season so this new show is also about six friends in Chicago, only, this one is sexier as they are seen hopping in and out of bed all the time. Said to be based on a hit British show.

"Miss Match" - Alicia Silverstone's first TV show where she plays a Los Angeles divorce lawyer by day and a matchmaker by night.

"Joan of Arcadia" - About a teenager named Joan (Amber Tamblyn) who gets to talk to God who she sees in various forms, with Joe Mantegna and Mary Steenburgen as her parents.

"Tarzan" - 24-year old Australian Travis Fimmel (best known as the new Calvin Klein model) stars as the Lord of the Apes taken to the concrete jungles of New York with Sarah Wayne Callies as the female detective who's his love interest.

"The Lyon's Den" - This is the new show of Rob Lowe after he left "West Wing" and he plays do-gooder lawyer who rejects politics to do pro-bono cases.

Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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