What I've Learned

Vivian Velez

Vivian Velez talks about being a sex symbol, motherhood, and the local film industry.
IMAGE Jason Quibilan
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This piece originally appeared in our June 2014 issue.

I produced my own films at the age of 19, 20 years old. I thought if people make money out of me, I might as well make money out of myself.

I started as a moneymaking machine. I think I did 17 films a year. I was doing a lot of films but I didn’t know it was that much.

At that time in the business I was bankable, but when it comes to acting no one would trust me. Kasi I was considered Miss Body Beautiful, sex symbol.

I just wanted to do it (jumping from the 10th floor of a building for a scene in Babaeng Hinugot sa Aking Tadyang). I just dared myself. I have a fear of heights—so now wala na. It was Dante Varona coaching me how I should do it. In fact, he was there when I did a stunt. I was young. When you’re young, you’re fearless.

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I don’t know what you call sexy pero do’n sa Bago Lumamig ang Sabaw namin ni Joseph [Estrada] hindi naman sexy. Ang ginawa ko lang do’n I went to the beach and I wore a bikini, and that’s it. Pero people kasi naman at that time when they go to the beach they wear shorts and a T-shirt. E ako naman galing ako sa U.S., siyempre string bikini 'di ba? Sabi nila, ‘Oh my god, she’s so bold!’ E sa U.S. naman di 'ba everybody’s wearing short shorts and bra-less. Siyempre, dito bold na ‘yun. Sabi ko, ‘Oh, okay.’

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I learned so many things when I became a mother. Patience. That time is not yours anymore. When you have children, when they say “now” it means “now”. Priorities also. Pero ngayon they teach you some other things, mas magagaling na sila sa’yo. Ikaw na ngayon ka-catch up sa kanila.

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At first I turned it down (the middleman role of Thelma in On The Job). I said, ‘I don’t think you need me for this role.’ Can you imagine I was just going to be in the car all the time? Wala man lang blocking. Hindi man lang ako lalakad. Just you sitting there, with half of your face and then naka-shades pa. But the challenge was, [despite all of that] you need the audience to feel your presence. Sabi ni Direk Erik Matti, kailangan ko yung voice mo, that command, even if you’re not stressing it, suwabe lang. I think it came out good naman.

When I come to the set, I expect the same kind of professionalism. I go to the set an hour early. I got that from Lolita Rodriguez. Minsan kasi sa industry, akala ng mga tao it’s just glamorized work. When it comes out it’s all glitter. But it’s not. Behind it is hard work.

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Movies is a make-believe world. I can’t see myself doing anything else. Para talagang destiny e. Can you imagine, when we were kids we always like to play roles? Can you imagine me doing it right now, still playing roles but getting paid for it, and you’re licensed to be a killer and do whatever onscreen. And then pag-cut ng director, uwi ka na. Tapos na.

I worked with the Big Three: Fernando Poe Jr., Joseph Estrada, Ramon Revilla. Did any of them try to court me? I’m not gonna say. They’re gentlemen. I mean, they won’t be there if they’re—sorry for the word—assholes. They have the trappings of a big star (laughs). Mga lalaki pa. Pagka dumating sila kailangan, they’re the king.

How many times have I been married? I don’t want to talk about it.

No matter what happened, I still believe in that institution. It gives you a lot of privileges. It gives you status in life. It gives you stability.

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My first indie movie, Bendor, was a great challenge for me as an actor since I had to shed all glamour No bells and whistles in that movie. I mean it was like, “look fat, old, tired, and unglamorous!” Yikes! Exactly the opposite of us actors.

Acting is more than just a job, it’s artwork and hard work built into one.

My parents taught me values I could never, ever repay them for. You see, when the going gets tough, values take over. Almost unconsciously.

The complete cycle of life is: birth, life and existence, then death. Between birth and death are many stages, and growing old is just one of those things. I am not afraid of it.

Being called Miss Body Beautiful, I can say I was proud of it. It’s so hard for me to shake it off. And in the later years it became like bondage. But then at one point, napaka-ipokrita ko naman para sabihing hindi masarap pakinggan. Masarap naman pakinggan yun, di ba?

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