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Saturday, August 15, 2009

The houses that Vilma built

Batangas Gov. Vilma Santos had the first-hand experience of waking up one day only to realize she had lost everything — as in everything: Money, vehicles and even her home.

Ever persevering she worked triply hard — to the point of sacrificing her marriage (she had no choice) — in order to be able to bounce back financially. She did — and recovered her Magallanes home from getting foreclosed by the bank.

Vilma is one of those intelligent and sensible people who know that having your own home is an excellent form of investment. She has wisely invested on real estate through the decades and that has made life a lot more comfortable for her (she could live off the rentals).

Raised in the Sta. Cruz district of Manila, Vilma didn’t really have to work as a child star because both her parents were employed and could very well afford to feed the brood. But what do you do with a precocious daughter loaded with talent and itching to act in the movies? Vilma has never stopped working since she was cast in the title role of Trudis Liit at age nine.

When she was a teen star, she got a house for her and her family in one of those subdivisions (was it Arfel Homes?) off Visayas Avenue. When her residence was featured in one of the fan magazines that time, the readers gushed over her choice of a round bed — as opposed to the conventional rectangular bed of rival Nora Aunor whose own bedroom was featured in the opposite page.

Vilma eventually moved to Magallanes Village where son Luis was eventually born. When he was a kid, Luis decided to raise a pair of pigeons and Vilma was just too happy to see her then only son learning how to be responsible. From two, however, the pigeons multiplied to about 40 and they were all nesting on the roof of the Magallanes home. Some found their way inside the ceiling where they continued to grow in number.

In a scene that could have come straight from Alfred Hitchcock’s The Birds, the residents, Vilma included, were eventually terrorized by the avian creatures because these started pecking on the ceiling of the bedrooms and only heaven knew when the entire roof would collapse (and endanger the lives of the people below) from all that weight. Vilma was left with no choice but to ask Luis to give up this hobby.

In the early ‘90s, Vilma felt that it was time to move to another residence and found one in Green Meadows, then a relatively new subdivision. She didn’t sell the Magallanes home, however (she worked hard to recover that, remember?) and used it as storage for pieces of furniture and appliances that couldn’t be accommodated in her new house. The trophies she won for having been proclaimed Box-Office Queen many times over, for instance, had to be left behind in the old residence because compared to the small glass citations being given away now those were huge and bulky back then — some even measuring three feet in height. But in time, Vilma decided to have the Magallanes residence rented out for additional income. Recently, it was torn down and rebuilt and is now being rented out again.

I never saw that Magallanes home, but I’ve been to the one in Green Meadows. In fact, I was there during the blessing where a dinner reception followed. The house on Green Meadows has four rooms, but one had to be turned into Vilma’s dressing room and closet (a star of her stature needs a huge closet space). The other two were divided between sister Emelyn and Luis.

According to the other Green Meadows celebrity residents, they had no problem with Vilma as a neighbor. Joey de Leon would even tell me that whenever he and wife Eileen Macapagal would host parties at their home, they would sometimes call Vilma to join them and if she was home and wasn’t doing anything, she’d drive over and join in the celebration until the wee hours of the morning. Vilma, however, is no longer a Green Meadows resident. The house had actually been turned over to Luis, who is now enjoying his independence (he is a responsible kid and I know he can take care of himself).

For the past couple of years now, Vilma, her husband, former Sen. Ralph Recto (now very much in the news), and their son Ryan Christian had been staying in Alabang. No, I haven’t been there. Neither had it been shown to the public in the past.

Tonight, we will be given the chance to finally have a peek at this very private residence because it will be featured — along with Vilma as wife and mother — in Vilma: A Woman for All Seasons after Charo Santos’ Maalaala Mo Kaya on ABS-CBN. (Ai-Ai de las Alas is the guest co-host for this episode.)

The house is said to be tastefully designed by Budji Layug. It’s mostly wood and done in minimalist style. Yes, it is Vilma’s dream house and so don’t miss it for the world. After all, it’s an invitation from no less than the star for all seasons herself. Best of all, you don’t have to travel to far Alabang.

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