Dina Bonnevie: In the house she built on grit and tears

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A well-travelled woman, Dina collects coins from the countries she visits. She buried the coins in the foundation of the house, following time-honored Philippine tradition, which holds that this brings good luck. "All the coins from all over Asia and Europe, nasa ilalim nito," she says. "Lahat ng poste nito, puro coins and bills from all over the world, from all my trips."


Dina Bonnevie is the type who will recite a litany on proper furniture cleaning one minute, and then in the next minute break into a treatise on the viability of placing overseas calls via the Internet. She’s the type who prefers solving crossword puzzles to chatting away during waiting hours at tapings or shootings.

Pag umupo ako, gusto ko intelligent conversation,” she says matter-of-factly. “God knows how long it takes to set up the lights. Why will I waste my time?”

At the time of this house shoot, the 44-year-old actress—who says she doesn’t read fiction and only reads self-help books on business and leadership—is busy opening Asian markets for Fusion Telecommunications, a New York-based telecommunications company in which she’s the director for overseas market development.

While she now has one foot in the corporate world, part of her heart continues to beat for the glittery world of showbiz. Here, she’s a star, one who has made 59 films, garnered numerous acting awards and nominations, and appeared in hit soap operas, the most recent of which was ABS-CBN’s Hiram (2005) “With show business kasi, I’m not insecure, e,” she says.

But showbiz now offers few challenges.

“I have nothing to prove. Parang, been there, done that, and back. Parang, what’s there that I haven’t done? I mean, awards, ang dami ko na. Nominations, every year. Ano pa? What’s there to prove? Nothing. Parang, the roles naman being offered are paulit-ulit, wala na bang iba? Parang give me naman some challenge. Give me a role na hindi ko pa nagagawa.”

When the conversation shifts to the house she built at Ayala Heights, Quezon City, the feisty Dina can’t help but bring up the dark days.

She was an almost-penniless actress and newly single mom after her June 1986 separation from TV host and comedian Vic Sotto. Her first “moving on” step was to buy a lot worth P1.3 million in a relatively unknown and hilly part of Quezon City. She had been persuaded to take it by a real-estate agent named Rose, from whom she was already set to buy a house-and-lot in Alabang worth the same amount.

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“I don’t know,” she recalls. “Parang someone told me: go! go! go!”

She only had P5,000 in her bank account at the time of the breakup. She had no idea where she was going to get the money to build a house on the Quezon City lot. But somehow she made it in two years’ time.

“I actually moved to this house in 1988. Actually, symbolically nga, I moved here August 8, 1988. Talagang I wanted 8888.”

She remembers that day well, and the memory brings tears to her eyes.

Dapat dadating ’yong truck na maghoho-haul ng gamit. And then, unfortunately, that day there was a very, very huge storm! Hindi nakarating ’yong truck. E, last day ko na sa condo unit. I was living in Champagne Edition Condominium [Pasig City]. Nagalit ’yong may-ari ng condo kasi hindi pa ako makaalis. Sabi niya: ‘Dapat umalis ka na today, kasi may lilipat na. Dapat July 31 ka pa umalis. August 8 na ngayon!’ Nagmumura siya and everything, so pinilit ko talaga to go.”

Since her driver didn’t come to work that day, Dina had to drive her van. “Hindi pa ’ko masyadong marunong mag-drive noon, kasi all throughout the time naman that I was married to Vic, I always had a driver and a bodyguard.”

But her troubles were not over yet. On the way to her new house, she got caught by a traffic enforcer for an offense she can no longer recall. Fortunately for Dina, the enforcer agreed to let her go in exchange for passes to a Sharon Cuneta movie. When Dina and her kids finally got to the newly built house, all three of them couldn’t stop the tears.

Alam mo, talagang iyak ako nang iyak. ’Tapos, ’yong mga bata, they were crying and crying. Oyo was only four. Danica was six. Ang ginawa ko, naglatag lang ako ng comforter diyan sa sala. Wala ’to. Talagang bare. It was just a shell. Nothing! Iyak ako nang iyak. Then, inisip ko, God is with me, God is with me. ’Tapos, ’nilatag ko lang ’yong comforter, ’tapos pinatulog ko ’yong mga bata. Parang binigyan ko ng milk. Pinadede ko sila.”

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The next morning, her friends from Viva, led by production designer Manny Morfe, came by and helped her haul the stuff that she had left in her old condo. Her manager, June Torrejon-Rufino, also came and helped out. “Nagdala siya ng food dahil gutom na gutom na kami ng mga bata. I really could not afford anything!”

In her new place, Dina could only afford a yaya for her kids and a personal driver. It was also at this time that Viva Films, the production outfit that managed her, stopped making movies. “Parang there was internal gulo in Viva, so none of us were doing movies. ’Tapos, parang pinag-iinitan ang lahat ng Viva stars ng BIR [Bureau of Internal Revenue].”

But luck was still on Dina’s side. Her career began soaring again in the 1990s. In 1992, her marriage to Vic was annulled. She remarried in 1996, but the new husband, Dick Penson, proved less than ideal, and this marriage, too, was annulled. Always unfazed, Miss D has since carried on.

At press time, Dina Bonnevie is busy being a corporate mom and a fine talker whose big topic is her kids. Her daughter Danica is set to wed Purefoods cager Marc Pingris on March 3, 2007. Film buff Oyo Boy, on the other hand, is being groomed to head M-Zet Films, which is owned by dad Vic. And, yes, she and Vic Sotto are friends again.


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