Vilma Santos recalls the moment she was financially "back to zero"

by Nikko Tuazon
May 16, 2021
Vilma Santos, 15 Greatest Actresses
One of the important lessons Vilma Santos learned from the financial crisis she experienced in the early 80s is to read everything that requires her signature: "Kasi nung araw, pag ibibigay lang sa akin, sige pirma kasi antok ako sa pagod. Ayon pala, ang pinipirmahan ko isang milyon na, naka-cash."
PHOTO/S: Ronnie Salvacion for YES! Magazine October 2015

If there's one lesson the Star for All Seasons Vilma Santos would like to share with the younger celebrities, it's how to properly handle their money.

In an exclusive interview with PEP.ph (Philippine Entertainment Portal) via Zoom last April 28, 2021, the 67-year-old actress/politician said it was one of the most important lessons she has imparted to some of the country's biggest stars, such as Piolo Pascual and Marvin Agustin.

She had the pleasure of working with the two in the 2002 film Dekada '70.

Vilma, also known to many as Ate Vi, cited her own financial problems in the early 80s as an example for the younger stars.

She recalled, "During break, lagi ko po silang kinakausap at nag-she-share po ako sa kanila ng mga experiences ko bilang isang artista at bilang isang artista na nagkaroon ng problema financially.

"Literally, back to zero. Nagka-utang-utang and everything, shine-share ko iyon sa kanila lahat kung papaano nangyari sa akin iyon.

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"So even actors who are earning a lot, ang laki ng pera diyan, I always tell them please, please learn how to take care of your money.

"Kasi tomorrow is another day. Baka bukas, hindi ka na sikat. Ang dami mong pinagbibibili nang wala ka nang pambayad. Talagang lulubog ka financially.

"And it happened to me nung I was financially back to zero. So shine-share ko iyon sa kanilang lahat. How to recover, how to take care of their money, kung papaano nila dapat mahalin iyang career nilang iyan.

"Things like that na nashe-share ko po sa mga co-stars ko."

The Ekstra actress noted the importance of properly handling their money, pointing out that nothing is constant in the world of showbiz, especially now that the industry is much more competitive.

She said, "Lalo ngayon, ambilis ng palitan ng mga artista. I mean in a month or two, may bago na namang mukha ang lalabas.

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"That's not good actually, mahihirapan kang umangat dahil ang dami niyo. Kailangan talaga may X factor ka para ikaw ang umangat sa dami niyo.

"Unlike noong panahon namin, nung generation namin, iilan ilan lang kami kaya naalagaan kami.

"At saka hindi pa ganyan ang technology. So kami lahat, talagang trinabaho namin para makilala kami.

"Umiikot-ikot kami sa mga probi-probinsiya physically para ipakilala iyong mga sarili namin. Wala pang social media noon."

VILMA'S FINANCIAL CRISIS

It can be recalled that Ate Vi once had to pay millions worth of debt in the early 80s. This happened when she was pregnant with her eldest son Luis Manzano, who is now 40 years old.

At that time, Ate Vi said she wasn't aware that her debt to the Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) and banks had amassed to around PHP8 million.

The experience taught her not to be too trusting.

The award-winning actress told PEP.ph, "Kasi bata pa ako, e, hindi ako nagma-manage ng career ko. Sanay lang ako na binibilhan ng damit. Hindi ko hawak iyong pera ko.

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"Siyempre sa mama ko napupunta at sa papa ko. At nag-produce pa ako, nagkaroon ng mismanagement iyong production ko.

"Nagtayo kasi ako ng VS Films noong araw. Nakagawa ako ng lima o anim na pelikula. Doon ako natalo e. Doon ako nalubog na nalubog. And then iyong BIR ko.

"Nagkaroon ng mismanagement, and, since then, I have learned my lessons."

In a previous interview with ABS-CBN, Ate Vi recalled doing 16 movies—eight with Regal Films and another eight with Viva Films—just to pay off her debt.

Ate Vi said her paycheck from these projects went straight to paying off her debt with the banks and BIR.

VILMA LEARNS A VERY IMPORTANT MONEY-RELATED LESSON

One of the many important lessons the experience taught her was to always read everything that requires a signature.

Ate Vi said, "Isang naalala kong natutunan ko, very expensive education... isang natutunan ko, huwag kang pirma nang pirma. Basahin mo iyong pipirmahan mo.

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"Kasi nung araw, pag ibibigay lang sa akin, sige pirma kasi antok ako sa pagod. Ayon pala ang pinipirmahan ko isang milyon na, naka-cash, hindi ko alam.

"Since then, nung maka-recover ako natuto na ako how to handle, how to take care iyong mga dokumento. Minsan one-liner lang diyan, ipit ka, e.

"So I made sure, one, twice, thrice, chine-check talaga ng lawyer and ipinapaliwanag sa akin before signing it. So these are the things na natutunan ko. Hindi basta-basta.

"Iyong importante, naiintindihan mo iyong pinipirmahan mo."

At the time, Ate Vi was just grateful that she was given a second chance in showbiz, which helped her settle her debt and got her back on track.

She recounted, "Ako, I'm lucky and I'm so blessed that I was given a second chance to recover. Kasi pagkapanganak ko nun kay Lucky, at least tinanggap pa ako ng publiko.

"Nabuntis na ako, nanganak na ako. And still, iyong publiko tinanggap pa rin ako. Doon ko nakuha iyong mga Best Actress, good films, box office, after I gave birth to Lucky.

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"But that was the time when I was pregnant with Lucky na I was financially zero. Problematic po. So all these things ang mga shine-share ko sa mga co-stars ko especially sa mga kabataan."

VILMA'S FINANCIAL ADVICE TO piolo and marvin

Although Ate Vi was able to rise above her financial problems, it was a traumatic experience for her.

And whenever she gets the chance, she imparts the life lessons she learned from her personal financial crisis to the younger stars.

Now, Ate Vi just feels proud to see some of the country's biggest stars seem to have applied the lessons she has taught them.

Ate Vi said, "When you see Piolo, sinasabi iyon ni Piolo, Mommy Vi ang tawag niya sa akin, na, 'Mommy Vi, up to now po, ginagawa ko iyong mga payo niyo.'

"Look at Marvin Agustin. Ang galing ng buhay ni Marvin. Hinandle niya nang tama iyong pera niya.

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"I remember when we were shooting Dekada '70, sabi sa akin ni Marvin Agustin, 'Tita, sa pera niyo...' Kasama ko po nun iyong accountant ko, si Ate Aida [Fandialan], the late Ate Aida, 'Paano niyo po ba i-handle iyong pera niyo?'

"And then, shinare namin sa kanya, 'This and to this, iyong ganito, ito lang ang dapat, may savings ka, and then you can spend on this...'

"Look at Marvin Agustin now, a businessman na napangalagaan iyong pera niya. And for that, maligaya na po iyong puso ko na nakita ko iyong mga co-stars ko na na-sharean ko noon how to handle their life and their career, and their money.

"So ito, parte po ng aking career."

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One of the important lessons Vilma Santos learned from the financial crisis she experienced in the early 80s is to read everything that requires her signature: "Kasi nung araw, pag ibibigay lang sa akin, sige pirma kasi antok ako sa pagod. Ayon pala, ang pinipirmahan ko isang milyon na, naka-cash."
PHOTO/S: Ronnie Salvacion for YES! Magazine October 2015
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