(Vilma Santos is a Philippine actress, started acting as a child, now governor of Batangas province.)
Many years ago while working as export documentation clerk for a shipping company in Manila which also owns the Luneta Theater, we were allowed to see movies at the Luneta after work on Mondays. Films in Manila begin screening on theaters usually on Thursdays and ends the next two Thursday so that the film is shown on two Sundays if shown for two weeks. The movie SURVIVE, a film about a passenger plane that crashed on the Andes Mountains was the one being shown. The surviving passengers ran out of food and so resorted to cannibalism, eating the flesh of the dead passengers to avoid starvation. What the movie interested the public was perhaps the slicing of the flesh of a dead passenger preserved by snow and the tearing by the teeth of the human flesh dried on the roof of the airplane.
The usherettes and us shipping company employees knew each other and have even become friends even though we didn't have much time for each other except on Mondays when we watch movies for free. The usherette on duty handed to me her flashlight and asked to be substituted for a short while as she goes to the ladies room. Before she disappeared behind the door of the ladies room near the loge entrance, she signaled to me that Romeo Vasquez and Vilma Santos are arriving (as moviegoers.) Everybody in Manila knew about their relationship but the moviegoers cared more about the film than their arrival. Except me. I lighted their way and tried to find empty seats for them. There was none and although I motioned to them apologetic gestures, I knew they wouldn't mind standing on the aisle to wait for the last screening when seats will be vacated. Romeo Vasquez put his arms around Vilma Santos as he stood behind her. When that particular screening was about to end, whispers begin to buzz around about their presence. I didn't hand the flashlight back to the usherette so I'll be the one to light them to a vacated seat. And when the final screening started, everybody settled including them not wanting to miss a piece of the film.
Many years after that, it was Vilma Santos' movie BATO SA BUHANGIN that was to be shown at the Luneta. As usual, it opened on a Thursday. Unfortunately it stormed and rained hard in Manila on the second Monday of screening. Everybody stayed in the safety of their homes and most public places in Manila including Luneta were closed. But I was at the shipping office and even stayed to render overtime work as shippers can't wait for their bills of lading to collect their l/c money in their banks. At around 7:00 o'clock in the evening the telephone rang and when I picked it, it was a voice introducing herself as Vilma Santos. I didn't doubt. Vilma Santo's voice is easily one of the most recognizable voices in the country. She inquired if Luneta was open. I may have heard her voice on television and in movies but on that telephone call her voice was meant for me alone. I'm not a Vilmanian but that phone call made me begin to like the song Bato sa Buhangin.
And then some more years later I had to leave that office to my province to pursue my dream job which is teaching. As teachers they say should be a page ahead of the students, I took some M.A. subjects on my own in a nearby university. The little memory of Vilma Santos lingered in my mind. She's the only celebrity I've ever spoken on the phone. She's the only lefty in the world I admire next to Manny Pacquiao and Paul McCartney. The song Bato Sa Buhangin being hers, I believed should also be mine. And so I wanted to learn to accompany the song with a guitar although what I know about guitars are basic chords. And there was the guitar displayed in a glass window in a music store. Each time I passed by that store from the university, the guitar was always there seemingly displayed for no one else but me. And before the first semester of that school year ended I was inside that music store inquiring about the guitar. "Try it," the salesclerk said. "It's tuned." I tried it.
I paid the guitar the price the clerk said. "Buying this guitar for your self?" she asked as she puts the guitar in the case. I only answered with a shrug. Her tongue had become unnecessarily unfriendly after I came back to her from the cashier. "Nobody's too old to start something new," she began again. "Whom are you buying this guitar for?" she asked this last question when she handed to me my guitar.
"I'm buying this guitar for Vilma Santos," I answered. I knew her eyes were following me as I walked out of the store. And when I looked back to check if I was right, she was indeed looking at me. And perhaps wondering at my answer.