MANILA -- Veteran actress Nova Villa was given the Pro Ecclesia et Pontifice medal, the highest award given by the Pope to lay people.
According to a report published by Vertias846 on Friday, Villa, Novelita V. Gallegos in real life, received the award on January 14 at San Lorenzo Ruiz Parish in Quezon City.
“Yung ambisyon kong mag-artista became a mission, lahat ng ginagawa ko sa showbiz ay may kaakibat na misyon,” Villa said in an interview with Radio Veritas.
Villa, who has been in the entertainment industry for five decades, admitted that she was surprised to have been given the recognition.
“Bukal sa puso ko 'yung anything na ginagawa ko for God. I’m happy to do it kahit mahirap,” she said.
Villa also appealed to Filipinos to continue being a good servant of the Lord.
“I think, I am just an instrument of God’s grace to people. By being nice to people, giving smile at them, you’re giving them hope,” Villa added.
Novaliches Bishop Emeritus Antonio Tobias nominated Villa for the papal award in June last year.
Aside from Villa, other Filipino celebrities who previously received the papal award were comedienne Ai Ai delas Alas and National Artist for Music Ryan Cayabyab.
Villa is the long-time onscreen partner of the late King of Comedy Dolphy -- they starred as husband-and-wife in ABS-CBN sitcom "Home Along Da Riles" for 11 years.
In 2018, Villa starred in comedy-drama film "Miss Granny" with Sarah Geronimo.