MANILA -- Learning something new this pandemic has become the wont of many celebrities who have been discovering interesting things they can do.
Who would have thought that at her age, former ABS-CBN president, Charo Santos-Concio, who turned 65 in October, will still learn how to play the piano during this pandemic?
Not even her. Proudly, Santos-Concio can now play Elvis Presley’s “Can’t Help Falling in Love,” a piece which she learned from YouTube’s Easy Piano Lessons.
Playing the piano is just one of the new things Santos-Concio started doing while on lockdown. “I did not have much adjustments to make,” Santos-Concio told host Noel Ferrer on YouTube’s weekly talk show, “Level Up,” to mark his 30th anniversary in media. In the special episode, “Todos Los Santos,” Santos-Concio was joined by Vilma Santos and Judy Ann Santos
“I am not a party person,” Santos-Concio continued. “Okay lang sa akin ang tahimik na buhay. Enjoy ako watching K-dramas and reading.”
Surprising even herself, Santos-Concio also started spending a longer time on the treadmill. “Before, tinitignan ko lang at dinadaan-daanan ko lang,” she said. “I wouldn’t last ten minutes on the treadmill. Bababa na agad ako. These days, nakaka-30 minutes na ako. You just go with the flow.”
Santos-Concio, who also does yoga, attended webinars on the workings of the mind. “Before, we wanted to do a lot of things. You think about a lot of things. This pandemic, you learn to pause and appreciate stillness.”
Santos-Concio’s family dynamics at home also changed at this time. “You know, I have a blended home,” she said. “My husband [Cesar Concio] has six children from his first marriage and we have two sons. That family has grown bigger through the years. Ang dami ng mga apo and in-laws.
“We have to observe protocols. We have to limit the gatherings to 10. So I schedule the lunch. Since the groups are smaller, we have more intimate and deeper conversations.”
LITTLE KNOWN FACTS
Food remains the center of attraction of their family conversations. “‘Yung husband ko, mahilig kumain at magluto,” Santos-Concio said. “We have division of assignments. So I told him, ‘In the kitchen, you’re the king.’ He’s the one taking care of the menu. Siya talaga.
“I know how to cook, if it’s really needed. But I really don’t cook. Para wala ng away. Ako, my assignment is the order in the house and making sure everything is organized. You have to recognize each other’s strengths. Ikaw diyan, ako dito. Ang accountability for you.”
The interview touched on the many less-known facts about Santos-Concio. Like her recording venture way back in 1978. She released the song, “Nangangamba,” under Sunshine Records, a label of Vicor Records.
It didn’t take long before she realized, “Maghunos-dili tayo. Hindi yata ‘yan ang path ko,” she told then album producer, Tito Sotto.
In January 1987, Santos-Concio joined ABS-CBN. “We only had one telephone line, wooden chairs, shared tables, one comfort room,” she recalled. “We only had one camera. Kasama ka sa lahat ng improvements na nangyari sa network.
“Kasama ka sa lahat ng efforts para mapaganda ang mga programa at magustuhan ng audience ang mga programa. Nakita mong lumaki ang network. I can liken it to parenting.”
SPOTTING JUDY ANN
Santos-Concio recalled how ABS-CBN signed up the young Judy Ann Santos, whom the former spotted on IBC 13. “'TV Patrol' was the window to primetime,” she said. “Kasama sa trabaho ko ang pag-monitor ng competition.
“I saw Judy Ann in ‘Ula, ang Batang Gubat.’ I said to myself, ‘Nakakatuwa naman itong batang ito. She has the makings of a really big star.’ I alerted top management at that time. Nakitaan ko na siya ng presence, gift for drama, talent for acting, amo ng mukha. ‘Trudis Liit’ din ‘yan.”
Director Jose de Villa’s “Trudis Liit” is the acting debut of Vilma Santos when she was only nine years old in 1963.
Santos-Concio lost no time in getting Judy Ann then to transfer to ABS-CBN. “Back in 1987, the ratings would arrive every month. They went to town and told news, ‘You better shape up or else, there was this program.’ But I told them, ‘Yung batang ‘yun, she would become the next superstar. We should get her. Bata pa lang siya, talagang fan na ako ni Juday.”
When talk centered about the loss of ABS-CBN’s franchise, Santos-Concio’s voice cracked. “I couldn’t describe the pain when ABS-CBN was shut down,” she admitted. “I felt so much pain and extreme sadness. That was very traumatic for me, as well, even if I am retired from the company.”
She likened the pain to a mother who lost her child. “Parang sakit ng isang ina na ipinag-buntis mo ‘yung anak mo ng siyam na buwan. Iniluwal mo, pinalaki mo, inaruga mo. Tapos nakita mo na pinatay at wala kang magawa. Helpless ka. Masakit. I’m still grieving.”
Four decades ago, Santos-Concio would have started her TV hosting career when she was offered by a TV producer to host a noontime show. However, she opted to choose her acting career over hosting.
She was then a reluctant actress since she had to follow her dad’s wish not to enter showbiz and opt for a different career path. However, an “unexpected and happiest moment” happened was when Baby K. Jimenez, the publicist of Mike de Leon’s “Itim” (1976), called her up at 3 in the morning.
“She told me I had won best actress at the Asian Film Festival,” Santos-Concio recalled. “I did not even know the film joined that festival. That was a turning point in my life.”
On the important learnings with the leading men she worked with, Santos-Concio remembers the late action king and National Artist, Fernando Poe, Jr., whom she first starred in “Durugin si Totoy Bato” (1979), directed by Armando Herrera.
“Si Ronnie, his aura, without any effort, is the aura of a star. He commands attention and respect. He can be the most quiet person in a crowded room and yet, people’s attention will be focused on him. That’s the mark of a real star. Even if he doesn’t say anything, naka-ngiti lang. He has gravitas. He’s a great storyteller.”
In 1987, she starred again with the action king in “Batas sa Aking Kamay,” megged by Mike Relon Makiling. In the epic “Aguila,” (1980), directed by National Artist Eddie Romero, Santos-Concio was the narrator of the film.
In 2018, she proudly received the Fernando Poe, Jr. Lifetime Achievement Award in the 36th Luna Awards given by the Film Development Council of the Philippines (FDCP).
With drama king Christopher de Leon, Santos-Concio worked in “Kakabakaba Ka Ba” (1980), also directed by Mike de Leon. “Si Boyet, crush ng bayan ‘yan,” Santos-Concio said. “He was one of the most handsome actors. Kami, talagang naging magbarkada at magka-ibigan. Even if we don’t see each other, I know he will always be there for me. I will always be here for him.
“One time, may outing kami sa Mindoro, tumakas kami, nagbangka kami. Lumakas ‘yung waves. ‘Yung alon pumasok sa bangka. Nalulunod na talaga ako. Nag-act of contrition na ako. Nag-goodbye na ako. But lo and behold, Boyet pulled me out of the water.
“With gratitude talaga, I am still around because once upon a time, Boyet saved me from drowning. He later told me, ‘You know, mabilis kang i-save.’ Because poised na poised pa rin daw ako. Kung ano daw ‘yung itsura ko paglubog, pag-ahon ko, ganu’n pa rin ako.”
ON JOHN LLOYD
On working with John Lloyd Cruz in Lav Diaz’s “Ang Babaeng Humayo” (2016), Santos-Concio remarked, “John Lloyd is a very intense actor. I saw him when he auditioned for ABS-CBN when he was only 13 years old. I was a member of the panel. In a short interview, I already saw that may pupuntahan itong batang ito. Malalim.
“There’s a certain intensity in him. He’s the kind of actor who gets into the zone. Sometimes nga, nakaka-intimidate. He stays in the character. He is a professional. He’s an introvert. But if he trusts you, he will bare his soul to you. I love Lloydie. I miss him.”
Santos-Concio also adores Piolo Pascual, who is her number one crush. “The quality of Piolo that drew me to him? Madali siyang maka-gaangan ng loob. Mabait. Gwapo talaga si Piolo. Aminin natin. Adonis.”
Admittedly the number one fan of the love team of Piolo Pascual and Judy Ann Santos, Santos-Concio is keeping her fingers crossed that the Piolo-Juday screen reunion will happen soon. “I will pray that the stars will align for their reunion movie to happen,” she said.
Santos-Concio also expressed her desire to be able to work with young directors. “Anyone with a good story,” she said. “I look at the story and I look at the character. It has to be appropriate to my age. I’m quite easy to please.”
She is slated to work with young actor Daniel Padilla, who will play her son in “Whether the Weather Is Fine (Kun Maupay Man It Panahon),” a film about the aftermath of typhoon Yolanda in 2013. At the helm is Carlo Francisco Manatad.
“The style of the director is absurd cinema,” Santos-Concio said. “There are certain absurdities and excesses in the scenes to drive home the message.”
Through the years, Santos-Concio never regretted any of her decisions in her life. Her best relationship taught her the meaning of unconditional love. She particularly thanked her dad, Dr. Winifredo Santos, for all the values he instilled in her. The foundation of her values started from their home in Calapan, Oriental Mindoro.
“I am the person that I am because everything started with my dad and my mom,” Santos-Concio acknowledged. “I will forever carry those values in my heart and hope to pass them on to my children and my children’s children.”
However, Santos-Concio insists she can merely inspire her children or grandchildren to believe in themselves. “You can never really chart the journey for your children,” she maintained. “You have to allow your children to carve their own path.
“You can only hope and dream that what you want, magugustuhan din nila. At the end of the day, we have to allow them to carve their own path. Pride na rin natin ‘yun as parents. Kahit hindi tayo kasama sa pag-carve ng path nila, ang pag-gabay natin sa kanila, dala-dala nila ‘yun.”
Politics is a field that Santos-Concio will never venture in. She was offered to run for senator before, but she readily turned it down, not just once.
"Hindi ko naiisip ang buhay pulitika,” Santos-Concio said. “Wala siya sa DNA ko. It’s not in my consciousness. I don’t chart my life. I will just look forward to learning ‘Easy Piano Pieces.’ Hindi ko talaga alam ang buhay pulitika. I will just choose to do my kind of public service the quiet way.”