Conversations with Ricky Lo (2001)
Forty carats. Hilda Koronel looked 40 carats when she showed up (15 minutes ahead of schedule) for this late-afternoon Convesation at Cravings (Greenhills), a few blocks from the townhouse where she’s staying with her children, herself driving the black Benz which she parked near the Cravings entrance.
The day before (Jan. 18), Hilda turned 40 but she didn’t look it. She looked 40 carats but not 40-years old. She came alone, sans the usual alalay (facto-tum) showbiz folk can’t do without.
The widely-smiling and bedimpled Hilda looking up from her piece of cheese cake and ice-tea, answering questions candidly, was far different from the teary-eyed and belligerent Hilda who faced the movie press two years ago to denounce her doctor-husband (unnamed to protect his innocence and privacy) for “philandering,” and ugly domestic dispute that ended up in court.
These days when she’s not busy with showbiz, while waiting for a good role, Hilda Koronel is plain Susan Reid, single parent. Because her court case was pending, Hilda begged off from discussing the “incident,” only hinting at it.
Which was just as well because the focus of the conversation was on Hilda Koronel after the “storm”, how she’s weathering the after-effects and surviving beautifully – alone.
You look much slimmer. How did you do it?
“Diet, exercise and konsumisyon. Ha, ha, ha, ha, ha! Sama-sama na lahat.”
You do power-walking, I know. But isn’t it bad for your (enlarged) heart?
“The weight is worse. That’s why I have to lose weight to make it eaiser for my heart. I’m now down to 120 lbs., my ideal weight. I power-walk for two hours everyday, rain or shine, walang playa.”
Why did you say “konsumisyon?” I thought the worst is over for you.
“That was before. I don’t really want to talk about it. (The court case against her estranged doctor-husband.-RFL) Nasa court na ‘yon, e. Do I have any regrets? No. None. I wish I didn’t have to do it but I had to. Maski sa mga anak ko, wala akong dapat ikahiya. I talked to them before I did it (‘Washing dirty linen’ in public, so to speak-RFL); I told them everything.”
They’re old enough to understand, I suppose.
“Leona (by the late Jay Ilagan) is 18. My adopted, Ivy, is 20-plus, married at may apo na ako sa kanya. Isabel (by Bambi del Castillo), 16, is in the States. Gabby (by Spanky Monserrat), 14, is here; and my son (by the doctor) is also here, he’s turning 7. My kids are free to go back and forth between me and their dads, as they please. Kung saan sila Masaya, sige lang. Maski kami noon ni Jay, when we broke up ganoon din ang set-up.”
You’ve done only two (“comeback”) movies so far (Habang May Buhay in 196 and Hanggang Dito Na Lang last year). Are you happy with both of them?
“I was happy with the first one althought it was a smaller role (with Donna Cruz as her daughter playing the main lead) because it was meatier and nicer than the second one (as the wife of Eddie Rodriguez who was also the director). Come to think of it, I think I’m not so happy with both roles.”
Do you still have a contract with Viva Films?
“I only had a two-picture contract with Viva. I’m a freelancer now. (She’s managed by Angeli Pangilinan-Valenciano’s Genesis.-RFL) All I’m doing now are telesines. There seems to be no good movie roles for actresses my age. I’m not that old, am I?”
Baka naman you’re still craving for the roles you were doing during your Lino Brocka days. (It was Lino Brocka who groomed and built her up into the fine actress that she is now, in films like Santiago; Tubog sa Ginto; Maynila sa Mga Kuko ng Liwanag; Tatlo, Dalawa, Isa; Init; Insiang; etc.)
“No naman. Of course, you can only hope to do similar roles today, pero saan kukunin ngayon ang mga ‘yon? The trend now is to get young stars who are willing to undress, usually mga unknown and therefore cheaper ang pay. How can you compete with them?”
What are your terms before you accept a role?
“Just like before – first, a good script. Co-stars? We have a lot of new younger good actors. Directors? There are many talended ones, younger ones, at
maka-trabaho ko sila. The only one from the new batch that I’ve worked with is Joel Lamangan, but only in a telesine.” sana
While waiting for a good role, what occupies your time?
“Taking care of my kids, especially my youngest. I’m a full-time mother. He studies at Xavier, with a tutor for Chinese everyday. I drive him to and from school. In-between, I exercise. Mabagal ang pace ng buhay ko ngayon. Very leisurely. Nothing much is happening.
Just like the movie industry?
“In a way. We’re so unhappy with the state of the industry, dib a? Walang nangyayari. They’re producing I don’t know what kind of movies. Parang ayaw na talaga kumita. Mostly smorgasbord movies pa rin. If a company has a lot of contract stars, ipinapasok lahat sa isang pelikula. What happens to the story? Wala nang cohesiveness; paulit-ulit na lang. If there’s favoritism on the part of the producers, mas lalong walang mangyayari. It’s the trend and it’s sad. I guess if nothing good happens this year, baka dying na nga talaga ang industry.”
There were talks about remaking Insiang. Whatever happened to it?
“I think the talks were started by Viva. You know, nagpakawala sila ng bali-balita, maybe to find out how the public would react. The talks went out of proportion at muntik pang maging controversy. Nadamay pa nga ako, e. Gimmick, as usual.”
You were being pitted against Amanda Page (said to be the choice for the Insiang role).
“I never said anything against her; I never said anything bad against her. All I said were good things. But some movie writers tried to create intriga at naniwala naman siya and she started saying things against me.”
But personally, how do you feel about an Insiang remake?
“Why not? If I can do a good movie, kahit na mother role ang ibigay sa akin, I’d do it. After all, I’m already a mother. May apo na nga ako, e! Maybe I should play the role Mona Lisa played in the original Insiang (Where Mona played Hilda’s mother.-RFL).”
Who would you like to play your daughter?
“Siempre naman somebody who can act.”
“Marami. There’s Aiko (Melendez), there’s Carmina (Villarroel). I can mention only those I have worked with. Sina Vina (Morales) at Donna (Cruz). Maganda na, mahuhusay pa.”
Do you keep track of what’s happening in showbiz?
“Hardly. As I’ve said, I’m busy being a mother. But I do see these young actresses every now and then on TV and they’re good. Sa TV ko lang sila nakaka-trabaho, including Jolina Magdangal, at
nga sa movies naman.” sana
Do you see yourself in them when you were only starting in showbiz?
“In a way. Pero kapag kasama ko sila, they’re so serious. Maybe they’re nervous. Of course, the showbiz atmosphere now is different from that of my time. Noon ako, ang routine ko was home to school then to work and back home. My producers (Lea Productions) were really disciplinarian. Mahigpit. Pati nga ligawan bawal, e. Unlike now, anything goes. Iba na nga ang generation ngayon.”
Was all that for your own good?
“To a certain extent. Kasi naman they sometimes went beyond discipline. Pati personal na mga bagay nadamay sa discipline sa trabaho. Ayaw ng ligawan simply because they didn’t like my leading man. Like in the case of Jay and me. They felt that Jay was not the right guy for me. They crossed the line between the professional and the personal.”
Were you ever “guilty” of mixing your career and your lovelife? You were young(er) and more impulsive then.
“I think so, especially noong time naming ni Jay. Bawal, e. But then, paano naman babawalan ang pagtibok ng puso, ‘no? Do I regret anything that I’ve done? No. Definitely! You can’t go through life without experiencing some bad times. Talagang may turbulence parati, e. I treat them as lessons in life. You stumble and you fall and what’s important is that you don’t stay down, you try to get up. If you stay down, sa akin failure ‘yon.”
How did you come to terms with aspects of your life that you can’t change?
“There are things that I can’t really change. What I do now is not to look at the past so much. When I do, I try to take stock of things and find out what I learn from them. I don’t cling to the past. Wala akong mga ‘what if/what if,’ o mga ‘I wish I did this or that.’ I leave the past behind. I live for the present para naman mas maganda ang future ko.”
Have you changed after the recent incident with your estranged doctor-husband?
“I guess so. I feel na parang this is a new lease in life for me.”
Anyway, it’s not the first time you’ve had a falling-out with a man…
“I’ve gone through a lot. It’s my fourth marriage (the one with the doctor-husband). But our break-up is the most painful dahil matagal kaming nagsama, far different from my experience with Jay dahil mga bata pa kami noon, e. ‘Yung sa amin ni Jay was doomed from the start dahil we started young. We kind of outgrew each other.”
Jay was the first…
“…and then I married Bambi (del Castillo, now married to former model Bessie Badilla, based abroad). I had a daughter with him. There was a court battle for the custody of our daughter. Nasa kanya ‘yon. I haven’t seen her for more than eight years. She’s 16.” (Bambi and Bessie have two kids of their own. From
where Bambi was working, the family has moved to the States.-RFL) Singapore
“Then came Spanky (Monserrat), after a long gap. Nagpa-ligate ako because I didn’t want to get married anymore. But then I married Spanky, nagpa-unligate ako. So I had a son. It’s rare case daw that I was still able to have a child and I’m grateful for that.”
Something’s always going wrong with your marriage(s). Were most of your men too weak for you? Na-terrorize ba sila sa ‘yo?
“Some are weak, some naman are too tyrannical. They want to control me. I think some of them fell in love with Hilda Koronel the actress and not Susan Reid the person. Ang nakikita nila ‘yung screen image ko; they couldn’t see the person behind it. Except Jay dahil artista din siya. Some of them wanted me to stop working, sa bahay ka na lang, and them umiiba ang tingin nila sa ‘yo. They cut me off from showbiz. Even Lino at that time, he wanted to see me but he could not.”
Maybe you didn’t have your priorities in order at that time.
“I wanted to have a family and my career, although talagang priority ko ang family. Lino nga was teasing me, ‘Everytime you are at the peak of your career, you get married.’ Oh, well, I guess you can’t have the best of both worlds. When I think about it, my relationships with my husbands might have gone bad but I like to think that my relationship with my children is okay. I never had a father and perhaps I tried to look for both a father and a husband in one person. I failed on that point. A father, a husband, a friend and a brother all in one person. Mayroon bang ganoon?”
Do you look forward to your fifth marriage?
“As of now, happy ako sa buhay ko. For the time being, ayoko na. But you can’t tell what tomorrow brings. What will be, will be. But I don’t want to grow old alone. Nobody wants to grow old alone. I have the kids but they’ll soon have families of their own. And then again, I feel that lumagpas na ako doon sa period na I have to have a man. Now I’m happy by myself, even without a man, kuntento na ako. I feel liberated. If I don’t feel like cooking, I don’t cook. If I want to go out, I don’t have to ask permission from anybody. Not that I go out often because even when I was young, hindi ako palalabas.”
“None. Wala talaga.”
You don’t have bitterness in your heart now?
“None, I guess. Magaan na ang pakiramdam ko. And I don’t mean only physically but also emotionally. I’m down to 120 lbs. and I feel good. Oh, yes, I guess looking good and beautiful is the best revenge.”
(February 8, 1998)