WHAT Charo Santos is wearing to lunch today—a pearl white silk long sleeves over a pair of soft pink, ruffled Capri pants—could anytime be transported to the “Maalala Mo Kaya” studio, the only show she is most natural with.
Because it cannot be the black habit in her new film “Eerie”—where she plays a scholastic religious who oversees an institution for girls, infested with both evil spirits and her gluttony for punishment.
In real life, too, she’s not Horacia Somorostro, the name of the lead she portrayed in “Ang Babaeng Humayo” in 2016 opposite John Lloyd Cruz, a narrative of a woman who, after 30 years, is released from prison for a crime she did not commit.
She likes Ate Charo better… and how the prefix of politeness has been part of her identity on “Maalala Mo Kaya” (nay MMK) aired for over 30 years on ABS-CBN.
“MMK has put me into context that way I see my own pain and trials and sufferings,” she says one Friday afternoon in the first week of Novemberon the luncheon hosted by Diagold at the San Martin hall of the Radisson Blu Hotel in Cebu City.
The actress is welcomed as the jewelry line’s “I don’t go for anything flashy. I am more of a minimalist. If you look at what I’m wearing, I wear very basic stuff, and so the accessories would really come out,” Charo goes on.
Subscribed many times for her certain kind of grace—she is poised for more, in fact, but she has bent it once before.
But all the time, yes–Charo reborn.
She delves into the story behind the lives of people.
And she makes it clear that the change is more than cosmetic.
Too much to hope for?
She’s proof positive.
She wants to laugh.
She can roll around in her couture silks, right there on the big, gleaming boat of sofa—and laugh.
How did your love for jewelry develop?
When I was a young girl, I grew up with a mom who had admiration for the finer things; she loved good pieces of jewelry. I had that influence from my mother. When they showed me the pieces—they were beautiful pieces. I was amazed by the collection.
Your personal style is …
Everything has to fall into place. The pieces of jewelry have to go with what I am wearing, the time of day. Everything has to be appropriate. I don’t go for anything flashy. I am more of a minimalist. If you look at what I’m wearing, I wear very basic stuff, and so the accessories would really come out.
Would there be a chance that you’d design your own line of jewelry?
I’d love to. I told Diagold if it’s less hectic, I come here for break. I could go to the production area. I get to learn more about the business. It’s really more about building friendship. You go beyond the contractual arrangement.
What about the film “Eerie” you star with Bea Alonzo?
Finally, it will be premiered in Singapore, the Singapore Film Festival on December 3. Bea and I are going to Singapore. I’m excited. The setting is in the 80s when rules were very, very important. Di ba in a Catholic setting—sometimes, sometimes—teachers or there are certain leaders who make you feel that everything is a sin. That’s the milieu of the 90s when you go to an all-girls school, you’re brainwashed to think and behave in a certain way.
Tell us about your role in the film.
I’m a principal of an all-girls Catholic school. There’s a play on your guilt. Before you knew it, you’re already punishing yourself. You can imagine; there’s ambiguity in my character. It’s not all black, but neither am I white. I’m human, very human. I’m constrained. My hands are tied by the teachings of the institution. Ganun yun eh, when you join an institution, you go by the rules of the institution. You don’t see that the world is evolving, and that’s it’s time to change or that it’s time to see humanity from a more compassionate set of eyes. Sometimes, you can be too cloistered. You don’t see the reality from what it is. It’s not an out-and-out scare type of a movie; it’s a psychological thriller. I think there’s a lot of introspection a viewer would go through.
Is this your first horror film?
No. My first movie was “Itim” (in 1976). I was possessed by the spirit of my dead sister in the film. I was used as a medium.
Do you enjoy doing horror films?
I love horror. There’s precision to it. You just know when to cut, when to do a close-up. I mean, the director should know that kasi you’re working on “kailan ko ba tatakutin yung audience” kailangan sigurado yung director sa handling ng material niya.
Does drama follow similar precision?
Well, a Lav Diaz drama is so very different from your mainstream drama. The camera does not move; the camera takes position of the observer. He just lets you … he gives you the set as a playground. Sasabihin lang niya: “O, Charo, iyan ang frame ko. Huwag kang lalampas dyan, bahala ka na anong gagawin mo.”
In the film “Ang Babaeng Humayo” directed by Lav Diaz, how was the experience?
My first three days with Lav Diaz, I was so lost and insecure. Tama ba yung ginagawa ko? With the late Ishmael Bernal or Lino Broca, sasabihing, even the business, ituturo niya kung saan ang blocking, the markers. With Lav, wala—bahala ka. On the third day, I really had to go to him: “Direk, tama ba yung ginagawa ko?” Sabi niya, ‘If you don’t hear anything from me, that means you’re doing well.
How do you prepare for any role?
I’m a sponge. I sit quietly in one corner and observe—from observing people of how they do things, and then I read up. I watch a lot of cinema and television. Siguro, all these elements put together, the dots are kind of connected.
And you never lose your temper.
You get to a point in life when you learn to pick your battles. Hindi lahat pinapansin. Yung iba, maliit naman, tayo lang nagpapalaki. When you are more in control of who you are, you know more of yourself. You’re more mindful of the triggers that will lose your temper, lose your poise. Bihira naman that I lose my temper—but I do. Bihirang bihira ako’ng magalit. I don’t look for perfection. I look for transparency. Transparency is key to any relationship.
What’s your plan for “Maalala Mo Kaya” (MMK) in 2019?
I hope it will evolve into a creating some stuff for the digital platform where I will have more time with the letter senders. Kasi now, I get to meet them. They come to the studio when I do my spiels. I hope my conversations with them in the studio can be used as a content in a digital platform. MMK has given me … tinuro niyan sa akin ang humility and compassion. MMK has put me into context that way I see my own pain and trials and sufferings. Mag co-complain na ako, tapos may nabasa ako’ng mas malukot na buhay— ay, nakakahiya naman. I have no reason to complain.