After winning the Best Supporting Actress award for the movie Hari ng Tondo (Where I Am King), Cris Villonco admitted she never expected to return to the big screen after doing Ang Dalubhasa with Fernando Poe Jr. more than a decade ago. The film also marks the directorial return of her uncle Carlos Siguion-Reyna and is based on a screenplay by her aunt Bibeth Orteza.
“This movie is special to me because number one, it's family, it's Reyna films, it's my uncle, it's my tita, it's my cousin. These are people that I've worked with all throughout my life. These are people that I used to watch on the sidelines nung nag-fi-film sila on set during Reyna films days. I also won an award and I totally didn't expect it and it was just strange and surreal that it is all happening but I'm really, really grateful. When I won I just couldn't believe it. If somebody could take a video of my face, I was in shock. Still in shock and I was shaking all the way until I sat down,” she recalled.
Now that she has earned recognition for her role as Anna, a rich girl who chooses to live with her lolo in Tondo in order to learn more about the world, Cris said she will try to work even harder to get back into TV and movies. “Matagal ko ng hinihintay ito. I think a lot of people kasi were thinking that I'm a little too sheltered or I wouldn't be able to do things like this. I think people think I'm sosyalera pero kuwela naman talaga ako. There's really another side to me that people don't know so now that I'm being given a chance to show that, pinapakita ko na kung gaano ako kakuwela. I've been wanting to be on TV and in film for a very long time. If it's a sign, it's a sign. I would rather just prove myself first to the people that I work with, that i'm easy to work with. And that I'm willing to do what they want me to do (laughs). Kasi at the end, yun din ang sinasabi ng mga tao di ba, on how easy you are to be with, kung marunong ka makisama. And that's also one of my priorities, I want to learn and educate myself even more and then I want to prove that I'm easy to be with,” she explained.
Because of her porcelain-like features, Cris said it actually made it harder for her to get cast in roles. “Sasabihin nila masyado ako maputi or masyaso akong sosyalera pero hindi naman talaga ako ganun. Wala namang accent yung Tagalog ko so medyo the background goes ahead of me than as a talent. So ngayon na nabibigyan ako ng opportunity na ma-i-showcase ko yung talent then sana tuloy tuloy na ito. Hindi ako sosyal, mukha lang ako sosyal. When I was auditioning for Cinemalaya pero maybe I wasn't good enough for things kasi they would say I was just so white. Either they will cast me as a sacrificial virgin or sosyalera na naman. So sana I'm given other roles. Puwede naman ako i-darken. That's no problem with me. Let's see what happens,” she said.
Shooting in Tondo for the movie for 12 days was an unforgettable experience for Cris. “It was hard. Ang init tapos umuulan. Tapos it was very crowded and all of that. And to think it was already in a place that was pretty loose and comfortable for a lot of other people who were living in that place. So shooting there, you thank your blessings and everything that you have in your life kasi there are really people who live in lesser conditions and who are happy, completely happy with what they have,” she explained.
In the film, Cris gets courted by Aiza Seguerra, who lives in the same housing building in Tondo. “Aiza was my favorite actress when I was five years old. She was the reason why I wanted to be in Little Miss Philippines and she was also the reason why I took Enervon C everyday. When I was five my request was, 'Don't want a big birthday party. All I want is Aiza Seguerra,' and she actually came ten minutes before my party and hugged me and greeted me. I actually have pictures to prove that. Right now being able to work with her, one day I really hope to get to sing with her. I think she is an unbelievable talent that God has brought on this earth. Grabe siya,” she admitted.
When it comes to daring or unconventional roles, Cris said she is definitely not conservative. “I played a whore to Robert Arevalo. I am open to these kinds of roles. Certain offers have been made. Of course mapapag-usapan. I don't know if I can go full-on kagaya ng other film stars. But definitely why not right? If it's going to showcase my acting abilities than I'm more than grateful. For now I don't know yet [my imitations]. I don't know what's been offered to me so let's see what happens (laughs),” she said.
The 30-year-old performer said she is also open to doing gay roles because it is an important issue in society. “That I don't mind. If I have to do things like that then yes, I'm more than willing to do that because I also feel it is very relevant to the community now. Hindi mapapagkaila ang mga ganyan and we really need to embrace different cultures and the different backgrounds people have. And if I am given a chance to do something like that, I would. Kasi marami akong kaibigan on that side also,” she said.
When asked if she could ever see herself falling for someone of the same sex, Cris opted to keep an open mind. “Well I've had certain situations where niligawan na ako and I have felt, 'Oh, ang sarap pala magmahal ng babae!' pero ako talaga kasi I'm a guy's girl so yun talaga. But you know what, it's not even about kung tomboy or whether or not that situation with somebody who doesn't have full capacities. It's really about if you can defend a certain person you love who will not be accepted by most. And even in my life I admit there was a time when I couldn't. There was a situation like that and it really makes you a stronger person and it makes you question your beliefs and your ideals in life,” she added.
Cris admitted that being part of the Siguion-Reyna clan has actually made things more challenging for her rather than an advantage. “For many, many years, my family background has never left my side. Many people have said that all the acting awards I've received from theater and even now in film is because of my family. Either my family has paid them off. I will say one thing, maybe my family's name has done more disservice to me as a talent but I don't think they were ever lacking in support because they believed in me. And if you’re not going to get me then who will? Then again the proof is in the pudding and they got me and an international jury decided to give me an award and recognize me for my efforts and so did other people. I don't think that was because of my family anymore. It's hard whenever you have the Siguion-Reyna name and Ponce-Enrile name and everything that came before you. But some people have connections, some don't. So it's also luck and people who are going to give you a chance and I think that is family. So it hurts. It really hurts when I read about all the time. I see comments. I google myself. And marami ng nagbatikos sa akin. I also feel that they should give me a chance, get to know me, listen to me, be friends with me and you'll see I'm a completely different person from the way you perceive me and okay lang,” she admitted.
Watch Hari ng Tondo showing in theaters nationwide starting October 1 and distributed by Star Cinema. The movie stars Robert Arevalo, Rez Cortez, Eric Quizon, Ali Sotto, Rafa Siguion-Reyna, Aiza Seguerra, Liza Lorena, Gian Magdangal, Ciara Sotto, and Lawrence Martinez.