When Vilma Santos released her first album in 1969 under Willears Record, no one expected that her vinyl record would sell 500,000 units making it the company’s surprise record-breaking album of that year. The signature song, “Sixteen” became the most played single of that year proving that Vilma Santos can be as phenomenal as her closest rival and the more established singer, Nora Aunor. The young Vilma won a Golden Record Award for her debut album that comprised of 16 English songs including four original songs composed and arranged by Dannie Subido.
Prior to her debut album, Vilma Santos’ first stint in singing was in her earlier film, 1964's Ging. She played a child singing sensation opposite drama staple, Olivia Cenizal. Her career continued with string of dramatic roles and when the musical trends started in late 60s her career aspiration become limited mainly because everyone expected young stars to sing well. She admitted her limited range as singer and concentrated with her promising acting talents and dancing. When Vi found commercial success with Edgar Mortiz as her love team, she occasionally sings with him. Their fans did not mind Vilma’s soft thin voice. Actually, Vilma’s sweet tone blends well with Edgar’s balladeer pipes. The success of Vi & Bot love team was evident with numerous films and it was only a matter of time that the idea of having Vilma have her own album came in 1969. There was a market and demand for Vilma’s very own long-playing vinyl. William Leary, Vilma’s manager asked musical director Dannie Subido to gather songs that will suit Vilma’s limited range.
It was reported that Subido find the project challenging. They have to find songs that are light but will still give Vilma’s fans enjoyment. They decided to make it fun and sort of child like. They also wanted to make sure that the songs reflect Vilma’s current state of mind, that of a growing teenager. Sort of like early Britney, “no longer a child not yet a woman.” Her promotional interview clearly confirmed some of the issues teenagers are experiencing during this time. Body image, sex education, adulthood, friendship and dating are some of the topics the album tackled which are topics that are still relevant today. “…as a singer…gosh…I feel a funny thing inside every time na naiisip kong, I was not a born singer. But every time I hear my records play, I couldn’t help but kid myself, that I was made after all.” She commented when asked to evaluate herself as singer. What she really meant by that line, “I made it” is that by making her record a success no one can't say that she cannot be sell records. This success proves that she can be a successful singer like her closest rival, Nora.
Willears Records continued Vilma’s recording projects with two albums, Sweethearts and Aloha My Love both featured her with off and on screen love partner, Edgar Mortiz. The company who introduced the resurgent singer, Vilma in Sixteen followed up her solo success with Sweet, Vilma, Sweet, a much more ambitious offering with Vilma doing popular cover songs. Songs that are mostly identified with more established singers, like Nora Aunor. It is worth noting that during the peak of the musical genre in the early 70s, the musical films relied heavily on foreign influence. Maybe this was the reason why Vilma’s rival Nora Aunor doesn’t have a signature song. Recorded songs are mostly versions of the foreign recordings. Tom Jones, Frank Sinatra, Connie Francis, Neil Sedaka are the usual suspects. Instead of original simple composition, Willears selected songs like Mama, Sad Movies, and Our Day Will Come and let Vilma create her own version. The result was a disappointment not because Vilma didn’t work hard for the project but because it lacks the originality of her first album. Vilma’s thin voice also didn’t help.
But despite this visible contrast to her first album, Sweet Vilma Sweet was a successful follow-up. She continued her singing stints with an album most Vilmanians seems to forget, All I See Is You carried the folk song, Ati Cu Pung Sing-sing and Wonderful world of Music. The later song became a title of a musical film that paired Vilma with Edgar and co-starred with Snooky, Tony Ferrer, and Boots Anson Roa. The demand for Vi & Bot's recordings increased and Willears produced Sweetheart, perhaps a confirmation album of the real score between the two young teen stars. Out of 25 films Vilma and Edgar made in 1970, both Sweethearts and Sixteen stands out as two of their certified hits both as films and recorded albums. By 1972, Vicor Music Corporation took over Vilma’s singing career and smartly went back to the original fun-loving carefree theme that suited Vilma's voice and made her a successful recording artist. With the guidance of Orly Ilacad, Vilma recorded original compositions that were light hearted, up-tempo and simple. Sing Vilma Sing arrived at the radio airwaves with the carrying single, “Bobby Bobby Bobby.” Despite the declaration of Martial law in 1972, the album became another instant hit. Also, Vilma and Edgar recorded their third album together, a follow-up with the hit, The Sensations. Aloha My Love came afterwards which also became a film and appropriately shoot entirely in Hawaii. Aloha was artistically packaged and contained Hawaiian and popular cover English songs like All Alone Am I and Eternally.
Remarkable History - As a singer, Vilma’s thin voice didn’t stop her to become a successful singer. Her hard work paid off and earned her a piece of history. The reluctant singer recorded strings of solo albums that created her signature songs, “Sixteen” and “Bobby, Bobby, Bobby.” Signature songs that enlisted her together with famous singers like Imelda Papin (Bakit), Eva Eugenio (Tukso), Claire DeLaFuente (Sayang), Sharon Cuneta (Mr. DJ), Didith Reyes (Nananabik), Aiza Siguerra (Pagdating Ng Panahon), Freddie Aguilar (Anak), Florante (Handog), and Gary Valenciano (Di Na Natuto). Her sweet and child like voice reflected the innocence of her original up-tempo songs that tackles teenage issues like dating, sexual education, body images and adulthood. Teenage issues that are still remarkably relevant today. - Credits: Album texts and Photos: Nar Santander, Eric Nadurata, additional photos: Rene Maximo Global Vilmanians
- 1970 Sixteen
- 1971 The Sensations
- 1971 Sweethearts
- 1971 Sweet Sweet Vilma
- 1972 Aloha My Love
- 1972 Sing Vilma Sing
- 1970 All I See Is You
- Vilma Santos’ “Sixteen” Interview
- Theme Songs (1964 – 2009)
- Sing Vilma Sing (Repost)
- Vilma Santos - Bobby Bobby Bobby (Video)
- Vilma Santos - Sad Movies Always Makes Me Cry (Video)
- Vilma Santos - A Rick Tic Song (Video)