Nova Villa on meeting FPJ, missing Tia Pusit, moving forward

Alexa Villano

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Nova Villa on meeting FPJ, missing Tia Pusit, moving forward
The star of ‘1st Ko si 3rd’ talks about how she was discovered, the leading men in her long career, and her relationship with Tia Pusit
VETERAN COMEDIAN. A natural comedian, Nova Villa says drama is the most challenging genre for her. All photos by Manman Dejeto/Rappler

MANILA, Philippines – In the ’70s and ’80s, she was known as Inez Capistrano, the funny housewife in shows Chicks to Chicks and Chika Chika Chicks. To the 90s generation, she was Ason, Kevin Cosme’s love interest in the ABS-CBN family show Home Along Da Riles

PEPITO MANALOTO. Nova stars as Mimi in the comedy show starring Michael V. Screengrab from YouTube 

Despite (or maybe because of) decades of experience, actress Nova Villa still believes in closely studying every single role given to her. In her first indie film 1st ko si 3rd, screened at the 2014 Cinemalaya Film Festival last August, Nova plays the role of Cora, who finds herself connecting with her first love Third (Freddie Webb) after retiring from her job. 

The movie is set to be shown at the Ayala Cinemas on November 12.

The veteran actress sat down with Rappler one evening to share her thoughts about the industry, loooking back on love and loss, and starring in an independent film.


Chichay and FPJ 

Nova Villa or Novelita Villanueva started her career in showbiz when she was 15 years old. 

Meron pang Lea Productions. Meron Sampaguita, LVN and Premiere. Bago pa lang ang Lea, that is why naabutan ko pa sila [comedians] Chichay, Pugo, Patsy. I made a movie. I was 15 years old – Manananggal vs Mangkukulam. It’s a horror-comedy.” 

(There was still Lea Productions. There was Sampaguita, LVN, and Premiere. Lea Productions was new then, that’s why I was able to work with comedians Chichay, Pugo, Patsy. I made a movie. I was 15 years old – Manananggal vs Mangkukulam. It’s a horror-comedy.) 

Nova said Chichay was a neighbor, and she was friends with the children. When the children were not available, it was she who would accompany the comedian to places like Sampaguita Pictures studio. She met Sampaguita founder Dr. Jose Vera Perez, who offered her a contract, but she declined it as she wanted to finish her studies.  

Sometime after, Chichay asked her again to accompany her to Premiere Productions one afternoon, where she would meet the man who would change her career. 

”She (Chichay) left me alone sa canteen that was 3pm. Yung canteen malapit sa gate. Tumitingin ako until may nakita akong mahabang kotse Cadillac na puti. Tumitingin ako baka artista. Tumingin ako at nakita ko tumitingin rin siya sa akin. Iyon pala si Fernando Poe (FPJ). Mamaya may dumating na production manager, si Mr. Ben Esteba. Tinanong kung sino kasama ko at tinanong kung gusto ko mag-artista. Sabi ko ‘oo.’ Hinanap si Chichay at iyon pala, si FPJ they were looking for a leading lady for the movie Daniel Barrion.”

(The canteen was near the gate. I was looking on, and I saw a long white Cadillac. I was peering, because it might be an actor. I looked and I saw the gentleman was looking at me also. It was Fernando Poe (FPJ). Later, a production manager, Mr. Ben Esteba came. He asked me who I was with and if I wanted to become an actress. I said yes. He looked for Chichay and it turned out that FPJ was looking for a leading lady for the movie Daniel Barion.)

The Daniel Barrion movie would become a hit, and she was signed under FPJ’s film company. 

LONGEVITY. Nova Villa says she constantly reminds the young actors of today to love their job and to pray

Solo movie, Dolphy and Freddie Webb

Known as a comic actress, notable for her wide, open expressions, Nova has worked with renowned actors, including Dolphy and Freddie Webb, who would become her on-screen partner on the TV shows Chicks to Chicks, Chika Chika Chicks. Years later, they would co-star again in the movie 1st Ko si 3rd. 

Nova said that in the beginning, she was unsure about working with the former basketball player and senator.

“Actually with Freddie Webb nauna akong artista. Sobrang malayo ang agwat namin. Noong bago lang kami ni Freddie, I was reluctant, hindi ako at ease.  

(Actually with Freddie Webb, I got started first in showbiz, there was a gap. When Freddie and I were new [working together], I was reluctant, not at ease.)

According to Nova, she was so worried that she asked the Chicks to Chicks director Ading Fernando if he was going to let her go from the show until one day, she discovered something about her co-star.

LONGTIME LEADING MAN. Nova Villa with Freddie Webb in a scene from the comedy show 'Chika Chika Chicks.' Screengrab from YouTube

“Sa takbo ng taping, ginagampanan ko lang yung role ko. May nahuli ako kay Freddie- bungisngis siya. Nung panahon na iyon pag may tumawa kinacut. Ako sinuggest ko kay Direk Ading pag may natawa it’s but normal to laugh, huwag niya i-cut.”

(In the course of the taping, I was doing my role. I later found out that Freddie giggles a lot. At that time, if someone laughs, they cut it. I suggested to Direk Ading that if someone laughs, well, it’s but normal to laugh, don’t cut it.)

“What I did when I found out Freddie was bungisngis, sabi ni Direk, ‘Gawin mo gusto mo.’ So nag-adlib na ako at until sa bandang huli nakiride on na siya,” she said of Freddie. 

(When I found Freddie giggles a lot, Direk told me ‘Do what you want.’ So I adlibbed and afterwards he picked up from there.)

As for the late Comedy King Dolphy, Nova said that working with him was a pleasure, and she learned so much from his, especially new acting techniques.

Many years after her first role, of all the genres she tried, Nova considers drama as the most challenging genre for her. 

“I cannot cry. Imagine for the past 53 years in showbiz, on my 50th sa movies, doon pa lang ako nag-drama sa GMA.  (it was only on my 50th year that I did drama for GMA.) When I transferred here puro teleserye, puro drama (it was all television series, all drama.),” she said. 

HOME ALONG DA RILES. With late actor Dolphy in a scene from the show 'Home Along Da Riles.' Screengrab from YouTube

Although she started her career in the movies and has been a leading lady to many actors, she considers 1st ko si 3rd as her first solo starring role. Something, she said, pushed her to give director Real Florido a chance.

Maganda naman ang sinasabi niya sa istorya and I think it was really meant for me to do the movie. Basta na lang ako umoo. ‘Okay Direk.’ Parang may pumasok na ‘why don’t you give him a chance sa isang baguhan?’”

 (The story was beautiful and I think it was really meant for me. I just said yes. ‘Okay Direk.’ It’s like someone told me ‘Why don’t you give a newbie a chance?’)

LOVING SISTER. Nova is grateful for all the support, donations and prayers given to her late sister Tia Pusit's family

Tia Pusit and showbiz longevity

Unknown to many, Nova and comedian Tia Pusit are half-sisters. When asked how their relationship was before the comedian’s death last October 3, Nova, said that they had a good relationship, despite their differences.

Kasi half-sisters kami. So masayahin kami, puro mga comedian. Kanya-kanya kaming mga buhay. Hindi man kami nagkikita nang madalas  pero pag may time, pupunta sila sa akin, sa bahay ko. Kahit hindi kayo nagkikita nag-uusap, yung wavelength yung fresh palagi nandiyan lang. Pag nagkita kami parang kahapon lang.”

(We are half-sisters. We are all happy people, because we are both comedians. We have our own lives. We may not often see each other, but if there is time, they would visit me in my house. Even if we don’t talk often, the wavelength is always fresh, like it’s always there. When we saw each other, it’s like we just saw each other the day before.)

Nova said that it was she who brought Tia Pusit into showbiz. Tia Pusit soon found her own style of comedy, but at times, Villa had to remind her to tone it down. 

Napapagsabihan ko siya. Hindi niya ako sinasagot. Never iyan sumagot sa harapan ko pero may nagpapsabihan siya na hindi niya alam sinasabi sa akin. When I confront her, it’s always in a letter.”

(I always talked to her, but instead of talking to me, she would tell others, who would tell me. When I confronted her, it was always in a letter.) 

Nova also took the opportunity to clarify the report that one single donor paid for the medical expenses of her sister, when she was hospitalized. She said that there is no truth to that report, as there were many who donated and the money from a charity concert held to raise funds also helped them in paying for the hospital bills. 

Advice for newbies 

Today, she’s looking back on a storied career, an iconic body of work. Nova said she believes that prayers go a long way, especially for the young ones who want to enter showbiz. It’s not just about being famous and earning money, she said, but also loving what you do.  

“They have to pray. They have to love their job. Ang lagi ko sinasabi sa kanila number one, mahalin niyo ang trabaho. Kung nilagay kayo ng Diyos, sabi ko mahalin niyo iyan  dahil sapagkat kung hindi madali mawawala at makukuha iyan. Dapat mo din isipin  bakit ka nilagay, kasi may mission at hindi lang para kumita at maging popular hindi ganon,” 

(I always tell them, number one love your work. If you were put by God there, I told them love it because if not, it would just disappear and be taken away from you. You should also think ‘why were you put there,’ because you have a mission. It is not just to earn and become popular. It’s not like that.) 

She also said that for one to be successful in any field, whether showbiz or business, one should understand his mission.

Bago ako lumalabas, anong istorya natin, anong leksyon? I always study that. Anong lesson?…Iyan din ang tinuro ko kay Pusit. May obligasyon, responsibilidad tayo sa mga viewers. Tayo iniidolo so kailangan meron tayong iwan sa kanilang mga values. Sige mag-comedy ka pero be sure may redeeming factor. Iyon ang lagi kong sinasabi.

Eto naman sa mga bagets nangangaral ako aside from being professional, you have to be on time… you have to pray, sabayan ninyo ng prayer if you want to stay long sa business na eto, magdasal kayo and  be sure na mahalin niyo ang trabaho ninyo kung hindi kukunin iyan, mawawala sa inyo.”

(Before I perform, I ask what the story is, what are the lessons. I always study… That is what I also taught Pusit. We have an obligation, responsibility to our viewers. They idolize us, so we have to leave them values. Go ahead, do comedy, but there is a redeeming factor.  That is always what I tell her.

With the young ones, I teach them aside from being professional, you have to be on time, and you have to pray if you want to stay long in this business, because it can just be taken away.)   

With all the blessings given to her – a family and longevity in showbiz is there anything else that Nova Villa can ask for? Whatever comes, she says, she’s okay with it. 

Naranasan ko na lahat, hindi ako milyonaryo talaga, hindi ako superstar pero nakain ko ang kinakain ng superstar. Napuntahan ko ang napuntahan ng superstar. Kumbaga ganon. It doesn’t mean superstar Nora Aunor. Napagdaan ko na lahat niyan at natikman ko na lahat iyan. Kumbaga hindi naman iyan gauge mo of happiness.”

(I’ve already experienced everything. I am not rich, I am not a superstar but I’ve eaten what a superstar eats. I’ve been where a superstar has been, and I don’t mean ‘superstar’ as in Nora Aunor. I just mean, I’ve been through it all, had a taste of it. And that’s not the gauge of happiness.)





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Alexa Villano

Alexa is one of Rappler's Lifestyle and Entertainment reporters, covering local entertainment news to a wide range of topics from beauty pageants to reality shows.