Writing a book has been on her bucket list for many years. It took her retirement from showbiz and academe to finally sit down and finish it.
The good news: actress-academician Lorli Dima-ala Villanueva is not fully retired at 71. She has written, not just one, but two books to boot.
The books—Dancing with the Dictator and Realms of the Unknown—were launched simultaneously on June 1 at Limbaga 77 restaurant with a star-studded line-up of special guests in attendance.
Of Dancing with the Dictator, Lorli writes, “People ask why I have chosen to write this story only now. I ask myself that, too. I realize it is not because of fear, lack of words to describe this part of my life or any other reason, but rather about knowing how my many experiences in life have made me see a clearer picture of how I have evolved to what I am… a quiet, listening, feeling, person, forgiving and flexible with the demands of life.”
She continues, “I have led a very colorful life and the journey still continues but with stillness in my heart. My Marcos experience is only one of those.”
Dancin’ is a personal account of how Lorli was “invited” by then-President Ferdinand Marcos and was held for five days in Bataan to entertain a special guest. The book reveals the inside story of such an episode which Lorli is revealing for the first time.
As Lorli puts it, she came home from years of teaching and school administration in New York only to witness more unrest and controversy spawned by the late President’s burial at the Libingan ng mga Bayani.
During a live interview with TV anchor Luchie Valdez-Cruz on Reaksyon, she openly voiced her opinion about wanting Marcos buried at the Libingan ng mga Bayani.
She says, “To me, he is part of Philippine history, regardless of how we look at him. Even Stalin, Mussolini and Idi Amin were given their rights as president. Why can’t we do the same?
“There is too much pain and hate, personal motives and politics around us. We make our lives difficult to live. Many have stunted their personal lives by not moving on.”
All experiences, Lorli says, are building blocks to a better person. Her experience with President Marcos is a part of that.
Of Realms of the Unknown, she writes, “As a young girl in the elementary grades, I would walk home from La Paz Elementary School in Iloilo City with my best friend and classmate, Miriam Defensor (Santiago), every day to my grandmother’s house along the banks of the Iloilo river. We would go through a pathway behind small huts among cogon fields and thick shrubs. We would steal tubo (sugar cane) by pulling them off the trains that passed through the rail tracks hidden by the thicket. At a certain part of the path, I would always be greeted by happy little people who would hold my hand, prancing along, until Miriam and I get to the back gate of my grandma’s home. They would then conveniently let go of my hand and disappear back into the thickets. I never ever considered that unusual. Looking back, as a young girl, did I encounter dwarfs back then?
“ I know we live in a world where other worlds exist. Though many do not believe this, it does not matter to me, because the realms of the unknown are real to me.’’
Jaime T. Licauco, the country’s foremost expert on paranormal experiences, wrote the introduction to Realms.
This, she says, is just her story.
“My closest explanation would be: God created the world with body and spirit.”
Lorli may be better known among culture buffs as an award-winning actress on stage, TV and films. Among her outstanding film credits are remarkable roles in Tinimbang Ka Ngunit Kulang, Bayan Ko, Lunes, Martes, Miercules, Oro, Plata, Mata, Paraisong Parisukat, among others.
Lorli has a master’s degree in Communication Studies from Northern Illinois University on a Fulbright scholarship. At the time she retired, she held the lofty position of deputy chair, Graduate School of Education and Special Education,Touro College University System in New York.