This talented thespian learnt the significance of hard work and humility early on, when she entered the theatre arts industry at just nine years. “My mum—who was often referred to as the second coming of Lea Salonga’s own mother as she was always at my side—kept me grounded,” says Cris Villonco-Valderrama. “She made sure that I was living a normal life outside of show business, saying, ‘Cris, this isn’t real—this is just your other life.’”
Throughout her career, Cris has won several accolades for work in musicals and plays, the latest being her fifth Gawad Buhay Award for Female Lead Performance in a Play for Red Turnip Theatre’s Constellations. She is often lauded for her versatility, which she acknowledges as an imperative requirement for all stage performers. “To succeed in the business, you must be knowledgeable, dedicated, and professional,” she adds. “You have to know your lines and be ready to do whatever the director requires because it is their vision being realised. People have attempted to enter the industry without having studied, only to fall short.”
She is no stranger to stage fright, which she freely admits she has. “Each time I do something new, I’m always a bit scared,” she says. “I start questioning if I will be able to deliver. But everything melts away when I go onstage—kind of like magic.” She often finds herself rising to meet challenges, too. In November 2016, she took on her most difficult role to date, playing a 43-yearold lesbian in Atlantis Productions’ Fun Home. To fully immerse herself into the character of Alison Bechdel, Cris made the difficult decision to live apart from her husband, Paolo, for some time.
For Cris, artists have responsibilities outside of entertaining, especially in the face of today’s sociopolitical climate. “As artists, we must be able to express our opinions in the most diplomatic way possible,” she says. “It’s good to be honest, but the truth sometimes hurts. Above all, I believe in being kind.”