Mila del Sol: EntrepreneurIf you will ever have a chance to talk to Mila Del Sol, you will be impressed by her determination to improve her life despite all the odds that befaced her during her growing years. In an interview, Mila said, I was not happy to be poor, and I know there was a way out of poverty. I vowed to myself to do something about it. Mila Del Sol is Clarita Villarba Rivera in real life. She was born in Tondo, Manila at the free ward in Mary Johnston Hospital on May 12, 1923. Her father, Amado C. Rivera, was a native of Batangas, who worked two jobs to support his growing family, as an employee of the Internal Revenue service during the day and a waiter at night. He also became a guerilla fighter during World War II. Her mother, Lorenzo Villarba, spent her life as a homemaker, raising her eight children. While she was growing up, Mila went through different challenges in life. She never thought of herself as beautiful, and would even describe herself as being fat, ugly and asthmatic during her younger years. She remembers wearing the hand-me-down clothes of her sisters because she was the sixth child in the family. She remembers very well how it was to live in poverty. She would often reminisce with pain those nights when she and her siblings would go to bed without having dinner.Mila remembers that her father was from a well-to-do family, but because he had to support a big family, money was always short. She remembered that they once owned a house but were unable to meet the monthly amortizations. The family was forced to move out of their house in Pasay with nothing but their clothes. To avoid embarrassment, they vacated their house quietly at night. They moved to a one-room house in Intramuros. She recalls that because there were ten of them, there was never enough room for all of them. Naranasan ko ang lahat ng hirap sa buhay. Sa oras ng pagtulog, kalahati nakaupo, kalahati nakahiga. After some time, the ones seated would wake up so that those who where lying down, sila naman ang mahihiga, Mila recalls. In an interview with Bayani San Diego, Mila said that she wanted to become a movie star so she could buy her mom a pair of slippers. They were poor. She remembers watching her mom move around the house barefooted, because her mom would rather spend the money on food rather than on a new pair of slippers. She then vowed that one day she will make enough money to buy something nice for her mom, not just a pair of slippers, but something much more.Through her growing years, she has this motivation to get out of poverty. Her aspiration was bolstered by a manghuhula (fortune teller) who predicted that she would bring immense fortune to the family. She recalls that while relaxing at the doorsteps of their house, the manghuhula told her mother, Naku yayaman kayo. Tignan mo ang paa ng anak mo, referring to Milas second toe which is significantly longer than the first. Like many Filipinos, Mila believed in what the manghuhula said.Her Movie CareerMila was the dakilang alalay of her sister, Gloria Imperial, a major dramatic actress in the 30s. Mila was Glorias chaperone and all-around assistant. She would carry her sisters clothes and make-up kit to the set. Chimay na chimay ako, Mila said. Yet even at an early age, Mila was already determined to be a movie star. She was never that good at school and she thought her only passport out of their dire situation was a showbiz career.It did not take long before Milas dream became a reality. It was while accompanying her sister to a race in San Lazaro that she was spotted by Doña Sisangs daughter, Aling Bading. Mila recalls her mother telling Bading that Gloria had a younger sister but she was plump, a tomboy. But when Doña Sisang met Mila, the LVN producer was smitten. Doña Sisang insisted for Mila to be cast in Giliw Ko, despite the resistance of the movie director, Carlos Vander Tolosa.Tolosa was skeptical about her abilities, Mila recalls. Toloso would order her to keep running in front of the camera until she gets tired and give up. Tolosas resistance did not stop Mila to become a movie star. Eventually Tolosa accepted his defeat. Wherever they went shooting and the sky was overcast, the sun would shine when it was time to shoot Milas scenes. Tolosa called her the miracle of the sun.Mila appeared in three films in 1938, one of which was Ang Maya opposite Fernando Poe, Sr. She got her big break as a principal character in the 1939 classic, Giliw Ko. Her appearance in Giliw Ko with Fernando Poe, Sr., Fleur de Liza (subsequently becoming Mona Lisa) and Ely Ramos was the beginning of Mila Del Sols reign as the Queen of LVN stars.During the premiere of Giliw Ko at the Metropolitan Theater, her constant running onscreen impressed the late Philippine President, Manuel L. Quezon. Mila recounts, He stood up and applauded, shouting, Donde este Guia? Milas characters name was Guia. The spotlight searched for Mila who was in the gallery. She was not popular yet thats why she was not seated with the stars. Mila said, Hindi pa ako marunong mag-high heels nuon. So I removed my shoes and ran down sa ibaba. Right there and then, he invited me and my family to Malacañang. Mila and her family had breakfast at the Malacanang Palace the next day, an experience that she would always remember.From 1938 to 1942, Mila made twelve movies for LVN including Hali (1940), and Sawing Gatimpala (1940), which was based on a song written for Mila by Aurora Quezon, wife of President Quezon.She was known as the original Sarong Girl of the Philippine movies, the local counterpart of Hollywoods Dorothy Lamour, because she literally made a splash in a wet sarong in the 1947 film Sarong Banggi, which co-starred Rogelio de la Rosa and female comedienne Lopita. Mila believes she must have made about 50 movies with LVN. From P500 per picture, she later earned P25,000 per film. Mila said that Rogelio de la Rosa and she were among the highest paid stars at that time. Doña Sisang helped her build her first home in Sta. Mesa Heights.After World War II, the first Filipino movie to come out was LVN Pictures Orasang Ginto, directed by Manuel Conde. The movie, based on the story of Aurora Quezon, tells of the Filipinos tragedies and miseries during and after the war. It starred Mila Del Sol, Elvira Reyes and Bimbo Danao.In Hollywood, she also acted in a film, Escapade in Japan, which co-starred Teresa Wright, Jon Provost and a still unknown Clint Eastwood. She also worked with Clint on the TV shows Raw Hide and Silent Service. She ended up in Hollywood because she was a foreign correspondent for Kislap-Graphic magazine.Mila is now residing in Manila after living for about two decades in the US. Acting will always be in her blood. She is raring to act in movies and television again. Her last film was Kahit Wala Ka Na, where she played mom to Sharon Cuneta. Prior to that, she appeared in Batyat Palo-Palo with Vilma Santos and Fernando Poe, Jr. At present, shes busy doing a teleserye, Rosalka, an afternoon drama at ABS-CBN which features Empress Schuck in the title role along with Matt Evans and Felix Roco (son of Bembol Roco). Mila Del Sol plays the role of Doña Carmen Sta. Maria.Her Love LifeMila married Francisco Tambunting when she was almost 18 years old. It was a very young marriage during war time, but a dream wedding the biggest wedding of the season, Mila said. The wedding ceremony was held at the University of Sto. Thomas with Doña Sisang and Don Benigno Aquino, the grandfather of President Nonoy Aguino, as two of the principal sponsors. She said she had a long history with the Aquinos. She has two children by Francisco Tambunting Jesus Sonny Francisco and Maria Eleanor.The fairy tale romance, however, did not last long. After five years of marriage, she decided to divorce Francisco, which became quite a big scandal at that time. Yet, looking back, she would tell you that she has no regrets. In an interview, she said, If only for our two brilliant and wonderful children, Sonny and Eleanor, the whole marriage was worth it.Mila did not remain a single mother for long. Al Alonzo Young, an American diplomat came to her life. It seemed she was destined to marry him. Young was one of the commissioners in the Philippine War Damage Commission. She met him in a despedida hosted for Mila by then Secretary Benigno Aquino. During the party, Mila tried to stay away from Young because he was with his girlfriend. One of the Aquino brothers asked him to take Mila home and that was the beginning of a romantic relationship.Mila and Al soon got married. They had the wedding reception at the Manila Hotel with Amelia de la Rama as one of the wedding sponsors. They were blessed with two daughters – Jeanne Young and Peachy Young, mother of musician Ira Cruz.Mila believes she has 17 grandchildren. I said, Wow! Mila responded, wait, hold your breath – and I have 28 apo sa tuhod, a very prolific family. Mila emphasized that she has six children and out of her six children, she has 28 great grandchildren.The EntrepreneurMila retired from films early to raise a family. She migrated to the United States and lived there, and spent much of the 50s in Europe. She returned to the Philippines in 1960 and starred in two films released that year, Pakipot and Tatlong Magdalena. The following year, she starred in an international production Espionage: Far East (1961) with co-stars Tod Andres, Leopoldo Salcedo, Diane Jergens, Manuel Conde, Shirley Gorospe, Joan Tabor, Rita Lynn, Richard Loo and Vic Diaz. The movie was directed by Ted Post, Gerry de Leon, and Eddie Romero. Mila also starred in the hit television series Problema mo Na Yan!While in the United States, she decided to go back to school. She took a business course at the Glendale Community College. For ten years, she shied away from the limelight and took care of her ailing daughter Peachy. After Peachy passed away, Mila decided it was time to come home.In 1964, Mila founded Superior Maintenance Services (SMS) Incorporated, which employs over ten thousand people. The year was 1965 when Mila Del Sol, an already well-known entertainment celebrity at that time decided to start a janitorial service business. Together with her eldest son, Sonny Tambunting, they proceeded to set-up SMS, Inc with the help of her brothers, Jun Rivera and Duds Rivera, her youngest brother.Mila told me a lengthy story on how she started the business. It was her oldest son, Sonny Tambunting, who really wanted the business. Sonny was raised in the States. He was only five years old when Mila brought her son to the U.S. Mila recalls that even at a young age, Sonny was eager to work. At that time, ang mga bata ang iniisip agad ang makapag-trabaho what can they do after their studies. Mila said. His son worked as a newspaper boy. She remembers they were living in Sunset Strip and his sons barkada were the sons of Bing Crosby and Ricky Nelson. Her son was eventually able to own a newspaper stand at the corner of Sunset and Vine. Milas friends loved her son because hes educated and so magalang. Her American friends would stop-by the newspaper stand to say hello. When they buy the newspaper which then costs $0.25, they would give him $1.00. Mila added, Napamahal siya sa mga Americano kasi educado at magalang. At age 16, her husband gave Sonny a trip to Manila as a graduation present. When he was in Manila, his son wanted to work. Mila tried to help him and requested her friends to help her son. They told her, Naku Mila, batang-bata pa yan. Let him enjoy his vacation. Dont let him work. Mila told her son to simply enjoy his vacation and not to try and find a job. But his son was so insistent to work to keep himself busy. A friend of Milas who owns a beauty parlor in Manila told her that she knows a job opening at the old Aristocrat Restaurant. When she went home, Mila told her son about this, and he immediately said, Mom, I love it, I love it. Mila was so disappointed that his son would work as a waiter. Eventually, Sonny got the job. After one or two days, he was immediately promoted as a manager at the Aristocrat. Milas friends who became Sonnys customers were so proud of him. They would give him big tips which would go to all the staff of Aristocrat. The owner of Aristocrat, Mrs. Reyes offered to send Sonny to Germany to pursue a career in hotel and restaurant management. Sonny declined the offer. He told Mrs. Reyes that he would like to help his mom with a new business he had in mind janitorial services. When he went home and told Mila about his plans, Mila said, What? Are you out of your mind?To make the story short, Mila was convinced to put up a janitorial services business. She went back to school to learn the business side and learned the trade fast. Her brothers helped her put up the business. She remembers pawning one of her rings for P50,000. She was embarrassed to talk about it but thats how she managed to put up the business. Her brothers told her that if she wants to attract money, she has to spend money. It was quite easy for her to get some clients even while the business was youg, because of her being a movie celebrity. She was able to get contracts from big business establishments, one of which was with the Philippine Air Lines, which she was able to get through the help of Don Andres Soriano. She connected with the right people to personally meet Mr. Benigno Toda, who was then the president of Philippine Air Lines. When she made the presentation to the Philippine Air Lines, she impressed them with her business skills. The rest was history. By 1995, SMS, Inc. was able to construct its own 2-story building and set-up subsidiary companies to support its operations a manufacturing company for building maintenance products, a rent-a-plant service, and a recruitment/deployment company for skilled personnel for services other than janitorial and maintenance. SMS, Inc. fulfilled a need for quality maintenance and custodial services, which made them a pioneer in the field. In 1996, they opened a branch office in Cebu, where about 500 of their personnel now serve various businesses in the bustling metropolis. The year 1998 marked phenomenal growth for SMS, Inc., making it the countrys largest and most technologically advanced janitorial and maintenance service provider in the Philippines.TodayMila continues to live a life in front of the kleiglights. She lives in a house in Paranaque, which was the original home of her youngest daughter, Peachy Young, who died in 2008.Bayani San Diego who had a chance to visit the house of Mila, described the two-story house as studded with framed photographs from her movies produced by LVN and candid snapshots with the biggest stars of RP cinemas first Golden Age.The living room centerpiece is Milas portrait, in costume as Sheba in Haring Solomon at Reynang Sheba. The intricately carved frame is a gift from the Rios family whose company made her living room and dining set from narra wood. According to Mila, the furniture pieces are 70 years old, truly antique treasures. Milas return to the Philippines was actually an idea of Sonnys son, Paranaque Vice-Mayor Gus Tambunting, who wanted his grandma to co-chair the Pag-Asa ng Kabataan Foundation. The Foundation is dear to Milas heart, and she would often get emotional every time she witnesses the graduation ceremonies of students that the foundation has helped. Her US based children, Ancel and Leo Romero, with their spouses Payan and Anna, also organized the Mila Del Sol Educational Endowment Fund for SMS employees and their children. Despite her busy schedule, she finds time to go to Baclaran Church regularly to hear mass. She prays the rosary at the grotto near her bedroom. In her interview with Bayani, she said, There is so much to thank God for. To my question What advice can you give the movie stars of the younger generation? Mila said: Not in the acting way, but my advice to them is put their talents to good use. The movie stars make so much money as compared with other ordinary people. But after the money, the glamour, and the fame have died down, what do they have to show for it? At the height of my fame, I asked myself, Ano ang maibibigay ko sa mga anak ko? So I really prayed hard and asked God to show me the way, to show me how I could help others at mapalaki ko ang mga anak ko in a good way. Ive been so fortunate to be able to help others. I would like the young stars, gawin nila yan. I dont want to sound na masyado akong maka-Dios, but prayer is number one for me. You cannot do anything without prayer. It does not matter what your religion is, whether you are Catholic, a Protestant or Seventh Day Adventist, just pray!Thats Mila Del Sol – the movie actress, the mother, the grandma, the Entrepreneur.