Wednesday, December 27, 2006

From KUWAN Jun Lana's Blog



Superstar

May natanggap akong IM galing sa isang close friend. Hiwalay na sila ng partner niya. Halos 15 years din sila. Sobra akong affected pag may mga kakilala akong naghihiwalay. Except yata nung maghiwalay si Ate Guy at Richard Merk. At saka si Ate Guy at John Rendez. Come to think of it, hindi pala ako affected pag nakikipaghiwalay si Nora Aunor. Mommy ko lang. Die-hard Noranian yun. Nung bata ako, kung pag usapan ng mga tita ko si Nora Aunor sa bahay, iisipin mo kamag-anak namin siya. In fact, mas madalas pa kaming manood ng Superstar (yung show ni Ate Guy sa channel 9) tuwing linggo kesa magsimba. Kakaiba ang variety show noon. Walang nangyayari. Hindi kagaya ngayon, pag nanood ka ng SOP o ASAP o SIS, akala mo laging may piyesta, laging may confetting bumabagsak, laging may mga baklang impersonator, at ang favorite spiel ng mga host: "Ang saya saya!" kahit mukhang bored na bored sila.

Dati, nauso sa showbiz ang tangga. Yung bathing suit na kita ang singit at kuyukot ng babae. Si Alma Moreno, Maricel Soriano, Vilma Santos, lahat sila nag-tangga. One Sunday night habang naglalaro ako ng game-and-watch sa kuwarto ko, narinig kong nagkakagulo ang mga tita ko sa sala. So agad akong lumabas para makita kung ano ang nangyayari. Nanonood pala sila ng Superstar. And lo and behold, naka-tangga si Ate Guy. At hindi lang basta tangga, naka-hair extension din siya na 5 feet ata ang haba. Eh hindi naman matangkad si Ate Guy di ba? So yung hair extension umabot na sa sakong niya. And to complete the look, naka-blue contact lense din ang lola, dahil uso din yun noon. Tuwang-tuwa ang mommy ko at ang mga kapatid niya. Ang ganda-ganda daw ni Ate Guy. Ako naman, hindi makaimik. Kakaibang creature ang napapanood ko ng gabing yun. Hind siya si Nora Aunor. Para siyang yung babaeng smurf. Later, nung nauso ang troll dolls, naalala ko uli si Ate Guy.

Ibang klase din noon ang showbiz. Close to 300 pinoy films ang pinapalabas every year. So almost every other week, may pelikula rin si Ate Guy. At ang karibal niya sa takilya na si Ate Vi. Isang beses, biglang nagsabay ang playdate ng "Condemned" ni Ate Guy at "Alyas Baby Tsina" ni Ate Vi. Ang mommy at mga tita ko, nangampaya sa buong Salvatierra Compound ng Sta Mesa para panoorin ang pelikula ni Ate Guy. 7 years old lang ako noon, at for adults only ang "Condemned" pero ang mommy ko, nagdecide na kailangang sumama akong manood para makadagdag sa ticket sales ni Ate Guy. Hindi mahigpit ang mga sinehan noon, tatangungin ka lang ng takilyera, ilang taon ka na? Sasagot ka lang ng 18, at papapasukin ka na. But to play safe, pinagsuot ako ng long sleeves at balat na sapatos ng mommy ko para magmukha raw akong mature. Well, it worked. Walong beses ko yatang napanood ang "Condemned", and each time naka-long sleeves at balat na sapatos ako.

Anyway, balikan ko lang yung tungkol sa friend kong nakipaghiwalay. Ang lungkot. Buti na lang andiyan ang memories ni Ate Guy to comfort me.

Monday, December 25, 2006

THE SUPERSTAR IN ACTION



Once the Superstar takes centerstage, her main goal is to entertain the fans who came to watch her perform. Ate Guy amazingly gives her all in each number. She even throws one liners at the audience. In the numerous occassions I've seen her perform, this was the only time she really took command of the entire show. Unlike in her previous engagements where she would take breaks during the guest comedian's routine, here she only had 5 minute breaks during each set.



Fans flock to the stage each time and it was extremely difficult for us to maintain crowd control. Since there was no security at the venue, we had to take charge of the audience. They will be trying to pull her off the stage. When Ate Guy decided to join the fans they are drawn to her like moths to a flame. This much I can say, she is first and foremost an entertainer, and by watching her perform you're not just entertained, you are taken to her world. The world of Nora Aunor, the One And Only Superstar.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

A SUPERSTAR CHRISTMAS





Our dear Noranian friend Nestor de Guzman sent this photo of Ate Guy.
A special greeting from someone close to my heart the One And Only Superstar.

Saturday, December 09, 2006

BEFORE THE SHOW
Minutes before the show, Ate Guy's business manager Norie Sayo gave her specific instructions to do a spiel first instead of singing her opening number so she can warm up the audience. This was the very first time I saw the Superstar perform all by herself. Unlike her previous engagements where she would have Fe de los Reyes, Bernardo Bernardo and Leonard Obal to perform the comic routine, Ate Guy had to do it all. She was nervous at first. After wishing her goodluck, we left the Superstar inside the dressing room as she prayed. Afterwhich, I handed her the microphone as she took center stage.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

A SUPER SURPRISE
During the almost two hour autograph signing after the show, a fan gave Ate Guy a gold chain. I was surprised by the gesture. She just placed the necklace around Ate Guy's neck . In the numerous times, I've been in the same situation, something extraordinary always happens. Ate Guy thanked the fan and gave her a big hug. She even showed me the necklace hence the photo. The elderly woman behind me whispered, Tingnan mo, ang ganda ng kuwintas na ibinigay kay Nora! to which I responded, Opo nga eh! She even asked me Magkano ang ibinabayad ni Nora sa 'yo? I smiled and simply said, Ginagawa ko po ito dahil sa pagmamahal ko kay Ate Guy! She said Ang suwerte mo naman! I then told her Talaga po! After our short conversation, I took her to Ate Guy so she can sign her CD's and have her picture taken with the Superstar.

Monday, December 04, 2006

A CHRISTMAS SONG TO REMEMBER



Since Christmas is just around the corner, during last Saturday's concert Ate Guy was asked to sing Pasko Na, Sinta Ko which was not included in her repertoire. While getting ready for her next set, the show's musical director General Norie Sayo told me to inform Ate Guy about the number, she said she doesn't know the lyrics to the song, General asked me to write it for her. Next thing I knew, there I was backstage, writing the lyrics to Pasko Na, Sinta Ko so Ate Guy can sing it. While she was singing the song with my hand written lyrics in tow, we were all in tears. Ate Guy just sang it with so much longing... we all felt the loneliness in her voice. Her performance almost brought the house down. After the number, she kept on apologizing for not memorizing the lyrics, she probably forgot that it was an impromptu number. This was actually the first time I saw her in a show by herself, and I'm still enthralled by this truly gifted and amazing performer.

Sunday, December 03, 2006

A SUPER CHRISTMAS PRESENT




As all hardcore Noranians know, once you've bonded with Ate Guy it would be impossible to convice the Superstar to sign an autograph. When I first met Ate Guy during the first leg of her Power Of Two US Concert Tour with Pop Diva Kuh Ledesma a couple of years ago in San Francisco, I brought the DVD of Bilangin Ang Bituin Sa Langit (1989) with me so I can have it autographed. Unfortunately for me, after spending sometime with Ate Guy, when I asked her to sign my DVD she refused to do so. She told me that I am not a fan anymore but a family member. From the number of occassions, I've spent time with the Superstar, I would constantly beg her to sign my Nora memorabilia. Last summer when she was here in the East Coast, I tried asking her if she could sign my poster of Andrea, Paano Ba Ang Maging Isang Ina? (1990) and once again, she didn't give in to my request. Over the weekend, Leonel and I was asked by her business manager General Norie Sayo to watch her show in Baltimore. I brought a lobby card from her film Minsan, May Isang Ina (1983) so I could ask her for the nth time to sign it for me. Before we left this afternoon, she called me to her hotel room and to my utmost surprise, she handed me the lobby card with a personal dedication. I cannot believe that after all the pleading she finally gave in to my lifelong request. I told her that it's really a Super Christmas present!

Sunday, November 19, 2006

ONCE A WRITER
With Marina Feleo Gonzales
During the New York Filipino Film Festival held last month at the ImaginAsian Cinema in Manhattan, Filipino film enthusiasts had the rare opportunity of watching Minsa'y Isang Gamu-Gamo (Premiere Productions, 1976) on the big screen. The film starred Philippine Superstar Nora Aunor as Corazon de la Cruz, a Filipino nurse with dreams of working in the land of milk and honey. It was quite an opportunity to have met the writer, Marina Feleo Gonzales, one of the four pioneer women who made this film a reality, the other three being lead actress Aunor, director Lupita A. Concio (now Kashiwahara) and producer Digna Santiago. She shared stories on how Minsa'y Isang Gamu-Gamo came into fruition. The film was based on real life events and she used those events as the genesis for the film. Ms. Gonzales hasn't seen the movie in twenty seven years. There were scenes that made her cry and I had goosebumps while she was regailing us with her experiences during filming. She told me that Nora Aunor was the only actress she had in mind to play Corazon de la Cruz. Ms. Gonzales said that the director was faithful to the script. The writer said that she didn't have chance to watch the play when it was staged by PETA in 1991. Minsa'y Isang Gamu-Gamo is one of the best films produced during the Second Golden Age of Philippine Cinema and after watching it again on the big screen, it certainly is.

Saturday, November 11, 2006

BONA: Martyr Or Monster
Film Review By: Noel Vera



(Please note: plot discussed in close detail)

Lino Brocka's Bona is possibly the least-seen of his major works, partly because the two remaining good prints of the picture had been squirreled away abroad (to the Cinematheque Francais and the New York Metropolitan Museum of Art), while Filipinos back home had to content themselves with fading recollections and equally faded Betamax tapes. Everyone remembers how powerful the film was; no one can rightly say they've actually seen it, at least in recent years.

It's exciting news to learn that Cinema One with the help of the Cinematheque is broadcasting a clear new video copy of Bona , one with French subtitles. For a new generation of viewers--one barely able to recognize the name of Brocka--this is a chance to finally see a famed classic; for those who remember the film from its Metro Manila Film Festival run this is a chance to update (and possibly destroy--but that's the risk of any revival) their Beta-assisted memories with freshly minted images. Whichever you are, veteran or innocent, even twenty-six years later there's much in the film that can still shock and appall.

To know more about Bona the film it's helpful to know a little about "Bona," the episode that debuted on the TV drama anthology Babae (Woman), with Laurice Guillen as Bona and Ronaldo Valdez as the actor she has an affair with. Brocka in a 1981 interview with Agustin Sotto describes the TV drama as a "first love affair" that the girl enjoyed so much she starts following the man around; the film on the other hand is "a case study of a social phenomenon…an 18-year-old girl who gives up everything--her boyfriend, her family--for her movie idol."[1] Guillen, the actress who Brocka called his "Jeanne Moreau" (meaning, presumably, that she would play the neurotic types) said she could "relate to it…like Bona, I felt so exploited in what I felt was a one-sided relationship."[2]

Translating the drama to the big screen, Brocka made some fundamental and quite fascinating changes--the casting of Nora, for one, as Bona. Aunor, famous for being the first Filipina actress with brown skin and small stature to become a movie star, is equally famous for playing countryside maidens, domestic helpers, laundry women, water carriers--humble figures her millions of fans could identify with, and whose eventual rise to fame and fortune they could celebrate. The course of Bona's fate runs backwards--she's the daughter of a middle-class family. If she shines shoes and cooks food and cleans house, it's because she chooses to; she elects to leave her family and humble herself for her movie idol. As Brocka put it, referring to Aunor's own fans: "You will hear them talk about what they have given up. Some have given up their husbands, others a good job…this sacrifice becomes a badge for them."[3]

Of Aunor's stardom Brocka said, "She was the only star I know who could silence a crowd. After the premiere of Ina Ka ng Anak Mo (You Are the Mother of Your Child, 1979), a big crowd waited for her outside the lobby. People were unruly. Her car was being bumped by the crowd. All she did was put a finger on her lips and raise her right hand, and it was like the parting of the Red Sea. You could hear a pin drop." [4] It's typical of Brocka's sensationalist genius, not to mention his sense of mischief, that he take the inspiration for such fanaticism and make her play someone capable of the same fanaticism; when the fans sat down to watch their heroine, this time they found themselves in the shoes of an altogether darker character, capable of extremes of cruelty and violence, a warped reflection of themselves.

The opening sequence, filmed during the Feast of the Black Nazarene in Quiapo, Manila, right away establishes the similarity between movie-star worship and religious worship. Brocka's camera is poised from high up--from a godlike vantage point--looking down on the sea of faces surrounding the statue; he captures footage of men and women tossing towels at the statue, hoping attendants will pick up the towels, touch the Nazarene and toss it back to them (the dark wooden statue is said to have miraculous powers). The sequence has the crudity of a documentary, or a news segment, and seems all the more real for it. At a certain point, the camera catches Bona watching the parade go by; a cut and Bona is in the same pose but her hair is different--she's at a studio shoot, facing a different idol for adoration.

Early on Brocka establishes how lowly Gardo, Bona's movie actor, is. Gardo is a bit player who has dabbled in everything from song-and-dance to softcore porn, all with little success. Fans complained about having Aunor's character admire such a small-time loser, but Brocka points out that "if she had been adoring a superstar like herself, she would be surrounded by so many fans that her own personal drama would be obscured…" [5] More, a multitude of fans would imply a support group, other people sharing in her fixation, lessening the burden of loneliness and alienation from the world. Bona's choice of worship isn't all that unusual, actually--Adele Hugo in Francois Truffaut's L'Histoire d'Adele H. attached herself to a junior officer, to his and her mutual ruin; Catherine Sloper was ready to give up everything for her low-life paramour in Henry James' Washington Square. With certain pathological types the object of obsession's impeccability matters less than the invincibility of said obsession.

Gardo as played by Philip Salvador is a vain, self-centered, immature man; he's also a drunkard, a womanizer, a brawler, and a braggart. When Bona moves in with him he accepts her services eagerly, when she makes the slightest complaint he slaps her, and when she poses the least inconvenience he tosses her aside--not once, but twice. When Gardo takes advantage of Bona's willingness to serve him hand and foot he does with all the careless eagerness of a child, voice and face cheerful as if he were saying: "Isn't this fun? Don't you wish we could always be like this?" What's so fascinating about Brocka's direction of Salvador is Brocka's willingness to "play into type"--to show Gardo's character embodying not just every cliché about narcissistic actors, but also every unflattering gossip said against Salvador himself. Brocka either flirts dangerously with the rumors or simply doesn't care who notices: he poses Salvador in various stages of undress against light and shadow, the better to show off his smooth muscles and noble profile. Ronaldo Valdez, who originated the role in television, is an excellent enough actor that he can play a handsome cad and still be charming, even worthy of our sympathy (as he does to wonderful effect in Brocka's 1976 Insiang), but Valdez also gives off a powerful macho vibe--he's like a Filipino Clark Gable constantly on the prowl. Salvador as he appears in the film version is prettier, more delicate, a petulant child in need of care--care that Bona is willing to give Gardo in terms of the film's story, and Brocka is willing to give Salvador in terms of the film's making. The parallels between Gardo and Salvador, between Bona and Brocka (even their names sound similar) are unavoidable.

It's a hideously unsparing portrait and Salvador must be given his due for agreeing to play such a character; he must have had some idea of how people would react and how closely they would compare his real self to his reel self, yet there he is on the big screen, giving himself over completely to the role. Salvador is not a skilled actor--I think some of his best performances came about mainly because Brocka takes such extraordinary care of him--but here he achieves the honesty of a confessional, of self-revelation. His vanities and insecurities as an actor come pouring out of him as if through hypnotic therapy (onscreen they are passed off as drunken tirades); his neediness--his greed for constant attention, approval, adoration--is so great any possibility of admiring the man is swept aside by an overwhelming sense of contempt. What intensifies this quality in the performance is the sense you have that Brocka is confessing as well, admitting his foolishness in being so utterly taken in by a pretty face; you might say that this film is his way of seeking maybe not revenge, but resolution.

Which brings us to Aunor, and if Salvador is an actor by director's fiat (careful choice of appropriate roles, even more careful framing and lighting of the actor for maximum beauty and dramatic impact) Aunor is an actress almost despite the director. Brocka uses the opposite approach with her that he uses on Salvador--no glamour shots with thick gels or careful lighting, no easy scenes with paint-by-numbers emotions. Brocka uses long takes for crucial moments and in those takes she's often the focus, the fulcrum, around which the scene's complicated emotional scheme turns; even when her fellow actor looms larger on the screen, or is favored by the camera's position, she dominates the scene.

The story is familiar to most Filipinos, and for those not familiar, it's easy enough to follow: Bona attends Gardo's shoots, often bringing him soda and a snack (at one point we see the origin of Bona's fixation--an autographed picture of Gardo that he in all probability wished he never gave her). One night she is accompanying Gardo when he is beaten up; she takes him to his house and nurses him back to health. When she returns home she's whipped by her father (Venchito Galvez) for disappearing without a word; she leaves her family and informs Gardo she's moving in with him. Bona does everything for Gardo--the cooking, the cleaning, the fetching of water (a detail which must have tickled fans--Aunor was a water seller in the province of Iriga before she became famous); she even sells bottles in a cart for housekeeping money, and asks for credit from the grocery when money is short.

Early on Brocka establishes the crucial scene where Bona has to boil water and mix it with tap water for Gardo to bathe in; the image--a grown man washed by a grown woman--inspires thoughts of infantilism. Recall that after Gardo had been beaten he had looked up at Bona and, delirious, mistaken her for his mother; on several other occasions when Bona tucks him into bed drunk he talks to her as if she was his mother, speaking in a slurred, petulant voice. Gardo with Bona often regresses into a childlike state where he demands to be pampered and spoiled; Bona, being fixated on Gardo, readily agrees to his demands.

It's an oddly chaste situation--odd especially as Laurice Guillen in the TV version lost her virginity to Valdez right off--and all the more authentically perverse for its chastity. An infant is a sexual being, but the sexuality is focused more on the skin (warm bathing water) and mouth (food, drink) than on the genitals (undeveloped in a baby). This film's Bona, presumably a virgin, would know little about genital sex; she readily fulfills Gardo's demands for food and warm water, but is helpless when it comes to his two fiercest needs--for strong drink (which he slakes at the nearest nightclub bar) and for adult sex (which he sates through practically every pretty woman he meets).

Midway through Brocka gives us a shot of a fully awake and standing Gardo looking down on Bona, asleep under the mosquito net; this reversal is so startling we see it instantly for what it is: Gardo has finally come to see Bona as a sexual being. It isn't a complete reversal, of course; this still has to be all about Gardo and his pleasures. He wakes Bona and demands to be massaged; presumably he believes that the experience of spreading oil onto his naked body will be enough to arouse Bona, convince her to give in to him.

He grabs her by the wrist. Brocka cuts to a shot of Bona's face, and the expression is strangely familiar--it's the same expression Aunor had with Lito Lapid in Mario O'Hara's Kastilyong Buhangin (Castle of Sand, 1980), an expression she wears when some needy man comes to her, asking for sex. It's the expression of a woman wise not in matters sexual, but in the ways of the world and of her own body as she debates with herself: "making love to this man is not the smart thing to do…but I'm tired of always knowing the smart thing to do (or, in Bona's case "tired of not knowing what to do"). In any case, I want to do this."

The punchline comes the next morning, when Bona prepares Gardo's breakfast. Bona is guarded, wary, alert for any change to come over Gardo. Nothing--he's his usual cheerfully self-absorbed self. Gardo has gotten away with it again; Bona for all her intelligence has outsmarted herself, given away what most Filipinas consider their most valuable asset--their virtue--for practically nothing.

Or has she? More on that thought later…

Brocka is a master at sketching social hierarchies, and Bona contains fine examples of his skill. Bona, constantly following in Gardo's wake, meets the different people in his life, and constantly tests herself against them--establishing pecking order, in effect. When Bona sees Gardo and a woman walk into a motel room, the next day Bona shoves the woman into water; when Gardo brings a woman home for the night, the next day Bona chases the woman out with a broom--and is promptly slapped down by Gardo, who informs her that he'll bring home anyone he chooses. Order established--the girlfriends, then Bona, then Gardo above all. When she meets Nilo (Nanding Josef), who is clearly in love with her, she feels nothing but contempt--in the scene where Nilo confesses his love for Bona, Brocka frames the two with Nilo behind Bona, and Bona refusing to look at his face. As far as Bona's concerned, Nilo occupies the ladder rung below her--the only possible position for someone foolish enough to love unreservedly (someone, in effect, much like herself).

Interestingly, Nilo is the only one who is able to free himself from Bona's influence (more on this later): taking Bona's advice to heart about seeking other women, he informs her (in a scene where they stand side-by-side, Nilo's bulk overshadowing Bona's slight build within the camera frame) that he's getting married. It's an odd moment: Bona seems to acknowledge Nilo's risen status by confiding a dream she has, an eerie apocalyptic dream where everyone is burning, and she is wrapped in fire. Brocka makes no attempt to visualize the dream, but he does wrap Aunor in the orange glow of a Manila Bay sunset.

Bona's relationship with her family is a thornier issue: she loves her mother and her mother loves her; that much we know. Her mother makes demands at first ("Come back now, and forget Gardo"), qualifies them ("Come back anytime, but you must forget Gardo"), eventually finds her power to compel her daughter home taken almost completely out of her hands ("Come back, but don't let your older brother (Spanky Manikan) see you, or he'll kill you."). The father throws Bona out, finds out where she's staying, attempts to drag her back home; Bona tries to defy him both times, but only the second time does she succeed, and only thanks to a plot twist (a heart attack, conveniently timed--or was it?).

Now is as good a time as any to note the contribution of the great Conrado Baltazar, who gave films like Insiang (1976) and Jaguar (1979) their inimitably squalid look, and Tatlong Taong Walang Diyos (Three Years Without God, 1976) its at times stylized lyricism. Baltazar gets deeper shadows and harsher glares out of an incandescent bulb (the lighting of choice of Manila squatter shanties in the '70s) than almost any other cinematographer I can think of; he knows how to bring out the muddy details of a sewage-choked canal or a trash-strewn street so that you can practically smell the stench. Brocka, trusting in Baltazar to achieve what he needs, focuses on the blocking and performances of his actors. The words "stagy" and "theaterbound" often have unflattering connotations, but Brocka uses his theater training to locate his actors effectively within the frame, in a way that develops his "pecking order" theme--who is dominant, who is submissive, whose status is ascending, whose is descending. Within Brocka's trademark long takes--the theater proscenium translated to the big screen--you can feel the crisscrossing lines of force as actors enter, struggle, and--win or lose--resolve their conflict.

Or you hear the terrible hiss of energy dissipating, as in the shot where Bona follows Gardo and one of his girlfriends out a bar's back door. The camera pans from bar to nearby motel; Gardo and his girl don't even hesitate--they walk through the motel room door and shut it behind them. Bona is left in the parking lot staring at the door, disco music playing behind her; after a long while you see her climb into a nearby jeep (decorated with the film crew's wrap party banner), presumably to wait out the night, maybe sleep. The pathos of the scene, the unutterable loneliness suggested by Bona's silent back as she faces that door is something few other filmmakers can surpass; I doubt if Brocka ever did, himself.

Often the conflict isn't resolved, or is resolved in a way that achieves only a temporary balance, the hidden instability increasing with time. Crucial to emphasizing this element is Max Jocson's music, particularly his bongo drums. I wondered about those drums and their thrilling tattoo at first, how appropriate they were to what is essentially a melodrama (they sounded like they belonged in an action picture); after awhile my doubts vanished. Jocson's drums signal the presence of tension, of a huge watch-spring being turned round and round until it couldn't possibly be tighter: you waited for the spring either to quickly unwind or to snap, with the resulting catastrophic consequences.

As to the catastrophe's catalyst--much has been written about Gardo's selfishness towards Bona, the wretched way he treats her; I have yet to read anyone mention Bona's effect on Gardo. Bona's devotions hold Gardo back, keep him regressed and childish; while Bona caters to him, Gardo will not learn how to care for himself (one wonders how he managed before he met Bona), he will not control his drinking or womanizing (both of which continually land him in trouble), he will not move beyond the illusion that he is an aspiring star waiting for his big break. Gardo is in a state of stasis; he will not grow up, he does not want to grow up as long as he remains in Bona's heroically patient care.

Enter Katrina (Marissa Delgado, one of Brocka's regular stock players). She is a woman's woman whose figure has developed far beyond Bona's childlike physique. Gardo is in love with her, and she with him; better still, she has money. Gardo and Katrina wake Bona up late one night: he has a gift for her--a birthday gift! Bona sits up, eyes heavy with sleep, but you can tell she is wary--Gardo receives gifts, he never gives them (Gardo says Katrina chose the gift; presumably, she used her own cash to buy it). Gardo insists that they go out; at the nightclub the camera looks straight at Bona while she peers at Katrina and Gardo on either side of the screen, dancing. She has her hair pulled back, and she's wearing Gardo's gift--a v-cut purple blouse that fits her simplicity perfectly. It's the rare moment where Bona finally manages to look lovely (and Brocka privileges her with a glamour shot), but no one's paying attention; Gardo and Katrina only have eyes for each other.

Later, Gardo, sitting at the kitchen table, gives her the news: he's giving up acting--he loves it but apparently the job doesn't love him; more, he and Katrina are immigrating to America, and Bona has to vacate and go home because he's selling the house. Bona has just come from her father's funeral, where she had been thrown out by her furious elder brother. She has never looked lovelier than she does now, standing at the far wall wearing shoulder-length hair and the dress she had on at the funeral; she has also never looked more threatened. She walks up to Gardo's table (walking up to the camera lens), informs him that her brother threatened to kill her if she ever comes back, and asks what is to become of her. Gardo, thoughtless as usual, has no real answer--a foreground object (he occupies the left side of the screen) with no force, no presence, no ability to resolve the conflict being presented to him. In his mind he's already looking forward to life with Katrina in the United States; Bona is just an annoying unresolved issue here in Manila.

We're not paying attention to Gardo of course; our eyes are fixed on Bona, who says nothing yet is clearly devastated. It's Brocka's cleverest bit of misdirection, I think: by focusing on Bona's anguish we are distracted from a crucial development in Gardo's life--his attainment of a certain kind of maturity, a certain kind of belated adulthood. Katrina has managed to prod Gardo into thinking of others, however briefly (Bona's birthday gift); has helped him realize he must give up useless pursuits (becoming a movie star); has redirected his energies into something ostensibly more productive (immigrating to America).

Why is Katrina's influence so positive and Bona's so negative? Isn't Bona supposed to be the heroine of this film? Looking back, one wonders just how much control Gardo had all along--control which, when you think about it, is actually a function of how much control Bona allowed him to have over herself. You wonder about Bona's wariness the morning after she was deflowered; was she looking for affection from Gardo, some sign from him that he finally regards her as a woman, to be treasured and desired? Or was she looking for signs of change--signs of Gardo's attitude towards her evolving, becoming less childlike, moving away from the stasis she so dearly prized? Was his indifference to what happened the night before a source of disappointment for her, or relief?

With her family it seemed that stronger forces bent Bona this way and that, but when you really think about it, you realize that even then everything was shaped by Bona's decisions--she manages to stay with Gardo and her defiance triggers her father's heart attack. She may be terrified of her older brother but his authority is strictly limited--outside of the house he, unlike their father (who suffers as a consequence), does not try to reach out and pull Bona away from Gardo.

As for Nilo--Nilo seems to be the exception that proves the film's "rules." He loved Bona, but found love elsewhere when she rejected him. Unlike the others, Nilo is willing to adjust, to compromise, and this flexible attitude saves him; you might say of all the characters he's most immune to Bona's "curse."

So--does Bona deserve a radical re-evaluation? Is Bona the real villainess and Gardo her helpless victim? Not necessarily--I still think Gardo is basically selfish and Bona essentially pathetic. But the flow of feeling from people who give and people who take is rarely simple, and never one-way; there is feedback, a series of transactions, interesting vortices of emotions at play here that make the film much more than just a sordid portrait of exploitation and revenge.

I do believe both Brocka and Salvador have revealed something of their relationship as director and actor in this picture--much more than perhaps they themselves intended. And that Aunor channeled the force of their feelings to create a great performance, easily the best she has given for the most famous Filipino director who ever lived.

Bona

is a masterpiece of acting, psychology, self-revelation, realist cinema; we study it for its subtleties (of which I think there are many), but finally we experience it as a cathartic drama, an occasion for identification and reflection. Viewing the film, we see uncomfortable reminders of ourselves, by turns exploring and exploiting, seducing and betraying, adoring and abusing. Viewing the film, we realize that we are our own martyrs and monsters.

(The author thanks Jojo Devera for source materials)

Thursday, November 09, 2006

NORA AUNOR Actress Or Robot?
By Noel Vera


I understand where the wish that Nora Aunor would be more sociable and cooperative is coming from and I sympathize; in a perfect world, we would have Nora with all her passion and volatility wrapped in a perfectly malleable package...just like a lot of actors and actresses out there with proven staying power but just not that much talent, who have careers because they do what their agents tell them to do, say what their agents tell them to say. It's a career...but is it a life worth remembering?

But...let me put it this way: how do you bottle a bolt of lightning? How do you tame an earthquake, or keep the high tide on the shore? Nora is just like any other great artist, she has this incredible talent, and with that talent flaws and foibles just like any other human being; if anything, flaws are worse in a great artist, maybe because they have this power in them that they always (but not always so successfully) have to manage, to control.

So she's eccentric and inconsistent; the way I see it, that comes from her insecurities, from the demons inside her, and I suspect so does her great talent; take away the demons, and you probably take away the talent.
I'm not saying my reading of her is true, just that I suspect it is. So what do we want? An inconsistent, eccentric star actress who also happens to have given us some of the greatest performances in Philippine cinema, or a professional hack who performs like a robot? I don't know, but I personally prefer the actress to the robot.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

THE LAUNCHING

Ian addressing the fans

It was a monumental event for Noranians. Finally after two years of preparation, The Nora Aunor Website is up and running. Followers of the Superstar can now access everything they wanted to know about Philippine Cinema's Greatest Actress online.


Superkids Matet, Lotlot, Kiko and Ian with son-in-law Mickey Estrada

As always, Ate Guy's children graced the event to show their undying love and support. Also present during the launch was comedian Teri Onor who made a career out of impersonating the Superstar. The event was spearheaded by Uber-Noranians Albert Sunga, Nestor de Guzman and Marlon Antolin. Nora Aunor's 39 Years of Artistry is enough reason for this celebration.


Here's Teri with the kids

Sunday, October 29, 2006

SUPERWARDROBE



Is it me or am I seeing double? I've seen most of Ate Guy's films many times thanks to the advent of video and DVD, I can't help but notice that she have worn the same outfit in some of her movies. Most notably would be the black top Ate Guy wore in Ikaw Ay Akin (1978) in the scene where she was clothes shopping with Rex (Christopher de Leon) at Rustan's. Four years later she would wear it again in T-Bird At Ako (1982) where Atty. Sylvia Salazar bared her inner self to ardent suitor and rival Jake (Tommy Abuel).

In Panakip Butas (1977), Ate Guy was wearing this printed number while pouring her heart out to Andre (Sandy Garcia). The same top shows up two years later when the Superstar wore it again in the unforgettable reveleation scene in Lino Brocka's Ina Ka Ng Anak Mo (1979), where she uttered the famous line Hayup... hayup! Like the aforementioned scenes her wardrobe is just as memorable.

Saturday, October 28, 2006

Nora Aunor ICON (The Superstar's Official Website)



Philippine Superstar Nora Aunor's Official Website was launched yesterday at the Mowelfund Plaza where Noranians from around the country gathered to celebrate Ate Guy's 39th Anniversay in showbiz. Filled with interesting articles and reviews of the Superstar's incomparable body of work from her films, music to television and stage performances. Regarded as The Greatest Filipino Performer Of All Time, the website offers insights to her unsurpassed genius. It's the artist at work. Witness the greatest gift to Philippine Cinema... Nora Aunor Superstar!

Sunday, October 22, 2006



S Magazine's Greatest Filipino Actresses of All Time

Superstar Nora Aunor has topped S Magazine's 100-people poll of the greatest actresses in Philippine cinema. She garnered 85 votes, three more than number two placer and arch-rival Vilma Santos. Among those surveyed were film critics Butch Francisco, Mario Baustista, Gino Dormiendo and Mario Hernando, award-winning actors Dawn Zulueta, Cesar Montano and Glydel Mercado and film directors Jose Javier Reyes, Brillante Mendoza, Ellen Ongkeko-Marfil and Sigfried Barros-Sanchez.

La Aunor was cited for her compelling perfomances in Himala, Atsay, Ina Ka Ng Anak Mo, Bona, Ikaw Ay Akin, Bulaklak Sa City Jail, Tatlong Taong Walang Diyos, Bilangin Ang Mga Bituin Sa Langit, Minsa'y Isang Gamu-Gamo, Fe, Esperanza, Caridad, Banaue, Condemned, Andrea, Paano Ba Ang Maging Isang Ina?, Bakit May Kahapon Pa?, Ang Totoong Buhay Ni Pacita M., Bakit Bughaw Ang Langit?, The Flor Contemplacion Story, and Naglalayag.

Ten years ago, Nora also topped a greatest Filipino actress survey of the Manila Times' Lifestyle Section.

Here's the ranking of the top 15 Greatest Filipino Actresses Ever:

1. Nora Aunor - 85 votes
2. Vilma Santos - 82 votes
3. Lolita Rodriguez - 57 votes
4. Charito Solis - 52 votes
5. Hilda Koronel - 50 votes
6. Gloria Romero - 45 votes
7. Nida Blanca - 40 votes
8. Jaclyn Jose - 40 votes
9. Gina Alajar - 40 votes
10. Sharon Cuneta - 37 votes
11. Maricel Soriano - 32 votes
12. Lorna Tolentino - 30 votes
13. Amy Austria - 25 votes
14. Rita Gomez - 23 votes
15. Cherry Pie Picache - 20 votes



Friday, October 20, 2006



TUNGKOL SA PAGSUSULAT NG HIMALA
Ni Ricky Lee

Sinulat ko ang first draft ng Himala noong 1976 para kay Mike de Leon. Dumalo kami sa mga ispiritista. nag-interbyu ako ng mga taong pinagpapakitaan o sinasaniban ng mga kababalaghan. Pero ang pinaka-pinagmulan ng Himala ay ang nangyari sa Cabra Island noong 1967 kay Belinda, isang dalagitang pinagpakitaan umano ng Birhen. Naging komersyal ang buhay sa isla.

Paiba-iba pa noon ang title -Sta. Maria ni Elsa, Aparisyon, Mga Himala. Hindi natuloy ang project kay Mike. Dalawang taong iniaalok namin ito ni Bibsy Carballo (line producer) sa kung kani-kaninong producer. Walang natuloy. Si Nora Aunor na noon pa man ang balak para sa Elsa. At si Ishmael Bernal ang magdidirek.

Nang ilunsad ang ECP film story contest ay isinali ko ang Himala. Suwerte namang napili ito. Isang buwan ang ibinigay sa akin para tapusin ang bagong draft ng screenplay. May panahon noon na hiniram ko ang beach resort ni Armida Sigulon-Reyna sa Batangas at doon ako nagsulat.

Himala ang screenplay na pinakakonti ang naging konsesyon ko. Sa akin nagsimula ang materyal nito at hindi sa producer. Kung sa isang ordinaryong producer ito. naibigay, maaaring pinilit kaming bigyan ng ka-love team si Nora, at gawing masaya ang ending. Baka utusan pa kaming gawing totoo ang himala.

Kami ang pumili kay Nora Aunor. Pumayag ang ECP na bukod kay Nora, lahat ay baguhan sa pelikula para maging mas totoong tao ang labas, at mas matipid.

Ang naging pinakakonsesyon lang siguro ay ang pangyayaring ang sinulat ko ay isang Cupang na parang impiyerno sa init. Tigang ang lupa at walang tumutubong halaman, kaya handa silang maniwala sa unang patak ng anumang himala. Ang una kong eksena noon ay bus na papasok sa Cupang, sakay si Oriy, ang filmmaker, na para bang bumababa sila sa impiyerno.

Di pumuwede ang ganito dahil gusto ng ECP na ihabol sa Metro Manila Film Festival ang pelikula. Binawasan ko ang init sa script.

Maraming iba pang naging pagbabago mula una nanggang huling rebisyon. Siguro'y para lalong mapaganda at luminaw, o kaya'y dahil di puwede sa produksyon. Anu't anuman, walang mga pagbabagong sumaliwa sa tama, at lahat ito'y ginawa ng Direktor matapos akong konsultahin.

May character na tinanggal: si Espe. Bakia pero tough, namumuno sa pangkat ng mga batang magnanakaw sa mga turista. Isa sa mga batang ito noong una si Nestoy, na noo'y kapatid pa ni Elsa.

Meron ding isang dalaga sa Cupang na gustong mag-artista, at nagpuntang Maynila. Dito tumira si Elsa noong mawala na ang himala, at pumunta siya sa Maynila. Dinalaw niya lahat ng mga lugar na may sinasaniban ng Birhen, kinausap niya ang ibang mga kagaya niya. Lahat nang ito ay tinanggal ko.

Dumalaw ako ilang ulit sa location sa llokos, at marami kaming naging discussions ni Bernal. Karamihan sa mga ito ay nakatulong sa mga rebisyon ko. Nagkaroon ng maraming bersyon ang ending, at ilang araw bago mag-shooting saka ko naibigay ang final draft ng eksena.

Sa isang bersyon ng ending ay hindi namatay si Elsa. Nawala lang ang pagsamba ng mga tao sa kanya at naging ordinaryo siyang tao. Makalipas ang maraming maraming taon ay binalikan siya ni Orly at nakitang matanda na siya, nag-iigib ng tubig sa balon, nakalimutan na ng iahat. Sa isa namang bersyon ay nagkaroon ng espekulasyon na muling nabuhay si Elsa. At sa Simula at wakas ng pelikula ay naghinintay ang mga deboto sa kanyang pagbabaiik.

Kung susulatin ko uli ang Himala ngayon siguro'y lalagyan ko na ito ng konting ngiti, at konting paniniwala, kung hindi man sa mga bagay na hindi natin nakikita, ay sa ibang tao. Pero nagpapasalamat pa rin akong nagawa ito sa labas ng mga establisadong production company. Na nagawa ito, para na rin sa akin, ay isang munting himala.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

NORA AUNOR Film Actress
Best Of The Philippines
By: Justino M. Dormiendo



The story of Nora Aunor is unparalled in the history of Philippine show business. From the wisp of a girl who once peddled water by the railroad tracks in the Bicol town of Iriga, she has become the country's enduring superstar, a multi-awarded film actress, truly a living legend.


Aunor began her showbiz career in 1967 as a champion in the grand finals of the nationwide Tawag ng Tanghalan singing contest. At 14, she waxed a number of records, which became runaway bestsellers. Dubbed as the Girl with the Golden Voice, she changed the course of Philippine pop music by outselling local and foreign singers at that time.


Then, the movies inevitably beckoned. Dr. Jose Perez of Sampaguita Pictures offered the singing sensation guest roles in his films. By 1969, she became a lead star in Young Love, which was followed by pictures in her home studio as well as LEA Productions, with perennial screen partner, Tirso Cruz III. She was later offered to star in Tower Productions? D' Musical Teenage Idols, a box-office hit, like many of her later movies.


Nick Joaquin wrote in his book on Aunor. She has broken the color line in the Philippine movies, where the rule used to be that heroines must be fair skin and chiseled of profile. Though neither fair nor statuesque, she has bloomed into a beauty all the more fascinating because it's not standard. Seen close up, her complexion shows find gold tints, her features reveal a delicacy of outline, and her large liquid eyes are lovely.


After her stint at Tower, which saw her as the object of a legal tussle between her producers, Aunor decided to become a freelancer. She put up her own outfit, NV Productions, (named after Nora Villamayor, her real name). After the release of Banaue, in 1975, a different Aunor would finally emerge. She hired master filmmaker Gerardo de Leon in the historical costume film which is an attempt to recreate the origin of the mountain tribes that built the world-famous Banaue rice terraces. It is while making the film that she met and married Christopher de Leon, himself an accomplished actor.


In 1976, Aunor produced and starred in yet another film, Tatlong Taong Walang Diyos. As the small town school-teacher torn between her love for a guerilla leader fiancèônd a Japanese officer, she ably proved that she was an actress of exceptional talent. There, for her finely delineated portrayal of the tragic maiden, Aunor won both the critics' Gawad Urian and the industry's FAMAS Best Actress awards that same yeat.


Aunor continued to grow as an actress in her later films such as Atsay (1978), where she won yet another award in the Metro Manila Film Festival. Ina Ka ng Anak Mo (1979), where she pitted her talents with veteran actress Lolita Rodriguez, Bona (1980), where she won her second critics? best actress plum, Himala (1982), where she almost bagged the Berlin filmfests' Best Actress prize, losing by a point to the eventual winner. Other memorable Aunor performances are Bulaklak sa City Jail (1984), 'Merika (1984), and Condemned (1984).


While Aunor's present movie career has not yet been as bright, she continues to be active on television with Superstar, the longest running variety show on Philippine television. And even if her film company is no longer active, she continues to manage it, hoping to revive it soon with a line-up of pictures. Today, Aunor, now separated from husband de Leon, continues to be the doting mother to her real-life son, Ian Kristoffer, and adopted children Lotlot de Leon, Matet, both of whom have appeared in films, and Kiko.


Aunor's presence may no longer be as dominant as before, but with the release of her forthcoming films, she hopes to bounce back in circulation and thus prove to all and sundry that she is without doubt the undisputed Queen of Philippine movies.

Saturday, September 30, 2006

AUNOR BACK TO SUPERLATIVE FORM IN LACKLUSTER DIGITAL INDIE

By: Rito Asilo As Published In The Philippine Daily Inquirer September 30, 2006 Page F1


INGRATA

Director: Joey A. Gonzales

Stars: Nora Aunor, Bernardo Bernardo, John Robert Porter Jr. (aka John
Rendez), Germaine de Leon

Fans of Superstar Nora Aunor have something to rejoice about with
her second foray into digital indies in the US. (Her first, Suzette
Ranillo's Care Home about a Filipino professor reduced to working
as a caregiver in America, has yet to be released locally.) She was
last seen in Maryo J. delos Reyes' interesting but flawed May-
September drama, Naglalayag (2004).

Joey Gonzales' relevant but ornately convoluted melodrama follows
the story of Bea (Nora Aunor) 10 years after she leaves her two-
timing husband in the Philippines for a new lease on life, luck and
love in the United States.

Sense Of Resignation

But the sheen of Bea's fabled American Dream has faded: She juggles
two jobs (as a gas station attendant and waitress in a videoke bar)
to support her brilliant daughter's college education, lives in a
shabby mobile home, and has settled into a crippling sense of
resignation as she awaits the release of her abusive, freeloading
new hubby, Noli (an unrecognizably heavy John Rendez aka John Robert
Porter Jr.), a former actor-singer in Manila and sex-chat addict --
who has been languishing in prison for the past year.

Her dreary existence is further shaken when she gets a call from her
gay older brother, Hermie (Bernardo Bernardo), an advertising
executive who also packed up his bags in Manila for greener pastures
in "the land of milk and honey," whom she's forced to take in.

Dilemma

But, as the day of Noli's release draws closer, she's suddenly
sucked into an existential dilemma: How has she been reduced to this
sad, tired woman? Has she lost sight of her dreams forever?

In recent years, the Superstar's distinctly attention-calling acting
mannerisms have blighted her reputation as the country's premier
actress. And, while many of her highly anticipated starrers were
well-intentioned, they were nevertheless overwrought tearjerkers or
middling dramas that featured self-conscious, inconsistent
performances.
Result: That "acting na acting" schtick has made Aunor fodder for
impersonation -- gay or otherwise.

Long Overdue

Ingrata marks Nora's long overdue return to superlative thespic
form -- she looks natural and relaxed. Look, Ma, no grunts this
time! She delivers an indelible performance that would be hard to
beat in next year's acting derbies. Indeed, at her peak, no one
inhabits a character better than La Aunor -- and we couldn't be
happier for the embattled actress! Don't miss the movie if only for
Ate Guy's latest dramatic triumph.

The film, however, isn't as successful. As with most digital
productions shown locally, its production values leave much to be
desired: A sequence shows Aunor singing Kahit Na Magtiis at the
videoke bar where her character works, but for most of it, we only
hear instrumental accompaniment -- a waste of a golden opportunity
to showcase the legendary Superstar's fine voice!

Bernardo, for his part, also comes up with a sensitive performance
as the protagonist's brother, who has to worry about more than just
his immigration status. The actor has a calming presence.
Unfortunately, Rendez turns in a one-note characterization -- you
don't understand how a sensitive soul like Bea could fall for
someone who doesn't show her any affection.

Visual Medium

On point of picture quality, the movie fares better than the recent digital flicks we’ve seen. But, it’s still inferior to many mainstream features -- with a couple of distorted images here and there. Digital or not, film is still a visual medium, after all. If a movie isn’t pleasing to the eyes, then something must be wrong somewhere…

Though minor in thematic scope and cinematic ambition and dragged down by inconsistencies in characterization and narrative detail, Gonzales’ film shows viewers the darker side of the American Dream -- that the face of poverty is the same wherever you are.

As Hermie succinctly explains: "Iisa ang mukha ng paghihirap -- sa Pilipinas man o sa Amerika." But, will Bea ever find her way out of her existential quagmire, if and when she is presented with the opportunity for emancipation?

Thursday, September 28, 2006

NORA'S FESTIVAL



By: Patrick Flores As Published In The Philippine Daily Inquirer December 29, 1993

In one of her letters auctioned recently, Hollywood's recluse par excellence wrote: "I hate the California sunshine."

The sentiment, suffused with chic arrogance and steely dignity, can only evoke the legend woven around Greta Garbo's persona. It can also only soak the substance of tragedy more thoroughly: dreams do die and the sun sometimes cannot share the space even with the most stunning of stars.

The story of Nora Aunor has come to this. Her Cinderella fairy tale has unraveled down to its straggling thread. And the tragedy is more deeply felt now more than ever. The nostalgia for Nora's most flourishing seasons and the almost cultic devotion lavished on her by the most ardent of pilgrims simply, but not crudely, show that somehow Nora is history.

Or is it myth? The very same myth that the tumultuous lives of Gloria Swanson (as Norma Desmond in Sunset Boulevard) and Michael Jackson have spawned and shaped. The very same myth that has wrought the faces of nameless destinies.

As if peculiar to her kind, Nora's life has thrived on as it has preyed on the most complex ironies: how she practically organized mass hysteria at the height of Martial Law, how her political and artistic sensibility sharpened as the Marcoses started to lose their wits, and how her glorious career faded into the sunset as the world turned against the Empire.

Once upon a time, she'd make a movie for maybe three or four days and her multitude would gobble up the gimmick with such passion. With picnic baskets in tow, they would leave their provinces and trek to the city to watch Nora's flick on its first day – all day long. Just as they would patiently wait for the cycle of sowing and reaping to take its course, so would Nora's legion of fans expectantly bear witness to their idol's unfolding and growing larger than life on screen.

We could go on and on talking about the phenomenon, tinkering with the thought that her fate (or is it karma) might have rehearsed the days of our lives: depression, triumph, abuse, corruption, wealth, capitulations, conspiracies, poverty, bad luck, blessings, bloody battles for custody and identity, strained relations with family and children, adventures with body and spirit, addiction to bad habits, apathy, ectopic pregnancies, failed marriages, separations, resounding returns, ominous visits, wayward flights.

Like all of us after a fall, she would always promise to bounce back only to time and again frustrate herself and her friends – both sincere and the mercenary – and buckle down in the face of hostile pressures and changing times.

And so, her failed experiments: In the 90s, Nora started to take up anti-establishment causes, even if people still remembered how she had regaled Marcos loyalists with a soulful rendition of Tina Turner's We Don't Need Another Hero in one of the more celebrated campaign sorties, and how EDSA revelers violently rejected the slippers she was tossing to them during those February vigils.

Still and all, she would star in an anti-bases stage play, sing for Jaime Tadeo's release, and perform worldwide the drama on the diaspora of women's labor. In other words, Nora would shift gears even if it was already too late in the day – something not at all unusual for someone who used to fritter away the imperatives of superstardom in favor of non-formula projects, unpopular gestures towards an ungrateful industry, and die- hard romances with lovers.

Many times in her helter-skelter history, Nora would go out of her way to do "something more" for the audiences who had made and unmade her, for the souls who had selected their own societies – and then shut the door.

And the doors have remained shut. For the past three years, the Superstar's films have been dismal disappointments, box-office wise and in the context of her excellent body of work. In fact, after her golden decades, she could only manage to do films for the Metro Manila Film Festival. Not so much as a Christmas choice, to be sure, but as a business move: only a State-sponsored festival can make sure that theater owners will show her films.

Nora was an NPA amazon in Andrea… Paano Ba Maging Isang Ina and a former japayuki who assists her daughter to die in Ang Totoong Buhay ni Pacita M. In 1992, she was filmless.

Without doubt, the underdog stereotype she has retained, in reel and real life. But her mater dolorosa martyrdom has ceased to serve merely as opium. For Nora's legendary eyes have ostensibly seen the darker, sadder realities being lived everyday by her fans who'd save whatever they could scrape just to watch her pursue their dreams. Nora Aunor cannot renege on her promise.

The era of film royalty, in spite of Regal Films, is over. In the wake of Nida and Gloria, Amalia and Susan, Nora and Vilma, Maricel and Sharon, a new and fierce rivalry has yet to challenge the star-struck imagination of the public. To this we say: The Queen is Dead, Long Live the Queen!

As the fantasia-mania for Nora Aunor, the biggest star and the most competent actress Philippine cinema has ever produced, turns paler and paler every day, vanishing into the mists of myths, our remembrances of turbulent things past, of which Nora was specter, flash not like lightning but like ambulance lights – relentless, nervous, desperate in their intimations of uncertainty.

Catch her today in Inay and love her to death – for sentimental reasons.

Sunday, September 24, 2006

THE POWER OF TWO



In May 2004, The Superstar embarked in a US Concert Tour with Pop Diva Kuh Ledesma in The Power Of Two. Their first show was held at the Nob Hill Masonic Center, so I flew to San Francisco and witnessed this once in lifetime event first hand! It was a great show. From the opening number where the two performers sang a medley of the Superstar's hit songs, this incredible concert was filled with unforgettable musical numbers, my most favorite was Ate Guy's rendition of the Ogie Alcasid composition Pangako followed by Hindi Kita Malilimutan which the Superstar dedicated to the artists' and close personal friends she's been with who have passed on. It was a truly emotional number. I cannot help but be moved when they showed pictures of the Superstar with the dearly departed actors and filmmakers in a video screen on stage. The loss was evident in those soulful eyes. Ate Guy's duets with the Pop Diva were just as engaging. From the lively Manila Sound Medley where they sang songs from the Superstar's movie musicals such as Annie Batungbakal, Bongga Ka Day! and Beh! Buti Nga! to their rendition of Ryan Cayabyab's Minsan, Ang Minahal Ay Ako from the musical Katy! It was night of great songs provided by two of the best voices the Philippine Music Industry has ever produced!

Saturday, September 23, 2006

THE SUPERSTAR LIVE IN BOSTON!


For the first time Superstar Nora Aunor performs live in Boston! Don't miss this totally different concert with Special Guest Fe de los Reyes featuring new songs arranged by musical director Norie Sayo . The show promises to be entirely different from the Superstar's previous live performances. For tickets and inquiries please call Grethel Bolandrina at (508) 476-0009. See you all there!

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

THE SUPERSTAR'S TEN MOST MEMORABLE SCENES


1. Nora as Azun in NAKAW NA PAG-IBIG (Associated Entertainment Corporation, 1980) standing on the edge of a ravine. She is pregnant. Her face is clear. Azun imagines the possibilities of the place. The reflections, the romance and the possibility of murder. She looks at Robert (Phillip Salvador) the man beside her and suspects his motives. She panics and plunges to her death. The wide range of emotion she displayed during that scene from calm to hysteria can only be played out by a true artist whose talent is "pure instinct", according to Bernal.

2. Nora playing escaped convict Angela Aguilar in BULAKLAK SA CITY JAIL (Cherubim Films, 1984) giving birth alone at night inside a cage at the Manila Zoo. People find her. She cradles her newborn, holds on to it, protects it. Recall how she squints as flashlights blind her. This powerful primal image of giving birth is unequalled in film history. Nora was, at that moment, not human. She was a nocturnal animal giving birth in the dark.

3. Nora as Yolly, the flower vendor in CONDEMNED (NV Productions and Golden Dragon Films, International, 1984), locked in a battle of steely nerves against Connie (Gloria Romero), a crazed mobster matriarch over a bounty of dollar bills in Nora's possesion. Gloria taunts her. Fake 'yan!, she says. Nora remains calm. She burns the dollar bills one by one. Her eyes cold as she defies evil, Akala ko fake?

4. Nora as Babette, the unfavoured daughter in BAKIT BUGHAW ANG LANGIT? (Four Seasons Films, International, 1981). Three sequences capture her character's transformation, from quiet sufferance, to defiance and ultimate liberation.

1) Babette waters cactus plants with complete devotion. Recall the almost zen-like manner in which she performs this task, her only source of fortitude against her abusive family.

2) Babette is thrown out of the house. As neighbors struggle to hold her still, she hurls in pain one of the most memorable lines of Nora Aunor against her oppressors in Philippine cinema - in this case, her mother, a former actress (Anita Linda). Tama na ang pag-aartista! Matagal na kayong laos!, her delivery solid and crushing.

3) The family moves away and as the truck leaves, we see Babette across the street, wearing a t-shirt and a skirt and holding all her possessions in one small luggage. She is, finally, on her own.

5. HIMALA (Experimental Cinema Of The Philippines, 1982). Not the raved climactic scene where Nora as Elsa, the faith healer was fatally shot but the funeral scene. Her power begins to fail and children die one by one. Nora in black, attends the funerals, a white cloth wrapped around her forehead and a veil covering her head. One of the dead children's mother lunges at her and curses that she will go to hell. Recall how this jolts Nora, as if stabbed. And how she wailed. I remember reading an interview with actress Susan Valdez about that scene. "It was as if all the pain she went through in life was captured in that single moment…". True, like a dam that suddenly cracked and burst.

6. Nora, the fan in BONA (NV Productions, 1980). Two scenes.

1) After abandoning her family to serve her idol, Bona returns home to attend her father's wake. Clearly, she is unwanted. She walks to the coffin in fear. Bona presses her face to her late father's. Close-up of her final payments, her grief clenched tightly like a fist. A tear falls. Suddenly, her brother pulls her hair so violently, she gasps in shock, her momentary grief interrupted by a more painful assault. A mute sequence only La Aunor could give the unbearable weight it requires. Which brings me to the finale.

2) Betrayed by her idol, she seethes behind a pot of boiling water. If you want to see Nora at her most disturbing moment, when all hope is lost - recall how she stares blankly at the steam rising from the boiling pot, vengeance and madness darkly, quietly brewing.

7. In ATSAY (IAN Film Productions, 1978), Nora as Nelia de la Cruz, the maid is alone in the kitchen, she is going to eat her meal. She does not sit at the table. Nelia eats standing right next to the corner where she cooks and washes dishes. She does not use utensils. She uses her hand and eats a mouthful. She almost throws up. The food is spoiled. It does not revolt her. She does not get angry. If she is sorry for herself, we do not see it. As if it had to happen naturally once in a while. Classic.

8. In MINSAN, MAY ISANG INA (Regal Films, Inc., 1983), all hope is gone for Ruth (Nora Aunor) and she loses her sanity. In a burial, she cracks and regresses. She believes she is being abandoned. She clings to her younger sister and starts muttering Ate, sama mo na ako! Much has been said about the wide range of emotions Nora's eyes can convey but if you want to see her eyes dead, as if the soul itself had departed, watch her final scene at home where she stuffs her mouth with crumpled paper and then hangs herself.

9. Nora as Milagros Cruz, the nurse riding the New York subway train in 'MERIKA (Adrian Films, 1984). This scene was repeated several times in the film. It's not much. Nora simply stands in the crowd. She does not have to do anything. But the message is clear in her face: her life has no meaning; it is a pointless ride from one station to another. Nothing interests her. Director Gil Portes did the same thing for Vilma Santos in Miss X (1980) but the effect was laughable. Only Nora could portray displacement. Because she knew what it meant not to belong, she is a spirit that cannot be contained and will be forever be homeless.

10. The funny thing is the tenth most memorable Nora scene is a scene I cannot even remember although I have seen the movie. And Nora was barely in this particular scene. I am only including it here because of a story I heard. It was told that a long time ago Nick Joaquin was invited in a projection room to watch a private screening of MINSA'Y ISANG GAMU-GAMO (Premiere Productions, Inc., 1976). No, I'm not referring to the My brother is not a pig! scene. But in the same funeral scene, there is a brief close-up of Corazon's (Nora Aunor) mother (Gloria Sevilla), weeping. Nora's hand appears on the screen. Her hand grips her mother's shoulder. Off-camera, we hear Nora, Tama na Inay, Tama Na! When the screening was over, it was told Nick Joaquin ordered the projectionist to "Play that scene again!" This made me wonder. What is it about Nora that a hand, her eyes, a few words spoken - could hurt, enrage and comfort us, bring us to reflection and emerge from the theatre as if an epiphany has just occurred?

With Special Thanks To Willi Pascual

Sunday, September 17, 2006

BAKIT BUGHAW ANG LANGIT?


Noel Vera Reviews Mario O'Hara's Lost Masterpiece

(Please note: No print of this film is known to officially exist, even if it was made only twenty-four years ago, a sad commentary on the state of Film Preservation in the Philippines.)

Mario O'Hara's Bakit Bughaw ang Langit? (Why is the Sky Blue? 1981) opens by way of introduction with panoramic views of Manila. We see the arrival of Babette Gomez (Nora Aunor) at an apartment complex—or rather, the arrival of her family; movers unload a truckload of furniture and carry it into their newly rented apartment. O'Hara's camera watches as the family unpacks and settles in, and we come to know something about each by the way he or she acts within the camera frame--imperious Sofia (Anita Linda), bossing everyone around her; sullen Nardo (Mario Escudero), dutifully carrying out his wife's orders; beautiful Lorie, who barks like her mother, but at a lesser volume; quiet Babette, their other daughter, who hurries about doing most of the work along with the movers.

We meet the neighbors: Marta (Melly Mallari) who owns the "sari-sari" (grocery) store at the complex entrance; Cora (Alicia Alonzo) and her out-of-work husband Domeng (Rene Hawkins); Luring (Metring David) who sells clothes to neighbors as a sideline; Luring's son Bobby (Dennis Roldan), a mental cripple who likes to play basketball. Only Mang Jesus (Carpi Asturias), a courtly old gentleman, seems to notice Babette's plight; they talk about the little cacti she's raising, and she says something about them without any particular emphasis--that they flourish on very little care and water--that summarizes her life up to that point. Later, Luring offers Sofia some clothes, telling her story in the process--that she's raising Bobby by herself; that she's having a difficult time as she must work and can't bring her son along. Sofia has a proposal: instead of paying for the clothes, maybe Babette can go over every day and feed Bobby while Luring goes to work.

And so Babette finds herself with a plate of food at Luring's door, looking in (you think of young women in fairy tales peering into the monster's den, wondering at the silence). She finds Bobby upstairs, chained, sets the food before him; he sits hunched over the plate, eating with his fingers. Later, Babette asks Bobby for his basketball-- to clean it, she explains; Bobby gives it after some hesitation. For the first time in the picture, O'Hara cuts to a closeup— of Babette's face, then of Bobby's (before this, the film had been made up of long and medium shots). They have connected with each other.

I sketched the film's first third to give some idea of just how patiently O'Hara sets up the premise, building on detail after little detail, using a self-effacing, almost invisible storytelling style until before you know it an entire microcosm sits before you, the desires, needs, ambitions, and failures of its inhabitants glittering like so many constellations. This is Filipino drama at its most understated, where the yells and shrieks and chatter of the various characters fade into the background, and the relationship that forms between shy Babette and innocent Bobby takes center stage, simply and with little fuss. You could easily imagine the story being included in Dekalog, Krzysztof Kieslowski's ten-part housing development drama, only the characters speak Tagalog and the script (by Lydia Collantes Villegas and O'Hara) doesn't resort to the ironic twists or metaphysical in-jokes of Kieslowski's masterwork--it's life taken straight, no chaser.

Bakit Bughaw

doesn't have the overwhelming immediacy, the stench of street gutters found in perhaps the greatest Filipino film on urban realism, Lino Brocka's Maynila sa Mga Kuko ng Liwanag (Manila in the Claws of Neon, 1975), but it does have a distinct look, consistent with its theme and sensibility. Almost the entire film takes place inside the apartment complex, a series of buildings surrounding a large central courtyard; O'Hara makes you feel the massive scale of the buildings, the way they dwarf and dominate their inhabitants. With Jose Batac, Jr. (who did Brocka's classic Tinimbang Ka Ngunit Kulang (You Were Judged and Found Wanting, 1974) as cinematographer, O'Hara achieves a kind of visual bleakness, an unspectacular glow that seeps not so much from sunlight but from naked fluorescent tubes, or brutal arc lamps. O'Hara uses this light to shoot against barred windows or concrete walls, giving you little sense of greenery or open space; the overall impression is of a claustrophobic enclosure—a prison, in fact, one you reach by walking through a dark corridor, the entrance to which is flanked on one side by Marta's "sari-sari" store (it's a measure of O'Hara's mastery of space that you eventually have a good idea of the complex's layout). When at one point Bobby evades Babette and runs out that corridor to the outside world, it's as if he's attempting an escape; Babette chasing him down is like a convict chasing a fellow convict--she does so out of fear of reprisal. When she finds him, their laughter is an expression of merriment at the absurdity of their shared situation.

It's not just the prison metaphor; every once in a while, the community has this little ritual they hold what I like to call "the court of public opinion," where some quarrel or scandal spills out of one apartment, and everyone else pours out of theirs to enjoy the show. When, say, Cora screams at Domeng for bringing home his mistress to live with them, or when a serial rapist roaming the outside streets claims a new victim and the men blame hapless Bobby, the people line up in a rough circle around the yelling combatants, everyone giving their opinions at the same time, at full volume. The case is ultimately worked out to everyone's satisfaction (the winners brag, the losers blame someone else--in Cora's case the mistress), both parties as a result often suffer the same penalties--derision, laughter, utter shame.

Against this remarkably complex social context Bobby and Babette grow close. We have been with them from the tentative beginnings of their relationship, so we know what they have between them--that their affection grew out of mutual loneliness, out of Bobby's need for a surrogate mother to love him and Babette's need to pour love on something other than little pots of cacti. At the same time, O'Hara makes us aware of what the people around them are like, and we flinch in dread at the prospect of their being publicly exposed. Gossip has already spread; a gay hairdresser accuses Babette of caring for the handsome Bobby because she can't find a man otherwise; Marta's no-good son is attracted to Babette, jealous of Bobby. Even we wonder at the relationship: is Babette tempted to take advantage of Bobby? Would it be so wrong if he responded?

O'Hara handles all the issues with tact and delicacy, knowing full well that a misstep could easily lead to bathos. He's helped in no small measure by a terrific cast (Anita Linda, Metring David, and Mario Escudero, to name but a few), most of all by Aunor and Roldan in the lead roles.

O'Hara considers Roldan the finest Filipino actor alive; in this picture it's easy to see why. He has a freshness and modesty that's impossible to fake, and a direct link with the audience that keeps them on his side, no matter what he does (when Babette at one point orders him to strip and he does so right in front of her, the scene is made funnier by the fact that he clearly has no idea what effect his nakedness has on Babette).

Aunor by this time had already been called one of the Philippines' best actress, and for far showier performances. In Bakit Bughaw, she takes her archetypal role--the oppressed, dark-skinned little Filipina--and plays it with a simplicity and lack of consciousness that is, in a word, astounding. It's as if she invented the character on the spot, as if the role was really her, and that she had never played anything else before (which, if you've seen Ikaw ay Akin (You Are Mine, 1978), Fe, Esperanza, Caridad (1974) and Ina Ka ng Anak Mo (You Are The Mother of Your Son, 1979) among many others, you know isn't true at all). Aunor matches O'Hara's immense patience, gathering detail after detail until her character is as believable as any real person--is more believable than any mere person. You feel as if you knew someone like this, that this was perhaps based on (for all you know) your next-door neighbor (and that is one of O'Hara's secrets--that his characters are always based on someone he knew or met in one of his daily walks about Manila). This film, of which officially there is no print left in existence, is one of Aunor's finest performances, one of O'Hara's best works, and one of the great unknown--perhaps lost--treasures of Philippine cinema.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

NORA AUNOR: THE QUEEN RETURNS

By: Blas F. Ople As Published In Panorama Magazine Windows Column January 7, 1996

Looking for a triumphal theme to highlight to positive for the new year, I found nothing very enticing or remarkable in the political scene; not even in the economic sector which has undoubtedly posted a modest upturn. Then I saw the newspaper photo of Nora Aunor holding the trophy for Best Actress in the Manila Filmfest awards night at the Philippine International Convention Center. I know then that my quest was ended. The triumphant story of the year was the strartling comeback of Nora Aunor, the darling of the Filipino masses.

She was written off as finished. She had no film in a long time. Her television show was unceremoniously scrapped. In her lovelife, she had endured betrayals, and she could feel the quiet contempt of those who thought her brilliant career had ended in disgrace. But Nora went on to collect herself, armored only by a touching faith in God, and she dazzled the nation by coming out Best Actress in the prestigious Cairo International Film Comepetition. The movie, The Flor Contemplacion Story, won the prize as Best Picture, prevailing over American, European and Egyptian entries.

Then came the Manila Filmfest. Nora had braced herself for losing to her friend Maricel Soriano, for how could such a long streack of blessings be sustained? But she still won the prize as Best Actress. Her movie, Muling Umawit Ang Puso (The Heart Learned To Sing Again) was adjudged Best Picture and its director Joel Lamangan, was Best Director, in addition to a whole passel of collateral prizes. Nora had won this trophy of Best Actress seven times before, more than enough to install her in any Hall Of Fame.

Nora may be a wisp of a woman, but she is all woman, and her type of beauty coincides with a historic break in the Filipino's Westernized stereotype of what is beautiful and true. The age of the Brown Madonna has arrived, and in filmdom, the willowy Spanish or American mestiza is no longer queen of all she surveys. It was as though the diminutive Bicolana beauty from Iriga has struck a mystical chord in her countrymen. People saw her as small, dark and beautiful and a lady of true grit besides.

I have known her only from afar (she came once to my birthday party in Hagonoy) but it is hard not to fall in love with Nora Aunor. She now defines for us the meaning of a true triumph of the spirit. No wonder she is much imitated bit never equalled. She has returned as, the song says, as Paraluman, Sa Kaharian Ng Pag-Ibig, Queen in the Kingdom of Love. May her countrymen emulate her example in indomitable hope, unparalleled resilience and a spirtual catharsis and transformation. Nora has become a symbol for us all, across the class divide, the uncrowned queen of of our affections.

With Special Thanks To Ken Gonzales

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

THE THINGS WE DID LAST SUMMER

Two summers ago, the Superstar went to our house for dinner. They flew to the East Coast for the annual Philippine Fiesta celebration where Ate Guy was the featured performer. We decided to have Mario (Roxas) pick them up from La Guardia and bring them over to our place so they can all have dinner after their flight from Jacksonville, Florida. I left work early to tidy up before they arrived, while my dad cooked the food. In about half an hour, Mario called and told me that they were on their way. My instructions were to bring them straight to my house. As they got nearer, Mario kept on calling for directions, so I guided him all the way. When he told me that he was making the turn to our block, I rushed outside and saw him parking the van on our driveway. As the door opened, Ate Guy jumped off her seat, luckily, I caught her right away. I let them into the house and had them relax in the living room while I prepared the table. Her business manager, General Norie Sayo gave me a VCD copy of her Through The Years Concert at the Folk Arts Theater, which she promised. Then we all sat at the dining table and started eating. Ate Guy loved my dad's dinuguan as she ate a bowl full. Minutes later, Leonel came with his father and sister in tow followed by Marlon who met the Superstar for the first time. My mom who's the original Noranian in the family regailed Ate Guy with stories of how I would cut school just to watch her movies and that nobody can touch the television on Sunday nights for I'll be watching the Superstar Show. I also introduced my brother to Ate Guy and all he can say was Kumusta po kayo! he was dumbfounded 'coz he cannot believe that Nora Aunor was standing in front of him. My mom also told Ate Guy how we followed her teleserye Bituin, that we won't answer any calls between eight to eight thirty in the evening. I was just about to give the DVD copies of Ate Guy's movies to Albert when she asked if I have copy of Ibilanggo Si Neneng Magtanggol, I just popped the DVD in and we started watching the movie. She said Masyadong matagal ang exposition. Then Ate Guy followed it up with Legman kasi dati si Tito, referring to Tito Sanchez the films' director. I replied Talaga po? and she said Oo, tingnan mo nasa foreground lagi ang kamera. I always enjoyed listening to her stories about the actual experience of making a movie. Ate Guy asked if she won an award for the movie and we all said she did score the Davao Film Festival Best Actress Award for her performance. Apparently, she hasn't seen the movie at all. I even asked her why her role was relatively short in Bakya Mo Neneng which was odd after all she's the films' lead actress and she just said Nagseselos kasi si Erap kay Pip. This is what I love most about the Superstar. She may not say a lot but when she does, it's the in your face kind of response. Everytime she went out to smoke, Ate Guy always did the sign of the cross everytime she passed our altar. I actually picked up the cigarette butt that she threw and it's still in my bedroom closet inside a glass vial.

As we all bid goodnight, Ate Guy wanted us to go to their hotel but we told her it's late and we'll be there the next day. It was one summer I can never forget, the day that the Superstar graced our home.



That's my Mom with Ate Guy... Mario Roxas (on the phone), Leonel standing next to General Norie, Ate Guy seated next to Leonel's sister and his dad.

Sunday, September 10, 2006

BONA... PAMANA NI BROCKA



Shortly after the tragic death of famed director and National Artist for Film Lino Brocka in May, 1991, PTV-4 aired a show entitled Pamana Ni Brocka which showcased the late director's best films. Bona (NV Productions, 1980) was featured in the series hosted by Manunuri Mario Hernando, which included video interviews with Superstar Nora Aunor who also produced the critically acclaimed film and her co-stars Phillip Salvador, Marissa Delgado, Raquel Montessa, Nanding Josef and Spanky Manikan. Everyone reminisced about their experiences and the life lessons they all learned from the country's finest filmmaker. When asked what the Superstar learned from working with Brocka, she simply replied Sa pelikula, bawat galaw ng mata mo, may ibig sabihin. Isang kilos ng kamay mo, may ibig sabihin. 'Yun ang natutunan ko sa kanya. A simple answer from a great performer whose talent was greatly enhanced by working with a true actor's director.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

A SUPERLATIVE REVIEW OF NORA AUNOR'S PERFORMANCE IN KUNG AKO'Y IIWAN MO



Excerpt From KUNG AKO'Y IIWAN MO: The Film And The Controversy
By: Agustin "Hammy" Sotto As Pusblished In The Philippines Daily Express January 7, 1981 Pages 15-16

… Nora Aunor’s performance dazzles those knowledgeable in the craft, who would hail it along with her other performance in Bona and Nakaw na Pag-ibig as a landmark of sorts. 1980 is Nora Aunor’s year as she has delivered electrifying performances, rounded and lacking in mannerisms in a variety of roles. The stumbling block of Class A and B is now Philippines cinema’s most accomplished actress.

Nora Aunor’s performance has been criticized as "patingin-tingin lamang." This is precisely Ingmar Bergman’s contribution to world cinema—an understanding of how the face develops the plot and lights up inward emotions obscured by verbalization. The cult of the face is the very essence of close-up and the tradition dates back to Vivien Leigh’s "patingin-tingin" in Gone with the Wind, to Carl Dreyer’s The Passion of Jeanne D’Arc and to George Cukor’s films with Greta Garbo.

In Kung Ako’y Iiwan Mo, Nora moves away from the fortune teller in the reincarnation scene, stops, and the camera picks up her troubled expression. Despite the flat acting of the extras (Bibsy Carballo, Romy Vitug, Armida Siguion Reyna), the timing is perfect and the audience understands for the first time her despair. There are many other exemplary uses of the close-up: Nora singing her two songs, Nora saying goodbye to Rollie Quizon after she discovers him to be cavorting with two women. In these instances, "patingin-tingin" is the perfect antidote to verbosity….

With Special Thanks To Nestor De Guzman

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

NORA AND VILMA: APART AND TOGETHER

By: Nestor U. Torre

As Published In The Philippine Daily Inquirer, 2002

In the ‘70s and ‘80s, the big stellar rivalry I local show biz was between Nora Aunor and Vilma Santos. The two female superstars have had quite a history together, and their instructive relationship remains interesting to this day.

Child Star

In the ‘70s, Vilma had a head start because she first entered show biz as a child star. By the time she became a teen star and was competing head-on with Nora, Vilma was already an established name and crowd drawer.

And yet, the phenomenal Aunor quickly upstaged her. After Nora became the darling of the masses, Vilma had to cope with the harsh reality of playing second fiddle to the brash upstart who had captivated the nation with her golden voice, expressive eyes and volatile temperament.

In those days, it looked like Nora could do no wrong. Even if she made quickie films, they would win awards over Vilma’s better-executed starrers. After years of this unfair competition, Vilma decided to stop playing the also-ran, and opted to essay the roles that Nora preferred not to do---the other woman, rape victim, burlesque dancer, etc.

Vilma’s "sexy" movies were more suggestive than anything else, but they gave her a new screen persona that made her a distinct movie entity from Nora.

Fact is, Nora could also have played sensual characters, but she felt awkward doing so, and Vilma benefited from her reticence. In time, Vilma was also winning acting awards and starring in big hits, so the competition between her and Nora peaked.

Then, in the ‘80s, Nora’s personal problems affected her career, while the more professional Vilma became producers’ actress of choice. Nobody doubted Nora’s talent, but Vilma had talent "and" professionalism, so she soon streaked in front of her archrival.

No longer did she compete in areas where she was "dehado," like singing. Instead, she stressed her dancing ability, sensuality and versatility, and truly came into her own.

Political Phase

Then came the two rivals’ "political" phase, with Nora successfully boosting Joseph Estrada to the presidency while losing her own bid as governor. On the other hand, Vilma supported her husband’s bid for the senate "and" won as mayor of Lipa City. Even in politics, she showed she had the edge.

That’s where the two rival superstars are today. Vilma flying high, while Nora is still trying to get her act together for the nth time. We wager, however, that if Nora regains her focus and determination, she can still give Vilma and other female stars a run for their popularity and awards.

First Salvo

Nora’s new public service show on TV could be the first salvo in her current bid for recognition and respect in show biz. For her part, Vilma needs to give more importance to her acting career, which she’s tended to neglect in favor of her political obligations.

The interesting thing is, all these years, the two archrivals have actually gone beyond competitiveness, and have forged a solid friendship, even if is one between opposites. The competition has just given added excitement to their "joint" careers and motivated their respective fans to support them with greater zeal.

And both Nora and Vilma have become excellent actresses who still have a number of great performances left in them. May we see some of those memorable new portrayals on the big screen this year. Even better, Nora and Vilma should make another one of their infrequent films together. Now, that would be a great viewing experience that no local film buff would want to miss.

Saturday, September 02, 2006

SUPERSTARSTRUCK! SUPERSTAR SUPERSCENES PART FOUR



The fourth installment of the Superstarstruck series features a musical number from director Laurice Guillen's Kung Ako'y Iiwan Mo (LEA Productions, 1980). In this Metro Manila Film Fest entry, Nora Aunor played Beatrice Alcala, a Superstar/Singer trying desperately to move on with her life after a bitter separation from her husband Nonoy Bernal (Christopher de Leon). This scene shows Beatrice singing a jazzed up version of the George Canseco classic Saan Ako Nagkamali? It showed Nora vamping it up like never before, a scene that required proper character motivation. We'll probably never, see her do this kind of performance in a film ever again.

Next, the Superstar as Banaue (NV Productions, 1975). In National Artist Gerry de Leon's last film, Banaue consumed with her desire to retrieve her father's head was captured by Aruk (Ronaldo Valdez) who lusts after her. In order for him to give back her father's severed head, he asks her to perform a tribal dance in front of his tribesmen. The humiliation and self pity was evident in this moving scene.

After hearing the court's decision regarding their case against the US Marine who fatally shot her brother (Eddie Villamayor) in Lupita A Concio's Minsa'y Isang Gamu-Gamo (Premiere Productions, 1976), Corazon de la Cruz argues the judgement asking justice for her brother's untimely death. A gamut of emotions is registered on her face. The confusion, anger and rage is all there in this poignant scene. The epitome of an acting genius indeed!