Saturday, September 30, 2006


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


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.


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
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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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!