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


pauljames said...

hello jojo!!!

what terrific display of nora's acting masterpieces forever etched in history!!!! but i firmly believe nora's acting highlights go far beyond ten as specified by the writer!!!here are some of my other favorite " nora moments":
1. 2 scenes in Bilangin ang Bituin sa langit: nora being thrown in the mud as she tries to stop the men trying to close the irrigation canal for her ricefield and shouting at Gloria Romero; nora with sheer ambivalent feeling professing her great love to tirso in their climax scene together towards the end of the movie.
2. 2 scenes in naglalayag: nora laughing her heart out as she in Yul Servo stroll along roxas boulevard; nora in shock and desperation doesnt utter a single word when she was seated beside Chanda Romero in the taxi but the eyes relay intense grief.
3.2 scenes in Bakit May kahapon pa: nora's display of psychotic delusions with her final scene together with the priest; and the last scene when she said those last words to her creator,closes her eyes, and bomb explodes.

Jojo Devera said...

couldn't agree more with your choices... there are still a lot more memorable Nora scenes in her movies. even in films like Annie Batungbakal you can see her brilliance.

jeremiah said...

i was in college when i saw "ina ka ang anak mo", pinag-usapan talaga yung eksena niya re: hayup! hayup! hayup! dun pa lang sa eksenang yun, nasabi ko na sa sarili ko that this actress was really incomparable. wala akong masabi, isa yan sa maraming eksenang hindi ko malimutan. another was in Bona. She was already with Gardo, nagbabantay sa isang shooting sa may ilog, may itinulak si bona na isang babae na nahulog sa tubig, wala lang, parang wala siyang nakita. saglit lang na eksena pero napapalakpak ako. napasabay na rin tuloy ang ibang nanonood sa loob ng sine.

jeremiah said...

correction: "ina ka ng anak mo"s