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.