Wednesday, August 08, 2007

The Real Nora Aunor
By Bibsy Carballo As Published In Star Studio Magazine July, 2007 Issue

There is no Filipino, young or old, who has not heard of Nora Aunor. Nora, or more fondly Ate Guy, broke the prevailing idol stereotyoe of the mestiza beauties with family pedigrees. The 4’l0" dark-skinned Nora was someone the masses could identify with. To this day, none have been able to match the mass hysteria and adulation she invoked.

Entertainment figure Boy Abunda confesses in his column. There is not one actor in history that would make me faint except for Nora Aunor. I tremble. I get tongue-tied. I cower. Such is the power of the Superstar. Director Lupita Aquino Kashiwahara, who was Nora’s ninang in her marriage to Christopher de Leon, elaborates, If Guy were to sit immobile in a chair, as in a scene, she would exude the kind of emotions dictated by the moment and demanded by the director. When she sings, she moves into a different realm and transports us to another dimension. Charisma? It’s much more than that. It’s like the song of a sirena that beckons to untold promises.

Fast forward to 2007. The Superstar is 54 years old and has been living in the USA for almost five years. She has done some singing stints here and there, shot a digital movie, until she got embroiled in a drug case that brought her again to the forefront of media attention. Currently serving a sentence of community work, she faces yet another more controversial issue with even wider repercussions.

T-Bird At Ako

Enterprising reporter Jojo Gabinete chanced upon an entry in the Marriage Inquiry System of Clark County, Las Vegas, where a Nora Villamayor (Nora’s real name) and a Richard James Merck were married July 7, 1998, and subsequently a Nora Villamayor and a Norie Sayo on May 22, 2000, which he quickly wrote about in his tabloid column. It was the latter, a same-sex marriage, that caught attention.

Many of us in the entertainment sector have met Norie through her decades- long association with Guy as her musical director and confidante. If there was any special relationship between them, we didn’t know and didn’t really care. It was their own business, after all. None was not the first female to be linked with the Superstar through the years. The only difference was that unlike all her other relationships, real or imagined, this time a legal document was involved giving credence to the rumor.

Still, apart from those in the world outside of the entertainment sector who were incredulous and shocked, most of those in movies, television, and music were hardly jarred by the news.

An avowed Noranian who dubbed Guy as the One And Only Superstar entertainment columnist Ronald. Constantino simply shrugs his shoulders saying, So what else in new?" Another columnist Billy Balbastro who has known Guy from her earliest days simply says "She is unpredictable. She can do anything like marry someone of the same sex.

The irrepressible Lolit Solis, manager of Christopher de Leon, who until these discoveries was the only husband on record of Guy, laughs It’s no big deal. Let’s put it this way. If Ate Vi (Vilma Santos) got married to a girl, it would be shocking but with Nora it is nothing extraordinary.

German Moreno, who has been hounded by reporters and the broadcast media since the news came out states simply, Ewan kung totoo, pero alam mo naman, this was in Vegas where it’s so easy to get married and divorced in one day. Posibleng katuwaan lang yan, if ever.

Lupita who is one of Guy’s favorite directors (Superstar on TV and the acclaimed Minsa’y Isang Gamu-Gamo) agrees conclusively, I was not surprised by her romantic entanglement with Norie Sayo. But I have my doubts that they went through the serious ceremony of marriage. More likely at some katuwaan they went through some kind of a ritual. The last time I had a chat with Norie, over a year ago, she and Guy were having a business tiff. Norie was definitely in pain with the separation and I can only surmise that there was more to it. She cared for Guy a lot.

Beyond the same sex marriage

Part of this was her habitual tardiness or simply absence from her shows, shootings, or tapings. June Rufino, executive secretary (manager, confidante, lawyer) to Guy for four years from 1974-78 during possibly the most tumultuous years of her life remembers one instance when she made Mother Lily Monteverde of Regal wait for hours at her Valencia residence. The lady producer was so incensed she swore that one day the house would be hers. This, of course, came to pass.

Kitchie says that in the 22 years of Superstar where Kuya Germs was a host, Siguro for 10 years Kuya Germs did it alone. She would call and say, masakit ang ulo ko,or sometimes she would come but not sing, or sometimes wouldn’t even talk. But you learn to live with it.

But why, we wonder would anyone live with this type of behavior? A distinguished psychiatrist who had some professional dealings with a member of Guy’s immediate family explains, "The persona she projects in public is very different from that in private. There is a multiplicity of personalities. That is a character disorder. Some people like that commit suicide. In Guy’s case, it is not physical suicide, but injurious behavior to herself and to her audience. Despite all the seemingly respectful po and kawawa image she shows, she is actually bastos in her behavior. Isn’t it bastos to make people wait on the set of your movie or TV show for hours upon hours and then not appear? There is a total disregard for rules."

Ronald, however, who met the Superstar very early in her career ascertains that even then, she already had this habit of saying po to everyone. It wasn’t put-on but part of her personality.

It is therefore these multiple personalities of Guy that those close to her are given a glimpse of, and which they try to understand and forgive. Kitchie tells us, There would be times when I would hate her, but then you always go back and try to understand her. She doesn’t have two faces, she has four, five, even more. She is the perfect Gemini, adds Baby K. Jimenez, veteran entertainment writer.

Fortunately for Guy, she has been blessed with numerous talents that add to her charisma, which makes it very easy for people she has hurt to forgive her. Tirso Cruz III explains the lack of discipline which started when they were practically just entering their teens. You have to remember that we were so young then. The presence of so much pressure on her, flooded with adulation resulted in negative reactions from her. It was an act of rebellion. It’s like the tantrum of a child against so many things she was being made to do, I went through that phase myself. You feel that everyone wants a piece of you and nothing is left for you.

This rebellion has also manifested itself in all her actions, in the purported drug abuse, in the innate lying, in the habitual buying and selling of the 40 houses she lived in, in her short term relationships.

Our psychiatrist continues, "She has a personality disorder that may be traceable to her childhood, or may be a result of instant fame (some people who can’t deal with fame go into drugs or commit suicide). There is this passive-aggressive personality trait, that is manipulative at the same time. And most often, people with these personality disorders are not aware of their illness. Other people are at fault, never themselves."

La Aunor’s unpredictability

Despite the belief of many that we were part of that clique in the ‘70s and ‘80s that kept close guard over the Superstar, our only real encounter with Nora Aunor was on the set of the Experimental Cinema of the Philippines’ (ECP) opus, Himala. We were offered to line produce this film by Charo Santos, then with the ECP which produced it. It was our very first experience in line-producing and with a schedule that would take three months in the desert of Paoay, Ilocos Norte with thousands of people in the cast, a temperamental director like Ishmael Bernal, and an even more temperamental star like Nora Aunor, we were petrified to say the least.

This was already 1982. Guy was 29, had been through her most turbulent years that included legal cases with Sampaguita where she was a contract star; had already undergone a number of early teenage romances with Tirso Cruz III, Manny de Leon, and Christopher de Leon whom she had married and separated from and other romantic dalliances that are said to include President Joseph Estrada, Richard Merck, Mario O’ Hara, Bembol Roco, and John Rendez.

We were ready for the worst

Again, Guy surprised all of us by being her unpredictable self. Not only was she excellent in her performance, she was also on her best behavior. She was on the set when needed, at the time she was needed, and never once misbehaved in all those three months. The only instance shooting was affected was when she drove a vehicle, got into a minor accident, and had to be airlifted to Manila for check-up, after which she returned immediately to the set. Himala went on to become her greatest picture and many of her movies like Bilangin Ang Bituin Sa Langit, Bona, Condemned, and Bulaklak Sa City Jail have consistently been ranked as the best of Philippine cinema.

If Nora Aunor, therefore, is accepted as the country’s most important actress, shouldn’t it give her license to behave as any diva with a list of unreasonable demands? Of course, the answer is no. But in the entertainment world, a Nora Aunor with all her eccentricities is not only accepted, but admired for doing what she wants to do and to hell with all of you.

She does, however, have her many positive traits. There are people who swear by her and this includes Ronald Constantino who claims that there was not a single instance when she disappointed me in any way.

It is not true either that she does not know the meaning of love. June remembers Guy’s wedding to Boyet, which was consecrated while they were submerged in the waters of Bauang, La Union, in April 1975. She was witness to the love between Boyet and Guy.

She was with Guy during the years she was married to Boyet and remembers that final breakup. We had just come home and were standing in the middle of the hallway. Boyet comes out of the bedroom with his suitcases, sees her and says, Putang ina mo! To which she answers, Putang inamo rin! When he had gone, she takes me to the game room below and we listen to the song Love is Blind for ten hours from evening till the next day na paulit-ulit, while she was crying all the time and drinking.

She had that ability to attract love and affection from all. Man, woman, friend. Not a few came under her spell. Says Baby K. I believe both Pipo and Boyet really fell in love with bulilit (her nickname for Guy) deeply. Guy has this knack, masyadong malambing and maasikaso. She could be generous and would go to any lengths to please a partner. Extra thoughtful, selosa, very skilled in her ways to endear herself.

What to do therefore with a problem like Aunor? She with the conflicting personalities, with that seemingly endless search for real love and affection, with that continuous death wish exhibited in aberrant behavior.

Kashiwahara sums up the feelings of many who have known and loved the Superstar. I loved her talent. She is a national treasure. I disliked her lack of discipline, her un-professionalism, her weaknesses, her lifestyle, and most of all, the feeling of sayang. The tragedy of a Nora Aunor like most cosmic stars is the waste and the squander of fortune, fame, and idolization of the masses. She could have been a force for good, a continuing dream of the impoverished masa, a source of joy with her undiminished talent. And still, the tragedy need not continue. For as long as the heart beats, there is time for triumph. Guy can still make one more comeback.