Monday, May 21, 2012


I'm an avid Noranian. This is how a devoted fan of Superstar Nora Aunor is called. I like her a lot. In my childhood games, mostly played alone in front of a mirror, I lip synch to her songs. When my parents were at work, I would play the stereo at deafening volume and start singing in front of the mirror. That was in the early 1970's when I was of preschool age. When I turned seven, in 1972, I was old enough to be admitted to the cinema so my mother would take me to Sampaguita Theater in Cubao. I first saw Nora Aunor onscreen in Jose de Villa's Winter Holiday, a movie filmed entirely in Japan, produced by Sampaguita Pictures, her home studio. When she sang Sayonara, I thought Nora was singing to me and no one else. Ate Guy, as we, her fans, would fondly call our idol served as muse to a talent that I would later develop as a result of my adulation. I applied and was chosen as one of the 35 scholars for Ricky Lee's Scriptwriting Workshop. The award-winning screenwriter wrote the Superstar's monumental film Himala (1982). Ate Guy is a versatile performer, who proved it by playing disparate roles. I also fostered an emotional identification with my idol. I would be hurt when others would say that Vilma Santos is prettier than Nora. I would challenge any detractor to a fight. I remember believing myself to be the character my idol is portraying, most especially when the character was a movie fan herself, as in Lino Brocka's Bona (1980). I would see myself in one of the three characters she was playing, the misunderstood nun in the Gerardo de Leon episode of Fe, Esperanza, Caridad (1974). I was identifying more with a character far removed from the image in my mind of my idol and myself. But identification does not only take place in the imagination while watching a movie. Identificatory practices take on social meanings beyond the cinema. A pretending fan assumes the identity of the star in a temporary game of make believe. My private mirror games were manifestations of resembling. I did not have have the daring or desire to look like Nora Aunor in public, instead I wrote plot lines for movies and roles that I would like her to portray.

My misrecognition of the image in the mirror and on the screen was not only psychological, it was also ideological. In my last year of college, I would quit classes and ignore calls for participation and demonstrations over campus and national issues because I would rather watch Nora's current movies downtown, although I have already seen them many times over. While fellow students were raising each other's political consciousness, I was lost in a world of fantasy with my idol. The intensity of my fan-atic idolatry would not be much different in 2004 when I learned that she will be performing alongside Kuh Ledesma in a series of concerts around the US. I sought my idol out hoping I would finally get the chance to meet her in person. Face-to-face with my idol, conversing with her and listening to her as she talked about her career in hindsight, I suddenly realized that my Ideal self, my screen idol whom I adored and worshipped from a distance, was after all accessible, just like any other human being, and different! I had even more reason to admire her. She talked sense. She was warm and gracious. But then in addition, something else happened, the mystery was gone. The demystification started when I realized that, I, the fan, had finally developed a separate identity. I might have already constructed my own person derived from a complex mix of genetics, familial contexts, environment, socialization, education and most especially, the various identifications made from infancy to adulthood that helped construct a distinct identity for the rest of my adult life. Thanks to my Idol and Muse, without whose very special participation, the construction of this Self might have been seriously impaired.

Happy Birthday Superstar!

Wednesday, May 09, 2012


Ever since Inside The Cinema hosted by Boy Abunda premiered on Cinema One, I always hoped that the cable show about the Philippine Movie Industry's most respected Icons would someday feature Superstar Nora Aunor. After all, what would a program about actors discussing the craft of acting in film be without Ate Guy? Unlike previous episodes, tonight's telecast deliberately used a slower pace in the interview focusing on the Superstar's most significant films with some of the country's finest filmmakers. This was the first time I saw Ate Guy answer each question thrown at her candidly and with much confidence. Sure, a bit of the old Nora Aunor is still there but during certain parts of the program, she would say something unexpected like "Lasing ako nung sinu-shoot namin yung scene na nabaril si Dan Alvaro sa Condemned (1984)." Later, she would also confess that "Uminom din ako bago kunan yung eksena sa burol sa Naglalayag (2004)."

The best part of the show were the interviews with her directors. Mario O'Hara talked about his experience working with Ate Guy in Tatlong Taong Walang Diyos (1976), Bakit Bughaw Ang Langit? (1981), Condemned and Bulaklak Sa City Jail (1984). Maryo J. de los Reyes reminisced on his special friendship with Ate Guy which resulted in films such as Annie Batungbakal (1979) and Bongga Ka Day! (1980). It's unfortunate that they left out one of my favorite films, Minsan, May Isang Ina (1983). I would have loved to hear her thoughts on making the movie. "Feel beautiful..." was how Ate Guy described working with Elwood Perez. I know all of Direk Elwood's stories about working with the Superstar. He mentioned that it was with Bilangin Ang Bituin Sa Langit (1989) that the critics started taking his work seriously. The most fascinating anecdote of all came from Gil Portes who directed Ate Guy in 'Merika (1984) and Andrea, Paano Ba Ang Maging Isang Ina? (1990). Before they started working, the late Ishmael Bernal advised him to shoot all the difficult scenes first because it enables her to get into the character she's portraying. When Ate Guy started talking about Lino Brocka, she mentioned the competition between Brocka and O'Hara on whose film will she win an award. I must say that this telecast of Inside The Cinema was worth the wait. Catch it again this Saturday, May 12 on Cinema One Global.

Friday, May 04, 2012


I once mentioned to Ate Guy, I would kill for a chance to see her at work on a film shoot. She quickly responded by saying, 'Pag nandoon kayo sa set, hindi ako makakaarte... This statement couldn't be more true. When we accompanied her to a rehearsal, she politely asked us to leave. She wants us to be surprised at the concert, which she did! I was in awe of her after watching the 18-minute documentary on the making of the final stampede scene in Himala. I saw a true artist at work. I've met industry people who had the opportunity of working with the Superstar and they all agree on one thing, Napakagaling niya! On the several occasions I've spent with her, I would ask Ate Guy about her films, the directors and actors she worked with. I remember one conversation and out of nowhere, she blurted out, Kahit kailan hindi ako nasigawan ni Bernie, referring to the great Ishmael Bernal. Then she continued, Si Mare, nasigawan na niya... and in turn I said, Nabasa ko nga po 'yon nu'ng shooting ng Broken Marriage at ikinulong pa sa banyo. Talaga?, she asked and I nodded. Ate Guy may have worked with Bernal in only three movies, Ikaw Ay Akin (1978), Bakit May Pag-Ibig Pa (1979) and Himala (1982) four if you count her cameo appearance in Tisoy! (1977) which she also produced. He was also one of the three alternating directors of her weekly drama anthology Ang Makulay Na Daigdig Ni Nora. Bernal's biggest frustration was when Hustisya (1983), his reunion film with Ate Guy after Himala was shelved.

During her stay here in the US, many projects were planned and offered to the Superstar. Unfortunately, none of them pushed through for different reasons. I always dreamed of having Ate Guy work with three of the best Filipino independent filmmakers. First was Lav Diaz, who wanted her to star in Reclusion Perpetua. Then I went to Manila in 2010 and met Auraues Solito who thought she would be perfect for the role of Punay in Busong. I e-mailed a copy of the screenplay to Ate Guy hoping that she would consider playing the part which eventually went to Alessandra de Rosi. I was ecstatic when she started filming Thy Womb last month with 2009 Cannes Film Festival Best Director Brillante Mendoza. When I first saw her performances in Minsa'y Isang Gamu-Gamo (1976), Atsay (1978), Ina Ka Ng Anak Mo (1979) and Himala, I was mesmerized by her genius. Thirty years later, I'm looking forward to that same experience once again