Monday, October 5, 2015


By Tito Genova Valiente
Business Mirror
September 23, 2015




ON September 17 Nora Aunor was given the highest honor the Cultural Center of the Philippines (CCP) could give an artist. Consistency was the rule that the award enforced. Not one but a long line of excellent body of works is needed for an artist to be given this recognition. There is no doubt Nora Cabaltera Villamayor—or simply Nora Aunor to admirers past, present and future—more than fills up the requisites of the award.

A few minutes past 3 pm, the rites for the Gawad CCP Para sa Sining had not started yet. Someone in the back muttered, “Nora is not yet here. She is always late.” I turned around and briskly informed the elegantly dressed but ill-informed woman that Nora is not late, that she had been there backstage accommodating guests who wanted their photos taken with her. The lady quieted down.

That would be the spirit of the afternoon. There were a few people who were there waiting for Nora to fail again. And yet, there were people who were there to show their gratitude and love to this artist.

A few minutes after, a voice announced the parade of members of CCP Board of Trustees and past recipients of Gawad CCP Para sa Sining. They all walked down the left side of the CCP Main Theater. After them, the present recipients followed. Loud applause emanated from the theater. They all walked down. When the name “Nora Aunor” was mentioned, whistle and shouts and applause rose from the crowd. I shouted “Bravo!” I had a personal stake that afternoon. I was given the task and the honor to write the short bio of Nora Aunor and the citation that will be part of the program.

Herein follows the short life history of Nora Aunor that became part of that ceremony:

“Poverty and politics are the birthright of Nora Aunor. It does not matter really when she was born. That she was born very poor matters because, like in the many narratives of her films, she would rise from that squalor into a status that symbolizes and, at the same time, subverts social mobility in this nation. This is where politics enters into Nora Aunor’s birth: the person will form an actor and an acting style that may not be always explicitly about portrayals of inequality but subtle and succinct commentary on how power is used and misused in the societies of this republic.

“In the summer of 2015 Nora was honored with the honorary Nagueña Award. It is her fate that Nora Aunor would always stand for something bigger than where she physically came from, the town of Iriga then.

“Geography and genius would explain the influence of Nora Aunor on the cinema of the Philippines. Iriga was a small town when she joined an amateur contest in the city of Naga. That town is part of Rinconada, a term which means ‘corner’. In her career as an actor, Nora Aunor would portray characters who were either an outcast or in the outskirts of social groups. By being born in a town that was at the periphery of a region that was also not mainstream in the thought of the dominant culture of this country, she would have in her spirit a marginalization that is beyond compare.

“Nora Aunor would sing first and win a national singing competition: the respected Tawag ng Tanghalan. Gone was the girl who had to stretch out her neck to listen to the songs played over the radio of a neighbor. Gone was the girl who sang for food. On that stage, the wisp of a girl sang ‘Moonlight Becomes You,’ defeating singers more educated and with more capital to fund a better dress. She looked at the sky only she could see with those searing eyes and sang to the moon and the night and the music.

“Then there was the film industry beckoning her, a machinery that was built on actors and actresses that had the Caucasian features, the so-called mestizos and mestizas whose images resembled Hollywood celebrities. And yet, she would conquer this terrain and win over to her side a newly formed critics group called Manunuri ng Pelikulang Pilipino. In 1976 she was the first Gawad Urian for Best Actress, a star and a thespian vanquishing those who ever doubted her. The film was Tatlong Taong Walang Diyos, where she played lead but, thematically, a villain. She was not only an actor in the film; she was also the producer.

“She would produce more and act in the films she funded: Bona would join other films as the best in the world, to cite just one example. She would portray Elsa, a reluctant faith healer, in Himala, a film that would be declared the best in Asia by CNN-Asia Pacific Screen Awards in 2008. The performance has been lauded and written about by film scholars attributing the mystique of her portrayal to the fact that Nora’s fandom parallels the fanaticism and faith of people. Iconic is perhaps the most abused term writers can give to a celebrity but in Himala, Nora as Elsa becomes the icon around which doubt and belief circumnavigated, in which religion becomes not a refuge but a refutation. One can safely say that if an actor can give a hundred shades of black and white, a magnificent canvas of chiaroscuro describes Nora’s Elsa: timid, manipulative, victim, aggressor, confronting and retreating—in sorrow or in joy, it is an art to behold and a trial to witness to those who believe that cinema is not merely images on the flickering silver screen.

“Nora Aunor would win awards in several continents. The label ‘Superstar’ is never ridiculous when attached to her name. Lately, she is being called ‘The Grand Dame of Philippine Movies,’ indicating not her age but her wisdom, not really her longevity but the amazing perpetuity of the acting acumen that has brought forth women whose decisions about loyalty and love, self and nationalism have been questioned. In Nora, these women responded back.

“Formidable are the characters that Nora has fleshed out through many decades. She slept with the enemy in Tatlong Taong Walang Diyos and lived in the home of the enemy she planned to kill in Bakit May Kahapon Pa. She lived in ‘Merika and made us think of those decisions to stay in a foreign land all for economic survival; she offered us the terrible options to go to America even if some soldiers of that land could mistake our brothers for pigs in Minsa’y Isang Gamu-Gamo. She looked in the eye of the storm in Taklub and only saw our sense of self; and collected umbilical cords in Thy Womb because she could not produce one herself. She, in fact, played mothers and lovers whose duplicity enabled us to not to gaze at morality but at the complexity of humanity.

“She has won all the acting awards. She has been elevated to many Halls of Fame. The world has seen her and bestowed accolades on her because Nora Aunor holds the oar and she freely navigates the sea of humanity, ferrying us from the shores of ignorance to some afterlife of knowledge through a genius in performance that could only come from poverty, politics and geography, the schools of acting that have given Nora Aunor the boon to share with the many who believe in her.”

Writing the citation was terribly difficult, as I was asked to compress in mere paragraphs the decades-long sterling records of Nora Aunor. I must confess that this citation went through rewrites. Hermie Beltran of the CCP had to push me, at a certain point, to complete the citation. After several cups of coffee with Nora Aunor songs playing endlessly, interspersed only with songs by Billie Holiday, Peggy Lee, Eva Cassidy and Ella Fitzgerald, I completed the citation on August 22, just a few weeks before the awarding.

Here is the citation, which was translated also into Filipino:

“Nora Aunor began her life in the 1960s as a singer singing songs from varied sources and initiating the resurgence of a different vocal music. She knew how to be hungry before her golden voice brought her to the attention of the nation.

“Her journey from a young girl selling water in the train station to someone providing the wishes and hopes of the nation’s masses is no less than epic.

“Nora would join TV and cinema and with that entry, she would change our colonial perspective about physical beauty. She starred in musicals and melodramas that would serve as escape to many looking to her for inspiration.

“Soon, she would make films that subverted politics and politicize subversion. In her many films, she helped us escape from the stereotypical women to flesh out the possibilities of Filipino womanhood.

“Nora Aunor would perform theater pieces that would prove the legitimacy of that genius. In plays and in films, she played characters that were current in the country’s crisis and concerns: migrant labor, rebels and ambitious lovers.

“Nora’s acting style would create a massive shift in the performance traditions that were already entrenched. Nora would change all that, with her portrayal of characters that were marginalized but—with the strength and conviction of her skills—became central in the imagination of the nation. If one is to consider Nora Aunor’s legacy to the nation’s film industry, it is in those expressions on a magnificent face that can show triumphs and defeats, pains and joys, all at the same time in silence and subtlety that are as disturbing, as enduring and as endearing as the struggles of our nation.”

Sunday, September 20, 2015


By: Vic Sevilla

"A time to tear down... and a time to build," it says so in the book of Ecclesiastes. But while the process of destruction can happen just seconds after a super typhoon makes landfall, the same cannot be said of the act of rebuilding. Picking up the pieces of one's life in the aftermath of a catastrophe can be a slow and agonizing process of suffering. For how does one stand up and continue after such an overwhelming loss-of lives, of loves, of livelihood?

"Taklub", director Brillante Ma Mendoza's latest opus, offers no answers. Hailed by critics abroad when it made its debut at the Cannes Film Festival, Mendoza appears to have stood on the sidelines with camera in hand to record the goings on in a district in Tacloban hard hit by Yolanda. Coldly, without sympathy, without offering relief, he recorded the everyday lives of people trying to forget the horrors of destruction but who are forced to look back as they try to find answers for their loss.

For Hollywood directors who have the luxury of money, Yolanda's wrath could have been easily essayed on screen using expensive cameras, the latest lighting equipment, and meticulously crafted CGI. As is his custom, Mendoza strayed far from formula by giving "Taklub" the gritty texture and feel of a documentary film expressed in jerky camera movements, extreme close ups, lingering shots and lighting contrasts that show the harsh combination of light and shadow. It was as if Mendoza wanted to shoot the phantoms of fear and the ghosts of loneliness lurking in the hearts of his characters. Clearly, the director is more concerned with the storm raging from within.

To achieve this end, Mendoza also had to make use of a cast that understood his style and his intent. He chose his actors wisely-those who had the ability to be the characters they portray. Aaron Rivera deftly portrayed Erwin, a young man forced to become the head of his family after Yolanda took the lives of his parents. Amid the destruction, Erwin must take care of a young sister and a mute older brother. Lou Veloso as Renato gives a touching performance as a man consumed by grief and bitterness after he lost everyone in his family. Julio Diaz's portrayal of Larry is, perhaps, the most physical. Failing to save a few of his children in the storm surge and perhaps to assuage the guilt, Larry took to carrying a wooden cross through the streets. His anxious portrayal as a man on the verge of madness is heart wrenching to watch.

To say that Nora Aunor is an actress of outstanding skill is a disservice to her talent. As Bebeth, Aunor made use of her vast experience and her knowledge of Mendoza's style of filmmaking. As she tries to bring everything back to a sense of normalcy, Bebeth must grapple with a mother's grief that comes with the loss of her three children. Upon realizing that none of the remains of her offspring were buried in the mass grave where she religiously offers lighted candles, she explodes in understandable rage but turns her back defeated. Watching Aunor's portrayal of pain is akin to witnessing a storm's wrath: it is powerful, yet painful to behold.

In the end, after the last scene faded into black, you feel the need to suppress applause. Instead, an offering of silence for the dead and for those who must live through their sorrow seemed somehow more appropriate... like a show of sympathy or an unspoken prayer. That is the beauty of "Taklub"-by recreating the grief of loss without passing judgment, it gives viewers a sense of compassion for a community that continues to writhe in pain and loneliness.

Saturday, September 19, 2015


By: Oggs Cruz




'Taklub,' a movie about the aftermath of Yolanda, doesn't preach or make spectacles of suffering.

Brillante Mendoza’s Taklub could have easily been about making spectacles out of suffering, but it doesn't take that easy path. Set during the aftermath of Yolanda, the typhoon that turned Tacloban into a miserable tent city, the film could have taken the easiest way around the sensitivities surrounding the calamity by playing the advocacy card.
Taklub could have been preaching about resilience in the midst of tragedy and various other virtues that feel slightly offensive especially coming from someone who has not experienced the tragedies first hand. Thankfully, it does not, or if it does, it does so with quiet nobility.
Perpetual limbo

Mendoza has all the reasons and justifications to make a film that panders to the expectations of a people who desperately need respite from melancholy. Co-produced by the government, Taklub could have gone the route of propaganda, twisting truths to give the government a better position within the context of the calamity.

Thankfully, Taklub is neither a sappy mush nor an implausible advocacy ploy. The film stays away from convenient emotions that one can naturally expect and retains the same gritty style Mendoza utilizes for his urban parables in creating a world of Yolanda survivors who are trapped in what seems to be a perpetual limbo.

Government is close to invisible. It conveys an inutile instrumentality whose bureaucratic mannerisms lend further frustration to the survivors. Mendoza favors truth, even if he peppers his brand of realism with slivers of poetics. What remains is something close to pure, a veritable examination of lives forced into the margins by a mixture of natural and human forces.


Taklub centers on several survivors of Yolanda whose different needs summarize the dissipation of basic humanity in the midst of harsh survival.

Bebeth (Nora Aunor), who maintains a small canteen that services her neighbors, has been patiently dealing with both her ex-husband and the government in matching DNA records with the remains of the thousands who drowned during the typhoon. Larry (Julio Diaz), a pedicab driver who regularly participates in all church activities, begins to question his faith amidst all the suffering. Erwin (Aaron Rivera) does almost everything to provide shelter to what remains of his family.

The screenplay by Honeylyn Joy Alipio pulls away from the obvious and conventional by documenting the characters’ mundane tasks alongside the peculiar crosses they have to carry.

The characters are depicted as humans, with emotions that are but responses to the various impulses that are around them. They are motivated not by conceit but by their instincts. Mendoza does away with depicting them as heroes or victims but as ordinary people placed in a scenario that cannot be prevented.

It is truly a tricky subject to deal with, considering that the characters are all victims worthy of all the positivism that can be mustered. But doing so without the benefit of a rationale is shallow and defeatist. There is no other way but to showcase their faults, their fissures in the face of grief and loss, their invaluable humanity.

Dignified performances

The filmmakers’ intentions are of course but a portion of the battle. The rest remains with the actors and actresses who have to withhold comforts and egos to depict the characters with the dignity that they deserve. Considering that the characters are barely grasping the virtues of their former lives, it is up to Aunor, Diaz and Rivera to clothe them with sympathy instead of needless sentimentality.

Taklub succeeds in maintaining a singular vision of projecting an affecting portrait of survival that eschews fabrication for authenticity, notwithstanding the pressures of dealing with governmental funding and actors and actresses who seem to deserve roles that stretch their acting potential.

The film is empowered by its subtlety. Not one element stands out, making its centerpoint, which is the overpowering humanity of those who have survived and are still surviving, the prime subject in the spotlight.

In the end, Taklub aches with palpable pain not because it is such an impressive work of art but because its art is barely noticeable because of its fealty to the truth.


By:  PJ Oliveria




Sa silent tears pa lang, tagos na sa puso ng mga manonood

Napapanahon at makabuluhan ang ‘Taklub’ lalo na sa mga Pilipinong nakaranas na ng hirap at pasakit ng mga sakuna na tulad ng Yolanda. Mapapaisip ka. Kung fan ka ng mga obra ni direk Brillante Ma Mendoza, i-add mo ‘to sa to-watch list.


SYNOPSIS: (from Festival de Cannes website) After the Supertyphoon Haiyan, which changed the city of Tacloban in the Philippines into its horrendous state, the lives of Bebeth, Larry and Erwin intertwine. The survivors are left to search for the dead, while keeping their sanity intact, and protecting what little faith there may be left. A series of events continue to test their endurance.

GENRE: Drama

DIRECTOR: Brillante Ma Mendoza

WRITER: Honeylyn Joy Alipio

CAST: Nora Aunor | Julio Diaz | Aaron Rivera | Rome Mallari | Shine Santos | Lou Veloso | Ruby Ruiz


Sa kanyang latest film, Taklub (Trap), medyo kabaligtaran ang ginawa ni Direk Brillante Ma Mendoza (Kinatay, Serbis) from the title dahil inungkat ng pelikulang ito ang stress, kahirapan, at kasawian ng mga survivors ng supertyphoon Yolanda. Similar to Mendoza’s previous works, isa itong gritty look sa mga harsh realities sa ating lipunan: napapanahon, may emotional gut-punch.

Marahil ang “taklub” o “trap” na tinutukoy sa pelikula ay iyong ang mga (mostly internal) conflicts ng mga tauhan. Halos isang taon na after Yolanda, ngunit ipinapakita sa pelikula na these characters are still trapped in almost every sense of the word. Sa umpisa pa lang nga ng pelikula ay tatambad na sa mga manonood ang eksena kung saan naging literal na deathtrap ang isang tent kung saan nasawi ang pamilya ni Renato (Lou Veloso). As the movie progresses, ilalahad nito ang mga psychological at emotional traps that run deeper: nariyan si Bebeth (Nora Aunor), na handang tumulong sa kaniyang kapwa ngunit hinahanap pa rin ang mga labi ng kanyang mga anak; si Larry (Julio Diaz), na taos-pusong nananalangin at nagpapasan ng krus dahil umaasa siya sa Diyos na bigyan siya ng mga signos; at si Erwin (Aaron Rivera), na pinaiikot-ikot ng mga government agencies na dapat tumutulong sa kanya at sa kanyang mga kapatid. Lahat sila namatayan, pero ipinapakita sa pelikula na overshadowed (natatakublan) ng ibang bagay–political, environmental, etc.—ang pagdadalamhati nila, which, ideally, would have led to them finding a closure, moving on, and rebuilding their lives.

Nasalin din ang tema ng “taklub” sa performances ng mga actors dito, dahil subtle at may pagtitimpi ang acting ng mga batikang beteranong artista tulad nina La Aunor, Diaz, at Veloso. Nagawa nilang ipakita how suffering in silence looks like. Taklub may not necessarily be Ate Guy’s best acting work recently (that honor belongs to Dementia), pero naman, sa silent tears pa lang, tagos sa puso na sa mga manonood.

Nakatulong din ang mga technical aspects ng pelikula para pagandahin ito. Minsan hindi flawless ang execution lalo na sa handheld camerawork at audio/dubbing (may mga times na nao-overpower ng background ambient noise ang dialogue) pero ayos naman sa huli. Standout ang cinematography: from the detailed shots ng mga maliliit na bagay sa lupa, to the beautiful skyscapes na nasisilbing backdrop sa wasak na riyalidad, to the overall tint of the film.

The film does not offer a clear resolution to the conflicts mentioned above. Sa halip, wari bang hinahayaan ni direk Brillante sa mga manonood ang desisyon sa kung ano ang mga next steps na kailangang gawin. Tulad ng sine ni Lav Diaz na Mga Anak ng Unos na isa ring mahusay na Yolanda-related film na ipinalabas recently, para itong subtle public service announcement (PSA) para udyukin tayo na mag-isip at magmuni-muni. Kumbaga inilatag ni Direk Brillante ang mga facts. So ano’ng gagawin natin?


ni : Rhyan F. Cotas

Ika-16 ng Setyembre ng napanood ko ang Taklub sa Robinson Galerria Cinema 4 kasama ko ang aking better half pumasok kami. Masasabi ko na konti lang kaming nanood. Mga nasa sampung katao pero di iyon dahilan para di ko magustuhan ang pelikula. Kung lilimiin napahanga ako ni Brillante dahil di nya inihain ang pelikula sa isang melodramang paraan na ang eksena ay punong puno ng highlight, iyakan, pagpapaawa ng bida o akting na akting na mga eksena para mapansin ang husay ng mga artista. Ang naramdaman ko yung paghihirap ng mga taong nasalanta ng bagyong Yolanda, sabi ko sa wifey ko , ang bigat, ang sakit sa dibdib- humihiwa sa puso ko ang bawat eksena na inilalatag ng pelikula.  Naramdaman ko yung pagkawala ng pamilya ni Renato, yung sugat na iiwan sayo na halos sabay-sabay na namatay ang iyong asawa at anak, nakasama ako ni Erwin saglit ng manakaw ang kanyang bubong ng bago nyang itinayong bahay, nakidalamhati ako kay Larry sa pagkawala ng pananampalataya nya sa Diyos ng ibaon nya ang imahen ni Hesus sa lupa, at bumigat ang dibdib ko ng nabasag ang mug na may larawan ng anak ni Bebeth.  Masaklap makita na ganito yung tunay na nangyari sa ating mga kababayan.  Napaisip ako paano kung duon ako nakatira sa Tacloban ?

Ang pelikulang ito ay hindi para sa mga ordinaryong manonood na naghahanap ng pagtakas sa realidad ng buhay.  Ang pelikulang ito ay gigising sa kamalayan mo bilang tao na dapat matuto kang magpasalamat na kahit papano di ka nakaranas ng mga nangyari sa Tacloban.  Ang pelikulang ito ay hindi para kumita o humakot ng mga manonood na ang gusto ay sex, pantasya, komedya o aksyon dahil hindi iyon ang dahilan kung bakit ito ginawa. Ang pelikulang ito ay isang kayamanan na dapat pahalagahan dahil magtuturo ito sa atin ng katotohanan sa buhay, na sa buhay di mawawalan ng problema at sa araw-araw di sigurado kung masosolusyunan nga ang mga ito.

Saludo ako sa mga producers ng Taklub at sa mga taong nasa likod ng pagkakagawa nito. Saludo ako kay Brillante dahil wala syang inisip kundi ibigay sa atin ang katotohan tanggapin man natin o hindi. Saludo ako sa mga nagsiganap sa pelikula, kay Lou Veloso bilang Renato napakahusay, kay Aaron bilang Erwin natural nyang nagampanan ang kanyang karakter, kay Julio Diaz bilang Larry, nais ko syang palakpakan dahil sa maningning n'yang nagampanan ang buhay na nawalan ng pag-asa sa Diyos at kay Nora Aunor sa kanyang paghulma sa katauhan ni Bebeth na tunay na nagpakinang muli ng kanyang pagiging henyo sa pagganap.

Bilang isang manonood na nakapanood na ng sandamakmak na pelikula masasabi ko na nag Taklub ay isang kayaman na maitituring. Isa itong gintong pelikula sa gitna ng mga naglipanang basurang pelikula sa ating panahon. Hindi nasayang ang pera at panahon ko bagkus nagbigay liwanag ito sa akin ng bagong dimensyon ng pagiging tunay na tao.Bottom of Form


Jason  Pilapil Jacobo


Hinugot mula sa:


Sinisipat ng abot-tanaw ng pamemelikula ni Brillante Ma. Mendoza ang mga bakas ng sakuna na dulot ng unos na Yolanda sa “Taklub.” Sa panahong dinaratnan ng pelikula, halos isang taon na ang lumipas nang sinalanta ng sigwang Haiyan ang lungsod ng Tacloban, subalit malalim pa rin ang dalamhati ng loob ng nagsusumikap na makaalpas sa suliranin ng sakuna. Habang pinaiigting ng bumubungad na aksidenteng sunog sa tent city ang halos hindi na maaarok na dusa ng nasalanta, binubuksan naman, kahit baha-bahagya, ang ilang sitio kung saan maaaring gumapang pabalik sa rabaw ng danas ang abot-dili ng natataklubang diwa.

Kung sasaliksikin ang mga talahuluganan ng mga wika sa Visayas mula pa noong ikalabingwalong dantaon, mahihiwatigan sa mga entri sa “taclob/taclub” ang metonimiya ng proteksiyon, kung ang taklob ay pantakip, o saplot na nga sa katawan laban sa di mawaring kawalang katiyakan ng panahon sa ronang tropiko, lalo na ng Leyte, na nakalantad sa karagatang Pasipiko, kung saan unang nagwawasiwas ang mga siklon na kinatatakutan sa buong kapuluan. Naririyan din siyempre ang pagbanggit sa isang uri ng talaba na maaaring makalap mula sa mga baybayin ng Leyte, ang “taklobo,” na hindi malayong ituring din bilang metafora ng likas na resistans ng labas sa kabila ng pagiging delikado ng laman-loob. Kaya, interesante ang pinipiling salin sa pamagat. Bakit “trap” kaagad ang ipinalilitaw, at hindi “shelter”? Ano ang iginigiit sa balintiyakang pagpapa-aninaw na ito ng iisang panig lamang, ng bahaging “cul de sac” ng nag-iilang-diwang taguri sa gawi ng anumang katawan na takpan ang sarili sa harap ng matinding alinsangan at daluyong?

Sa isang mapanuring etnograpiya ng isang pulo sa Kabisayaan, ipinabanaag sa anyong tuluyan ni Jean-Paul Dumont ang hulagwayan ng gayong ilang-diwa, lalo na sa pagpapalawig ng danas-gugma. Tinawag niyang “visayan vignettes” ang hugis ng isinasagawa niyang metodolohiya ng pagtugaygay sa kanyang sapa-sapantaha hinggil sa “ethnographic trace.” Habang may pagmamalay sa anyo ng “sugilanon,” na maaaring katumbas ng “katha” ng mga Tagalog at ng “osipon” ng mga Bikolnon, tinurol ng antropologo ang mga bakas ng nakamihasnang ugali ng mga taga-Siquijor upang buoin ang isang ladawan ng mga damdamin/sentimyento, pakiramdam/sentido, at pagdaramdam/sentimentalidad na lumilinang sa isla bilang pulo nga ng di matataguriang pamumuhay at paghahanap-buhay sa agaw-dilim ng gugma.

Masasabing may taglay na pagkakaunawa sa gayong “miserabilismo” ang pelikula ni Mendoza. At kung babanatin pa, maaaring narating din ng kanyang nagsusugilanong katha ang gayong sensibilidad (bagaman mapakla [at halatang piniga pa ang tamis-pait mula sa lasang ito], produktibo gilayon ang pagbabatuhan ng mga asiwang linya sa pagitan ng Waray at Tagalog, upang ipabatid na dati pa man, isa nang “contact zone,” o pook-diitan, ang Tacloban, at higit itong mananatili bilang gayon dahil sa sakuna). Ginamit na kasangkapan ng dulang pampelikula ni Honelyn Joy Alipio ang apat na kuwadro ng kasalantaan: si Renato (Lou Veloso) na kinalayo ang natitirang mga supling mula sa inanod na ngang mag-anak; si Larry (Julio Diaz) na nagkabaun-baon sa lupa ang mga mahal sa buhay; si Erwin (Aaron Rivera) na nililipad-lipad ng hangin ang papeles ng pagkautas ng kanyang mga ginikanan; at si Bebeth (Nora Aunor) na naglalaum na buhat sa nukleotidong mababakas mula sa kanyang laway ay mababatid pa rin sa wakas ang mga bangkay ng mumunting padangat na itiniwalag sa kanya ng malulupit na ragasa.
Mahusay ang kuwadrilateral na pagpipitak-pitak na ito ng sinematograper na si Odyssey Flores ayon sa mga elemento ng ronang tropiko, upang ipahiwatig ang salaysay ng muling paglikha mula sa kalugmukang dulot ng tifon, dahil naisasaysay ang mahilahil pa ring pagluluwalhati na pinagdaraanan ng sinumang nababalaho sa luksa. Mayroong binubuo, oo, datapuwa, lagi namang natatalos ng panghuhubog ang alaala ng pinsala, kaya’t paulit-ulit na lalagapak, tulad ni Sisifo.

Alalaong-sana, nakalulundag ang pelikula lampas sa balag ng alanganin na hinahawan niya, subalit hindi. Nananatili ang tanaw-daigdig sa loob ng sakuna sa mismong kasalantaan na dahilan ng kanyang pamamanaag, at katwiran ng panganganino. Nabibigo ang salaysay ng mga napahamak na, na alpasan ang alapaap na akala niya’y nagpapalinaw ng kanyang sipat. Liban sa pagsasadula ng paglala ng burukrasya, wala nang ibang pinagbabalingan ng suri sa kung ano ang mali sa mga kalakarang panlipunan kaya ganoon na lamang ang kaguluhan. Sa pagyakap sa traumaturhiya ng mga nasakuna, ang nasasalat lamang ay pagsuko sa taumaturhiya, sa paniniwalang may panahon ng himala: maaaring hindi ngayon, maaaring hindi bukas, ngunit tiyak ang pagdatal nito, dahil nakalaan na nga ang panahong ipinangako, isasakatuparan na lamang ang nakaakda sa kalatas. Ang pinakamabuting gawin—ipasa-panginoong Maykapal na lamang ang lahat. Kaya ganoon ang wakas: isang sipi mula sa Ecclesiastes, at isang koro na magsisiawit na sasapit din ang ganap na pagkaligtas. Hindi ba’t batbat ng panganib ang ganitong maling panunumbalik sa Lumang Tipan, kung saan halos lahat naman ng desastre ay kalooban ng Diyos? Kaya pala ang taklub dito ay walang pakundangang bitag. Ito ang puno’t dulo ng isang katha na wala namang inihahandog na dahilan sa antas ng kayarian, kung bakit lumiwag ang kasalantaan, kung bakit ganoon pa rin ang kalagayan—sakuna, at sakuna lamang—kaya iniaasa sa isang teolohikal na paglalahad ang bukod-tanging pormasyon ng pagpapasya sa mga ipakilala sa simulang biktima. Ganoon na lamang ba ang sakuna, galing sa kalikasan, kaya’t ipauubaya na lamang din sa pag-inog ng mundo’t pagdausdos ng panahon?

Ganito man ang pangkalahatang suliranin ng pelikula hinggil sa tagal (tenure) ng sakuna, hindi naman matatawaran ang pagkiling nito sa kasandalian ng lunan, kahit pansamantala lamang, lalo na sa kapangyarihan nito na himatungin ang damdam ng hindi na magpapagaping kalooban. Kung gugma nga ang kalagayang pinapangarap sa kabila ng lahat ng desgrasya buhat sa mga pangyayaring itinuturing bilang likas, may karunungang bayan hinggil sa lugar nito sa paghahanap-buhay, na hindi mahihindian ang pag-usbong nito sa larang ng hilahil, tulad na lamang ng matatanto sa eksena kung saan inaawit at isinasayaw ang “Rosas Pandan.” Doon, natutunghayan ng pelikula ang paghuhubad ng takot na itinaklob sa katauhang nasalanta. Kaya’t nagagawang umindak ng mga paa at kamay na dati’y walang ibang atas kundi tiyakin na ang sarili’t kapuwa’y sa marahas na tubig, hindi pa natatangay.

At, buti na lamang, hindi napapagal ang isang Binibining Aunor! Gala siya nang gala sa bawat sulok ng sawing siyudad, nangangalap ng tulong para sa kaibigang nasalanta. Luto pa rin nang luto nang may maihain na longganisa’t itlog sa mga kumakatok sa kanyang karinderya. Nagpapatuloy ng mga walang masisilungang kapitbahay kapag ang mga ito’y natataranta sa kulog at kidlat na lumiligalig sa dagat. Nag-aampon ng ulilang tuta. Naghahagilap ng hiniwalayang bana, sa pag-asang may DNA match na magpapabatid sa kanyang may maililibing na bangkay ng inanod na anak. Nakamamangha na kahit na lumalim na ang kanyang pag-unawa sa tauhan matapos ang dekada-dekadang pagdurusa sa loob at labas ng kanyang banwa, may ilalalim pa pala ang balon ng kanyang abot-dama. Lubos pa sa lubos ang kalinangan niya na bagbagin ang damdam, na lansagin ang kayarian nito, alinsabay sa pagtuturo ng hibo ng dangal na itataklob sa kaloobang puspos ng bagabag. Sa mga sandaling nakalaan para sa nakakuwadrong luksa, kusa niya pipiliin ang laylayan, upang patatagin ang balangkas na maglalarawan sa dinadalanghati ng kapuwa. Kaya: hindi pa man tumitingala, batid na natin na matagal nang naghihinagpis ang nakatungong si Lou Veloso; wala pa man siyang binibigkas, gumuguho na ang wika kay Julio Diaz; hindi man makapalag buhat sa kanyang kinasasadlakang diwa, matitiyak natin na ninanasa ni Aaron Rivera ang isang pagkakataon sa liwanag.

Walang maliw na pagkamingaw at paghigugma ang pagpatak na iyon ng tiniis na luha mula sa hindi pa rin natin malirip-lirip na mata: Nora.

Monday, August 17, 2015


Philippine cinema's "Superstar" Nora Aunor will visit Far Eastern University on August 18, 2015 and will be the next special guest in AYKON: ICON The FEU Conversations Series.


Friday, August 7, 2015


(Movie Review: Taklub/Trap)

by Jonathan Catunao

“If the misery of our poor be caused not by the laws of nature, but by our institutions, great is our sin.” – Charles Darwin.

When informed that famine is breaking out and the peasants have no bread to eat, legend has it that the much-reviled Queen Mary Antoinette of England responded by saying, “Let them eat cake.”

National issues brag-time in a middle-class tennis club in Alabang. A tennis pal declared, “Kapag pinanganak kang mahirap at namatay kang mahirap, ikaw na ang may kasalanan.”

Apparently, when the elite is not mocking the poor, the middle class is giving them a simple way out: “Work Hard”.

The way our society treats those who have absolutely nothing is the theme of Brillante Mendoza’s ‘Taklub’, where he takes as a year after the deluge in a tent community housing survivors from poor families.

The NBI is offering free DNA testing to identify missing loved ones among mass graves. After blood samples were taken from her, Bebeth (Nora Aunor) asks, “Kailan ko po malalaman ang resulta?” The lab technician replied, “Mga after one year po, more or less.”

Erwin (Aaron Rivera) complains to the city hall processor because his financial assistance documents are being tossed around. The officer shrugs, “Kasi naman ang tagal mo bumalik”. He explains, “Naghahanap pa po ako ng pamasahe.”

Gas lamps are used for lighting due to absence of electricity. A fire broke out in a tent causing an entire family to perish. A local woman being interviewed by a journalist lamented , “Sana kahit Coleman mabigyan kami.”

Movies about disasters and tragedies often end with a tribute to the human spirit. ‘Schindler’s List’ is about a German who saved Jews from Holocaust. In the movie ‘Twister’, Helen Hunt and team risked their lives to get as close as possible near the eye of a tornado to help save lives. And how many times have Brad Pitt, Tom Cruise and Ben Affleck saved the planet with their bravery? Tragedy + Heroism = Great Disaster Movie.

That’s mainstream. Brillante Mendoza is not. And in true independent fashion, his rendition of the strongest typhoon to ever visit planet Earth is not a CGI showcase of cities vanishing under water, humanity scampering to the highest ground and a handsome hero leading them to a new world as the sun rises behind the mountain clouds. From the gripping opening scene of an entire family burning to a woman lighting candles at the wrong graves, Taklub doesn’t shed light. Taklub doesn’t give hope. Taklub, instead, shatters all pretentions and brings us to the ugly truth.

Bebeth, Erwin and Larry are Yolanda survivors. Throughout the film their individual sufferings are revealed in intertwining gaps.

Larry, in a virtuoso performance by Julio Diaz, is a tricycle driver whose deep religious beliefs will be toyed many times throughout his cross-carrying ordeal. In another fatal blow after another typhoon hit their already ravaged town, will his faith still see him through?

Newcomer Aaron Rivera plays Erwin, a fisherman who must keep his siblings intact amidst the deaths of their parents. He is defying orders to leave the shoreline and insists on rebuilding their homes in no-build zones. Can he hold fast?

When other cast members like Rivera, Diaz and the magnificent Lou Veloso are delivering probably the performances of their lives in the roles of their careers, it will take a Nora Aunor to play a passive lead character and still outshine them all. As Bebeth, Nora Aunor plays a witness to the struggles of her fellow survivors. She passes around collection bottle for Renato. She shelters Larry and family during a storm panic. She checks if Erwin’s wounds are healing. She even adopts a dog. Bebeth, like many survivors, have lost loved ones. A testament to why she is one of the world’s greatest actresses, Nora Aunor portrays Bebeth subdued in emotions yet entrenched in torment. With her walls collapsing, will a wail of agony finally break the silence of the stormy night?

As the credits roll, a friend beside me was astonished, “Kuya Athan, umiiyak ka?”. Later at the theater exit, another friend recounted, “Umiyak ako sa tatlong eksena”. For a film that was originally commissioned as a small environmental campaign, ‘Taklub’ is now an epic account of devastation that has left a sea of humanity weeping.

For Larry. For Erwin. For Bebeth. For every Yolanda survivor that has lost so much and will never find hope.

For every Filipino living in the direst conditions that will never have a chance to get out, doomed to perdition, to their fatal end trapped.

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Nora Aunor leads Gawad CCP honorees



The Cultural Center of the Philippines (CCP) will recognize 11 individuals and two groups for their outstanding achievements and contributions to Philippine arts and culture.

They will receive the Gawad CCP Para sa Sining, the highest award given by the cultural center.

The awardees are as follows:

Denisa Reyes (Dance) - Ballet Philippines' artistic director for two terms (1991-1994 and 2000-2004), Reyes boasts an impressive list of choreographic works that have won critical recognition on the international dance scene. Her works focus on Asian Contemporary dance and the possibilities of presenting current local issues through dance expressions.

Fides Cuyugan Asensio (Music) -  An icon in the development of opera and musical theater in the Philippines, soprano Asensio starred in various Filipino operas including the world premieres of Rosendo Santos' "Mapulang Bituin" and Lucrecia Kasilag's "Dularawan." She continues to promote young classical singers through the Music Theater Foundation of the Philippines, the non-profit organization she has established.

Antonio "Tony" Mabesa (Theater) - The founding director of university-based theater company Dulaang UP (University of the Philippines) is also known as one of the country’s premier directors, having directed over 130 stage productions.  He is also an actor and a designer who has worked with the top theater companies.

Roberto Chabet (Visual Arts) - CCP's first art curator was also known as the father of Philippine conceptual art. His works include installations, drawings, collages, sculpture, and paintings. He passed away on April 30, 2013 at the age of 76.

Ricardo "Ricky" Lee (Literature) - Lee has championed the use of Filipino in fiction since the 1960s and screenplay writing since the 1980s. His works include the screenplays for "Himala", "Salome", "Ang Totoong Buhay Ni Pacita M.", Muro Ami" and "Gumapang Ka Sa Lusak." He launched his first novel, "Para kay B (O Kung Paano Dinevastate ng Pag-Ibig ang 4 Out of 5 Sa Atin)," in 2008.

Nora Aunor (Film and Broadcast Arts) - The "Superstar" of Philippine movies is a multi-awarded actress, singer, and producer, with a list of iconic film roles throughout her nearly 50-year career. Aunor has also topbilled several award-winning stage plays, television shows, and concerts.

Paulo Alcazaren (Architecture) - The UP-educated Alcazaren is an expert in urban design and landscape architecture and an advocate of environmental and heritage conservation. He has also published several books on design and architecture.

Ben Farrales (Design) - The Dean of Philippine fashion has over six decades' experience in the industry, and has dressed actresses, socialites and other famous beauties. He is most famous for his Muslim-inspired looks, taking the malong fashion to other parts of the world including Los Angeles, and New York through his exhibit, "Maranaw."

Leoncio Deriada (Literature) - Deriada has won prestigious literary awards including the Palanca Hall of Fame for his works in English, Filipino, and Hiligaynon. Born in Iloilo, he has encouraged and trained young writers in West Visayas writing in Hiligaynon, Kinaray-a, and Aklanon as well as English and Filipino.

Armida Siguion-Reyna (Musical Theater and Film) - Reyna's contributions to the arts span the fields of music, theater, television and film. She has performed the lead in operas including "Lucia di Lammermoor" and "Rigoletto." She has worked both in front of and behind the camera, but is perhaps best known for her television work as the host of the award-winning program "Aawitan Kita."

Basilio Esteban Villaruz (Dance) - Villaruz is the man behind the the 34-year-old dance program at the University of the Philippines College of Music. He currently serves as a professor emeritus in the university's voice and music threater/dance department. He is also the artistic director emeritus of the UP Dance Company.

Talaandig School of Living Tradition - this Bukidnon-based school teaches traditional Talaandig values and mythologies, dance techniques, and music for pre-school children on top of their basic education.

The Missionary Society of St. Columban - The recipient of the Tanging Parangal—given to individuals or organizations for outstanding contributions to the development of the arts—has catered to the Malate area's ecclesiastical and artistic needs since 1929.

Given every three years, Gawad CCP Para sa Sining is awarded to artists or groups of artists who have consistently produced outstanding works and enriched the development of their art form.

The awarding will be on September 17 at 7 p.m. at the Tanghalang Nicanor Abelardo (Main Theater) in CCP. — Trisha Macas/BM, GMA News 


Column Life Show by Tito Genova Valiente
Business Mirror
July 8, 2015



THE night of June 16 has already been told. Many tales have been shared with the public. The stories filed were about the winners. The public was once more treated to what is already perceived and traditionally acknowledged as a singular set of standards in film appreciation by which the Manunuri ng Pelikulang Pilipino (MPP) has long been noted. I say that with all intelligent objectivity—and unashamedly—as a member of this group.

Social media has bannered photos from that night, along with the speeches of the winners. One speech stood out as it was for the highest award the Manunuri could give: It was the speech of Nora Aunor.

It was rambling and charming, with pieces of paper falling off the souvenir program she had carried with her to the stage. The speech was full of emotions. It summarized a lifetime of excellence and participation in film histories. It was sincere. It was a speech of the night, a speech of life.

There were, however, moments that were not captured by the camera and in the media coverage—not because they were not points of interest, but because they were fleeing. Some took place between Nora and the Manunuri. Some happened in the lull of the proceedings. Some were noted because something was not done that should have been done.

The instruction for the MPP was to be seated at past 7 in the evening. As early as 5 in the afternoon, more than five of us were already in Studio 10 inside the ABS-CBN compound in Quezon City, where the ceremonies were to be held. We surveyed the place and worried about being able to read our spiels. The awards night was going to be taped as live, and time was of the essence. We were advised to shorten our remarks on why a particular artist was recognized for that category. We were all unhappy about this development because the Manunuri has gained credence for the citation they belabor for each achievement. In the end, essential time was given to the presentors.

Manunuri Beni Santos, poet and academic, was the exception. She went into her pavane of a citation, relishing each word, articulating each sentence. By then, I was finished with my citation for Best Short Film and Best Documentary. With a tinge of regret, I told myself that I should’ve done also a Beni Santos.

But I’m getting ahead of my telling. Many things happened even before we navigated the slippery darkness of that stage in Studio 10.

To continue the story: there we were early at 5 in the afternoon. But Nora was there already in the makeup room—even before all of us.

A day before, on June 15, we got a message during rehearsal that Nic Tiongson would not be able to make it. His back was killing him and he had to see his doctor. That was bad news. We operated like a gang. Our strength is in our presence, the presence of members. But at 7, we were pleasantly shocked to see Nic, hale and happy. A little later, Bien Lumbera would arrive in a wheelchair, his back also bothering him.

At about quarter to 8 in the evening, I felt a commotion at the entrance to the studio. I did not look back but I knew: Nora had arrived. Soon, her group led by Boy Palma, her manager, and Adolf Alix, her director for the short film Kinabukasan, inched its way to the second row. When they were all seated, I turned around and Nora was there directly behind me,

“Gayun-gayon mo na, Manay [You are so lovely, Big Sister],” I greeted her in Naga Bikol. Nora speaks most of the time in her Rinconaca/Iriga language.

“Dai man po [Not really],” she responded. The “po” in that sentence became one of the first trademarks of Nora when she was just starting out. For Bikolanos, however, that honorific is common in many places. It is perhaps only in Bikol where old people use “po” to address younger persons, especially strangers.

Anyway, Nora was lovely indeed that night. The gown was white except for the few black beads forming curlicues on the bodice. Before we could talk some more, I sensed heavy air in front of us. I turned and saw photographers, three persons deep, all clambering to get a good short of Nora. All of them were inches away from toppling us from our seats. Gigi Alfonso, the present chairman of the Manunuri, turned to me and asked: Is this going to be the situation the whole night? Maybe, I answered in jest.

Soon the floor managers came and requested everyone to be seated. The photographers all did. Every now and then, some person would walk up to the front row, turn around and say, “Hi, Ate Guy.”

The program began. The awards were given.

The night went on. A voice announced the names of Darren Espanto, Gwyneth Dorado, Kyla and Jed Madela. The songs started to flow: “Windmills of Your Mind”… “People.” The voices blended and the memories came back. The lyrics were flawed as Darren and Gwyneth sang. There were awkward preposition combinations but it was not the night of lyrics but of melodies and monumental remembrances.

The camera could only show Nora gazing with intent, the cheekbones aged to perfection, the eyes wise and deep with the pains and the joys of life. If she was beautiful that night, it was also because Nora has accepted what destiny has gifted her—the sorrows, the ills, the gains, the victories—and the country’s critics came together as one that evening to tell her: You and your art have made the cinema of this nation worth the writing and the thinking of people.

The songs kept coming. Nora had covered them during a period when songs came from outside. Instead of diminishing her stature, the songs elevated Nora into a singer who sang and acted out the lines with a voice whose training was not in musical conservatories, but in a universe that made it possible for a girl—dirt-poor and thin and sickly—to conserve a genius that allowed her to rise from poverty. That night, Nora returned the boon to society with records of her excellence.

The songs went on. “This is My Life.” Theatrics and tragedies are packed into that song. I turned to Nora and assured her: “Magayonon baga….” I was referring to the song this time, but I was also assuring her that, yes, we remember that deep, glorious and honeyed voice of hers. When everyone thought musical number was over, the four fine singers went on to do a rousing version of “The Greatest Performance of My Life.” I looked back at Nora once more. She cupped her face with her two hands, her whole body taut but trembling.

That night at Café Ysabel after the awards ceremonies, Nora Aunor was with the Manunuri. She was in a gray shirt, at ease with everyone. She was hugging Manong Bien Lumbera. She walked tugging at the hand of Nic Tiongson as they took more photos. Beni Santos eased her way down to sit beside her.

Nora was at home. Nora was at home with the critics who first noticed her and took the mighty risk of proclaiming her their First Best Actress.

Nora Aunor: Changing the Taste of Filipino Moviegoers

By Butch Francisco
Manunuri ng Pelikulang Pilipino (MPP)



Although her magnificent voice initially served as her big ticket to superstardom, it was her performances in the movies that enshrined Nora Aunor as the biggest female iconic figure in Philippine show business.

Films have always been a part of her life – first as a young movie fan who watched Vilma Santos’ Trudis Liit five times at the flea-infested Allan Theater in her hometown of Iriga. “I have always been Vilma’s fan,” she says of the actress-turned-politician, who had been her archrival in showbiz for close to half a century.

When – at age 12 – she moved to Manila in search of her big break, possibly as a singer on radio, it was in her agenda to see in person and hopefully get the autograph of Vilma, who by then had become her girl crush. She got this chance when she auditioned in the radio show of Ike Lozada and German Moreno and to her delight found out that Vilma was among the featured guests in the program. That could have been the happiest day of her life, except that Moreno, who later would become her biggest showbiz drumbeater, chose another aspiring singer over her.

There had been other rejections prior to that. That had been one of the better days, in fact. At least, she was admitted to the studio – at MBC on Taft Avenue. Once, she fell into a manhole after she was accidentally pushed away by an overzealous guard in charge of crowd control.

Her 1967 Tawag ng Tanghalan win changed all that. All of a sudden, she had showbiz offers, including the chance to be part of the Araneta Coliseum concert of Timi Yuro, who had wanted to adopt her and bring her to the United States – an option Nora seriously considered.

In the movies, it was the legendary star-builder, Dr. Jose Perez of Sampaguita Pictures, who first gambled on her. Sampaguita signed her up to a four-year contract, which, according to Nora, stipulated that “by her fourth film, she would be elevated to lead star status.”

The terms of her contract were unimaginable at that time. Although she had beautiful expressive eyes and the perfect Asian nose, she was dark and at 14 wasn’t likely to shoot up beyond 5 feet. Only the year before, Rosemarie Sonora and Gina Pareño, gorgeous mestizas both, were launched by Sampaguita as part of the studio’s much-heralded Stars of ’66.

Sampaguita had to test the waters with her first. In All Over the World, Nora was merely asked to sing in one sequence. She was even surprised when she was required by the studio to be at the lobby of Life Theater on opening day. Dwarfed by her taller and fairer co-stars, she retreated to one corner and was hardly recognized by movie fans. However, when the movie got to the part where she sings, she heard clapping from a visibly pleased audience. For her initial film, Nora got paid P200.

Her talent fee was upped to P400 in her next film project, Sitting in the Park, which starred mostly members of Stars’ 66. Then came Pogi and Ang Pangarap Ko’y Ikaw. Somewhere along the way, she got teamed up with Tirso Cruz III – a tandem that instantly built a solid fan base.

Nora undeniably became popular not only with the masses, but also with a curious A-B crowd wondering how a dark, diminutive girl could possess such singing talent and charisma.

In the eyes of producers, she was a gold mine, who could carry a film by herself and earn big bucks at the box-office. But then, she legally belonged to Sampaguita, which decided to stick to its tradition of carefully molding its contract stars first until they’ve reached their full potential.

She wasn’t even halfway done with her commitment with Dr. Perez when Artemio Marquez, who had directed some of her films for Sampaguita, saw a loophole in her contract. “Dapat daw kasi bida na ako in my fourth film, which didn’t happen,” recalls Nora of this episode early in her career.

Since Nora was still a minor, it was her Aunt Belen who signed the Sampaguita contract on her behalf. What Marquez did was to seek out her biological mother, Antonia, to get a legal consent that enabled him to produce under his own Tower Productions Nora’s first solo picture, Musical Teenage Idol that true enough became a blockbuster hit – done on a shoestring budget. Her take-home pay was P15,000, a huge part of it spent treating out classmates at the Centro Escolar in Parañaque, where she later collected her high school diploma. (It was also in this school where friends started calling her Guy, a nickname she formulated for herself with the help of her tough girl gang-mates.)

Nora didn’t have much time to enjoy her box-office success because her camp had been sued by Sampaguita for breach of contract. The case went on for years and eventually was decided in favor of Sampaguita by the Court of First Instance, under Judge Ulpiano Sarmiento in 1974. The ruling allowed Sampaguita to garnish P1.3-M of Nora’s existing properties. To show that they were only fighting for principles, the Vera-Perez family didn’t even bother to go that length. “Basta pinatawad na lang ako ni Manay Ichu,” Nora claims, referring to the long talk she had with Dr. Perez’ eldest child Marichu Maceda after the case was settled.

Nora didn’t sever ties with Sampaguita and its sister company VP Pictures even at the height of their legal battle. Since the litigation process took long, she was allowed to make movies both for Sampaguita and Tower.

For Sampaguita, she did Guy & Pip, Always in My Heart, Nasaan Ka, Inay and My Blue Hawaii, all of which were blockbusters. Mrs. Maceda saw for herself how the actress was regarded practically as an object of idolatry (“like a religious image in church”) by her followers. She remembers how Nora would descend the famed Vera-Perez staircase – to be met below by adoring fans who knelt down to kiss the hemline of her long gown. “She was THAT popular,” shares Mrs. Maceda.

Over at Tower Productions, she was given a new leading man – the dashing Manny de Leon, who lost no time winning her heart. Although she still cared very much for Tirso Cruz III, her first and true love, Nora decided to get into a romantic relationship with De Leon after she felt the pressure from family members who all favored the new suitor – “maybe because of the gifts of perfume and liquor he gave them,” she now laughs.

Oh, but it was a stormy affair they had – “kasi ang dami niyang ibang babae.” Once, she bought a small pistol that gun collectors refer to as señorita and this she actually fired at him, except that the shot was a dud and the bullet just flew off and mercifully missed the target.

Their arguments got so tiresome to the point that an exasperated De Leon had to tell Nora to her face – “na hindi naman kita gusto at kaya lang kita niligawan kasi pinilit nila ako.” Yes, even in Hollywood, as depicted in The French Lieutenant’s Woman, the lead performers in romance films are encouraged to fall in love with each other for a more realistic registry onscreen. And here in Philippine setting – in the hope of better results at the box-office.

In Nora’s case and by her own admission, it helps that she is in love with her co-star on the set. Manny de Leon’s blunt confession that he didn’t love her left Nora emotionally devastated. Her ego was bruised and her pride badly wounded. Even her body ached from too much work and begged to rest.

She often noticed that at least three of her films would show simultaneously in different theaters. In 1970, Tomboy Nora opened on July 5. Two weeks later, on July 18, Hey There, Lonely Girl was shown, followed by I Dream of Nora 10 days after on July 28.

By her own calculation, she was being tasked to finish a film project in two and a half days, putting to shame the speed in which pito-pito movies were made in the late ‘90s by Regal Films.

The work setup was made convenient for her. She was put in an apartment in Natib St. in Cubao. Artemio Marquez lived nearby and Nora only had to cross the street to get to the producer-director’s house where practically all the films were shot.

There weren’t too many dialogues to memorize and deliver. Mostly, she was made to sing for the benefit of the camera songs from her album, which now entitles her to claim that she was ahead of the MTV era. “No wonder I was being made to do a recording every week (for Alpha Records) even if I was sick!”

She hardly slept in those days. And when she did, she would wake up to the nagging question: “Am I being made to do three films for the price of one?”

When she shot on location in her native Iriga one time, she remembers wrapping up work and saying goodbye to her co-stars – only to be roused from her sleep the following morning to find Ricky Belmonte waiting as her new leading man. Was he there for another movie project she didn’t know about?

Later that day, a train with three coaches was hired by production to be used as movie backdrop. During a lull in the shoot, Nora made known to everyone her desire to learn how to run a train. One of the engineers gladly volunteered to teach her – which was easy since she always had a knack for technology and mechanics.

Toward the end of the lessons, she was allowed to run the train for a few meters from the Iriga station. But to the horror of the train engineer, Nora just went on and on until they reached Sipocot, some six towns away. There was no way she was returning to the movie set and that was her chance to escape. After getting off the train, she and her assistant Dory boarded a Manila-bound bus where she was hardly noticed by her co-passengers under the cover of darkness.

Of course, Nora got it again from the press. By then she had gotten used to everyone calling her “indyanera” or no show. While she pled guilty to some of the accusations against her, she insisted that she wasn’t at fault all the time. “If ever I was late, that was done on purpose,” she says with conviction. “For instance, I don’t like it when the producer mistreats the crew.” She displayed her disapproval by showing up half a day late – like if the call time was 8 a.m. she would show up at 8 p.m. She wouldn’t work either if the producer who had earned her ire was on the set.

One time, a producer castigated the crew for engaging in a card game, “pusoy” – never mind if it was done during a break. The producer banned outright playing cards on the set. The next day, Nora brought her own mah-jong set and yes, several decks of playing cards.

In the early ‘70s, Nora also tried her hand at producing her own films under NV Productions – “because I wasn’t happy anymore with most of the offers coming my way.” Her first project was Carmela, which proved to be a relatively light experience for her since Sampaguita – even if they were in the middle of a legal tussle - assisted her, from the lending of equipment all the way to the movie’s theatrical release.

Most difficult was the epic project Banaue that in the end cost P3-M to produce. Although it was a huge hit, she never got to enjoy a centavo of its earnings because the entire profit was used to pay off debts incurred while doing the film.

No, she doesn’t regret producing Banaue – if only for the fact that it gave her the opportunity to work more lengthily with the future National Artist Gerardo De Leon. She was earlier directed by the film great in an episode of Fe, Esperanza, Caridad, a Premiere Productions project that also gave her the chance to work with another future National Artist Lamberto Avellana (in the Esperanza episode).

And what did she learn working with the two masters? “I learned to behave on the set,” she says with a hearty laughter. Although Fe ... proved to be a demanding role, Nora was still on her quest to find the right parts that would satisfy her thirst for artistry and eventual recognition as an actress.

Maybe unknown to her, she had already been noticed by eventually became the Manunuri ng Pelikulang Pilipino. Manunuri founding member Behn Cervantes may not have completely appreciated the comedy that was Batu-Bato sa Langit, but he still called Nora “a fine actress” in his Daily Express 1975 review.

The critics’ support must have inspired her to continue sharpening her acting skills further. Nora began experimenting in Lupita Concio’s Minsa’y Isang Gamu-gamo. She refused to read the script in its entirety and instead focused merely on the scene that was to be shot, while at the same time inquiring about what happened in the sequences before and after that. “I wanted to feel the moment without being burdened by scenes other than that.” With regard to the use of those famous dark, expressive eyes, she claims that “it just came along while I was in the process of improving my craft, without anyone in particular teaching her how to do it.”

For her performance in Minsa’y, another Manunuri founding member, Dr. Nicanor Tiongson, wrote in his Daily Express review in 1976: “Once again, Nora Aunor proves herself to be one of the finest actresses today, with an acting style that is both ‘raw’ and ‘fine,’ characterized by a disarming sincerity and force that can break into an unbelievable number of nuances, shades and colors of emotion.”

It was in Tatlong Taong Walang Diyos where she was officially recognized as the toast of the critics – having been crowned as the first ever best actress winner in the annual Gawad Urian. “I was so happy that I didn’t sleep for two days.” She just kept clutching the trophy around the house and did nothing else.

Nora won six more Urian best actress honors: Bona (1980), Bilangin ang Bituin sa Langit (1989), Andrea, Paano Ba Maging Isang Ina? (1990), The Flor Contemplacion Story (1995), Bakit May Kahapon Pa? (1996) and Thy Womb (2012).

She did Thy Womb because she got curious about indie movies during the period she was in the US. When she came back in 2011, she began inquiring about directors doing in indie films. The late showbiz writer William Reyes recommended Adolf Alix and Brillante Mendoza, who promptly paid her a visit during a shoot of her TV 5 soap.

She almost didn’t finish doing Thy Womb because she felt nothing was happening while working on the film.

“Walang mabigat na eksena – puro laot lang,” she recalls. Even co-star Bembol Roco felt the same. There was a script, all right, but Mendoza wouldn’t show it – “para daw natural ang acting.” She only stayed on because her manager and confidante Boy Palma kept watching the monitor and assured Nora that “they were doing something beautiful and different.” Although devoid of heavy dramatic confrontations, her performance in Thy Womb is one of the finest in her career.

Nora is now having the time of her life doing indie movies – “if only for the artistic freedom and wide choice of roles it offers,” she points out. She easily adapted to the different working style in indies because Nora is one of the few movie queens who was never afraid of changes.

In fact, much early on, she busted the myth that only Grecian goddess-like actresses could play lead roles on the big screen.

She also dissolved the prejudice against the bakya crowd – so-called because in the ‘60s market vendors trooped to movie houses to watch Tagalog features in their wooden clogs. Her almost unequalled talent, charisma and all-encompassing appeal became the great equalizer – with the elite beginning to appreciate Nora Aunor films (once patronized only by the masses), particularly those done in collaboration with top directors.

Of course, in the ‘70s, from bakya, she was called “baduy” (poor taste), but that was only for a while and she eventually surpassed that phase of her career. Today, a Nora Aunor film is always associated with prestige.

It helped that she had the power to choose film projects and directors and used her clout to come up with some of the best Filipino movies of all time. After the ‘50s golden age, it is said that 1976 and 1982 were the golden years of Philippine movies. In 1976, Nora had Minsa’y Isang Gamu-Gamo and Tatlong Taong Walang Diyos and in 1982, she starred in the epic Himala.

Truly, Nora Aunor played an important role in changing – for the better - the taste of the Filipino moviegoer.

This year, she is the recipient of the Manunuri’s highest honor – the Natatanging Gawad Urian. She joins the ranks of previous winners, some of whom have since been named National Artists. For some reason, maybe political, such honor was denied her.

She richly deserves to be named National Artist for all her contributions to the local film industry. And yes, if only as a reward for her efforts in helping Filipino moviegoers gain a more critical view and better appreciation for true quality films.