Saturday, August 20, 2011


Philippine Daily Inquirer
Wednesday, March 16, 2011

NORA AUNOR, the poor girl hawking water in the train station of Iriga in the 1960s, who rose to become the 'superstar' of Philippine cinema, is now a section of the Iriga City Public Library (ICPL).

With an initial collection of 129 volumes of books and 68 compact discs (CDs) and DVDs on her life and work as a singer and actress, the Nora Aunor Section is a tribute to the most famous Irigueña whose story from obscurity to celebrity captivated the nation in the 1970s, according to Flora Salvador, ICPL librarian.

Aunor's fans, connected in the virtual world of the Internet since 2000, initiated the compilation of books about their idol including films on DVDs and records of her songs in CDs to make up the section dedicated to her, says Salvador.


The Nora Aunor Section is a collaboration of the city government and the 600-member International Circle of Online Noranians (Icon), a Texas-based fan group founded by Leonel Escota.

Salvador says Icon was organized online to encourage the appreciation of Aunor's body of work and preserve her contribution to the Philippine movie industry.

Prominently hung in the section is a sepia photo of the late Ricky Belmonte and Nora Aunor sitting on the hood of a school bus of the Mabini Memorial University (now the University of Northeastern Philippines) which was supposedly taken in the '70s during the filming of one of her movies in her hometown.

Neatly tacked in the bookshelf are some titles like 'Nora Aunor Through the Years,' 'Nora Aunor Superstar' and 'Unsinkable Movie Queen.' Her movies on DVDs and songs on CDs are arranged in another shelf.

Breaking records

'No other native of Iriga had made the name of the town a household word than Nora Aunor. In her heyday, the mere mention of Nora, who was born Nora Cabaltera Villamayor in Iriga City on May 21, 1953, immediately associates her with Iriga and the PNR (Philippine National Railway) train station where she sold water in bottles to passengers of the train,' says Francisco Peñones, public information officer of the city.Peñones says Nora Aunor became popular when the country?s consciousness about Bicol was only through the train (ironically named Bicol Express as it always arrived late); and the hot dish with which the train lent its name.

'While other Bicol movie personalities had preceded her in the industry, Nora can be said to 
have made the country more aware of Bicol,' he asserts.

Peñones says Aunor is an icon who transcended the social 
divide between the rich and the poor in the turbulent years of the '70s, when the Philippine Free Press came out with its winning photo competition piece of socialites in Manila emerging from a posh hotel and being met by a group of placard-bearing protesters.


Moreover, Aunor broke the mestiza syndrome in the industry. 'Her following ranges from the burgis to the bakya. Her TV show, appropriately named 'Superstar,' an appellation obviously culled from the musical, is a testament to her staying and drawing power. At its end, it was the longest running TV show on Philippine entertainment history,' he adds.

Burgis was an adoption of a Marxist term bourgeoisie which means 'well-to-do or rich' while the bakya referred to poor ordinary people which literally meant wooden clogs, explains Peñones.
According to Icon, Aunor's 'Pearly Shells' was a major hit in 1971, when songs were recorded and listened to in vinyl discs played in turntables.

'The '70s was characterized by political uncertainties with foreign singers dominating the airwaves. However, the entry of Nora Aunor changed the beat of that era by delivering millions of sales for her records, surpassing those of the Beatles, the Supremes and Jackson Five. In the consumers' hierarchy of needs, a Nora vinyl is included in the priority list. It is safe to say that it was Nora Aunor who helped fuel the microeconomy that is the music industry during that turbulent era. Until today, no single Filipino celebrity can claim to have affected the industry and the economy as a whole other than Nora Aunor,' according to Tim A. Capellan, managing director of InAsia Management and Consultancy, a respected retail and marketing consulting firm in the country.

Other record-breaking feat of this diminutive Irigueña are her 30 gold singles and 260 singles and recording of more than 500 songs.

The beginnings

Aunor began her career doing the rounds of amateur singing contests, under the tutelage of her aunt and uncle, Belen and Saturnino Aunor, who took her under their custody and from whom she got her screen name, the Cultural Center of the Philippines Encyclopedia-Film revealed.

'She emerged champion in the nationwide show, 'Tawag ng Tanghalan.' Her successful stint in Tawag as well as in 'Darigold Jamboree' led to her phenomenal rise as a major star of the Philippine movie industry, which accorded her the title 'superstar.' This led to Sampaguita Pictures contract with star builder Dr. Jose R. Perez who cast her in the films like 'Way Out in the Country' (1967), 'Cinderella A-Go-Go' (1967), 'All Over the World' (1967), and 'Ye-Ye Generation? (1968).'

It also cited Aunor's inclusion in the Hall of Fame of the Filipino Academy of Movie Arts and Sciences as a five-time actress awardee and other recognitions for her films done from the 1970s to the 1990s.

Recently, the Cable News Network entertainment website voted Ishmael Bernal's 'Himala' as the best movieof all time in the Asia-Pacific region in 2008 which starred Nora Aunor as a simple provincial lass turned healer.

Bernal's movie outclassed such greats as Akira Kurosawa's 'Seven Samurai' and Ang Lee's 'Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon.?


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