Wednesday, August 17, 2011


The Philippine Star
Sunday, August 14, 2011

MANILA, Philippines - I grew up knowing Nora Aunor as the Superstar – in fact, she remains the country’s one and only Superstar.

Her homecoming recently after an almost eight-year hiatus in the US proved just that. Movie scribes trooped to her first press conference after almost a decade at the Shangri-La Edsa Hotel an hour before the appointed time. At the hotel lobby, a number of fans waited, the way other fans waited for Ate Guy at the airport early morning of that stormy day.

Outside it was raining, and there was thunder. But the forces of nature were no match for the Superstar. When she walked in, the jampacked room lighted up like a million and one bulbs were switched on. People stood up and clapped. Others cried.

It took Nora some 15 minutes to navigate through the throng to her seat at the presidential table. At every step press people would stop her to give her a hug, to shake her hand, to kiss her.

She is in the country to shoot her mini-series “Sa Ngalan ng Ina” for ABC-5, where she signed up as an exclusive star, and for her movie with Laguna Gov. ER Ejercito titled “El Presidente.” Talk has it that Nora will be paid P1.2 million for every shooting day. She signed up for 20 working days with ABC-5 and up to 10 working days for the movie. After that, she will go back to the US.

The first question was about the condition of her voice. Nora had a botched throat surgery while in hiatus that reportedly affected her golden voice.

Sa ngayon po, hindi po ako kumakanta. May mga pagkakataon pong medyo nahihirapan din po akong magsalita (For now, I don’t sing. There are occasions when I even have difficulty speaking),” she answered. She is undergoing therapy in the US to remedy the damage.

Growing up, it was very hard not to be influenced by Nora Aunor. The “pono” (phonograph) of our neighbor played her songs almost non-stop from early morning, long before the crowing of roosters in our backyard. It would be the music that would wake me up. In the ‘70s, Gulod, our little barrio in Cabuyao, Laguna, was very quiet that even the sound of the needle scratching the plaka or “long playing” could be heard. Long before I learned about Jose Rizal and Andres Bonifacio, I already heard Nora Aunor singing “Pearly Shells,” “Silently,” “Two People” and “I’ll Never Find Another You.” When she sang “People,” all thelavanderas (laundry women) gathered around my lolo’s well would stop doing their chores and sing along. I remember them saying, “Yan, yang ‘People’ ang kinanta ni Nora Aunor sa Tawag ng Tanghalan. Yan ang nagbukas ng maraming kapalaran para sa kanya (She sang ‘People’ in Tawag ng Tanghalan, that opened doors for her).”

Nora’s rise in the firmament of tinseltown was phenomenal. Filipinos love her because they see in Nora the completion of their dreams, the fulfillment of their ambitions. In the days when having mestiza features was the barometer of supremacy, Nora came in with her glorious morena complexion. She started as a singer but later on the thespian in her emerged. Some say her superior talent in acting was inborn. Others believe her capacity to mount a gamut of emotions on screen was culled from the hardship of her water-fetching days in Iriga, a town in Camarines Sur where she was known as Nora Cabaltera Villamayor. My Noranian relatives told me she adopted the name Nora Aunor when her mother Antonia brought the very young Nora to the house of her sister, Belen Aunor, in Manila to join singing contests.

My capacity to read was expedited by Superstar comics. I would listen to the stories of my cousins recounting their experience in Manila when they watched “Erap is My Guy,” starring Nora and Joseph “Erap” Estrada. It was Erap, I learned from my relatives, who called Nora “Guy.” That is the origin of her nickname “Ate Guy.”

The Superstar with Manny de Leon.
In the early ‘70s, it was very common for the young ladies in our neighborhood to make a scrapbook with all the photos and clippings of Nora. In many instances, they would make an album for Nora, but not for their parents or any member of the family. They would request anybody going to Manila to buy a photo or two of Nora, then sold for 20 centavos each in the bangketa. A visit to Baclaran church was not complete without combing each and every pew inside the church, hoping to catch a glimpse of the Superstar, who was reportedly a devotee.

I know by heart that Nora Aunor was born on May 21, 1953. My cousin shared the same birthday so, on my cousin’s birthday we sang two birthday songs – one for him, another for Nora. It was a crazy thing to do but in those days when being a fan was taken seriously, it was a “hot” thing, great bragging rights to be sharing the same birthday with the Superstar.

In school, I knew I had the gift of gab because whenever my male classmates would talk about Voltes 5, I would successfully maneuver the conversation to the discussion of how great Nora Aunor was. A measure of my fan-ness of Ate Guy is that I can recite many of her lines in “Himala” – in Filipino and French.

Nora and Tirso Cruz III, always king and queen of the box office.
Talk about Himala, it was because of this movie that two ladies in my neighborhood got into a nasty hair-pulling fight. Nora could have won the grand-slam for Best Actress in all the award-giving bodies for this movie in 1982 except that her archrival and now Batangas Gov. Vilma Santos won for the movie “Relasyon” in the Gawad Urian. The feisty Noranians in the neighborhood could not accept this, while the Vilmanians gloated. This irreconcilable difference unfortunately turned ugly.

In those days, fans were fiercely loyal. When Vilmanians talked about “Wonder V,” expect Noranians to come up with “Super G.” When Vilmanians mentioned how they got scared in “Phantom Lady,” expect a multitude of Noranians to thwart their claim by discussing “Fe, Esperanza, Caridad,” Nora’s suspense thriller.

Even when Nora and Vilma starred together in a movie, say “Pinagbuklod ng Pag-Ibig” or the legendary “T-Bird at Ako,” competition between fans of both camps still raged. But in my community, the Noranians always prevailed!

Nora and Christopher with their children Lotlot and Ian.
People can have the temerity to question what Nora did in her private life, even with her finances. But they can never question her craft. Her exceptional acting prowess had been seen, handled and directed by the country’s four National Artists for Film – Gerry de Leon, Lamberto Avellana, Lino Brocka and Ishmael Bernal. “Wala na po akong dapat patunayan pa (I have nothing more to prove),” she said at the press con in addressing a question if she did not mind being second choice for the female lead in “El Presidente.” The role was first offered to Vilma Santos but the governor turned it down.

Nora repeatedly vowed not to go astray again when it comes to her profession. “Ibang Nora na po ako. Luka-luka pa rin pero iba na ho. Sakit lamang ang makakapagpatigil sa akin sa pagta-trabaho. Sakit lamang ang magiging dahilan ng aberya (This is a different Nora, still crazy but different. Only sickness will make me stop working, only sickness will be the reason for delays),” she said with a smile, a smile coming from her eyes, the best and most expressive part of her body. Her eyes are always her defense, her fortitude for good acting. Nora, time and again, has proven that she does not need speaking lines to convey her emotions. She proved it in “Sidhi” when she essayed the role of an emotionally battered wife, who was mute.

In my little barrio, a woman just lost her husband and she counts on Ate Guy to bring her joy in her moments of grieving. Any news about Nora Aunor becomes her source of joy, the same joy felt by her legions of fans around the Philippines and abroad who, after all these years, remain in love with their idol – the one and only Superstar.

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Superstar Weekly always carried Nora on the cover. 
“Superstar“ was also the name of her show, the longest-running musical variety program on TV. 
Nora and Christopher de Leon’s wedding photo on the cover of Kislap Magasin. 
Their church wedding was on Jan. 27, 1975.


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