THE LEGEND OF THE "LUCKY 12 " AND "OPERATION: KUMBENTO"
by ROMMEL LLANES
Philippine Entertainment Portal
Friday, July 18, 2008
To know which of the urban legends about Nora is fact or fiction, PEP sought the help of Noranian Nestor de Guzman, editor of the Noranian book Si Nora Aunor Sa Mga Noranian: Mga Paggunita at Pagtatapat(Milflores Publishing, first printed in 2005, Php 360). From him we learned that the urban legend about Nora having a fling with then Hollywood newcomer Don Johnson (of Miami Vice and Nash Bridges fame) was just plain fiction. Nestor revealed, however, that someone else briefly carried a torch for the Superstar—the international star Sajid Khan from India.
Sajid Khan became a teen sensation in the States, long before Bollywood. Nora and Sajid starred in Tower Productions' The Singing Filipina (1971) directed by Tower's co-owner Artemio Marquez. Nestor said Sajid was so smitten by Nora, that after doing The Singing Filipina, Sajid followed Nora to the Philippines in May 1971 to pursue the "special friendship" that developed between them while they were shooting their movie.
But Sajid failed to see Nora. During their movie's premiere, Nora was not there to promote the movie with Sajid. Even the media had no idea where the Superstar was. Sajid left the Philippines without even a glimpse of the little brown girl with the golden voice who captured his heart.
It was later learned that the reason behind Nora's absence was her secret meetings with the boy she refused to be in a movie with a few months before. The same boy she fell in love with after a couple of movies together and gave her a pretty, blonde child-sized doll to symbolize their love for each other. But they had an argument over his being linked to beautiful, tall, and fair-skinned starlets. This mestizo lad from a famous musical family from Tondo who has been secretly meeting with Nora is no other than her reel and real love, Tirso Cruz III, or Pip to his and her fans.
"But during those times, Nora and Pip must not be seen together," Nestor said. "Nora was in the middle of a legal battle. Nagdemandahan kasi ang Sampaguita Pictures at ang Tower Productions over which production outfit should really have the right to get Nora's services as talent in their movies."
Nora originally was a Sampaguita talent in 1967. She did only supporting roles in Sampaguita movies. It was Tower Productions that launched Nora to full stardom in 1969 with D' Musical Teenage Idols. In Nora's next movies with Tower, she was paired with Tower's contract star Manny de Leon. Nestor said, "Galit kasi sina Guy and Pip noon nung lumipat na si Guy sa Tower, kaya ang pinush na love team ng Tower, yung Nora-Manny [de Leon] na."
Nestor told PEP that after Tower learned of the frequent secret rendezvous of Nora and Tirso, Tower put a tight security on Nora to prevent her from seeing Tirso and the fans of their love team.
"Understandably, bad for business yun. Kasi si Tirso nasa Sampaguita at yung Nora-Manny love team, maiiwan na talaga sa ere kung mawawala si Nora sa Tower. Kaya binantayang maigi si Nora ng mga taga-Tower at ni Mamay Tunying [Nora's mother] na kampi sa Tower."
Just when the Guy and Pip fans thought all hope was lost, news suddenly broke out that Nora had finally returned to Sampaguita and to Pip's arms. Thanks to "Operation: Kumbento" and to the "Lucky 12."
What is "Operation: Kumbento"? Who are the "Lucky 12"?
Are they even real? Are they fact or fiction?
EITHER LOVE OR THE CONVENT. December 6, 1970, while shooting The Singing Filipina in the U.S., Nora sent a letter to her reporter-radio broadcaster friend Inday "Ate Luds" Badiday. Inday had been Nora's close friend ever since their 1967 interview, after Nora won in Tawag ng Tanghalan. Nestor said Nora terribly missed Tirso and that was the subject of her letter to Ate Luds.
"Ipinagtapat niya sa sulat na si Tirso ang kanyang unang pag-ibig kaya hindi niya ito malimot. Nasabi ni Nora na kung ‘di rin lang magiging sila ni Tirso, pipiliin niyang pumasok na lang sa kumbento. Classified ang sulat pero binasa ito ni Inday sa kanyang radio program sa DWUL. Ito ang ugat ng ‘Operation Kumbento,' led by Inday with the members of Lucky 12, composed of the most fanatic Guy and Pip fans."
Nora "Tita Noy" Calderon was Tirso Cruz III's publicist from 1970 to 1980. She was witness to just how die-hard the Lucky 12 were in supporting Guy and Pip.
"Sobrang die-hard yung Lucky 12 na yun. After nilang maitakas si Guy from Tower at maibalik sa Sampaguita at kay Tirso, parang sila yung naging special bodyguards nina Guy and Pip. Sobrang loyal sila, lalo na kay Nora. Naghahalinhinan nga sila kung magbantay kay Pipo nung araw. Kasi si Nora selosa masyado, so sila, binabantayan nila si Pip, sa mga shows, sa shooting ng mga pelikula, hanggang sa bahay, nakabantay sila. Inaalam nila kung sino yung kinakausap ni Pip sa telepono, kung sino yung nali-link kay Tirso. Nire-report nila kay Nora, ‘tapos gumagawa sila ng paraan para matigil yung pagkaka-link kay Tirso nung babae," recalled Tita Noy.
One incident that showed how far the Lucky 12 would go for Guy and Pip was during the time Pip was being linked to a newcomer, daughter of a well-known veteran actor.
"Pumunta sila sa set ng pelikulang ginagawa nina Pip at ni [newcomer]. Inaway nila siya. Halos mahubaran ng damit sa sobrang galit nila kay ___. Pinigilan lang sila ng iba pang mga tao doon sa set. Ginawa nilang example si ___ para sa iba pang gustong ma-link kay Pip. Mula nga noon, wala nang na-link kay Tirso," narrated Tita Noy.
When PEP asked about their identities, Tita Noy said she can't remember their names but she knows each one of them by face. She referred PEP to Kuya Germs's secretary Carmelite, but we found out that both Kuya Germs and Carmelite are out of the country as of this writing. Tita Noy also told PEP she doubts Carmelite will reveal the names of the Lucky 12. With the things they did during their "tour of duty," it would be risky to reveal their names.
"THE GREAT ESCAPE." Noranians refer to Nora's rescue from the Tower Productions people as "The Great Escape." Nora's biographer Rustum Quinton has an account of how it happened.
"Naganap ang tinaguriang ‘Dakilang Pagtakas' ni Nora noong May 1, 1971. The night before, naroon pa si Nora sa bahay nina Artemio Marquez, kasama si Kitchie de Leon [anak ng may-ari ng KBS] at ilang reporters. Balisa si Nora at hindi masabi sa mga kasama ang naging desisyon na gumawa muli ng pelikula sa Sampaguita.
"Bandang alas-singko ng hapon, tumakas si Nora sa kanilang bahay sa Pasig, sakay ng taxi, kasama ang kanyang Ate Tita at si Pae, ang kanyang secretary. Lingid ito sa kaalaman ng kanyang mga magulang, pero inaasahan sa Sampaguita. Sa studio, naghihintay na kay Nora sina Doc Perez, German Moreno, Inday Badiday, Tirso, at ilang tagahanga. That very same day, they started to shoot Guy and Pip.
"Namalagi si Nora sa Sampaguita compound. Hindi na pinayagan na maglabas-masok sa studio ang mga movie writers. Isang gabi, may dalawang kotse na nagpaputok ng baril sa harap ng compound. Binigyan si Nora ng police security ni Mayor Norberto Amoranto ng Quezon City."
According to Tita Noy, the Lucky 12 helped in Nora's escape.
"Idinaan nila sa likuran ng bahay si Nora. Sa Pasig kasi yun, kaya sa likod, sa may Pasig River, idinaan nila. ‘Tapos nag-taxi sila papuntang Sampaguita. Mabilis lang lahat."
After "The Great Escape" the Lucky 12 was always on call every time Ate Luds would shout "Operation: Kumbento!" on her radio show.
In Nestor de Guzman's book Si Nora Aunor Sa Mga Noranian...is the account of Rosita Salazar, a member of the Grand Alliance for Nora Aunor, Philippines (GANAP), on Operation: Kumbento and the Lucky 12's ultimate mission:
"Noong araw ay halatang-halata kapag may tampuhan [sina Guy at Pip]. Madalas may talangka sa ulo si Guy, kung saan-saan nagpupunta, sobrang selosa. Nagluluksa rin si Maria Leonora Theresa kapag magkahiwalay ang mga "magulang"—dinadamitan siya ng itim. Malulungkot na kanta ang pinapatugtog ni German Moreno sa radyo. Sumisigaw naman si Inday Badiday ng ‘Operation: Kumbento!' Misyon ng Operation Kumbento na gumawa ng paraan para magkabalikan sina Guy and Pip. Leader si Inday Badiday at miyembro ang grupong Lucky 12."