Thursday, October 27, 2011

Saturday, October 22, 2011



Malaya Business Insight
Friday, October 21, 2011

At the late September press preview of "Sa Ngalan ng Ina," Nora Aunor’s return to TV drama after an eight-year hiatus, the scene inside the venue was reminiscent of how it was when the legendary actress’ Elwood Perez-directed mother-and-daughter drama "Ang Totoong Buhay ni Pacita M" was being shown in theaters in 1991. This was way before the advent of mall cinemas and Nora Aunor loyalists would burst into a thunderous applause at her every dramatic highlight.

Where Nora was largely over-the-top as the self-sacrificing mom in Pacita M, she delivers a fine performance as the wife who becomes governor in TV5’s "Sa Ngalan ng Ina." Unlike the regular soap that proliferates on the tube, "Sa Ngalan ng Ina" is far from glossy and convoluted. It is, thankfully, both gritty and theatrical. The theatrical touches are, of course, to be expected since the one at the helm is Mario O’Hara who remains a presence in the local theater scene.
And because theatricality calls for huge, spectacular scenes, logic is sometimes sacrificed. Consider the scene where Nora had to walk through the rubble after the explosion that killed her husband in the series (played by Bembol Roco). Why in the world was Nora without a mobile phone so that her children could have just called her and relayed the news? O’Hara was clearly striving for effect at the expense of logic.
Other than little quibbles like this, "Sa Ngalan ng Ina" is still rather refreshing to watch. Aside from Nora, Eugene Domingo (as Nora’s sister), Edgar Allan Guzman as one of Nora’s two sons and Karel Marquez (as the willful daughter of Christopher de Leon and Rosanna Roces) offer performances that bristle with quiet power. We would have wanted to sing hosannas to Alwyn Uytingco as the renegade son of Nora and Bembol but his portrayal strikes us as too blustery for comfort.
The ratings are none too impressive – 4.3% of the audience share for its pilot episode according to AGB Nielsen – but the month-long series which started airing last October 3 on TV5 is loaded with commercials and is praise-worthy if only for its being briskly-paced and quite gripping. If the Manny Pangilinan-owned station is aiming for prestige, their efforts had not entirely gone to waste.



Nora Aunor back with first all-original album 

Philippine Daily Inquirer
April 16, 2009

THE SUPERSTAR hasn't lost her luster.

Nora Aunor, whose long and checkered career officially began as a singer in the 1960s, is back with a new album. Recorded as an independent production in the United States, the 10-track CD, Habang Panahon,? is her first attempt to interpret an all-original set of material.

Nine of the songs are credited to the husband-and-wife team of Bodjie Dasig and Odette Quesada, likewise the album producers and backup vocalists. Dasig wrote five of the tracks; Quesada penned one; and the duo collaborated on three cuts. Christine Bendebel composed one song.

Audio files

The Inquirer received, by e-mail, audio files of five of the songs. Refreshing is the effect of listening to Aunor sing these new songs, since the bulk of the material she released on Alpha Records were covers.

Her last known album, released by Universal, was a live recording of a concert, "Handog," at the Big Dome in 1991 and also featured an all-covers repertoire.

The title track on "Habang Panahon," a ruminative ballad with the piano as lead instrument, has Aunor delivering vocals that can best be described as lovely in a mature context. She gives a bright outlook to wistful lyrics about reflecting on one?s life, and the meaning of love and commitment.

"Starlight," which has cool bass lines and light percussion on a mid-tempo beat, finds her rendering English lyrics in a clear, neutral accent, nothing forced or faked, just exactly how she sounded at her peak. The song, using the image of the road as a metaphor for life's journeys, is a bit ambiguous portraying another image, the stars in the sky, as a friend who guides the singer as she deals with her challenges. But since Aunor is the singer, it sounds simpler and easy to appreciate.

Another English track, "Friends," is jazz-inflected, with saxophone solos weaving around feel-good sentiments on the value of relationships.

But Aunor shines best in the Tagalog cuts.

"Kung," about a woman?s confusion on whether she can have the one she loves, has the 55-year-old artist giving a youthful touch to the verses.

Effortless sustain

The last of the sample tracks, "Ganyan Nga Ba," is an upbeat, acoustic guitar-driven showcase for Aunor?s trademark singing style characterized by effortless sustain on the high notes.



Listen to and buy Nora Aunor music on CD Baby.  Download or buy the CD Habang Panahon by Nora Aunor on the independent record store by musicians for musicians.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011


Sa ikatlong taon ng pagpaparangal ng Philippine Movie Press Club [PMPC] para sa mga natatanging talento sa larangan  ng musikang Pilipino.  Napili ng samahan na pagkalooban ng pinakamataas ng pagkilala si Ms. Nora Aunor, as this year's recepient of the Lifetime Achievement Award.

Sa kanyang hindi matatawarang kontribusyon sa larangan ng pag-awit, pagre-recording, pagpe-perform sa mga pagtatagnhal na musikal, pang-telebisyon man o pang-live concert, si Ms. Nora Aunor ay itinuturing ding isang "ICON" of the Philippine Music Industry, sa loob ng pahigit na apat na dekada.

Siya rin ay hinirang bilang "Female Celebrity Star of the Night" at special award from PMPC's majoy sponsor called, "Look of the Night."

Iginawad ang parangal noong ika-16 ng Oktubre, 2011 sa Henry Lee Irwin Theatre ng Ateneo De Manila University [ADMU], sa Loyola Heights, Quezon City.

Saturday, October 15, 2011


Thursday, October 13, 2011

International Circle of Online Noranians [ICON] and Nora's Friends Forever [NFF], through the "Nora Aunor Foundation" handed over to Saint Anthony of Padua Parish, Iriga City, relief goods composed of noodles as a contribution to the parish's relief mission for the flood victims in the Bicol region.  Msgr. Jonie Aguirre received the donation from Noranians in the presence of Iriga City Hall representatives.

Nakausap ni Sister Glorina si Monsignor Aguirre.  Sabi ni Ate Glorina: "Nagpapasalamat si Monsignor sa tulong na naipamahagi at lalong nagpapasalamat siya kay Ate Guy dahil sa pagkakaroon ng mga fans na iniisip ang kapakanan ng iba.  Ipinapa-abot niya ang kanyang pasasalamat sa lahat at sinabi niyang lagi niyang ipagdarasal si Ate Guy, sa mga aspirations nito at sa health niya.  Napanood daw ni Monsi yung mga old movies ni Nora Aunor na ipinalabas kamakailan sa TV.  Aware din si Monsignor sa mini seryeng "Sa Ngalan Ng Ina".

Ang Bicol Relief Drive ay inanunsiyo nang live sa local radio station ng DZRH (naririnig sa Camarines Sur), sa pamamagitan ng isang live interview kay Albert Sunga.

Saturday, October 8, 2011


Philippine Daily Inquirer
Friday, October 7, 2011

Nora Aunor’s latest and perhaps last comeback to the local TV-film scene should, by rights, be a major entertainment event. Not just yet another turgid, florid melodrama, but a production with a theme and significance commensurate to the iconic actress’ proven worth.
The good news is that her prime comeback vehicle, the month-long TV5 miniseries, “Sa Ngalan ng Ina,” is shaping up to be such an event. Perceptively megged by Mario O’Hara, the series is more than just a convoluted and prolix family drama, it’s a seething study of politics, Philippine style, with all of its dark and dangerous twists and turns – and telling insights into the Filipino psyche.

Morality tale
As the new series’ cautionary political morality tale swiftly unreels, a well-loved gubernatorial candidate (Bembol Roco) is killed at a political rally, leaving his widow (Aunor) to (like Cory Aquino) carry the torch. In so doing, she reveals that she isn’t the meek pushover many people thought she was.
Other revelations in the series’ first three episodes include the fact that the widow had a past relationship with the governor (Christopher de Leon) who’s now her political foe (and the suspected mastermind of her husband’s murder). It’s also intimated early on that he isn’t guilty, but his ambitious wife (Rosanna Roces) could very well be.
As the plot dramatically thickens, the series’ significant themes emerge and glisten, exciting us with the possibility that “Sa Ngalan ng Ina” could be as exceptional as it has promised to be. On the local teleserye scene, where self-serving melodrama instead of authentic drama rules, that really is an eventuality worth celebrating.

To be sure, some “danger signs” are evident that may limit or detract from the series’ worthy objectives. There appears to be too much emphasis on the other and young members of the slain politician’s family, and some of the young actors assigned to those roles are not up to the thespic task at hand.
Also less than choice is the rather standard way that the production stages and handles its “political” scenes, which betrays a lack of “actualized” insights in the process that the story seeks to expunge.
Some production details are similarly and distractingly inept, like the “dramatic” veil that Nora is made to wear in the funeral scenes, which threatens to “drown” her slight frame and upstage her in a major way. And the decision to make Rosanna wear a brightly colored outfit at the funeral was similarly too “TH.”
But, these are details. What matters most is the firmness of the series’ plot, character and thematic development, and that’s coming along relatively well – so far. In addition to the gathering strength and force of Nora’s lead portrayal, Bembol also did well in his all-too-brief appearance, and Rosanna, Eugene Domingo, Karel Marquez and Alwyn Uytingco are also coming on strong.
Unfortunately, Christopher tried to get by with mannered “voice acting” in his early scenes. By the third telecast, however, in his first long scene with Nora, he managed to drop the melodramatic “act,” and the thespic chemistry between them was stirring to behold. We hope that, from here on in, the actor will continue to give us seminally focused moments like that, instead of mannered approximations thereof.
Other thespic “grace notes” thus far were provided by Nora’s speech at her first rally, Leo Rialp’s subtle political machinations, and the exceptionally telling scene between Eugene and Alwyn, ostensibly just a small and offhand interlude at mealtime, but in fact an eloquent expression of their unique relationship and what they felt about what was happening to their family and to their town.
It is grace notes like these that tell us that more than just simple storytelling is happening in this series, which could end up as one of the year’s best extended dramas – and proof positive that Nora Aunor still has what it takes, and is here to stay.

Friday, October 7, 2011


Thursday, October 6, 2011

CALL it what you will but the initial telecast of TV5 “Sa Ngalan Ng Ina” is a big, big hit! Proofs are the college students, particularly from PUP, who were glued on their TV sets and then declared – quality is back in the Philippine TV drama! And who will argue with that? With the great ensemble of great acting led by Superstar Nora Aunor and with the master direction of Mario O’Hara in SNNI, nothing compares.
The only trouble is the poor reception of TV5, sabi ng ibang nakapanood sa parteng Batangas, Laguna at Quezon. Kitam, hindi lang sa Metro Manila tumutok ang viewers, kahit pa nga sa Tacloban, ayon kay Luis ng GANAP. Ang problema nga lang, malabo o walang channel 5 din sa kanila.
Ayon naman kay Mar Coligado ng Liliw, Laguna, “Talagang totoo na mas dumami at naging active muli ang maka Ate Guy rito sa Liliw. Lahat lumabas ang pagka-Noranian, lahat nakatutok sa panood ng SNNI. Talagang iba ang hatak ni Ate Guy, ano?” Kahit nga sa Batangas ang hindi lang nanood ay iyong bawal mapuyat at iyon lang mahina ang reception ng TV5, sagot ko naman.
“Kung inaakala ng iba na ang ratings game ay diyan lamang sa Manila, magtanong-tanong kayo sa mga probinsya at talagang nangununa ang SNNI at ang Willtime, Big Time,” dagdag naman ni Aling Conching Comel. Walang duda, SNNI dominates the primetime these days.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011


Philippine Daily Inquirer
Wednesady, October 5, 2011

MANILA, Philippines — The Organisasyon ng Pilipinong Mang-aawit (OPM) has chosen eight honorees for the first Dangal ng OPM awards: Freddie Aguilar, the Apo Hiking Society, Asin, Nora Aunor, Jose Mari Chan, Pilita Corrales, Juan de la Cruz and Hotdog.
The awards will be presented at the “OPM Fair,” on October 11 at the Quezon Memorial Circle.

Monday, October 3, 2011


Philippine Daily Inquirer
Saturday, October 1, 2011

The “superstar… has something behind the eyes that you couldn’t see until you photographed it in close up. You could see thought. If she had to look at one person with jealousy, and another with love, she didn’t have to change her expression. You could see it in her eyes as she looked from one to the other. And nobody else has been able to do that on screen.”

The quote is from Kevin Brownlow, a respected authority on Hollywood film history, writing about the legendary actress Greta Garbo, who reigned from the silent era to the ’40s.

He might as well be talking about Filipino superstar Nora Aunor.

There may be nothing extraordinary about the shape or color of Nora’s eyes, but one can readily see that they are her prized attributes as actress. For those eyes reveal her depth and intelligence in portraying a character.  Without changing facial expression, she can convey joy and misery, triumph and frustration, concern and contempt, amore and anger—just by looking at the camera, her co-actors, or even into blank space.

If the face is mirror to the soul, Nora’s eyes could be the magnifying glass, revealing in detail what’s on her mind at the moment.

There is no overrating the power of these eyes, but long before critics took note of them, Nora already had people under the spell of her voice.

Here was a rarity: a hugely popular singer who looked plain, and a movie musical star who didn’t dance as well as Cyd Charisse and Nida Blanca, evolving into a great singer and a great actress. Singing actors are common in local showbiz, but Nora is peerless.

As singer, she stood with the best with a voice that was full and expressive, and conveyed in both English and Tagalog songs a range of emotions. In her prime as vocalist, she could hit high notes and low notes, and negotiate a song’s phrases and dynamics with ease and clarity.

Sadly, this is all in the past tense.

Two years ago, complications from a cosmetic surgery treatment in Japan led to an emergency tracheotomy that destroyed her voice box. Because of this, Nora makes it clear that she can no longer sing. Recently, she told media at the press conference that a solution to this problem is a medical procedure that would cost $50,000 at the same American hospital in Boston that restored Julie Andrews’ voice.

Now fans can only recall those halcyon days when Nora could tug at the heartstrings with a sentimental song, while winning over more discriminating listeners with such standards as “Windmills of Your Mind,”  “People,” “The Greatest Performance of My Life” and “Moonlight Becomes You,” the song that made her the “Tawag ng Tanghalan” grand champion and earned her a quick ride to fame.

US-based Jojo Devera, a long-time Nora fan, confidant and chronicler, and an archivist of local movies and entertainment, narrates the odyssey of this petite Bicolana who sold water to train passengers then joined singing contests on radio and television.

Says Devera: “The parents of 12-year-old Nora Cabaltera Villamayor of Iriga, Camarines Sur, needed P20 for an older sister’s tuition. Nora, who loved to sing and listen to pop music, volunteered to join ‘Darigold Jamboree,’ a popular radio program that was bringing its amateur singing contest to the nearby town of Naga. The prize money was P20. Packing a second-hand dress that her mother, Antonia, had altered for her, Nora left with a family friend for the two-hour trip to Naga.

“In Naga, she won the ‘Darigold Jamboree’ contest with her rendition of ‘You and the Night and the Music.’ It was again in Naga where she won another contest sponsored by the rival radio program, ‘The Liberty Big Show.’  Her dual victory gave her the courage to audition for a national amateur singing contest on TV.”

In her gamin days, Nora was like Charice Pempengco, another probinsyana with a powerful voice who caught the fancy of Oprah Winfrey and became big.  Decades ago, Nora wowed everyone with her great voice and reportedly won the heart of a visiting singer Timi Yuro (“Hurt,” “I Apologize”) who was then said to have wanted to adopt the Bicolana waif. But Timi, who died a few years ago, was not as big and influential in America as Oprah is now. Still, the similarities between Nora and Charice are striking.

“Nora and her mother set out for Manila,” Devera continues. “They stayed with Antonia’s sister, Belen Aunor, who volunteered to take Nora to the studios for the auditions. They agreed that Belen would pose as Nora’s mother or guardian. Nora borrowed her aunt’s surname. Thus was born Nora Aunor.

“On ‘Darigold Jamboree’s Bulilit’ contest on Channel 11, Nora Aunor reigned as undefeated champion for 14 weeks. Then she set out to conquer ‘Tawag ng Tanghalan,’ at the time the most prestigious amateur singing contest. She won the night’s competition, but in the ensuing bout with the reigning champion, Jose Yap, Nora’s anxiety surfaced. She stuttered and missed a line and tasted defeat.”

Still, she won the overall “Tawag” championship and eventually joined the evening program “Oras ng Ligaya” on Channel 13.  Devera continues: “DZXL gave her a spot on ‘Operetang Putol-Putol.’ ‘Fiesta Extravaganza’ hosts Ike Lozada and German Moreno frequently invited her to guest on their radio program.”

The broadcast exposure must have helped her recordings shoot up the charts. Her cover of “Pearly Shells” sold   over a million copies in a year.

Now a superstar, she became TV’s newest singing sensation and starred  in the “Nora-Eddie Show” with Eddie Peregrina in 1967, then “The Nora Aunor Show” in 1968, and the weekly “Superstar” from 1971 to 1989, with German Moreno aka Kuya Germs.

NORA’s early feat and budding superstardom caught the unerring eye of Sampaguita Pictures big boss Dr. Jose Perez, who had built the careers of movie queens Gloria Romero, Susan Roces, and Amalia Fuentes.

Ironically, Nora says she was an early Vilmanian, a fan of arch showbiz rival Vilma Santos.  Sampaguita was the breeding ground of the future Star for All Seasons, whose movies as child star, “Trudis Liit” and “Ging,” Nora claims to have seen several times.

Devera notes that Nora had previously been turned down by four other movie outfits, but Sampaguita offered her an eight-picture deal on Oct. 2, 1967, with the assurance that she’d be given singing parts.

“True enough,” he happily reports, “in ‘All Over World’ and ‘Way Out of the Country,’ her first two movie appearances in 1967, she sang with her former ‘Tawag’ opponent, Jose Yap. In her 12th movie two years later, ‘Young Girl,’ she was cast opposite the young mestizo actor Tirso Cruz III. But it was Tower productions that trusted Nora Aunor with a title role in ‘D’ Musical Teenage Idols’ (1969) opposite Tirso Cruz III.” The team became known as Guy & Pip, their respective nicknames, and was cast in the 1971 Manila filmfest movie of the same title.

Artemio Marquez, director of “D’Musical Teenage Idols,” was warned by industry experts against casting a plain-looking and dark-skinned waif that went against   the box-office grain. But Marquez ignored the advice—and reaped a blockbuster.

The fans were insatiable, lapping up Nora’s records, forming fiercely loyal fans clubs, trooping to see her movies.   Guy and Pip had one or two movies every month, with only Vilma Santos and Edgar Mortiz as their closest rival.

Nora’s appeal swung from common to classy.  The dusky singer was not in the mold of Gloria Romero, Nida Blanca or Amalia Fuentes. She altered fan preferences and showed that brown is also beautiful.

In her movies, Nora had teamed up with leading men prettier than her: Manny de Leon, Sajid Kahn, Walter Navarro, Ricky Davao, Lloyd Samartino, Victor Wood, Cocoy Laurel. Another co-star, in 1971’s “Lollipops & Roses” was then-unknown Hollywood actor Don Johnson, who would later become big on TV’s “Miami Vice.”  In Nora’s later period during which she made serious films, she was paired with the likes of Dindo Fernando, Jay Ilagan, Ronaldo Valdez, Bembol Roco, Yul Servo, Dolphy, Joseph Estrada, and Fernando Poe Jr., among many others.

She has worked with four National Artists, all of them now deceased: Gerardo de Leon, Lamberto Avellana, Lino Brocka, and Ishmael Bernal.  Her  other name directors include Mario O’Hara, Maryo J. delos Reyes, Joel Lamangan, Elwood Perez, Eddie Garcia, Joey Gosiengfiao, Romy Suzara, Gil Portes, Lupita Concio-Kashiwahara, Laurice Guillen.

Nora Aunor reaped innumerable acting honors, having evolved from a mere passive singing star to a dynamic dramatic performer. She won her first award, albeit a minor one, in 1972 for her 53rd movie “And God Smiled at Me.” After her first major award, a Gawad Urian for best actress from the Manunuri ng Pelikulang Pilipino, other awards-giving bodies followed suit (Famas, Star, Film Academy of the Philippines,   Metro Manila Filmfest).

She has eight Urian trophies, two for Dekada awards (as best actress of the decade), shared with Vilma Santos who has 10 Urian awards.

Before she left for the US in 2004, she won the Manila Film Festival best actress award for Maryo J. delos Reyes’ “Naglalayag.”

Two highlights of Nora’s movie career were “Banaue” (1974), her only movie with Gerry de Leon (and his last) and Mario O’Hara’s “Tatlong Taong Walang Diyos” (1976). In both, she was paired with Christopher de Leon whom she married in 1975.

They have a son, Kristoffer Ian, and several others whom she adopted: Lotlot, Matet, Kenneth and Kiko.

NORA Aunor’s rags-to-riches story was interrupted only by her seven-year stay in the United States, where she wanted originally to just have a change of pace, do concerts to pay the rent, and take it easy. She says she experienced penury, loneliness, homelessness, and dependence on the kindness of compatriots and fans there, as she moved from one house to another, from one state to another.

She was arrested for shabu possession, reported to have a same-sex marriage with a former manager in Vegas in 2000, and drunken shenanigans and   casino marathons with long-time companion John Rendez (which she has denied).

It’s a life story stranger, more lugubrious and protracted than TV soap opera—and worthy of a novel. For now, she is back in her element as an adulated, wooed and cajoled superstar, back with a new home and studio, TV5, which is producing a mini-series tailor-made for the returning prodigal, “Sa Ngalan ng Ina.” She is also committed to do two movies this year.

Before she left, she was notorious for being the quintessential prima donna—difficult, unreasonable, demanding, insensitive to the needs of  co-stars, the only difference being that she could also be sweet, humble, and self-effacing whenever she wanted to. Now, almost pleading, she tells media friends that the old wayward Nora Aunor is turning over a new leaf.

To rabid Noranians, she remains the only superstar although the actress herself has tried to discourage them from calling her that. Only one persona has the right to be called such, she says, the divine Jesus Christ. But who can stop them? Her followers venerate her like a deity: infallible, pure, both superstar and Superstar.

So again, here comes Noramania, a phenomenon that once swept the country – a success story – of rise and fall and resurrection.

Veteran columnist Ronald K. Constantino, a long-time Noranian, assesses Nora’s contribution to local showbiz with sobriety, clear thinking, and affection: “Her greatest achievement is giving joy to and inspiring the masses with her incomparable singing and acting.”

Yes, that voice. Those eyes.  Such charisma.




Philippine Daily Inquirer
Saturday, October 1, 2011

Why Nora Aunor?

I might simply say, “Because she’s a superb actress, and a good singer.”  Few will disagree with that, even the Vilmanians, and among those who disagree, it would probably be because of some class bias, as in, “Yeah yeah she’s good, but she’s so… bakya.”

But precisely.  Nora helped to transform the bakya/burgis dichotomy.  It used to be that the burgis (from “bourgeoisie,” mutated to mean upper classes) and the lower class bakya kept to their side of the fence, but partly through Nora, the lines have blurred.

I came of age on The Beatles, The Rolling Stones and, in mellower moments, Joan Baez, Judy Collins, Bob Dylan.  Nora Aunor was on the periphery of my consciousness, like Filipino movies which were then considered fodder for the masa.

And yet, one couldn’t help but sit up and take notice of Nora.   Here was this rising star who didn’t fit into the mold.  Unlike other aspiring actresses, she was short and dark and truly came from the masses.

Nora’s life wasn’t just a rags-to-riches saga but a fairy tale with princes and villains.  Consider how she started out in her native Iriga, Camarines Sur, competing in a singing contest at age 11 and winning the grand prize of P20 – just  what she needed to help pay an elder sister’s tuition.

She went on to Naga and then to Manila to win more amateur contests, changing her name in the process from  Nora Cabaltera Villamayor to Nora Aunor, the name of her  aunt and uncle  who became her de facto guardians.  In 1967, aged 14, Nora won the national championship in “Tawag ng Tanghalan.” The following year, Alpha Records signed her up.

And so she crooned her way to stardom.  How could you pretend she didn’t exist when her voice was always coming in from someone’s radio.  Was it the neighbor’s?  Was it your household helper’s?  Oh my, it’s my own Lola!

It was a voice that changed through the years as Nora herself was transformed, from the kawawa (pitiful) waif, to the lovestruck but more confident teeny-bopper, to the self-assured adult.

Then she broke into the movies, churning out one film after another while the rumor mills kept up with the gossip, linking her to frequent co-star, Tirso Cruz III, the “Pip” in the iconic “Guy & Pip” love team.    Yet for all the rumors about Pip, she ended up marrying actor Christopher de Leon, her co-star in   “Banaue.”   That marriage challenged class barriers, and the bakya/burgis distinction.

From song-and-dance routines, she moved on to drama with “Himala” in 1983. The movie about faith healers was named by CNN as one of the best Asian films ever made.  “Walang himala…!”  (There is no miracle!), the character Elsa tells the expectant crowd, the phrase becoming so entrenched into local lexicon that it has been used in commercials and comedy shows.

The following year, Nora did “Merika,” about a Filipino nurse working in America. Earlier, in 1976, she had also played a nurse aspiring to work in the US in “Minsa’y Isang Gamu-Gamo.” On the eve of her trip, her brother is shot dead by an American soldier in Clark who claims he had mistaken the boy for a wild pig.  “My brother is not a pig!” Nora’s character declares with defiance, the phrase again evolving into a popular punchline in local jokes.

The two films were powerful social commentaries, and only Nora could have played out our collective tensions, anxieties and contradictions. The actress continued doing movies that touched on national concerns, notably “DH” (Domestic Helper) in 1993 and “The Flor Contemplacion Story” in 1995, about another DH in Singapore.

You just couldn’t escape Nora.  Some years back in a small bakery while buying some pan de coco, I found an unfamiliar item: bread with a chocolate drop on it.  “Pan de Nora,” the storekeeper told me, surprised I was even asking.  I realized later that most bakeries carried this bread, meant to commemorate Nora’s famous mole.

It didn’t end there.  Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, running for president in 2004, had posters plastered throughout the country with her looking like Nora, down to that famous facial mole.

La Aunor was art imitating life, but later her life went on to imitiate art.  Like the nurse in “’Merika,” she too left to live in the land of milk and honey, occasionally coming home, only to quietly slip back to the US. Then one day in 2005 she made the headlines again after being intercepted at the airport with 8 grams of shabu (metamphe tamine).  She later did 18 months of drug rehab and was spared imprisonment.

My initial reaction was, “Oh no, to go into drugs when you’re young… even Rizal tried marijuana in his teens.  But why in mid-life?  Why not ballroom dancing?”

But fans have been more forgiving.  After all she’s been through, her meteoric rise to stardom and a life that knew no privacy, followed by a slack and a fading from public memory, drugs probably offered some comfort.

She’s home now, a balikbayan, too early for retirement and certainly with enough time for a comeback of sorts.  But she’s low-key about it all, much like her fans, now senior citizens or close to it.   May we all, burgis and bakya, age as gracefully.