Thursday, September 20, 2012

Nora Aunor and the Mater Dolorosa: Revisiting and Befriending Sorrow in Our Lives

By Fr. Roberto P. Reyes
Philippine Online Chronicles
Wednesday, 19 September 2012 15:00 / FLOW, THOUGHTS AND PRAYERS ALONG THE WAY


“And you own heart will be pierced by a sword.”
The prophet Simeon to Mary
Last Saturday, September 15, would have been my father Carlos’ 89th birthday. It was also the feast of The Lady of Sorrows (Mater Dolorosa) which made me revisit sorrow in my life and that of those close to me. I remember my late father Carlos who, perhaps of upbringing, hardly shed a tear, except for two distinct occasions. When I was a little boy of about five , we were at home when a close family friend arrived to inform my father of a tragedy. His brother, my favorite uncle Alfonso, who had just passed the CPA bexam two days earlier, went for a swim with his friends to celebrate. He drowned. My father, unable to contain his shock and grief goes to the door and bangs his head so hard that it felt like the whole house shook. The second was almost eight years ago, around 10:00 p.m. o. November 30, 2004. I knew then that my brother Vincent was dying. I told my mother and father to approach him and say goodbye. My mother simply approached my brother and tells him, “Paalam anak, I love you.” When it was my father’s turn, before he could utter any word he already broke down and then still in pained disbelief tells my brother, “Anak, God bless you. Goodbye anak.” The tone of his voice was an ambivalent mix of protest and resignation. Sometime April that year, my father gripped by quiet pain asked me, “Why does it happen that a son would go before his father? “
A few days ago, I read a newspaper article entitled Nora Aunor, “Big Time Comeback Queen.” (cf Philippine Daily Inquirer, September 13, 2012) It was about Nora’s recent victories at the Venice Indie Film Festival where she won the Bisato D’Oro award for her performance in Brillante Mendoza’s “Thy Womb.” I was happy for Nora who aside from this latest victory, impressed me with a recurrent theme of her life, pain. When asked about her reaction to the theme of Thy Womb her answer was, “I have also given up my own happiness for the person I love. That has happened at least thrice in my life.”
The article did not appear to me as just another curiosity among many others for that day. Nora Aunor was no longer a stranger to me as circumstances changed that last year after I criticized her appearance with a cigarette stick between her fingers on the front page of a glossy magazine. When my criticism came out in the papers, one of Nora’s assistants calls me and informs me that Nora wanted to talk to me and personally give me her side. I agreed and later that day, I met Nora at a restaurant in Tomas Morato.
Our meeting was short and most cordial. No wonder Nora has endeared herself to the masses. In spite of her fame, there was no air about her. She was simple and soft spoken. She was not defensive. In spite of the barbs she received from the Philippine Medical Association, she was even open to help them in their campaign against cigarettes.
After that meeting, I saw a different Nora. I saw a person in search for something deeper, something more. The article’s title, “BiG Time Comeback Queen” is rather deceiving. While Nora does need to improve many things in her life, I don’t think she is only looking at her financial situation. In the article, when advised by her friends to focus on her work more than her heart, Nora’s response has been, “My life would have been more peaceful had I not loved too much.” Looking at Mary at the foot of her son’s cross, I wonder if she would have said something different from Nora. Would  Mary have chosen to love less in order to have more peace? Mary, Mater Dolorosa, the mother martyr, witness to the suffering of her son chose to love in a way that other mothers would have, totally and unconditionally. She would have loved uncomplainingly in spite of the profound emotional and existential crucifixion she endured by standing by (Stabat) the cross of her Son Jesus, watching and experiencing in her heart her Son’s anguish and suffering. As she stood and watched her crucified son, she too experienced crucifixion.
This is probably Nora’s gift both as an actress and person, the cross and its many recurrence in her life up to now. In that short meeting, I began to see the many setbacks that Nora experienced in a new and different light. I began to understand and appreciate how Nora has become some kind of an archetype of the typical Filipina woman for whom life is weighed down by endless struggle finding comfort in a loving, yet rather unpredictable God. I sense that Nora is not that moved by the title “Come Back Queen” for she knows what it is to hit rock bottom. Now that she enjoys success, it is with a seasoned joy, fuller, deeper and freer.
When asked to whom or what she attributes this recent victory, her simple answer was, “Only the Man upstairs knows the answer.” That “Man upstairs” has a mother who aside from standing at foot of the cross stands by those who have also found their cross. Surely, with a little prodding, Nora would have added, “That Brave and Extraordinary woman, who has always been an inspiration to my own mother…that woman is not up there but here deep in my own heart.”

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