Tuesday, November 26, 2013


Forum Kritika: Guy on the Edge

Posted on November 25, 2013 / Filed under Call for Papers / Permalink
To describe Nora Aunor as a fixture in Philippine cinema is like saying that Shakespeare knew how to wield a pen. Of course a national cinema will be larger than the sum of its stars, just as literature is much more than what its canonical authors might suggest. But just as there will be writers and then there’s Bill (and Leo and Virginia and a few Johns), contemporary Pinoy movies can already be understood as featuring any number of stars, starting with that name, first and foremost, and everyone else’s afterward.

As a Philippine multimedia star, Nora Aunor (“Guy” to her fans) was sui generis, with Filipino cultural observers, starting with Nick Joaquin, taking careful note of her emergence, then barely as an adult. Her growth as a prominent performing artist can be tracked in milestones that a large group of loyal devotees, now dispersed in several countries, are able to recount from memory. A simplistic way of explaining her success is that she had been extraordinarily gifted and cannily aware of her strengths and limitations, so that she could identify exactly which challenges she could excel in; a significant number of her detractors would add that she had also been lucky as well as shrewd in exploiting the right kind of people.

Nevertheless even Aunor’s worst critics would be unable to deny her multifarious accomplishments in film, theater, television, and musical recording, as well as her iconic significance as a genuine one-of-the-masses type of phenomenon: rural poor, dark-skinned, unruly and deeply ambivalent in her attitude toward the trappings of success. In line with discussions of film auteurs and star texts initiated by such publications as the Cahiers du Cinéma as well as scholars like Richard Dyer and Christine Gledhill, Kritika Kultura will be covering the persona and output of Nora Aunor as the topic of a forthcoming forum.

The forum invites scholars of Philippine star-text studies, spectatorship, and the performing arts to provide assessments of the person (and her persona) originally hailed as the country’s first “superstar.” Paper proposals should be submitted electronically to the forum editor, Joel David, at <joelsky2000@yahoo.com>, no later than November 30, 2013. Any contribution will be acknowledged within 48 hours of receipt. Authors whose proposals are accepted should finalize their articles (5,000 to 7,000 words, observing the sixth edition of the Modern Language Association handbook) on or before January 31, 2014. These articles will then undergo the standard process of double-blind peer review for academic journals.

Proposals should consist of no longer than a one-page submission, comprising the following: title of the submission; name(s), affiliation(s), and short description(s) of the author(s) [up to a maximum of two per article]; topic area of the submission; three or four keywords that describe the submission; contact information comprising mailing address(es), e-mail address(es), and/or phone number(s); and a single-paragraph paper proposal. Kindly note that fan studies may be considered, but fan testimonials and hagiographic appreciations, no matter how vital to the subject, will not in themselves be appropriate material for the journal. For further inquiries, please contact the forum editor (email <joelsky2000@yahoo.com>) or Kritika Kultura (email <kritikakultura@gmail.com>, cc <kritikakultura@admu.edu.ph>, <kritikakultura@yahoo.com>, and <vincenz.serrano@gmail.com>).

Source: Kritika Kultura

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Thy Womb special screening (A benefit for Typhoon Haiyan/Yolanda victims)

Anthology Film Archives
New York, NY



US Medical Support LLC and Thigh High Production LLC, in association with Advancement for Rural Kids, Inc present "Thy Womb" special screening for the benefit of typhoon Haiyan/Yolanda victims.

We are raising funds to help victims of the recent monster typhoon that hit the Philippines, which left hundreds of thousands displaced from their homes and millions in need of basic necessities like food and water.

Proceeds will go to Capiz, a province in Western Visayas that's in a State of emergency. With the help of Advancement for Rural Kids, Inc., they are providing emergency feeding and relief to kids and their communities in rural Capiz. ARK is all volunteer.

Brillante Mendoza's "Thy Womb" is listed among the contenders for the Best Foreign Film at the 2014 Golden Globes. This is a story of unconditional love about a Bajau midwife coping with both the cultural burden and gendered irony of her own infertility amid the deprivations of her gypsy community in Tawi-Tawi, Philippines.
A saga of island life stuck between the devil of passion and the deep blue sea of tradition.

The Screening Date will be on

December 1, 2013 at 12:00 noon to 3:00pm

Thursday, November 21, 2013


Samahan po natin sa pagbangon ang mga kapatid nating nasalanta ng bagyong Yolanda.

Sa sinumaman po na nagnanais na makiisa sa Panawagan ni Ate Guy, maaari po kayong mag deposit sa account na ito:

Glorina Tugade
BPI S/A No.: 8469-0517-58
Canlubang, Laguna Branch

Paki-email po ang iyong deposit slip dito: arthurofthechildjesus@gmail.com

Maraming maraming Salamat po!


The Philippine Star
Novemebr 14, 2013



Rumors that Nora Aunor is about to be proclaimed National Artist have been circulating the past few weeks. Everyone involved in the process of nomination is bound by a vow of secrecy, but since I was not involved this year (I usually am), I can speak freely about why I think Nora Aunor deserves the title.

I actually nominated her for the title a long time ago, but was eventually voted down, because there were, at that time, quite a number of film directors who were deserving of the honor.

There are still a few individuals who seriously question two things: first, why a film actor should be a National Artist, and second, why Nora Aunor.

First, that film is as much of an art as any of the other categories is clear. There have been several film artists named as National Artists: Gerardo de Leon (1982), Lino Brocka (1991), Ishmael Bernal (1999), Eddie Romero (2003), Fernando Poe Jr. (2006), and Manuel Conde (2009).

All these artists, however, were directors. Even Poe was named not only as an actor but also as a director. The question remains why an actor (“actor” is the politically correct term for all performers, male or female) can be a National Artist. After all, in film theories during the last century, film was always considered a director’s medium. It is the director who puts together the elements of a film, acting being only one of those elements.

Poe, however, opened the door to actors, because his achievement as an actor was considerable. It is impossible to think of him only as a director; his iconic image is that of both actor and director.
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The early 20th century theories argued that the juxtaposition of images or sequence of shots could make it appear that an actor was happy, sad, or angry (thereby negating the actual emotion felt by the actor). That was last century. In this century, thanks to newer theories of film, acting is now considered as much of an art as that of a director. Actors actually take advanced degrees in acting, such as the Associate in Fine Arts in Acting for Film of the New York Film Academy. It has helped that several foreign actors have shown that they can take on varied roles and still create credible and powerful characters.

No one today should doubt that acting is an art.

The second question is why Nora Aunor. There are other Filipino actors, after all, that have shown similar versatility, depth of emotion, command of facial expressions, subtlety of subtexts, and other elements of film acting.

Take the list of skills that a great film actor should have, as Jeremiah Comey lists them in “The Art of Film Acting,” namely, concentration, not knowing, acceptance, giving and receiving, and relating. Each of these skills needs years of training and experience. One wondrous thing about Nora Aunor is that she has all of these skills, not because she had formal training (she briefly studied the Stanislavski Method and acted in workshop-intensive PETA), but because she had them from the very beginning. Even when she was just starting out and had to take on juvenile roles, she already showed an instinctive grasp of the art of acting.

My 1984 book, “Movie Times,” had her on the cover, for good reason: she acted in many of the films I dissected. Although the chapters in that book dealt with film directors (it was the 20th century, after all), I still had to discuss her acting in the films by those directors. She was, in a sense, already pushing me then to expand my idea of film art to cover not just directors but actors.

An artist must be judged by her or his best works. (Otherwise, we would forget Shakespeare, who wrote some really awful plays.) Nora Aunor will be remembered forever for her roles in “Tatlong Taong Walang Diyos” (1976), “Bona” (1980), “Himala” (1982), “The Flor Contemplacion Story” (1995), and “Thy Womb” (2012), among others.

Nora Aunor has been recognized through nominations and awards in the Berlin Film Festival, Cairo Film Festival, and Venice Film Festival – all major film festivals – as well as other film festivals in Australia, Belgium, Dubai, Macau, Hong Kong, India, Italy, Russia, and Singapore. Needless to say, she has won many times over all the Philippine awards possible.

These are achievements on the level of art. I do not even mention her popular tags as one of the Ten Asian Best Actresses of the Decade, the Actress of the Century, the Philippines’ Best Actress of All Time, and of course “Superstar.”

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Bongga Ka ‘Day: The Legend of Nora Aunor

(This article was first published in print in issue 20 of the Philippine Collegian on 12 December 2012.)

by Anton Chua


Source: http://www.philippinecollegian.org/bongga-ka-day-the-legend-of-nora-aunor/


A young woman, clad in white, prays to the heavens to receive a vision of the Virgin Mary. Silently, her beautiful almond eyes are placed in focus, then the camera pulls back to show her kneeling and steady, until at last she is completely visible, motionlessly in awe of her vision. It is here, in this unspeaking moment, that she is at her most expressive.While this unfortunate woman, Elsa, would go on to be fatally shot later in the film, the performance behind the character would live on forever. In Ishmael Bernal’s masterpiece Himala, Nora Aunor gives her most recognizable performance as faith healer Elsa, in a role that parallels her own mythical nature.

Nora Aunor ranks among the greatest of Filipino artists, endowed with such superlative titles as “Superstar,” and conferred with a long list of awards, the breadth of which could only be dreamed by other thespians.

More than this, however, she is a figure of mythical proportions, larger than any of her roles or even her own persona. Practically worshipped by fans, and seemingly made to represent ideals larger than herself, Nora Aunor is an unparalleled legend in the Filipino entertainment industry.

Ang Totoong Buhay ni Pacita M.

Nora Aunor, or “Ate Guy,” grew up as a member of the masses, a short, dark-skinned girl who at the time could hardly be confused for a star. Her career began at a radio singing competition in Naga, called Darigold Jamboree. Nora joined in order to help her parents pay for her sister’s tuition. Winning this and many other amateur competitions, she soon made it big as a professional singer, her magnificent contralto delivering record-breaking sales.

She also starred in her own TV series, a variety show, at first called the Nora-Eddie Show when it was launched in 1967, and then renamed The Nora Aunor Show in 1968, and was ultimately known as Superstar. Movie appearances followed, with her nabbing her first FAMAS nomination in 1972 for the film And God Smiled at Me. It was here, when she started to enter film, that the myth began to take shape.

“There is no Nora Aunor film that does not script her ‘own’ life,” writes Barnard College professor Neferti Tadiar. These performances typically characterize her as a lower-class martyr who values helping others and suffering for them in service, mirroring her own humble beginnings. In becoming this myth, both her own persona and her characters are elevated to heights that exceed how they would otherwise been regarded.

This semi-autobiographical nature of her films build a sense of aspiration from the audience that is underscored and enhanced by Nora’s status as a very down-to-earth celebrity, who looks or acts nothing like the tall mestiza beauty queens who usually grace the silver screen. She is an everywoman, not a goddess, but she was able to achieve all of these things through effort and perseverance – and this makes all the difference to her fans.

T-Bird at Ako

Certainly there are many great actresses and singers out there with plenty of fans, but Nora Aunor’s fanbase is of particular note. Noranians, as fans of the famed actress are oft-called, are among the most enthusiastic and energetic fanbases of any celebrity. They’d go as far as to threaten to stage a rally if their star doesn’t win an award.

Reverence of her image takes place at almost religious levels. Tadiar writes of a story of a wealthy neighborhood in which daily life was disrupted, because all the household maids had gone off to watch a nearby shooting at which Nora Aunor was present. Art history professor Patrick Flores recounts statements from members of the Grand Alliance for Nora Aunor Philippines, in which they “would affirm that Nora Aunor is the sole reason they ‘spend countless hours, experiencing sleepless nights, working day and night.’”

“The social profile of Nora Aunor fans is usually characterized as lower class, consisting of housemaids, slum dwellers, and market vendors; any wealthy Nora fans are considered an exception to the rule,” writes Dr. Bliss Cua Lim of the University of California, Irvine, in describing the Noranians.

Director Cesar Buendia notes what immediately made Nora so special and celebrated: “She became a hit when it was in vogue to be fair and mestiza. The fans were waiting for someone they could identify with. She was like Manny [Pacquiao] in her time. That, combined with phenomenal singing and acting talent made her a superstar.” Behn Cervantes calls her “the Dark Pinay who toppled the White Tisay,” saying that her ascendancy “coincided with the rise of rabid nationalism during the late 1960s and early 1970s.”

Dr. Lim writes that Nora is the only “short, dark, low-born actress in the Philippines” to achieve as much success as she did, given the competition of stars who were definitely tall, white, and of higher class. In being such, “she seems to encapsulate the most progressive anti-colonial aspects of Filipino masscult.”


Relative to this myth, Nora the human is not quite so perfect; she supported Marcos in the 1986 snap elections, pleaded guilty to drug charges, and endured money problems and unemployment in the United States.However, her triumphant return to the country in August 2011 reified the ontological aspect of the mythical Nora Aunor figure.

“Bakya temporality,” according to Tadiar, is when the social elite believe the poor masses to be backwards in their culture and are unwilling to change, unready to move forward. Nora, like her alter-ego Elsa, is a “heretical saint,” whose trajectory is unlike anything the gatekeepers of high culture has ever witnessed. In light of this, the heretic figure of Nora Aunor represents a subversion of the elite’s almost-colonialist assertion that the poor are “not ready” to advance or contribute.

The value of the Nora Aunor mythical figure lies in how she maintains the hope of those who suffer, who find themselves at the bottom rungs of the social ladder. Interpassivity, in which people project themselves and their aspirations onto people or objects, is described by philosopher Slavoj Zizek as the delegation of sensation to the object. With the mythical figure of Nora Aunor as an interpassive subject, one can see that her representation of the masses runs far deeper than just being a source of inspiration. If Nora falters but gets back on her feet, then it shows that someone like her can have faults but still recover.

That said, Nora and her characterizations never seem to extricate themselves from their suffering. This is in sharp contrast to the characters of her contemporary and rival, Vilma Santos, whose roles in films such as Sister Stella L and Dekada ’70 depicted women who were empowered despite their context, not simply remaining passive to their tribulation. The final heresy lies in shattering the mythical figure of herself, in breaking the shackles of the Nora persona and hurl the character of the martyred woman into the annals of history once and for all. To borrow the title of one of her unfinished projects – the sole copy of which is reportedly in her possession –that will be Nora Aunor’s Greatest Performance. ●

Thursday, November 7, 2013


This story is an expanded and updated version, which was originally publised in
100 Women of the Philippines by Joy Buensalido and Abe Florendo,
available in all National Book Store branches.
Source:  Mega - March 2000

Celebrating Filipina Womanhood in the New Millennium

(Joy Buensalido & Abe Florendo, 1999)




By Gerard Ramos

In a society still governed by traditional concepts --- of gender roles, of family, of motherhood and so on --- Nora Aunor, actor would be an odd entry in a list of woman role models. Her marriage not only was short-lived but also has been dissolved. Her life has been marked with the most sordid of rumors, ranging from lesbianism to alcohol and substance abuse to neglect of her children.

And yet, notwithstanding all this, no such list would be complete without the entry “Nora Aunor” --- for simply being, well, Nora Aunor, the dark-skinned teenager from Iriga in the southern province of Bicol who went on to not only represent what is the finest in Filipino popular art but also embody the ideals and ideology of the nameless, faceless and voiceless in Philippine society.

That no other showbusiness life has been as much chronicled as hers, the story of Nora Aunor has assumed the status of myth over every wondrous retelling, and I believe, does need yet another retelling here but for the broadest strokes. About how the dusky “provinciana” went the circuitous path to astonishing, awesome fame from the dusty railroad tracks where she sold cold glasses of water to thirsty, disembarking passengers. In between this early attempt at enterprise and family chores, she joined local singing contests that ultimately brought her to Manila and on television as a finalist of “Tawag ng Tanghalan.” Not long after she was proclaimed champion --- for several months running --- of the national amateur singing competition, she made the foray into films singing with, alternately, dwarves and Tirso Cruz IIl.

The rest, as the cliché goes, is history.

It has been said, on occasion, that Nora Aunor achieved greatness in her art only late in her career, in the hands of such skilled film directors as Lino Brocka and Ishmael Bernal, as if the time frame should diminish one’s extraordinary accomplishments. And hers, indeed, have been exactly that, extraordinary --- unquestionably precious, and well before people had even heard of either Brocka or Bernal. As the National Artist Nick Joaquin himself once wrote, there was nothing mediocre about Nora Aunor even when she was singing with dwarves.

The voice, still heralded as golden for its clarity and timbre, is actually of limited range, scaling only up to two octaves at best. No matter, no other music artist has enthralled and continuous to enthrall an audience with a song as completely as Nora Aunor, whether she is doing a cover of Florante’s “Handog” of George or Ira Gershwin’s “Embraceable You.” There is an intelligence, a purity in her reading, in the way she tugs at a note or a phrase with the despair of many a lovelorn night. And, always, she is true to the spirit with which the song was written, always investing her soul to the emotional force of the musical ode. Thus, to say that her singing recalls the most venerable ladies in American music --- Billie Holiday, Judy Garland, Dinah Washington --- is not an exercise in hyperbole. The great American jazz artist Miles Davis once said, “Sometimes you can sing words every night for years, and all of a sudden it dawns on you what the song means.” Listening to Nora Aunor’s recordings is akin to this: an epiphanous moment that quickly becomes a shared experience of the breadth of human emotion.

Her genius as a music artist is, perhaps, surpassed only by her magnificence as an actor, which nobody saw as forthcoming --- surely, not even Nora Aunor herself --- given her early works. Mostly brainless popcorn musicals like “Blue Hawaii”, not a few maudlin melodramas like “Ang Munting Santa.” And yet, in hindsight, one could already see a glint of the promise now fulfilled even in as cheesy a melodrama as “Nasaan Ka, Inay” - in those almond-shaped eyes whose expressiveness has achieved the status of legend. They are eyes that have seen and not forgotten the hurt, the pain of not only material deprivation but the emotional variety as well --- a treasure trove for any actor.

And indeed, Nora Aunor has raided this trove on more than a few occasions, yielding extraordinary performances onstage --- in "DH" (Domestic Helper) and “Minsa’y Isang Gamu-gamo” --- and in films now regarded as modern classics in Philippine Cinema: “Tatlong Taong Walang Diyos,” “Minsa’y Isang Gamu-gamo,” “Atsay,” “Ina Ka ng Anak Mo,” “Bona,” “Bakit Bughaw ang Langit,” “Bulaklak ng City Jail,” “Ang Totoong Buhay ni Pacita M.,” and “Andrea…Paano Ba ang Maging Isang Ina?,” to name only a few. Surely, it is no small measure of her astonishing skills as an actor that while some of these films have dated --- to wit, “Minsa’y Isang Gamu-gamo” --- her performances have remained absorbing, incendiary.

In this exhilarating body of work which remains unsurpassed by any Filipino actor, bar none, the one that is perhaps the most definitive of her genius is her awesome turn in Ishmael Bernal’s “Himala,” a bleak, rancid portrait of our collective psychosis of religious and political fanaticism. As the faith healer Elsa, Nora gives a performance so daring in the ambiguity of her character strokes: by turns unprepossessing, self-possessed, guileless, scheming, imploring, contemptuous --- as if challenging us to reject her, all the while unshakable in her confidence that we cannot. In her performance alone, Bernal brings home his indictment of our penchant for fanatical worship.

In one of the few conversations I had with Bernal before his death in 1997, he confirmed that Nora was heavily favored to win as Best Actress at the Berlin International Film festival in 1982, when “Himala” was among the competing entries, and that she lost voting favor due to her absence at the festivities. Most people, disheartened, that it was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity forever lost --- but, really, could this ever be the case with an artist as brilliantly as Nora Aunor? More than a decade later, in 1995, she scored yet another feat by winning the Best Actress for the powerful “the Flor Contemplacion Story” at the Cairo International Film Festival.

It has been assumed that, being unschooled formally as an actor, Nora Aunor has gotten by on sheer intuition and pure luck. The irony in this observation is that some film critics have, at one time or another, cited her as being too intelligent to play this role or that role --- for example, the naïve, subservient title character in Brocka’s acclaimed “Bona,” the original copy of which is in the hands of the French, from which the actor, who also produced the film, is working various channels to reclaim. But I digress. That Nora is an actor who trusts her gut is true, as it is for all other great actors, but she is fully cognizant and appreciative of the craft involved in creating great drama.

Indeed, through much of the filming of the award-winning Bakit May Kahapon Pa>, a riveting drama about the ravages of Martial Law's dirty war in the countryside, I witnessed a peerless craftsman at work: confining herself to her private room on the set, script in hand, her focus unyielding, oblivious of the few people that were allowed into her sanctuary. Asked about her process of character creation, Nora will only give the barest of details, almost embarrassed to do so -- and it becomes immediately apparent that this is not some affectation of humility but, quite simply, because of her innate understanding that, along with the craft, there is magic and mystery in the creation that should remain inviolable.

Of course, not everybody is a believer, and recently Nora Aunor has seen herself attacked for her latest performances that were supposedly too mannered, too studied to the point of remoteness, almost routine and therefore ordinary. One tabloid entertainment writer even went so far as to dismiss her portrayal of the speech-impaired Anna in last year's absorbing Sidhi as being bereft of either craft or magic -- but at the same time failed to provide an argument, even one remotely resembling, to shore up his attack.

Are Nora Aunor's feathers still ruffled by such biting criticism of her work? While she would be inclined to publicly shrug this off as one of the hazards of being an actor, one can only imagine how it impacts on an artist's emotional psyche given the intimacy involved in the process of character creation, the repeated rape to which the craft submits the heart and mind.

The dispassionate observer, however, is perhaps no longer surprised by such unqualified disparagement, which is often more telling of human foibles than the object of the attack herself. Indeed, one need only to remember the callous dismissal of Meryl Streep's post-Sophie Choice performances (Out of Africa in 1985, Heartburn in 1986, A Cry in the Dark in 1988, Postcards from the Edge in 1990, The House of the Spirits in 1993) as being cold and calculated, only to have film critics lavishing praiser on her similarly unquestionably and resolutely studied portrayals of the forlorn Italian-born Iowa housewife in 1995's The Bridges of Madison County. Go figure. History, as it often is, turns out to be the better judge. Consider how all the film award-giving bodies routinely ignored Himala, and how Bernal's masterpiece is now universally regarded as the finest film of that decade, and this particular Nora Aunor performance as the most galvanizing ever recorded on film.

An artist “assoluta” indeed Nora Aunor is. And in the current landscape of an acting community all too eager to sink to commercial vulgarity for the sake of box-office bankability, her resolute refusal to take easy routes, even at the expense of her celebrity, is worthy of the highest admiration. “I’ve reached point when it doesn’t matter whether I make one film in a year as long as it’s a good project and it says something about the human condition,” she says. “Otherwise, I’d rather go back to theater.”

No doubt to the chagrin of her critics, Nora Aunor has become the standard by which great performances are measured -- and, given the dearth of her heir apparents, will remain so for so many years. even at this period of her career that is blighted, they say, by dissipation and eroding celebrity, Nora Aunor has become the standard by which great performances are measured, and given, the dearth of heir apparents, will remain so for many years.

To the masses that have worshipped her through decades, however, Nora Aunor will forever remain emblematic of not only their dreams but also their possibilities. From the muddy railroad tracks of Iriga she had risen to triumph in aworld painfully indicative of our colonial history--and triumph, indeed, in a fashion never seen before or since. In doing so, she jolted us, perhaps more than any political figure in the last century, from a decades-long inferiority over the skin which we were born. Nora's unprecedented achievements since her rise to the nosebleed heights of celebrity stardom have only reinforced our potential for greatness.

Even in this period of diminished celebrity, as her critics like to call it, the brown-skinned former water vendor turned Superstar continues to define the times in which we live, these days not so much through her professional choices bu in our regard for the same. In the same way that Nora Aunor represents the infinite possibilities before us people, she now also reflects, in our unfortunate reaction to her ever-questing artistry, the moral bankruptcy to which we seem inexorably headed.

For this, Nora Aunor, the finest artist in Philippine entertainment, cannot be regarded simply as a role model. She is a woman continually essential --- to our dreams, to our conscience.