Leading Roles - The year was 1972, FAMAS was still considered the only credible award giving body in the Philippines. The musical still rampant but slowly but surely the young rivalry of Nora Aunor and Vilma Santos is forming another path. The race for who is the better actress started with both teen stars venturing to dramatic film roles. With Nora’s And God Smiled At Me and Vilma’s Dama De Noche, the fight went from box office queens, miss Philippines movies into a more serious title of best actress. The hype started with both entering their films to 1972 Quezon City Film Festival. Nora won the best actress despite a heated protest from Vilma’s camp. Indeed, Nora’s machine of supporters were on top of things. She will venture into several film projects under her own film outfit NV productions and she is well positioned to emerge on top come the yearly acting race. Come, 1973, the 21st FAMAS was indeed a fight between the young stars. Nora wasn’t nominated for And God Smile At Me, instead she was nominated for A Gift of Love, the best actress went into a tie. Considered a veteran, Boots Anson Roa, winner for her comedic performance opposite the very young and still leading actor of this time, Joseph Estrada in Tatay Na Si Erap. Roa shared the honor with Vilma Santos for her portrayal of opposite character twin sister in Dama De Noche. The very first best actress award for Vilma, it was a sweet revenge from the very first battle at the QFF and there will be more to come, not only from FAMAS but the other award giving bodies that will follow. A small note, Nick Romano won best supporting actor for another Vilma Santos film, Tatlong Mukha ni Rosa Vilma (READ MORE).
This is it folks! Nora Aunor vs. Vilma Santos, And God Smiled at Me vs. Dama de Noche. Which one will the FAMAS bless? The awards of the Filipino Academy of Movie Arts and Sciences are still far away though. But not the Quezon City filmfest awards which will be known tonight at the Nation Cinerama theater. One persistent prediction in showbiz is that Vilma will make it, hands down. However, Nora watchers are just as insistent that her ‘inspired’ performance in And God Smiled at Me is simply ‘super’ and worth no less than a best actress award. Dama de Noche is showing in three theaters– Remar, Delta and Sampaguita. It is, Vilma was quoted as saying, her dream role fulfilled. The very professional Vilma has come out with the resolution than henceforth she will demand to see the script and also see that the script is demanding— or she’ll say nix. Well, Dama de Noche is exactly just that: demanding. In it she delineates the twin-sister roles of sweet Armida and deranged Rosanna. Vilma sobs and screams, giggles, and crazy-dances, claws and clowns, sobs again and screams some more. But she does more than all these things. She acts. In the Filipino movieworld where crying is synonymous with acting, that certainly is being ahead of one’s kind. Vilma as Armida is drab and dry, almost a movie prop. It is in the portrayal of Rosanna that Vilma would tear one’s heart away. The many close-ups so effectively used throughout the movie show the unglamorous Vilma: her frowns, her lip-twitching, her uninhibited and stifled sobs.
But Vilma is less successful with the shifty look that is the distinctive trait of the deranged. She compensates for this in the ‘betrayal’ scene when Rosanna suspects that Leo, Armida and the psychiatrist (Fred Montilla) all conspired to imprison her in the hospital. Another outstanding feat is the subdued scene where Rosanna learns that Leo has gone to the Lerma villa to meet Armida. The vivacious Rosanna is just as winsomely pathetic. Watching her is just like seeing a bosom friend trying to pretend she’s happy when both of you know she’s not only in this case, Rosanna is truly happy. Her non-knowledge of her plight is what is particularly heart-curling. Dama de Noche is Tagalog Ilang-Ilang Production’s entry in the QC filmfest which started on Oct.15. It is a very simple story, almost run-of-the-mill, but Nestor Torre, Jr. who wrote the screenplay saved it with his meaningful and amusing lines. However, the movie is occasionally dragging with the Filipino moviemania for spoonfed sequences. Will the memorable Rosanna win for Vilma the most coveted award tonight? Or will Nora the Superstar make it? The die is cast and tonight is the NIGHT. New Frontier Cinema in Cubao was never before so loaded that the fire exits had to be opened to let in air. It was so badly jampacked, one swore it couldn’t be worse. But it was, a ‘stand-mate’ (there were no seats) quipped, ‘Noong first day, mas grabe.’ And so through a snail-pacing 20-yard pila and after exactly one hour, one got inside the theater, at last!
On the screen: La Aunor doing her thing– praying. A few steps away from the chapel, in their home in Davao, her mother (Naty Santiago) lies dying. Damian (Luis Gonzales) sits by the sickbed, comforting his wife, assuring her she is the only woman he has ever truly loved. The good woman dies and Celina (Nora) is bitter. She had prayed so hard, had run so fast from the chapel home, only to find the elder women reciting the litany of the dead. Here, the first sobs from a woman stand-mate as Celina pounds clenched fists on the door. After the burial, father tells daughter the well-kept secret of her being illegitimate. Celina shows bitterness again, but the good daughter that she is, she soon gets over from the shock and decides to live with it. Damian brings Celina to Manila as his ‘inaanak.’ They’ll wait for the perfect timing, he says and then he’ll tell his wife Olga (Lucita Soriano) everything. The perfect timing never comes. One morning, Celina just can’t help calling him ‘Itay,’ telling him she loves him very much and that he must come home at once, please. The tender moments take too long, and everybody in the theater knows Damian is ‘tsk, tsk, tsk, mamamatay.’ Everybody is right. At the hospital, the secret lets loose as Celina jerks in agony. ‘Itay, Itay,’ she sobs, in the presence of Damian’s wife and two adopted daughters. Here, Nora’s bid for a best actress award really begins.
The three witches (oh, how the fans hated them) now maltreat Celina all the more, slapping her, pulling her hair, kicking her right in the tummy. All through these, Celina’s only consolation is her love for Carding (Tirso Cruz III), the laundry-woman’s (Nenita Jana) son. He is blind. He is desperate. He loves Celina very much but ‘wala akong karapatang umibig.’ And so he contemplates suicide, sneaking out one night, begging between yells of ‘Gusto ko nang mamamatay,’ for a vehicle to run over him. An irked driver shouts at him: ‘Ano ka ba, bulag?’ A woman fan shouted too: ‘wag kayong tumawa, serious yan.’ And then, what do you know, another death: not the blind leading man (that would’ve been a blunder) but his mother, who had followed him. After so much unbearable beating and tearful moments between the lovers, Celina delivers her ultimate prayer — she can’t take it anymore. AND GOD SMILES AT HER. God grants her a golden voice (for a while one thought that was only the beginning of the movie, after no less than two-and-a-half hours) and she sings all her heart at the foot of the altar. And this is not the end of it. Nora Aunor won the Quezon City Film Festival Best Actress award and her movie, “And God Smiled at Me” also took home seven more including the Best Picture and Best Actor awards. In reaction to the article above and the filmfest award results, a reader sent an open letter to the QC Filmfest Judges. Read the text in full and be the judge yourself. However, in 1973, Vilma Santos received the FAMAS Best Actress award (in a tie with Boots Anson-Roa in “Tatay na si Erap”) in the movie “Dama de Noche,” thus avenging her loss to perennial rival, Nora Aunor in the Quezon City Film Festival. READ MORE
"...I didn’t expect to win, although marami ang nagsasabi sa akin na malaki ang pag-asa ko. Ako naman, I don’t believe anything unless talagang nangyayari. Kasi noon, I expected to win, sa film festival din sa Quezon City, but somebody else did. I was very disappointed. Noong awards night nga, I wasn’t convinced I would win hanggang hindi ko pa hawak ‘yong trophy..." - Ricardo F. Lo, Expressweek Magazine January 19, 1978 (READ MORE)
- 1972 FAMAS AWARDS THE 21st FAMAS AWARD WINNERS
- Ang Gabi ng Parangal (THE AWARDS NIGHT)
- The 21st FAMAS Award Winners
- FAMAS Recognitions
- List of Neminees and Winners for 1972 FAMAS
- The First FAMAS Grand Reunion of Awardees
- The 1972 7th Manila Film Festival
- And God Smiled at Me vs. Dama de Noche
- IMDB: Dama de noche (1972)
- IMDB: Emmanuel H. Borlaza
- IMDB: Edgar Mortiz
- Vilma-Nora Then, Nora-Vilma Now
- Filmography: Dama De Noche (1972)
- Official Web-site: Nora Aunor ICON
- IMDB: Nora Aunor
- IMDB: Vilma Santos
- Wikipedia: Vilma Santos
- Wikipedia: Nora Aunor
- Nora Aunor Film Actress
- Vilma Santos Film Actress