Thursday, November 15, 2012

Boxing Matches 2/2

We listed Vilma’s ten best films and matched it with Nora’s. We then came up with analogy of who did well in terms of credible performances. We also tried to switch the roles and see if both actress remained credible. The outcome was incredible. Boxing Matches Continues with…

Lipad Darna Lipad VS Super Gee - In 1973, Vilma’s box office clout flew higher and higher as the new Darna, Nora decided to match the new strategy her opponents were bringing in the table by producing her version of super hero via Batman inspired Super Gee. It was a perfect strategy as Vilma’s Darna was like Superman (basically Darna – - can fly), Supergee rode a vehicle, just like Batman! The customer was quite similar too as Super wore a mask, just like Batman. Just like Darna, Super Gee came from a comics serial. It was a creation by Zoila serialized ironically in “Darna” komiks. Like in Lipad Darna Lipad, Nora casted Celia Rodriguez as her nemesis and hired Armando Garces as director. Unfortunately Nora Aunor can’t replicate the success of Darna even with the presence of Jojit Paredes and teen star Arnold Gamboa. The uninspired direction of Armando Garces didn’t helped the case too. The movie bombed in the box office and the press ridiculed Nora’s Super Gee costumes. Speaking of costumes, Madonna maybe got the inspiration for her cone bra costumes from this film.

In 1973, Vilma Santos made another milestone career move. She bravely starred as the new Darna despite her lack of height. Past Darnas, From Rosa Del Rosario to Gina Pareno, prior to Vi, were all tall and toned. So the stakes are high as the film were released in March of 1973. Vilma’s supporters were relieved and ecstatic to find out the huge crowed in each theatres. It was reported that the production company, Tagalog Ilang Ilang distributed Darna dolls and Coca-Cola gave Darna masks to thousand filmgoers. Vilma will continue to starred in four more Darna movies while Super Gee quickly disappeared to its deserving death. Lipad, Darna, Lipad were divided into three separate segments with each segments and was directed by three different directors. It its First episode, Emmanuel H. Borlaza handled the exciting fight between Darna and the “Impakta” played with much gusto by Gloria Romero that climaxed into that aerial fight that ends with Gloria falling down into the church’s cross. If the first one was exciting, the second director, Elwood Perez successfully gave us a strangely cold and campy episode. Maybe because Darna’s nemesis Valentina played by Celia Rodriguez were supposed to be a supermodel hence the overtly poised gestures. She turned out to be a snake queen, turning her hair into diabolical snakes with her eyes beams up and turning whatever that touch the beams into stone. The face-off between Darna and Valentina was so stylish, sizing each other by dirty glances. It was like watching a western cowboy movie. When finally Valentina used her beams to turned Darna into stone, she was outsmarted by Darna. Using a mirror Valentina beamed her own self and she turned into stone. Add to her demise, she fell from the building and was shattered into hundred pieces! The last episode directed by the late Joey Goseingfiao featuring Liza Lorena as the hawk lady or “Babaing Lawin.” As expected Darna defeated her third nemesis but compared to the first two episodes, the fight scenes here were less exciting. We both seen Super Gee and Lipad Darna Lipad. Unfortunately, Super Gee was so poorly done that we can’t remember it’s full story. The press were also in agreement with me as there were no articles whatsoever written about this film even via internet.

Switcheroo - Would Vilma gave Super Gee it’s rightful shot in the arm if she did plays the fully clothed super hero? The answer would be yes. Nora lacks physicality that the Super Gee role requires. Vilma’s dancing experience earlier in her career helped her to do the action scenes better than Nora. What about Nora as Darna? Can you imagine Nora in those skimpy two-piece bikini costumes? I don’t think Nora would fit the role of Darna considering the history of physical attributes of past Darnas. A brow-skinned Darna that would be a first. But would the masses accepts this drastic change? Remember this was 1973, segregation in the US was a big social issue. In the Philippines, Nora Aunor may have changed some mind when it comes to the skin color issue but talent and physicality would play an important factor to be convincing as Darna.

Reality Check: - Like so many fantasy characters that Vilma did in the 70s (like dyesebel, phantom lady and wonder vi), she will excelled as Super Gee. The opposite can be said with Nora doing the Darna role. Her lack of physical attributes that a Darna role calls will failed her miserably.

Tagos Ng Dugo VS Bulaklak Ng City Jail - Tagos and Bulaklak gave both Vilma and Nora best actress awards from the Catholic Mass Media Awards in 1987 and 1984 respectively. Considering the graphic violence and shady story lines, it was ironic that CMMA gave the nods to both actresses. A proof that despite it’s presumed image (CMMA was a religious organization), deserving performances should be rewarded with its rightful recognitions. In Tagos Ng Dugo, Vilma Santos gave us another versatile performance. She won her fourth FAMAS best actress in addition to the CMMA and minor awards from the Movie Magazine and Cinemascope for the role of Fina, a distraught woman who becomes a murderer every time her period comes. A role that was too bold and daring in the eyes of Maricel Soriano. She was initially offered to play the lead role but turned down it down despite previous success with director Maryo De Los Reyes. An unidentified writer analyzed Tagos Ng Dugo as “a breakthrough for Philippine psychological movies.” The writer added that the film was a cross between Francois Truffaut’s “The Bride Wore Black” and Luis Benuel’s “Belle Du Joir.” Films that I have to check out to get the writer’s point. Anyhow, the writer added: “….I don’t know if screenwriter Jake Tordesillas or Delos Reyes himself should be congratulated for the cohesion of multi-resultants in this work. Part of this multi-readings would be the movie as a feminist take on womankind’s monthly pains as a form of excuse for female monthly insanities, insanities our macho’s regard as regular terrorism on the whole of mankind (men or society as a whole). It is with that reading that the ending apologies, by Vilma Santos in the lead role, might be understood as a plea for understanding of how all of woman’s monthly Eve-behavior should not be seen as a Biblical sin but as an equal (to, say, man’s beastly) naturalness… “

Tagos Ng Dugo, a feminist film? The writer pointed out: “…the film as a view of how Philippine society (the men in it, primarily) approaches provincial innocence, educational weakness, and “female’s weaker sanity as stimuli for abuse… There is, however, the possibly more general reading of the film as an apologia for insanity qua itself, how it should be treated as a disease instead of as a monster to be eliminated… And finally, there’s the possibility that the film is actually a depiction of how crazy the world outside the insane mind really is, albeit this view would probably be the least successful direction for the film… As a bonus, maybe we can also bring the movie to more latent, more philosophical territory, say, how it depicts the sanity of innocence.” The writer obviously seen the film numerous times to appreciate it’s every details. It its final analysis: “…what finally makes this movie a jewel in Philippine cinema history is how it brings forth — every time you watch it — its case achievements in directorial and film editing dramaturgy (including the recurring stage-like choreography, Hitchcockish camera positioning, and acting pacing within). For the serious student of third world filmmaking, here is a requisite Philippine movie from where to cull precious fragments. In these fragments, he/she is sure to find sparkles that are in themselves gems.”

For us, the technical superiority of this film was jus the back drop of the stellar performance of Vilma Santos. Her numerous character changes in accordance to her next sexual victims was choreographed in such intensity that the anguish fate of each of her victims were expected and tragic. When the Final climaxed scene arrives we were so conditioned to see a dead Fina but we were surprised by her strong wailing and maddening facial hatred that we understood her full emotion. A cry for help. It was the most intense scene we ever seen her ever since we started following her movie career. In 1984, Nora Aunor came-up with another successful run at the local festival. Produced by Cherubim films, Bulaklak Sa City Jail was an entry to that year’s Metro Manila Film fest. The film earned Nora Aunor her deserving trophy as the festival’s best actress and also Mario O Harra the best director as well as the best supporting actress for Celia Rodriguez. Despite its festival success, only the CMMA rewarded Nora as their best actress of 1984. Mario Bautista in his article for the Philippine Daily Express wrote about the film’s story line as: “Nora is Angela, an orphan who falls for a married man and is later accused of trying to kill his wife. But the film is more than just her story. It is an indictment of a prison system that instead of helping in the rehabilitation of inmates only make them worse.” He praised Nora’s acting as: “…Nora Aunor gives a very moving performance, notwithstanding that zoo childbirth scene specially engineered to endear her to her fans…” He’s probably talking about the numerous facial shots of Nora in the zoo, as if saying, “look at those eyes…Just by this, she should be rewarded.” The film was written by Lualhati Bautista and Mario commended the writer’s excellent script. But with so many characters and plot twists, it was at the hands of the director to fleshes out these challenges. And O Harra succeeded in giving us a much better film compared, according to Bautista, to his previous offering, the equally ambitious Condemned.

Switcheroo - Would Nora be convincing as the murderous Fina in Tagos Ng Dugo? A project that even Maricel Soriano turned down because of its boldness and daring theme. The ability to jumped into unfamiliar territory and Aunor’s restrictive image will frankly played (again!) an important factors in figuring out if Aunor would do justice as Fina. Meanwhile, if Nora will struggle playing such bold and daring roles like Fina in Tagos, Vilma will excel as Angela in Bulaklak, as she played a similar role, as the convicted inmate in period film, Baby Tsina.

Reality Check: - Nora Aunor will turned down Fina. Vilma Santos will prove her versatility as Angela. For Noranians, unfortunately their idol’s lacks of versatility will play an important factor if we switch roles.

Pinay American Style VS Merika – Pinay American Style and Merika were both films were shot on location in the United States. Elwood Perez and Gil Portes, its film directors tackled the flight of two Filipinas, one was an illegal alien and one was an established nurse, both from New York. The technical acting talent of both actress were in full display here. Vilma was obviously under utilized as PX in these Elwood Perez experiment. Despite this predicament, Vilma was able to give us a splash of her abilities. While Nora was in full bloom as Mila in these quiet Portes film. She gave us a convincing portrayal of lonely woman who realized that she was being used by a man she truly loves. The contrast of style was the main point why I matched these two roles. As PX, Vilma was talkative, hiding her insecurity and vulnerability with her fragile disguise as rich New Yorker with almost caricature gestures. Quite the opposite of Nora. Nora was Mila, a quiet, stable nurse whose vulnerability raised to its fullness the moment she discovered she’s in loved with an illegal aliens who was just using her to get a green card. Let’s start with Nora… In 1984, PMPC created their own award giving bodies. They called it the Star Awards. And with much fanfare, they only nominated two actress, Vilma Santos and Nora Aunor. Aunor was nominated for her performances in three films: Bulaklak sa City Jail, Condemned and Merika. Santos was nominated for two films: Baby Tsina and Sister Stella L. The past decades proved to be an advantage for Nora Aunor. She got an excellent stronghold of a group of movie writers who dominated the membership of PMPC. It will take five long years before PMPC evened out Aunor’s stronghold. It was reported that members of PMPC had a long night debating who will get their first award. Eventually Nora’s quiet performance as Mila in Merika won over the majority of its members. Noranians were ecstatic as Vilma’s lucent transformation in Sister Stella L were ignored. In 1984 Tempo article titled “Tender effort: one from the heart” written by Emmanuel A. Reyes, the dream of many Filipinos to fulfill their American dreams were emphasized.

Reyes said”:’…Merika comes at a trying moment when the foremost thing on people’s minds is to flee the archipelago for more rewarding frontiers. Sadly enough, after 38 years of independence, the Filipino no longer sees his own country as land of opportunity. The promise of progress has gone bust. Traditional values of home, family, and love of country have consequently eroded under the threat of hunger and torment. The need for more money has become apparent. Faced with the need to survive, the Filipino is forced to seek work elsewhere. He is happy for a while to be in another corner of the world. But when he realizes that he is no longer the king of his own culture but a servant of a more affluent race, he starts to dream about home and wish for that life he had left behind.” I can’t agree more… Reyes pointed out the simplicity of Merika’s production value that adds to its luster as very effective film: “…Merika doesn’t attempt to declare anything big about Filipinos and their life in the United States. It’s a simple story of loneliness and survival in the land of milk and honey… What is clearly admirable about “‘Merika,” is its affecting portrait of loneliness, so thoughtfully realized by Nora Aunor’s touching performance, Gil Portes’s direction and Doy del Mundo and Gil Quito’s homely screenplay. The film does not emphasize a single, urgent cause for Mila’s wanting to go home precisely because such loneliness cannot be quantified. For the migrant Filipino, this kind of loneliness exists in mind and heart but it can never be completely expressed. It’s a feeling so deep seated, it couldn’t be relieved entirely, even by a long-distance call. The film utilizes many images to describe this sad feeling—from chilly scenes of winter to bare trees, disabled senior citizens, to the never-ending pictures on television. It all adds up to a very, very cold account of a life of sacrifice in a country of great expectations.” Meanwhile if we praised the simplicity of the overall production of Merika, it can’t be said with Regal films’ Pinay American Style. It was as commercial as one can imagine. Regal films hired three leading men to support the most bankable actress of 1979, Christopher DeLeon, Bembol Rocco and Victor Cocoy Laurel. It was a stage in Vilma’s career where she doing one commercial films after the other. Mostly targeting the mature adult audience. A trend that Nora Aunor can’t seem to tap. Aunor has established her clout as a serious actress in 1979 by producing a number of ambitious projects, tapping high caliber directors but was always came-up short when the box office tallies were recorded. Both Nora and Vilma did eight movies in 1979. Nora did two musicals the hit, Annie Batungbakal and the flop, Disco King. Four were light comedies and two serious drama. Her year ended with a collaboration with Brocka and Lolita Rodriguez in Ina Ka Ng Anak Mo. The film earned Aunor another festival best actress but was unsuccessful to out throne the tandem of Charito Solis and Vilma Santos in their film entry into the same festival in Bancom’s Modelong Tanso.

Vilma in 1979 was a picture of self-assured bankable star. Like Nora, she did two musical, the mild hit, Swing it baby and the blockbuster Rock Baby Rock. She did two movies with Elwood Perez, Magkaribal and Pinay American Style both were box office hits. The rest of her project were a film under her own film company, an Eddie Rodrigues starrer Halik sa Paa Halik sa Kamay, a comedy with Dolphy and the year end explosive, Tanso with drama queen Charito Solis. The end of the decade marked her stronghold as the box office queen. A feat Nora Aunor can’t seem to figure out. Clearly, Vilma Santos’ versatility was the secret weapon. And this weapon was in full display in Perez’ second film with Vilma in 1979. Pinay American Style was the story of PX, an illegal alien or TNT, tago ng tago. Her boyfriend played by Victor Laurel abandoned her for an rich American girl mainly to secure a green card. PX met an Americanized Filipino, Christopher DeLeon but found him not serious of having her as a steady girlfriend. It just so happened that PX also met Christopher DeLeon’s brother, Bembol Rocco, a new immigrant. PX and Bembol fell for each other. And a love triangle surfaced the screen. Adding to the drama was Victor Laurel’s enraged, jealous appearances. Laurel eventually tipped the police ending PX stays in New York. As Bembol Rocco realized that America doesn’t fit his lifestyle he reconciled with his brother and advised him to follow PX in the Philippines. Both Christopher and Vilma reconciled in a farm field in the Philippines. The end. The film was so forgettable that the critics didn’t even bother to write any reviews. The lack of enthusiasm on the part of the critics were compensated with the box office success of the film. Vilma fits the role as the illegal alien, PX. Her attempt to speak fluent English and pretend that she’s rich when she met the boyish looking Christopher was funny and poignant. She was given enough scenes to shine. One was the scene after she was harassed by her landlady. She opened her refrigerator and found a staled piece of bread. She took a bottled water and ate the bread, found her mom’s letter and lying down in bed started to break down. A quiet scene without dialogue. A contrast from the earlier scenes where she started to be talkative, as she tried to impress Christopher, telling him she’s rich and from a well-known family. It was obvious in 1979, Elwood Perez wasn’t the kind of director you will expect to produce a serious output. He wasn’t a Bernal or Brocka. He’s a commercial director. It was a better effort though, compared to a much more convoluted Magkaribal or their past successful projects like Nakawin natin ang bawat sandali and masakit masarap ang umibig. In Pinay, Toto Belano’s script wasn’t efficient enough in ironing out the quadrangle plot twists and establishing the characters of four actors. So the blame can’t be put to Perez shoulder alone. There was a scene were Vilma Santos and Christopher were watching a concert which was obviously not part of the script.

Switcheroo - Vilma Santos did a movie, Miss X under Gil Portes prior to Nora Aunor’s 1984 Merika. And she did a wonderful job. The requirement of Mila, the lonely nurse in this film wasn’t new to Vilma. She did a splash of quiet scene ironically in Pinay American Style. And so we concluded that Vilma would do justice to the role of Mila. If we switched roles and Nora played PX in 1979, the film would have a different version. Would she be convincing as a talkative PX, hiding her vulnerability with a delicate facade by pretending she this socialite? It will be a challenge considering that Perez is not Portes.

Reality Check: - Vilma can effectively do a quiet restrained role. She will be effective as Mila in Merika. Nora will have a hard time convincing us as PX.

Boxing Result: - Surprisingly, Vilma wins again. Vilma 9, Nora 2

Andrea, Paano Ba Ang Making Isang Ina? VS Bata Bata Paano Ka Ginawa? - Both films, Andrea Paano Ba Ang Maging Isang Ina? and Bata Bata Paano Ka Ginawa? earned Nora Aunor and Vilma Santos grand slam wins. Nora Aunor won the 1990 Best Actress from the Metro Manila Film Festival and then swept the best actress honor from Urian, FAP, Star, Famas, and Young Critics Circle. Adding to the significance of this grand slam wins was her elevation the Famas Hall of Famer. This was her fifth Famas best actress which as stupid as can be required her to be elevated and disqualified her with future wins. In addition to this wonderful honors was the film received its deserving best picture trophies from FAMAS, STAR and of course at the MMFF. Butch Francisco wrote in his Philippine Star article: “..It is a powerful film mainly because of the performances of the cast and the basic conflict found in the movie. As Andrea, Aunor is a teacher who has chosen the difficult and perilous but crusading path of armed social rebel whose husband is a comrade in the underground. When it is time for her best friend, Gina Alajar, who is married to a guy Lloyd Samartino, who has absolutely no sympathy for the cause which his wife’s friend is fighting for. Childless, Lloyd and Gina get emotionally attached to the baby, especially after the mother temporarily leaves the infant to look into the circumstances of her guerilla husband’s death in the hands of the military. Unfortunately, before she could return to her baby, Nora is arrested and detained in a safe house by military men, who torture her mercilessly. Having lost contact with the freedom-fighter and presuming her to have been killed, the surrogate parents have decided to keep the child as their own and bring him to the United Sates for seven years. When they return to the Philippines for a visit, Nora confronts them and tries to claim her child back. “Andrea” has a most chilling, moving and harrowing climax, one of the best in local movies. Its fearless account of military abuses in both Marcos and Aquino administrations is admirable. From start to finish, it mirrors present Philippine conditions, with special focus on the problems afflicting educators and the government’s counter-insurgency campaign…The film’s cohesive material is given justice by the sterling performances of Nora Aunor and Gina Alajar, both perfectly cast.”

In 1998, Vilma’s Bata Bata Paano Ka Ginawa grossed on its opening day of showing a whooping P 5.2 million pesos. A tabloid article headlined: “Ate Vi sinagip ang naghihingalong movie industry!” A feat that she will surpassed with the another super blockbuster film, Anak the following year. A worthy note, Vilma’s closest rival, Nora Aunor on the other hand was clearly on decline mode as her followed up films after the successful Flor Contemplacion failed miserably at the box office, one film after the other. Nestor Torre, Nora’s ardent supporter wrote down for Philippine Daily Inquirer “Vilma scores with “Bata, Bata, Paano ka Ginawa?” He elaborated: “…the film based by Lualhati Bautista on her own novel that was published in the ‘80s, Vilma Santos plays Lea Bustamante, an “ordinary” woman who turns out to be an extraordinary Filipina because she has liberated herself from the restrictions that hold some other women back from coming into their own up to this day. She separated from her husband (Ariel Rivera) because he wanted her to subsume her personal goals in his favor. She had a son (Carlo Aquino) by him, and later lived in with another cad (Albert Martinez), who fathered her daughter (Serena Dalrynple). Unhappy with Albert, Vilma fantasizes about getting it on with a third guy (Raymund Bagatsing), but he doesn’t accede to her forthright invitation for them to get between the sheets. That’s one thing with Lea that surprises and perhaps even shocks some members of the audience.

Unlike some other women who keep their sexy thoughts to themselves, she articulates them in colorful language, without blushing. This forthrightness has a positive if sometimes “embarrassing” effect on her children, who have been brought up to be similarly forthright and argumentative. Lea also wears her heart on her sleeve in relation to her work, which involves her in helping aggrieved and battered women fight for their rights. Writer Lualhati Bautista and director Chito Rono’s telling and prismatic depiction of Lea’s character is worthy of praise because it is full-bodied and filled with surprises, unlike most other local film characterizations, which are two-dimensional and predictable. The audience’s hearty response to Vilma’s spirited portrayal of Lea is a big change from viewer’s knee-jerk responses to most lead characterizations on the local screen, which fail to delight and surprise because they follow tired, old formats so automatically.” Torre praised Lualhati Bautista admirable script with…”…Bautista’s plotting is also admirable. She includes many elements from Lea’s personal and working lives and is able to integrate these diverse bits into a fairly unified whole – a tough task for any screenwriter. Lea’s first husband comes back after many years, hoping to take his son with him to the States. Lea’s live-in partner becomes jealous, and yet the two men gang up on Lea when the children are hurt in an accident. Things come to a head until the children have to choose whether to stay with their mother or join their respective father’s new families. Through all of this, Lea has her crying jags, but otherwise remains strong and secure in her self-worth. This is the all-important role model that the character of Lea holds up to the less secure women watching awe-struck in the dark movie house. Let’s hope that at least some of them learn from her example. Of course, the film would have been of greater service to its audience if it had showed why, despite her strength and wisdom, Lea still fell for the self-centered cads with whom she shared her bed.”

He then described Vilma’s performance as…”…But these weaker elements pale in comparison to the movie’s admirable strengths, led by its insightful script and direction, excellent performances by Vilma Santos and Carlo Aquino, and most significant of all, the movie’s evocation of real life being lived with courage and zest….” I can’t agree more… With this description came Vilma Santos third grand slam best actress. Even the pro-Nora Aunor group, Film Desk of the Young Critics Circle or YCC for short confirmed Vilma as their best of 1998. The year gave Vilma her seventh Gawad URIAN as well as the trophies from Star Awards, Film Academy of the Phils., Gawad Sineng-Sine PASADO Awards, Siasi, Jolo. Critics Awards and because she already a Famas Hall of Famer she’s disqualified in their category. But her disqualification were compensated as she received their Lifetime Achievement Award. The courageous and unconventional performance of Vilma Santos was again rewarded the following year as she won the top plum award from the Brussels International Film Festival. Armida Siguion-Reyna in her article for People’s Journal wrote: “…Congratulations to Vilma Santos for winning the Best Actress Award and to Chito Rono for the Best Director Award in the 1999 Brussels International Film Festival! Their film “Bata, Bata…Paano ka Ginawa?” (Lea’s Story) is one of the many films now touring the international film festival circuit passed during the term of the present board. Some people feel that the movie could not have been done nor would have passed uncut the MTRCB previously, because of its theme and use of language. Its principal character (played by Vilma) is a mother to two kids by two different men, now seeking solace in the company of a third.” She pointed out…”…The victories of Vilma and Chito could not have come at a better time for the Filipino movie industry and only shows that the Filipino film artist can meet and even surpassed international standards when given the creative freedom to do so. Of course, we recognize that last year, Albert Martinez, Jun Lana and Ditsi Carolina also won awards in the same festival. I hope the do-gooders who look at the Filipino movie industry with disdain are reading!” Vilma’s Bata was also exhibited at the 44th Asia-Pacific Film Festival in Bangkok , Thailand in November of 1999. The film earned a Special Jury Award – For awareness on woman’s status in Asia-Pacific. Vilma Santos was also nominated as well as Serena Dalrymple as best supporting actress.

Switcheroo - Would Vilma Santos be as successful as Nora in Andrea? And would Nora do the unthinkable as Lea in bata? By this time, both are now matured capable actresses. The only difference was that Vilma Santos remained a bankable star. As we all know Andrea was just a mild hit, a pale in comparison with the outcome of Bata. Would Andrea be more successful at the box office if Vilma was in the lead instead of Nora, a higher feasibility is in order. Nora was already in decline in 1990, the previous year she did only one movie, the mild hit Bilangin Ang Bituin Sa Langit with Tirso Cruz III. She did three more films, all were a dismal failure until she hit a jackpot via Flor Contemplacion in 1995. After Flor her career went downhill. She never recovered even with the two trendy digital offerings. Meanwhile Vilma remained bankable. The end of the 80s gave her opportunity to do only serious films. Even mediocre films like Lipa Masacre was a major hit. The only dent in her strong box office record was the dismal bombed of her film with FPJ in 1996, Ikaw ang mahal ko. But she nicely recovered with a string of hits like Hanggang Ngayon Ika’y Minamahal, Bata Bata Paano Ka Ginawa, Anak, Dekada 70 and Mano Po 3. The question now is if Nora can do such type of role, a liberated matured Lea. Would it fit her image and would the masses like her in such role? A formidable task. Then we can also asked the same with Vilma. Would she performed as intense as Nora in Andrea?

Reality Check: - In 1990, Vilma was clearly the picture of a fine versatile actress. She can do any roles from a militant nun to a cancer stricken career woman to a sympathetic mistress. The Andrea role will add some variety in her already long history of successful roles. We can conclude that she will be successful as Andrea in Andrea Paano Ba Ang Maging Isang Ina. These scenario will even add some glitter to the box office outcome of the film reversing its dismal result under a Nora Aunor starrer. Meanwhile in 1998, Nora Aunor was already in a decline mode. After the successful box office result of the critically acclaimed Flor Contemplacion, the strings of dismal flops in the box office followed. Muling Umawit Ang Puso, Bakit May Kahapon Pa, Mama Dito Sa Aking Puso, Babae and Sidhi all laid an egg at the box office. She eventually decided to try her luck in America. Playing Lea in Bata Bata Paano Ka Ginawa would be a change from her long lists of similar typecasted roles but the outcome would be questionable as we elaborate above. The role will required her to be as liberated, contradicting her virginal, conservative image. The role will also required her to be sexually active, well impliedly and this might turned off her fans and even herself. Nora will not jumped to an unfamiliar territory.

Boxing Result: Vilma win, Nora loss again. Vilma 10, Nora 2

Relasyon VS Naglalayag - Two films, two performances…the last bout between Nora and Vilma. We picked two films that becomes significant milestones to both actress. Vilma Santos’ Relasyon earned her the very first of her four “grand slam” best actress wins. Nora Aunor’s Naglalayag earned her the second international recognition in addition to the local awards she already amassed. By the way, she shared the international best actress honor with Sharon Cuneta, a self confessed Vilmanian. So lets start… In this corner, Nora Aunor for her portrayal of a rich judge in 2004 Manila Film Festival entry, Naglalayag. A May-December love story. Nora fell in love with a poor taxi driver played convincingly by Yul Servo. The film achieved the festival’s best picture honour together with the best director award for Maryo J. delos Reyes and the coveted Best Actress for Nora Aunor. The film was first offered to Vilma Santos but she turned it down and Maryo De Los Reyes decided to give the project to Vilma’s rival, Nora. In his Inquirer article, Nestor U. Torre wrote: “THE MANILA Film Festival later this month has as one of its highlights the big-screen comeback of superstar Nora Aunor. For years now, Nora has been occasionally starring in films, but most of them haven’t done justice to her well-honed talent. They have either stressed her dated “kawawa” screen persona or put her in exceedingly overwrought scenes that were too self-consciously “dramatic.” Thus, she has failed to rise up to the level of her touchstone performances in movies like “Bona,” “Himala,” “Atsay” and “Tatlong Taong Walang Diyos.” A challenging material would uplift Nora’s sagging career according to Torre… He continued: “…This is a great pity, because we know that, despite her relative drop in popularity, Nora still has some great performances left in her. All she needs is challenging material that’s right for her unique combination of gifts.

Why hasn’t she been getting such projects? Because some of her film colleagues are still fixated on her past roles, not realizing that viewers have tired of them-and that, at 50, Nora shouldn’t be expected to merely reprise her past triumphs…” Unfortunately, Torre clearly realized Aunor wasn’t believable as the rich judge… He wrote: “…To be sure, some elements detract from Nora’s thespic achievement here. For one thing, she is not all that believable as a judge. Yes, it’s true that the similarly petite Esperanza Fabon is a judge in real life, but the problem has less to do with height than more telling background and character traits…Some scenes are acted in too overwrought a manner, especially Nora’s thespic highlight at a funeral parlor. And the lead screen couple’s romantic interludes are sometimes too cutely staged and executed for Nora’s mature character in this movie…” But despite this truthful observation Torre’s adoration to Aunor surfaced as he concluded: “…Despite these flaws, however, Nora’s performance still impresses, moves and illuminates viewers because it is generally natural, insightful and committed. Let’s hope that “Naglalayag” does well at the film fest, so other producers will offer Nora even better and more challenging screen vehicles, for her to truly reemerge as the thespic superstar she once was-and could be again.” Too bad, Torre’s enthusiasm faded as the film closed in numerous theatre on it’s third day of showing. The only significant consolation to the box office results of this film was Aunor’s shared best actress win with Sharon Cuneta at the Brussels International Film Festival. This was her third international recognitions, one award ahead of Vilma’s two.

Meanwhile… In this corner, Vilma Santos as Maria Lourdes, the sympathetic mistress in Bernal’s Relasyon. The film that earned Santos it’s deserving win at the majors – FAMAS, Gawad URIAN, Film Academy of the Phils., Catholic Mass Media Awards and from a minor – Let’s Talk Movies Awards. Santos’ wins resulted in the creation of a new tag line “Grand Slam.” Which basically means a swept wins from all major award giving bodies? The Philippines currently have five major award giving bodies – FAMAS, URIAN, STAR, Golden Screen and Luna Awards. At the Gawad Urian, Aunor was expected to win her third critic’s trophy against Gina Alajar and Lorna Tolentino from the same film, Moral and against Vilma Santos’ tiny film Relasyon. Aunor was conditioned to received the honour because of her tremendous performance as Elsa in ECP’s Himala. But she left empty handed as the critics finally resolved their unfair treatment of Vilma Santos and gave her the long awaited nod. Vilma will win all of the remaining trophies resulting from many Noranians’ speculation of political sabotage. As the film Himala was funded by the Marcos government, the intense resistance against the government resulted from the film being ignored. Never mind that Vilma gave us one of the most moving performance of her already long stellar career.

A critic, Isagani Cruz in his article for Parade magazine analyzed Relasyon’s psychological overtones: “…we have a film made explicitly for adults. There is no explicit sex sequence (adults don’t really go for that sort of thing, only adolescent boys do). But the psychological problems faced by the film are comprehensible only to adults, those who know what it means to live with someone one loves (or, at least, used to love). This film is, thus, not entertaining in the usual prurient sense, but in a deeper, psychological, intellectual sense. There are basically two themes that this film tackles: sex roles and divorce.” He pointed out two opposing views about the two lead characters of the film… Cruz added: “..Vilma Santos represents womanhood in the film: Christopher de Leon represents manhood. The Filipina woman is commonly thought of as a martyr or long-suffering masochist. Santos portrays a mistress who is an out-and-out martyr…De Leon represents chauvinist maleness. He portrays a character that is totally insensitive to his woman’s needs.” He then touches the theme of the film, the flight of a mistress and divorce…

He said: “…The trouble with sex roles in our society, the film argues, is that they are widely accepted without question. Men are supposed to have mistresses, and women are supposed to be faithful. Men are supposed to make the decisions (about where to live, what job to get, when to dine out), and women are supposed merely to follow. The Philippines may justifiably boast that, in politics, women are almost as powerful as men, but it is undeniable that in every other field including the home, it is the men who are the masters and the women who are the slaves. The other theme tackled by the film is that of divorce. Again and again, the characters discuss the lack of divorce in the Philippines . If De Leon could only annul his marriage, if he could only divorce his wife, if he could only get to Las Vegas and marry Santos there… Such possibilities remain mere possibilities, because Philippine law, unfortunately, still does not allow for divorce. In the film, it is made clear that the marriage of De Leon and his wife is totally beyond repair. With De Leon , being the male chauvinist pig that he is, and with his wife, being the non-entity that she is, there is no hope for the loveless couple. On the other hand, Santos and De Leon clearly love each other, clearly deserve chance to be man and wife, clearly should be helped (not damned) by society. It is an implicit case for divorce, made even more convincing by the fact that the characters are so familiar, so realistic.” And then concluded: “…technically, the film does not rank high in Ishmael Bernal’s canon of films… There is one technical achievement worth watching for: De Leon’s death scene, covering more than one minute, is taken with one continuous shot (no cuts) Santos’ acting is adequate and extraordinary. De Leon gives another of his solid performances…” I couldn’t agree more. That scene alone won my approval. Vilma’s “tuhog” acting was so effective that by the time its over we were both exhausted and felt her pain. In the next scene, where she was consoled by her family and friends, in the kitchen table, we felt her final resolve, the acceptance of the death of her love one. The naturalness of her acting was very moving and effective.

Switcheroo - In 1982, Vilma Santos has established already her versatility as an actress. Accepting roles that her opponent have reservation of doing. Nora Aunor on the other hand maintained her chosen projects to api-apihan roles and light comedies. She did two important films in 1982, Mga Uod at Rosas where she played another “api-apihan” role and the gigantic Elsa role in Himala. Together with two light comedies, Annie Sabungera and Palenke Queen. And don’t forget her lesbian role in T-bird At Ako with Vilma. Her chosen projects didn’t change the possibility that she might be typecasted in those api-apihan roles. A big mistake considering that in order for an artist to have longevity one must accept roles that will challenge one’s ability and giving something new to your audience will add more interest resulting with continued patronage and loyalty. Vilma Santos has learned this earlier as she tried to surpassed her opponents. Versatility remained to be her greatest weapon. And so if we give the Marilou role to Aunor, would she be as convincing as Vilma? Her ability to be vulnerable was seen in such convincing performance in Mga Uod at Rosas and Himala. The role will also required her to deliver such lines with such feminist overtones. Would she be convincing delivering such kilometric lines? With such strong conviction? I doubt it. By 1982, she wasn’t known for delivering long lines but instead was known for uttering short syllabolic lines. Lines: like: “my brother is not a pig!” or “Hayup…hayup…hayup…” A proof that she will be akward as the insecure mistress in Relasyon. Meanwhile if we give the Dorinda role to Vilma, in DeLosReyes’ Naglalayag we can honestly say that Vilma will be more successful as the rich, successful judge. She will be more convincing with delivering her lines, with every gestures and posture. She will also excelled in many dramatic highlights of the film. Adopting a more restrained acting that Vilma is now know for, those scenes that only required her to show tears dropping from her eyes just like in Mano Po 3: My Love and Dekada 70. A proof that Vilma after her long acting career has evolved into a more versatile well rounded actress.

Reality Check: - Even Nestor Torre, an ardent Aunor supporter concluded that Aunor was unconvincing as Dorinda, the rich judge in Naglalayag. Santos on the other hand earned her deserving respects from all the award giving bodies in 1982 for her effective portrayal of a mistress in Relasyon. 22 years between the two films and clearly, Vilma Santos transformed herself into a more versatile well rounded actress and Nora Aunor got stucked into an restrictive image. Those roles of the underdog, the api-apihan roles. If we switched roles, Nora Aunor would not be as effective as the mistress in Relasyon while Vilma will excel as the rich judge in Naglalayag.

Boxing Result: In our final bout, Vilma knocked out Nora by a landslide. Vilma 12, Nora 2

“Kung hindi tayo kikilos, kalian pa? Kung hindi ngayon, kalian pa?” - Sister Stella L.

“Walang himala…nasa puso…nasa tao ang himala!” - Elsa

Conclusion: Our exercises showed one clear proof. In order for an artist to remained famous and maintained longevity, one must be willing to adapt, learned from the craft and jumped into an unfamiliar territory by accepting challenging roles. Nora Aunor have restricted herself to roles that will typecasted her into one type of roles, that of the “api-apihan” roles. Vilma on the other hand, learned from the very beginning that in order for her to survive the tough competition she have to accept challenging daring roles that will ask her to attack roles out of her comfort zone.

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