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 versus 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.
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 versus 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 Checks – 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 versus 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 Checks – 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 Results – Surprisingly, Vilma wins again. Vilma 9, Nora 2 – To be continued…
Official Web-site: Vilma Santos Recto
Official Web-site: Nora Aunor ICON
Facebook: Vilma Santos Recto
Facebook: Nora Aunor
Wikipedia: Vilma Santos
Wikipedia: Nora Aunor
Superstar Nora Aunor
Star For All Seasons Vilma Santos
Nora Aunor Film Actress
Vilma Santos Film Actress
And God Smiled at Me vs. Dama de Noche
Vilma-Nora Then, Nora-Vilma Now
Will Vilma Santos do a Nora Aunor?
A Tale of Two Movie Queens
About “Larawan” and Nick Joaquin
T-Bird at Ako (1982) (Video)