An eye for an eye. Is that biblical? For Vilmanians and Noranians seeing mano de mano is like a historical task. Point by point everyone will fight. Awards to awards, acting to acting, talent to talent. If Nora has three consecutive FAP, Vilma has three consecutive URIAN. If Nora sings, Vilma dance…and so on… for Vilma and Nora’s fans the comparison never ends with statistics. It’s the experiences. Like being part of a boxing matches.
For many Nora Aunor fans, Ate Guy is a picture of a conservative, traditional, restrained- trained artist (just like Lolita Rodriguez). For them, Nora is the ultimate performer. For many Vilma Santos fans, Ate Vi is picture of a liberal, feminist, method-trained artist (just like Charito Solis). For them, Vilma is the ultimate performer. Can we find some solution to figure out who is the ultimate winner that is if this is a boxing match? How many rounds before we can proclaim a winner? What are the boxing rules that we should follow? And what is the reward? Perhaps the title, the best actress of all time? For Vilmanians, the clear winner is Vilma Santos. No doubt. Vilma remained to be an important player in the entertainment industry. Projects lined-up, waiting for her availability. She also stacked up so many honors from getting a doctorate degree to a prestigious Gawad Plaridel to the latest title of “woman of style and substance.” She is indeed the clear winner. For Noranians, being abroad have its disadvantages. Nora continued her controversial stay in the United States with the issues regarding the discovery of her past marriage records in Las Vegas. This was in addition to her completion of the drug rehabilitation program imposed to her in exchange of the dropping of drug possession charge against her. Noranians admitted that her career is currently in downside despite the two digital films she has completed in the past year. So career wise, Vilma Santos remained on top of her game while clearly Nora Aunor’s fame diminished as she retired in foreign country. We have clear winner then but what is the point of this article? Well, let us bring the past and reminisces the once competitive bout of the two hottest actress Philippine cinema ever produced, Vilma Santos and Nora Aunor.
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.
Atsay versus Anak – Mario Bautista pointed out in his movie review of “Atsay” (Philippine Daily Express, 1978) that Nora Aunor’s performance: “…bears the distinct marks of style and self, welding character and personality. As Nelia, the atsay, she delivers a muted performance that successfully treads the thin, delicate line separating genuine sentiment and mawkishness.”
In 1978, you will not imagine Vilma Santos plays an “Atsay” which could also be said to Nora Aunor, her fans will not imagine Nora played a burlesk dancer or spoiled socialite. After 22 years, fans of Nora Aunor were surprised to find out Vilma Santos played the typical role that’s been identified to Nora. That is the role of an “atsay” or maid or in modern day term, domestic helper of “DH” in short.
And surprise, surprise, Mario Bautista, the same critic who praised Nora’s performance in Atsay was equally convinced of the Vilma’s performance in Anak. And he wrote: “…(Anak) belongs to Vilma, who goes through an entire spectrum of varied emotions as Josie, mula sa katuwaan at excitement niya sa pagbabalik sa Pilipinas (natural na natural ‘yung pagiging aligaga niya habang namamahagi ng pasalubong sa mga anak niya), ang disappointment niya nang matanto niyang hindi na niya kilala ang mga batang binalikan niya, hanggang sa finally ay sumambulat siya sa tagpong pinagsasampal na rin niya si Claudine at pinalalayas. It’s a bravura sequence and the performance is magnificent.”
Atsay was shown in the 1978 Metro Manila Film Festival. The film was a mild hit despite Nora Aunor being proclaimed as the best performer defeating Vilma’s Rubia Servios. Nora didn’t win any awards for Atsay after the controversial wins over Vilma. Anak on the other hand was 2000’s box office record holder. The film also earned Vilma best actress awards from PMPC’s Star Awards and Pasado awards.
Switcheroo – If we switched roles, Vilma Santos would look awkward if she played the role of Nelia in Atsay in 1978. That is not because she was incapable of doing so but because of her youthful look. But what about Nora playing Josie Agbisit in 2000’s Anak? We are sure that Nora will also excel as Josie but would the film be a box office hit? I doubt it.
Reality Checks – Vilma convincingly did a typical Nora Aunor roles in Anak. She proves that she is indeed the most versatile actress we have right now. And that there’s no role that she can’t do justice. Nora can excel acting wise if she did Anak but we are convinced she can’t replicate the box office results that Vilma can do. This is in consideration of the dismal box office results Nora’s past four films prior to year 2000.
Nora Aunor as Cora De La Cruz in Minsa’y Isang Gamo Gamo delivered her famous legendary line: “My brother is Not a Pig!” Nicanor G. Tiongson, one of Aunor’s original drumbeaters wrote in The Philippines Daily Express in 1976 wrote: “Once again, Nora Aunor proves herself to be one of the finest actresses today, with an acting style that is both “raw” and “fine” characterized by a disarming sincerity and force, that can break into an unbelievable number of nuances, shades and colors of emotion. Outstanding is her court scene where her face registers a gamut of emotions — from anger to confusion to depression and despair — in the pace of ten seconds. Like a mature actress, she does not attack dramatic scenes with histrionics or hysteria. Over her brother’s coffin, she curses the Americans who came to pay her family off by screaming “My brother is not a pig” over and over again with mounting intensity.” Despite the praise for Nora’s wonderful performance by many critics, she didn’t win any award for this role.
The following year, it was Vilma Santos turned. As Chato, Vilma Santos gave us one of the most compelling performance of her long stellar career in Burlesk Queen. Ricardo Lee, the writer, interviewed the director Celso Ad Castillo in an article for the Manila Magazine in 1977. Castillo pointed out that all Vilma’s highlights scenes were take one. Her scenes in the hospital with Leopoldo were shot continuously and that Vilma was so good that even Leopoldo can’t controlled his tears. And Leopoldo was supposed to be dead in this scene. Vilma convincingly won the judges’ vote as she won the film festival’s best actress award as Burlesk was entered in the 1977 Metro Manila Film Festival. The film won 10 out of 13 awards that created huge complaints from the other films entered. Burlesk never replicate it’s achievements from the festival jurors as the film was ignored by the other award giving bodies. The sole consolation by Burlesk’s supporter was the box office results of the film. It became the top grosser of the festival.
If Nora produced one of her most memorable lines in 1976 via Minsa’y Isang Gamo-gamo, Vilma on the other hand, created one of the most graphic scenes in the history of Philippine cinema, that’s the ending scene of her Burlesk Queen where she danced away until she bleeds (intended to be an abortion attempt) to her unfortunate demised.
Switcheroo – If we switched roles, will Nora and Vilma give us the milestone performances we witnessed? Will Vilma Santos played more intensely as a nurse in a rural area near the military bases in Pampangga than Nora in Minsan Isang Gamo-gamo? She will indeed be more like Kapangpangan because of her fair complexion. A well-known Kapangpangan physical traits. Given the fact that prior to Burlesk Queen the most serious roles she has done was Castillo’s Tag-ulan Sa Tag-araw and Bernal’s Nag-aapoy na Damdamin, Vilma would definitely do well as Cora De Cruz. The question now is would Nora be physically ready to play the demand of the role of Chato in Burlesk Queen? Acting wise, she would be as intense as Vilma but the role would probably not fit her physically. If the role were given to Nora would she be willing to do the strip tease dances. Would she be willing to show some skin. Despite the fact that the role is not as vulgar as what might the title implied, Burlesk Queen would be too daring for Nora’s image and she would have no guts to play such role.
Reality Checks – Vilma will convincingly play the Kapangpangan Cora De La Cruz. By 1976, Vilma was riped to play an important role and if she did Minsa’y Isang Gamo-gamo, she will equally be convincing as Nora. Nora on the other hand, will be akward to play Chato in Burlesk Queen. The physicality of the role would also play an important factor which will result of her being out of place that is if she plays the role of Chato in Burlesk Queen.
Rubia Servios versus Ina Ka Ng Anak Mo – 1979 produced an incredible collaboration films. Drama queens of yesteryears teamed up with the reigning queens. Vilma Santos did Modelong Tanso with Charito Solis and Nora Aunor did Ina Ka ng Anak mo with Lolita Rodriguez. We all know what the outcome of the films was. Vilma and Chato were satisfied with the box office results of their tandem while Nora and Lolita were happy with their critical results.
Ina Ka Ng Anak Mo directed by Lino Brocka was indeed the better project than Modelong Tanso. Nora once again gave us her famous three syllables line: “hayuuuuppp… Hayuuuupppp… Hayuuuupppp!” Isagani Cruz summed up her performance in his TV Times review: “…Filipino movies are nothing if they do not have confrontations and Ina Ka ng Anak Mo has one confrontation after another. The best one occurs when Aunor sees Rodriguez and the baby for the first time. Aunor silently moves from shock to hurt to rage to hysterics. The scene is spoiled only at the end, when she bursts out that she will see the pair in court; in the heat of such passion, no Filipina will think of impersonal legal proceedings. More characteristic would have been a search for a weapon or for an exit door…Brocka specializes in acting vehicles. Aunor clearly deserves the Best Actress Award. In fact, she deserves it more than Rodriguez, if only because she is younger and has less experience. Before Ina Ka Ng Anak Mo, only Charito Solis could stand up to Rodriguez; now Aunor is on par with both veteran actresses.”
A year before Nora bursted out with her now famous three syllable lines: “hayup, hayuup, hayuuup” Vilma cried out the same line with more anguish in her most demanding role as a rape victim in 1978’s Rubia Servios. Co-incidentally, both Ina Ka Ng Anak Mo and Rubia Servios were directed by Lino Brocka. The failure of Rubia to win Vilma an acting recognition at the hands of the most successful acting director, Brocka was perhaps the most disappointing anecdote in Vilma career and perhaps Brocka’s too.
Ricky Lo’s article titled “Vilma’s Violation” summed-up Vilma’s fans’ perception of her performance: “…The anguish in Vilma’s face and the lust in Philip’s eyes blended so well the effect was dramatic rather than sensual….The real climax of the film, however, is the killing of Philip by Vilma with a paddle aboard a motorboat at sea. Lino Brocka, who directs Vilma for the first time, succeeded in muffling her sobs even in the most hysterical moments…” The climax scene he mentioned here was the scene where she uttered the lines: “hayup… hayuup… hayuuup!”
Switcheroo – If we switched roles, will Vilma be convincing as the daughter of Lolita Rodriguez in Ina Ka Ng Anak Mo? Remember Vilma played Lolita’s daughter in several dramatic films in the 60s. And Vilma admitted that Lolita was one of her early influence when it comes to acting. It is fare enough to say that if Vilma can hold herself when comes to acting with the intensity of a Charito Solis she would be able to stand her ground too with the likes of Lolita Rodriguez. She has done so in her films in the 60s and she will pass with flying colors if she did Ina Ka Ng Anak Mo instead of Nora.
On the other hand, would Nora Aunor be as convincing as Vilma in Rubia Servios? Again, the roles demands physicality. Will Nora Aunor eat her guts out and performed like Vilma? As Rubia she will require to be raped by Philip Salvador twice. Would Nora be as prepared as Vilma to play an object of affection of an obsessed rapist? I doubt if she will be able to convince us with the demand of such role.
Reality Checks – Vilma will hold her ground if she will be given a chance to do Ina Ka Ng Anak Mo against the dramatic legend, Lolita Rodriguez. Considering the fact that both have worked together in several dramatic films in the 60s. Meanwhile Nora Aunor will be out of place if she plays the role of a rape victim in Rubia Servios.
Boxing Results – Vilma 3, Nora 0 – 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)