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….
Sister Stella L versus Himala – Why Himala versus Sister Stella L (instead of Himala versus Relasyon)? Well, I believe they’re match in terms of the seriousness of the projects. Both were directed by a serious director who in 1982 and 1984 were both at their peaks of their careers. Both also earned their leading actress only one award each. Both didn’t fare well at the box office. But lastly, both films did well in the international scenes.
Sister Stella L was invited to Cannes but due technical shortcomings it wasn’t shown in there but at the equally prestigious Venice Film Festival. Himala on the other hand graced the international scene via our very own Manila International Film Festival under the Marcos administration. The dismal box office result of Sister Stella L were compensated by its critical achievements. In Urian alone, it earned 10 awards including a best actress nod to Vilma Santos, completing her three-year consecutive wins. Meanwhile after the success of Himala in the local festival that earned Nora a best actress award, Himala was relegated to runner up as another ECP film, “Oro, Plata, Mata” amassed its rightful honors as the best film of 1982. For many critics, Himala was maybe one of the most underrated film and they gave the film its rightful recognition by recognizing it as one of the best in 80s.
One of the Manunuri critics, Alfred A. Yuson, in his Philippine Daily Express article in 1983 summed-up Nora’s performance as follows: “Nora Aunor is perfect as Elsa; she leaves nothing to be desired in her interiorization and delivery…The brilliant Aunor gets all the solid backing she can ever get, this time from an array of supporters drawn mostly from the Bulwagang Gantimpala stable…”
Next is Vilma, Alice G. Guillermo in her article titled “More than just entertainment” for Who Magazine dated 30 May 1984 chronicled Vilma’s performance as: “..For a heart-warming film, the entire cast deserves congratulations, particularly Vilma Santos who reveals another aspect of her multi-faceted talent. From her usual soft and sweet romantic roles, she can be transformed into a strong and militant woman without losing any of her charm and beauty…”
In 1982, Nora Aunor was conditioned to make some dents in the award giving seasons and yet she went empty handed every time the awards nights were held. The gigantic role as Elsa was slingshot by a tiny film ironically performed
by her rival. Another ironic note was that the film that defeated Himala, Relasyon was also directed by the same director, Bernal.
It was worth the wait for Vilma, her disappointments from previous years of neglect from the award giving bodies were now all gone. She earned her first best actress grand slam. Nora’s “goliath” kind of performance as Elsa reached its match by the “davidian” typed of performance of Vilma in Relasyon. And this adds intensity to the defeats, the wounds. Noranian will never admit the enourmosity of these defeats. This is for the fact that Himala was considered one of the biggest film of 1982 again next to Oro Plata Mata. And that Relasyon is not even at the same league at least in the eyes of Noranians.
As fair as we can be, we accepted the fact that Relasyon wasn’t matched with the scope of Himala. And so I decided to match Himala with Sister Stella L. In 1984, Vilma Santos has arrived in the big-time, A-1 league of fine acting. This was despite her earlier history of dramatic excellence, as a child actress and a teenage supporting actress. Her experiences in getting empty handed come awards nights have evaporated. She became the darling of the awards nights starting from her first grand slam wins. This will confirmed by her three consecutive wins from the critics den, the Gawad Urian. Sister Stella L gave her so much consolation from its dismal box office returns that tainted her illustrious records as the most bankable actress of the 80s. In 1984 URIAN, her most stiff competitions came from the performances of her closest rival, again Nora in two films, Merika and Bulaklak Ng City Jail. And from many awards aficionado, it was a matter of split votes that’s why Nora didn’t win. Nora will win the very first PMPC Star Awards for Merika but in the local critic’s eyes, Vilma’s deep transformation from a blatant observer to a pro-active activist nun was the best of all-best in 1984.
Switcheroo – If we switched roles, Nora Aunor as Sister Stella L and Vilma Santos as Elsa…hmmm we all know that both are well equipped, acting wise and so it is not hard for us to say that both can do justice with each roles. We have seen Nora as a nun in one of her forgettable film in the 70s titled Fe, Esperanza, Caridad. The segment where she played the nun being tempted by the devil played by Ronaldo Valdez was directed by Gerry DeLeon. It was not the serious typed SSL project but a horror experiment. Nora looks comfortable as a nun in Fe, Esperanza, Caridad but would she visibly transformed her looks from innocence to militancy as Sister Stella? It is hard to answer. We are used to see Vilma as SSL. It will be 50-50.
Then Vilma as Elsa. Elsa is a probinsiyana, a devoted Catholic who became a ritualistic faith healer. Would Vilma’s fresh face and urbanites physicality be a barrier for her to do the Elsa role? Remember this is 1982. The answer would be yes but this can be remedied by make-up and proper attire. Bernal have deglamorized Vilma before like in Broken Marriage, no make-up with plain clothes resulted in her effective portrayal of a woman who find herself difficulty balancing career with family life.
The problem arised as like Vilma in SSL, we all identified Elsa with Nora. It is hard for us to imagine Vilma in it. But like I’ve said, proper costumes and make-up and the excellent motivation from Bernal will not stop Vilma to do justice to the role of Elsa. And same can be said with Nora as Sister Stella L.
Reality Checks – We identified Elsa in Himala to Nora Aunor and Sister Stella in Sister Stella L to Vilma Santos. It is hard for someone to see them switched roles but with the technical guidance of Bernal and DeLeon the film directors of the respective films, both Santos and Aunor would undoubtedly do justice to each roles.
Vilma’s urbanites beauty and fresh face in 1982 would not prevent her to do justice to the Elsa role. Her acting technique was in full bloom in 1982. It would be amazing to see how she will attack the role. Nora’s ordinary beauty that the mass can identified will bring different take as SSL. It would be amazing too to see how she will tackle the transformation
that Vilma gave us on screen.
Boxing Results – Nora as SSL – yes it can be achieved. Vilma as Elsa, absolutely. It’s a tie. Vilma 4, Nora 1
Flor Contemplacion Story versus Dahil Mahal kita: the Dolzura Cortez Story – Now let’s take on two true to life films. The social relevance of both Dolzura and Flor was as intense as the performances of the lead actress portraying the lives of these true to life women.
Dolzura’s life as the first publicly known Aids victim in the Philippines was important because of its social message she wanted to conveyed to her fellow countrymen and the promotion of safer sex. Flor’s life on the other hand opened our eyes about the hardship many overseas worker faces in foreign lands.
Both films earned Vilma and Nora critical acclaims. Vilma won her second grand slam best actresses and Nora her first grand slam best actresses with a bonus of her first International recognition from the Cairo International Film Festival.
Emmanuel Levy in his Variety magazine article wrote in 1995: “Aunor invests her role with powerful emotions and utmost conviction, showing how a humble, self-sacrificing mother became a victim of corruption and abuse — and later, a national symbol adored by her countrymen…” The critics, URIAN, couldn’t agree more. They gave Aunor their best actress although she shared the best actress award with Helen Gamboa in ironically for the same story in Bagong Bayani OCW. Aunor will eventually wins solo in Film Academy of the Phils., Star Awards, Young Critics Circle and because she’s already a hall of famer at Famas, she was given a consolation honor via FAMAS Circle of Excellence.
Levy also wrote: “The Flor Contemplacion Story” is an often stirring re-creation of the true-life story of a Filipino maid who was executed in Singapore in 1995 for allegedly killing a co-worker and a young boy. A strong performance by movie star Nora Aunor dominates the film, which is at once a touching family saga and a forceful look at social injustice. However,
unrestrained melodramatics and excessive running time undermine overall impact of a story whose facts are still in dispute. Extreme poverty and an accompanying sense of hopelessness have driven many Filipinos out of their country, seeking employment abroad. The plight of women employed as domestic workers has been a major problem, with many reportedly suffering torture, rape and other abuse from their masters. A devoted mother of four, Flor Contemplacion (Aunor) went to Singapore to work as a maid, where her employers treated her fairly. However, in March 1995, she was arrested and hanged for allegedly murdering another maid, Delia Maga (Amy Austria), and the Singaporean boy Delia
was taking care of. Framed as a mystery, the tale uses flashbacks that not only enrich the story, but successfully move the film beyond a case of social outrage into a heart-wrenching exploration of women’s inferiority in a patriarchal system. Indeed, Flor’s long absences from home drove her weak hubby Efren (Julio Diaz) into an open relationship with a mistress and forced her two older children into early marriages. In one of the film’s many touching scenes, Flor visits her family, but she can’t distinguish between her twins. According to the film, there’s no doubt that Flor was innocent and that her confession was obtained through physical torment. The picture offers political background that implicates the Philippine government with cruel negligence and incompetence in the case.
For giving Vilma her second grand slam wins, Dolzura Cortez’ most relevant exposure was it’s universal appeal to promote safer sex. The film was featured in You and Aids web-site in their arts cape section. Although the web-site didn’t mentioned about the excellent performance Vilma gave us, it mentioned about the films synopsis with some accuracy: “This Philippine drama chronicles the colorful life of Dolzura Cortez, the first publicly recognized AIDS patient in the Philippines . The film begins with a brief examination of Cortez’s pre-AIDS life. Initially she lived in a small village with her cruel husband and three kids. The spunky woman leaves them and moves to the big city where she engages in several affairs. Her second marriage to a rich foreigner does not last long. To support her children, Dolly begins an all woman “contract worker” agency. This also serves to facilitate her love of night-life. Tragedy comes to Dolzura after she collapses on a dance floor one night and learns that she has full-blown AIDS. At a Manila hospital she meets ex-lover Paulo, an AIDS researcher who encourages to tell her story publicly. The courageous woman does and she becomes instrumental in spreading AIDS awareness to the islands…It was the first movie on AIDS in the Philippines that provided ‘a name and a face’ among the 50 recorded lives that were lost to AIDS in 1992. This movie was utilized as a focus of discussion by some health care personnel to express their thoughts, opinions and recommendations regarding the use of cinema as a powerful tool for AIDS information dissemination.”
Switcheroo – We have to be clear here. Both Vilma and Nora didn’t look like Flor and Dolzura in real life. Well, Dolzura and Vilma both have fair skin and petite but that’s all the similarities. Flor and Nora has no similarities in physical features.
It was worth noting that Flor story doesn’t end with this film alone. Her story was similarly penned in Helen Gamboa’s Bagong Bayani and the forgettable film by Elizabeth Oropeza. All of these films didn’t put any physical resemblance to the real life Flor Contemplacion. So, I came to a conclusion that if we switched roles, physical resemblances would not be a big issue.
As we all know Vilma played convincingly a role identified with Nora in Anak. Five years earlier, will Vilma be able to play Flor Contemplacion, a maid in a foreign land? No doubt. Her maturity was all in full displayed in Dolzura Cortez.
In 1995 Nora Aunor’s career has been in decline. Prior to Flor, she did only four films all become failures in the box office. All she needed was a big comeback. And she did it via Flor Contemplacion. Will she able to do justice if she did Dolzura Cortez in 1993? Acting wise, it will be a gutsy move. The film will require her to play a woman who enjoys sex, a sex club owner. Will she be able to do justice to all sex scenes finally getting rid of her virginal image? A question we asked a number of times now
Reality Checks – Sex and Nora Aunor. It’s like water and oil. It doesn’t mix well. Dolzura’s life was full of sex related issues – prostitution, unsafe sex, relationships, poverty. Nora Aunor has the acting equipment to do justice for such role but her image and limitation to jump into an unknown territory always prevented her to do other types of roles. Vilma on the other hand embraced challenges. She will be tested if she’ll do the Flor role. And she will passed the test with flying colors!
Boxing Results Vilma 5, Nora 1 – Nora as Dolzura will be a challenge, a no-no to her restricted image. Vilma on the other hand will jumped into the challenges of becoming Flor. Vilma wins. To be continued…
IMDB: Nora Aunor
IMDB: Vilma Santos
Official Web-site: Vilma Santos Recto
Official Web-site: Nora Aunor ICON
Facebook: Vilma Santos Recto
Facebook: Nora Aunor
Nora & Vilma No Longer a Rivalry (a special magazine)
Boxing Matches 1/7
Vilmanians and Noranians Surveyed
About “Larawan” and Nick Joaquin
Nora at Vilma sa Gitna ng Basura
Very Long Rivalry (Repost)
Sino ba talaga ang mas mahusay umarte, si Vilma o si Nora?
May be the Philippines’ best film actress of all time 1/3
Vilma-Nora Then, Nora-Vilma Now (Repost)