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. The final bout…
Relasyon versus 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 Checks – 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 Results – In our final bout, Vilma knocked out Nora by a landslide. Vilma 12, Nora 2
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.
“Kung hindi tayo kikilos, kalian pa? Kung hindi ngayon, kalian pa?”
“Walang himala…nasa puso…nasa tao ang himala!”
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)