Vilma Santos’ triumph as Best Actress – for Mano Po 3 (My Love) – at the Metro Manila Film Festival in December 2004 parallels her greatest rival Nora Aunor’s similar feat at the Manila Film Festival last June, where Nora won for Naglalayag. So it goes without saying Nora and Vilma will once again be major contenders for the top acting honors in this year’s awards season. Nora, for the Maryo J. delos Reyes opus in which she portrayed a lady judge who fell in love with a man half her age; while Vilma, for Joel Lamangan’s romance-drama about a Chinese anti-crime crusader torn between her family and a past love. Nora versus Vilma. Their acting duel is never ending. All these years, their fight for the Best Actress plum in practically all the local award-giving bodies has been much anticipated since.
1972 – 1975
1972 – At the Quezon City Film Festival, then held every October, Nora’s entry was Sampaguita Pictures’ And God Smiled At Me (directed by Tony Cayado and Danny Holmsen); while Vilma’s banner vehicle was Tagalog Ilang-Ilang Productions’ Dama de Noche (directed by Emmanuel H. Borlaza). And the winner was Nora! May die-hard Vilmanian kaming kaklase sa elementary, ang sabi: ‘Luto ‘yun, dahil malapit si Nora kay QC Mayor Norberto Amoranto!” Such loose talks were never confirmed to be true. Or as Tempo’s veteran movie columnist Ronald K. Constantino avers, ‘Nora never figured in any awards scam!”
1973 – Sa annual Filipino Academy of Movie Arts and Sciences (FAMAS) Awards Night, it was the Vilmanians’ turn to rejoice. Vi was ad-judged Best Actress for Dama de Noche, ka-tie ni Boots Anson-Roa (for JE Productions’ Augusto Buenaventura megger Tatay Na Si Erap). Nora wasn’t nominated for her award-winning starrer at the QC filmfest, but for The Gift of Love kung saan siya gumanap ng dual role: bilang isang cancer-stricken patient at ang kakambal na eventually ay napunta kay Tirso Cruz III. Dama de Noche, which paired Vi with Edgar Mortiz, also had her doing two parts: a baliw and a sane sister.
1974 – 1975
In the succeeding years, nagkatunggali sina Nora at Vilma, mainly for box-office supremacy. May point na parehong box-office hit ang mga pelikula nina Nora (her own NV Productions’ Banaue) at Vilma (Nakakahiya? for Virgo Films), at nagkalaban sila for Best Actress sa Bacolod City Film Festival in 1975. Si Vilma ang nanalo para sa dinirek ni Eddie Rodriguez (a.k.a. Luis Enriquez), but Nora’s entry – helmed by Gerry de Leon – won as Best Picture. In 1974, Nora did a major dramatic trilogy for Premiere Productions: Fe, Esperanza, Caridad, which was handled by Cirio Santiago, Lamberto V. Avellana and Gerry de Leon. (Avellana and de Leon were to be honored as National Artists for Film in the years to come.) Nora won a FAMAS Best Actress nomination for Fe, Esperanza, Caridad; tulad sa ibang pelikula na nagpamalas siya ng potential bilang mahusay na aktres early on, such as George Rowe’s Paruparong Itim in 1973. Nora, as a deaf-mute blind woman, was beaten by Gloria Sevilla (for Gimingaw Ako, a Visayan movie). Ang notable performances ni Vilma Santos that time were in TIIP films: Biktima and Karugtong Ang Kahapon (by Borlaza), na entries sa MFF in 1974 and the 1st Metro Manila Film Festival in September 1975.
a 1st MMFF, Nora’s entry, NV Productions’ Batu-Bato sa Langit (directed by Luciano B. Carlos), was a blockbuster and won as 3rd Best Picture. Kapwa na-hone ang acting potentials nina Guy at Vi (sa tulong din ng kanilang TV drama anthologies – Ang Makulay na Daigdig ni Norang RPN 9 at Dulambuhay ni Rosa Vilma ng BBC 2 – pero sige pa rin ang paggawa nila ng mga pelikulang komersyal dahil sila ang mga reyna ng takilya noon.
Nagkakalaban pa rin sina Nora at Vilma sa FAMAS, pero kapwa sila talunan. Especially Vilma, who didn’t win another FAMAS Best Actress trophy until 1982 (with Elwood Perez’s 1981 megger Pakawalan Mo Ako). In 1976, Nora Aunor’s “landmark performance ” in Mario O’Hara’s Tatlong Taong Walang Diyos won nods from the FAMAS voters as well as from the Gawad Urian critic-jurors bilang Best Actress. Hindi si Vilma ang naging mahigpit na kalaban ni Nora, kundi si Hilda Koronel (for Lino Brocka’s Insiang). Sa MMFF in December 1976, si Hilda ang Best Actress, but Nora’s performance in Lupita Kashiwahara’s Minsa’y Isang Gamugamo was equally acclaimed by the critics. (Minsa’y…won as FAMAS Best Picture in 1977.) It was the first year of the Gawad Urian (organized by film critics collectively known as the Manunuri ng Pelikulang Pilipino), at si Nora ang nag-buena-mano as Best Actress. Henceforth, hindi na lamang ang FAMAS ang kinilalang tagapagbigay-parangal sa industriya ng pelikulang lokal. Sa mga sumunod na taon, dumami ang award-giving body sa movie industry. Bukod dito, ang mga filmfest sa iba’t ibang siyudad outside Metro Manila; like in Davao City, where Nora Aunor once won as Best Actress for Tito Sanchez’s Ibilanggo si Neneng Magtanggol.
In 1977, it was apparent that the actress in Vilma Santos fully emerged when she won the MMFF Best Actress award for the controversial Celso Ad Castillo period drama Burlesk Queen. Unfortunately, her winning was marred by nasty talks (na kesyo binawi ang mga napanalunan ng pelikula, including Vi’s trophy or medallion.) It seems nakaapekto ‘yun sa awarding na pambuong taon: at the FAMAS, Vilma lost to Susan Roces (for Maligno, also by Castillo); and, at the Gawad Urian, to Daria Ramirez (for Eddie Romero’s Sino ’ng Kapiling, Sino’ng Kasiping?). As for Nora Aunor, matapos ang grand entrance niya sa big league bilang major award-winning actress (with a double victory, unmatched at the time), isang actionromance- drama ang kanyang nagging panlaban: Augusto Buenaventura’s Bakya Mo Neneng, which paired her off with Tirso Cruz III and Joseph Estrada. The film won as Best Picture sa FAMAS. Nora’s and Vilma’s starrers were big moneymakers at the 1977 MMFF.
1978, Sa dinami-dami ng natamong karangalan nina Vilma Santos at Nora Aunor, interesting point of discussion pa rin among their followers ang nangyaring acting duel nila in the 1978 MMFF. Vilma was handled for the first time by Lino Brocka in Rubia Servios, produced by Sampaguita-VP Pictures. Vi enacted a rape victim na naghiganti sa kanyang rapist (Phillip Salvador) at napawalang-sala. On the other hand, Nora had Eddie Garcia for her director in Atsay, a serious look on housemaids, as written by the award-winning Edgardo M. Reyes and lensed by ace cinematographer Romeo Vitug. Sa MMFF that year, walang ibang acting category na mapapagwagian maliban sa Best Performer award, na si Nora ang nagwagi. “The triumph of restrained acting!” ayon sa sumunod na ulat matapos ang Gabi ng Parangal. All the while, perhaps almost everyone thought it would be Vilma Santos who’d get the award, dahil si Brocka na ang director niya. May talk show (the late Inday Badiday’s Would You Believe?) na sadyang iniangat ang pag-asa at pag-asam ni Vi na siya ang mananalo. At the awards night, papasok pa lang daw si Vi sa CCP Main Theater (venue ng rites), nilapitan agad siya ni Marichu “Manay Ichu” Perez-Maceda (her producer, na kabilang sa MMFF committee) and whispered: “I’m sorry, Vi, it’s not for you …” Nag-stay si Vi hanggang matapos ang ceremonies; nakipalakpak siya when her rival was declared winner. Katabi niya sa upuan si Christopher de Leon (Garrotte: Jai Alai King), who also lost. Ayon sa grapevine, naglasing si Vilma sa tindi ng siphayo. “Ang sakit, Manay!” Vi reportedly told Ichu, who also produced many of Nora’s earlier movies which made millions of pesos. In the Gawad Urian and FAMAS, naparangalan naman si Vilma, bilang producer ng Pagputi ng Uwak, Pag-Itim ng Tagak which won as Best Picture. That year, mayroong pinagsamahang movie since Nora at Vilma, TIIP’s Ikaw Ay Akin na dinirek ni Ishmael Bernal, for which they were both Best Actress nominees at the Urian, but lost to Beth Bautista (for Danny Zialcita’s Hindi sa Iyo ang Mundo, Babyb Porcuna). Sa FAMAS, hindi rin para kina Vi (Pagputi) at Nora (Atsay) ang Best Actress statuette, kundi kay Susan Roces (for Brocka’s gothic drama Gumising Ka … Maruja!). Fair enough?
1979 – 81
In 1979, 1980 and 1981, kapwa maningning ang mga pangalan nina Nora Aunor at Vilma Santos bilang box-office stars at awardwinning actresses. Pero hindi kahigpitan ang labanan nila sa iba’t ibang parangal. May panahong nananalo si Nora na ibang aktres ang mahigpit na kalaban; ganu’n din si Vilma. Nang ma-handle si Nora ni Brocka (in 1979’s Ina Ka ng Anak Mo, produced by Premiere Productions and written by Jose Dalisay Jr.), she was pitted with the formidable Lolita Rodriguez and it was to Nora’s credit na pumantay siya sa parangal – bilang MMFF Best Actress.
Sa 1979 FAMAS, Nora bested Lolita, who, with her performance in Brocka’s Tinimbang Ka Ngunit Kulang, beat Aunor in 1974. Ang “katapat” ng Nora-Lolita duo ay ang acting tandem nina Vilma Santos at Charito Solis in Bancom Audiovision’s Modelong Tanso, directed by Cirio Santiago. Sa 1979 Gawad Urian, it was neither Nora nor Lolita as Best Actress; the award instead went to Charito Solis for Brocka’s Ina, Kapatid, Anak.
In 1980, tatlong pelikula ni Nora Aunor ang maituturing na panlaban: two by Brocka (Nakaw na Pag-ibig and Bona) and the other by Laurice Guillen, Lea Productions’ Kung Ako’y Iiwan Mo. She won the Gawad Urian for Bona. Ang panlaban ni Vilma was Zialcita’s Langis at Tubig. Hindi taon ni Vilma ang 1980, which saw the emergence of other young and talented actresses like Gina Alajar (Brutal), naka-tie ni Nora sa Urian, and Amy Austria, na tumalo kay Aunor sa Metro Manila Film Festival. In the 1980 MMFF, Amy won with a lone entry – Brutal – while Nora got nominated for Bona and Kung Ako’y Iiwan Mo. (A case of split votes.) Sa 1980 Gawad Urian, nominated sina Nora, Gina (eventual winners) at Amy, samantalang si Vilma was “snubbed by the critics.” In 1981, nanalong MMFF Best Actress si Vilma for Zialcita’s Karma, besting Nora’s multi-character portrayal in Maryo J. delos Reyes’ musical-drama Rock ‘N Roll. Vi, however, failed to win any other nomination for that starrer, while Nora went on to win a trophy (Catholic Mass Media Awards) and Best Actress nomination (Gawad Urian) for Mario O’Hara’s Bakit Bughaw ang Langit?
1982, Nauso ang so-called Grand Slam Best Actress in 1983, nang manalo si Vilma Santos for Ishmael Bernal’s Relasyon. That 1982 film was a small, low-budget drama of a husband and his mistress. Nag-hit ang tandem nina Vi at Christopher de Leon, starting in 1978, with Sampaguita Pictures’ Masarap … Masakit ang Umibig and Nakawin Natin ang Bawat Sandali (both by Elwood Perez), after their first pair-up in Celso Ad Castillo’s 1975 romance-drama Tag-Ulan sa Tag-Araw. For Relasyon, Vilma won as Best Actress sa CMMA, Gawad Urian, FAMAS and the debuting Film Academy of the Philippines (FAP) Awards. Maging sa “minor” parangal, like the TV show Let’s Talk Movies ng RPN 9 (hosted by Armida Siguion Reyna, Behn Cervantes and Mario Bautista), si Vilma rin ang Best Actress for the Regal Films drama. With Nora Aunor as Vilma’s main competitor, it was an interesting, but utterly disappointing, acting duel. Sa FAMAS, Nora got nominated for Romy Suzara’s Mga Uod at Rosas – and lost. Sa ibang award-giving bodies, isang malaking pelikula at pagganap ni Nora – sa Himala, as the visionary Elsa – ang natalo kay Vilma. The Ishmael Bernal opus was produced by the Marcos government-established Experimental Cinema of the Philippines (ECP). Some were of the opinion na may bahagi ng pulitika sa pagkatalo ni Nora; marami raw sa movie industry ang anti-administration, kabilang ang sympathizers ng Free the Artists Movement na anti-censors. May malaking rally noon na hindi dinaluhan ni Nora, samantalang nakiisa sa protesta si Vilma. Gayon man, may parangal na natamo si Nora para sa Himala: the 1982 MMFF Best Actress, where it won 9 out of 13 awards, including Best Direction and Best Picture. Naging opening Film ang Himala sa 1983 Manila International Film Festival – organized by then First Lady Imelda Romualdez-Marcos – at inilahok sa Berlin International Film Festival in February 1983. Ayon kay Bernal, Nora lost in Berlin to a Russian actress by a mere vote. Sa 7th Gawad Urian in 1983, nominated in almost all major and minor categories ang Himala but never won a single award. Ilang taon ang lumipas, sa tuwing titingnan ko ang Honor Roll ng Manunuri sa ipinamamahaging souvenir program, sadyang “walang Himala” na nagtamo ng parangal. But in 2002, sa 25th year ng Gawad Urian, kabilang ang Himala sa Pinakamahuhusay (Best Films of the past three decades) na naparangalan, with Nora Aunor personally receiving the overdue award para sa isang totoong klasikong pelikulang Pilipino. At bigla ngang naghimala ang Himala!
1983, Noong 1983 at 1984, nagkalaban uli sina Vilma at Nora, with Vi getting an edge. Bernal’s Broken Marriage won Vi her second Urian trophy, while Nora didn’t get a nomination (“Nora Out,” ayon sa introduction ng Highspeed column ni Ronald K. Constantino tungkol sa pagkaka-release ng Urian nominees for that year.) May drama starrer si Nora in 1983: Maryo J. delos Reyes’ Minsan, May Isang Ina, for which she got nominated sa FAMAS, where Charito Solis (Don’t Cry for Me, Papa) won and got elevated sa Hall of Fame. Taong 1983 nang makamit ni Nora Aunor ang TOWNS (The Outstanding Women in the Nation’s Service) award for her contributions in media arts. Hindi man siya naka-Grand Slam as Best Actress, ang parangal ay natatangi at ipinagkakaloob hanggang ngayon sa outstanding women achievers in different socio-civic fields. Hindi dito natapos ang Nora-Vilma rivalry. Pero ang pagsasama ng dalawang aktres sa isang pelikula was not repeated after Danny Zialcita’s T-Bird at Ako (released in 1982). Their initial appearance together was in 1970’s Young Love; naulit in 1978, sa Ikaw Ay Akin ni Bernal; at mayroon silang tig-isang episode sa Dugo at Pag-Ibig sa Kapirasong Lupa in 1975 at Pinagbuklod ng Pag-Ibig, also released in early 1978.
At the height of the Nora-Vilma rivalry for acting supremacy, ang kanilang mga pelikula, magkahiwalay man sila o magkasama, ang may malaking kinikita for their producers. In 1982 and 1983, Vilma was Box-Office Queen and Urian Best Actress; while Nora did several blockbusters (like Beloved and Till We Meet Again). There was social unrest, following the Ninoy Aquino assassination on Aug. 21, 1983, pero masigla ang daigdig ng TV at pelikula. Sikat pa rin sina Nora at Vilma.
1984 – 85
In 1984, Nora and Vilma each had three “pang-award” movies. Nora starred in ‘Merika by Gil Portes, Condemned and Bulaklak ng City Jail by Mario O’Hara. The latter was entry in the MMFF, winning Best Picture and Direction at nanalo ring Best Actress si Guy. Si Vilma was in Brocka’s Adultery: Aida Macaraeg, Mike de Leon’s Sister Stella L. and Marilou Diaz-Abaya’s Alyas Baby Tsina. Noong 1985 unang nagbigay ng Star Awards ang Philippine Movie Press Club (PMPC). Para sa taong 1984 ang mga parangal na ipapamahagi, at sina Nora at Vilma lang ang nominated for Best Actress: Guy for all her three starrers, Vilma for Aida Macaraeg and Sister Stella L. Mainitan umano ang nagging deliberation para sa kategoryang Best Actress, which earlier that year was bagged by Vilma (for Sister Stella L. sa Gawad Urian; her third straight win!) and by Nora (for Bulaklak ng City Jail sa CMMA). Sa 1st Star Awards for Movies, it was Nora Aunor who won for ‘Merika. The late movie scribe Frank Mallo, a self-confessed Noranian, fought hard for Aunor to clinch the Best Actress plum, especially for ‘Merika. He even wrote a letter (published in Constantino’s Highspeed column) disputing the Manunuri’s earlier choice of Vilma Santos as Urian Best Actress. Sa taong ito rin ng Gawad Urian nagtamo ng double nomination si Nora – for ‘Merika and Bulaklak ng City Jail. Sa pagtatapos ng award-giving season, si Nora uli ang Best Actress sa FAMAS (her third win) for Bulaklak ng City Jail. Dito niya unang naka-tie si Sharon Cuneta (for Borlaza’s Dapat Ka Bang Mahalin?). Pero hanggang ngayon, nakahihinayang na walang napanalunang award si Nora for Condemned, kung saan she was cited by Tempo entertainment editor Nestor Cuartero for that single scene in which she acted out a “cry of sorrow like no other” upon the death of actor Dan Alvaro who played her brother in that film which was rated “A” by the Film Ratings Board.
Sa mga taong 1986, 1987 and 1988, walang mainitang tunggalian sa acting sina Nora at Vilma. It was the period following the EDSA Revolution in February 1986. Nanamlay ang movie career ni Nora, na noon ay regular na naghu-host ng long-running Superstar show sa RPN 9. Manaka-naka’y she had hit movie – I Love You, Mama/Papa and Sana Mahalin Mo Ako in 1986 and 1988, respectively – and produced Halimaw (dinirek nina Mario O’Hara at Christopher de Leon), na Best Picture sa 1986 Metro Manila Film Festival. Papasikat noon ang mga anak niyang sina Lotlot, Ian Kristoffer, at ang child wonder na si Matet de Leon. Si Vilma ay mas pinalad kesa kay Nora sa awards in 1987 (Best Actress, for Maryo J. delos Reyes’ Tagos Ng Dugo, sa Catholic Mass Media Awards at sa FAMAS). Twenty-fifth anniversary sa showbiz ni Vi that year, at may grand celebration siya sa Vilma! With Nora Aunor as one of her special guests. In 1987, Vilma starred in Viva Films’ Saan Nagtatago ang Pag-ibig? (penned by Armando Lao, megged by Eddie Garcia). The komiks melodrama won a string of Best Picture awards (Star, FAMAS, FAP) sa taon na hindi nagbigay-parangal ang mga Manunuri ng Pelikulang Pilipino (Gawad Urian) sa alinmang kategorya “for lack of deserving winners.” In contrast, hindi markado ang performance ni Nora in the 1987 Mario O’Hara megger Tatlong Ina, Isang Anak, another vehicle for Matet, which pitted Guy against Gina Alajar and Celeste Legaspi.
In 1988, Nora did a guest role in Takot Ako, Eh! (topbilling her popular kids) and produced under her NCV Films outfit the ill-fated Greatest Performance (co-starring her were Tirso Cruz III and Julio Diaz), which was rejected by the executive committee of the 1988 MMFF. Nora then would have debuted as movie director, but unfortunately her Greatest Performance never got shown.
1989, A series of unfortunate events seemed to hound Nora’s career up to this point. October 1, 1989 was to be the last airing date of the 22-year-old musical-variety show Superstar on RPN 9. A month later, it was revived on IBC 13 with a new title, The Legend … Superstar, but this was short-lived lasting only up to early 1990. Naging mas masuwerte si Vilma Santos sa hinu-host na Vilma! on GMA 7, which started in 1981 as VIP (Vilma in Person) ng lumang BBC 2 (naibalik sa Lopez owners ang ABS-CBN after the EDSA Revolution). Nagbida si Vilma sa isa sa mga pinakaimportanteng pelikula ng Dekada ‘80: Regal Films’ Pahiram Ng Isang Umaga (by Ishmael Bernal), na sinimulan in 1988 at ipinalabas in early 1989.
In December 1989, Vilma headlined a period romance-drama (Viva Films’ Imortal, megged by Eddie Garcia) at nanalo sila ng kaparehang si Christopher de Leon ng acting plums sa MMFF. Sa awardings for that year, si Vilma ang nanalong Best Actress sa Star Awards (for Pahiram), her first form the Philippine Movie Press Club. ‘Kumpletung-kumpleto na ang career ko!” nasabi ni Vilma as she accepted her trophy. Later, it was Nora’s turn to get a Best Actress trophy for the first time from the Film Academy of the Philippines, for Elwood Perez’s three-year-in-the-making Bilangin Ang Bituin Sa Langit. ‘Kumpletung-kumpleto na ang career ko!” sabi rin niya in her acceptance speech.
Na-elevate si Vilma sa FAMAS Hall of Fame, for having bagged five Best Actress statuettes: Dama de Noche, Pakawalan Mo Ako, Relasyon, Tagos ng Dugo, and Elwood Perez’s Ibulong Mo Sa Diyos. Nora won her fourth Best Actress plum sa FAMAS, also for Bilangin. Walang itulak-kabigin sa dalawa, kaya marapat lang na mag-tie sila for Best Actress, as in the 1990 Gawad Urian, na ‘pantay na parangal ”ang ipinagkaloob ng Manunuri kina Nora (for Bilangin Ang Bituin Sa Langit) at Vilma (for Pahiram Ng Isang Umaga).
1990, Dalawang malalaking pelikula ang tinampukan ni Vilma: Lino Brocka’s Hahamakin Lahat and Laurice Guillen’s Kapag Langit ang Humatol. Si Nora ay nakahabol sa MMFF with the low-budget social-realist drama Andrea, Paano Ba Ang Maging Isang Ina?, which she co-produced with an independent outfit, MRN Films, and was directed by Gil Portes based on a Ricardo Lee screenplay. Sa mga parangal para sa taong ito, si Nora Aunor ang nagwaging Best Actress sa ‘Movie Magazine” awards (ng GMA 7), Star Awards, FAMAS, FAP at Gawad Urian, making her a Grand Slam honoree. On May 22, 1991, Brocka’s sudden death in a vehiclar accident shocked the movie industry. Nora dedicated her FAP Best Actress award kay Brocka, na siyang dahilan upang maitanghal ang Bona sa Directors Fortnight ng Cannes Film Festival in 1981. May nagsasabing ‘hindi Grand Slam” ang pananalo ni Guy for Andrea dahil, sa CMMA, her costar Gina Alajar was declared Best Actress (with Nora as runner-up). But the CMMA was considered a minor award-giving body, at ‘yung apat na major ang ginagawang batayan for a Grand Slam win. Kaugnay rito, nagsimulang magbigay ng parangal ang UP-Young Critics Circle (YCC-Film Desk) at si Nora ang lone winner for Best Performance, also for Andrea. Hindi na nagbigay ng acting awards ang CMMA the following year, habang aktibo hanggang ngayon ang five major award-giving bodies, na nadagdagan ng iba’t ibang grupo. Nagkaloob ng Gawad Pandekada ang Manunuri – for achievements in acting – at sina Nora, Vilma, Vic Silayan, Phillip Salvador at Gina Alajar ang mga nagging karapat-dapat sa parangal (Nora having won Urian Best Actress trophies for Tatlong Taong Walang Diyos, Bona, Bilangin Ang Bituin Sa Langit and Andrea; Vilma for Relasyon, Broken Marriage, Sister Stella L. and Pahiram ng Isang Umaga).
1991 – 92
Exciting uli ang labanang Vilma at Nora, para sa masusugid nilang tagahanga, noong 1991. Viva Films’ Ipagpatawad Mo starring Vilma Santos and Christopher de Leon was chosen as 1991 Gawad Urian Best Picture, with Vilma winning as Best Actress. Muli, nagproduce si Nora ng low-budget drama for MRN Films, Elwood Perez’s Ang Totoong Buhay ni Pacita M., na entry sa 1991 Metro Manila Film Festival. Its awards included Best Picture, Best Direction, and Best Actress for Nora Aunor.
In the award-giving season in early 1992, Nora won the Best Actress honors sa Star Awards and FAP, as well as the Best Performance award from the YCC-Film Desk’s 2nd Annual Circle Citations (with co-winner, Aga Muhlach, for Maryo J. delos Reyes’ Joeyboy Munti). Ang Pacita M. ay nanalo rin ng Best Picture and Best Direction among other awards as 1991 FAMAS. Nora scored three consecutive Best Actress triumphs sa FAP Awards: 1989 (Bilangin), 1990 (Andrea) and 1991 (Pacita M.). Ito bale ang katapat ng three straight victories ni Vilma sa Gawad Urian. Nora was elevated sa FAMAS Hall of Fame in 1991 for having copped five Best Actress statuettes: Tatlong Taong Walang Diyos, Ina Ka Ng Anak Mo, Bulaklak Ng City Jail, Bilangin Ang Bituin Sa Langit and Andrea, Paano Ba Ang Maging Isang Ina? Later, nagtamo siya ng Circle of Excellence awards sa FAMAS apara sa mahusay niyang pagganap sa Pacita M. in 1991 at sa The Flor Contemplacion Story in 1995.
To mark her 25th anniversary in show business, Nora starred in PETA’s Minsa’y Isang Gamugamo sa una niyang pagganap sa entablado. The play, an adaptation of Lupita Kashiwahara’s film based on a screenplay by Marina Feleo-Gonzales, was directed by Soxy Topacio mula sa script nina Ricky Lee at Boni Ilagan. It had a successful run at the Tanghalang Raja Sulayman in Fort Santiago in February-March 1991. Nora further acquitted herself in theater in December 1992 (DH by Topacio-Lee) and in the mid-1990s (Trojan Women, na dinirek ng isang Griyego and was staged at the Ninoy Aquino Parks and Wildlife). At tulad ng mga stage play na tinampukan, nagging malaking tagumpay ang unang major concert ni Nora (Handog ni Guy) sa Araneta Coliseum noong May 18, 1991.
1993, Hindi nagtapos ang labanang Nora-Vilma for Best Actress sa pagkaka-elevate nila sa FAMAS Hall of Fame. Dahil sa dumaming award-giving body since the mid-1980s, hindi nakuntento ang respective groups of fans nina Nora at Vilma sa pag-asam na patuloy silang gumawa ng magagandang pelikula na pagtatamuhan nila ng trophies. Sadly, dumating din sila sa punto ng kasalatan, careerwise.
In 1992, wala ni isang pelikulang tinampukan si Nora, samantalang si Vilma starred in only one: Maryo J. delos Reyes’ Sinungaling Mong Puso, na hindi niya pinagtamuhan ng anumang major Best Actress award. In 1993, gumawa si Vilma ng pelikula na ang kuwento’y base sa unang Pilipinang nag-reveal ng pagkakaroon niya ng AIDS (Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome), si Dolzura Cortez. Directed by Laurice Guillen for Octoarts Films, Dahil Mahal Kita (The Dolzura Cortez Story) won Vilma the Best Actress honors at the 1993 Manila Film Festival, Star, Gawad Urian and FAP. Si Nora ay gumawa ng Inay for Melanie Marquez’s MM Productions, by veteran megman Artemio Marquez (may-likha ng maraming box-office hit ni
Guy sa Tower Productions in the early 1970s). Natalo si Nora sa MMFF at ibang major awardings ng taon, but she won the Best Performance award, again from the UP-Young Critics Circle (YCC-Film Desk’s 4th Annual Circle Citations), with Aga Muhlach (for Jose Javier Reyes’ Hindi Kita Malilimutan) as co-winner.
1994, Mula 1994 hanggang 2003 ay hindi na nagkatunggali sa Best Actress award sina Nora at Vilma. Early 1994 nang huling magkasabay as contenders for the acting plum sina Nora (Inay) at Vilma (Dahil Mahal Kita). For the whole year, Nora didn’t topbill any movie. She hosted Modern Romance sa Telebisyon on GMA 7 and the monthly special Superstar Beyond Time on RPN 9, and appeared on several telesines and a successful two-night concert at the Mandarin Hotel Ballroom. Naulit ang pangyayari noong 1992 na walang pelikula si Nora (she only appeared in her second stage play, DH, na nag-world-tour in 1993) and this will be repeated 10 years later, when she did the ABS-CBN 2 drama series Bituin that aired from September 2002 to May 2003 and several concerts. Vilma notched two films: Regal’s Nag-iisang Bituin (by Joey Reyes) and Golden Lions’ Lipa Massacre (by Carlo J. Caparas), which won as Best Picture sa FAMAS.
1995 – 97
Sa mga sumunod an taon, parehong nag-achieve sina Nora at Vilma in local award-giving groups and international film festivals. Nauna si Nora, in 1995, for The Flor Contemplacion Story, kuwento ng Pilipina na nasentensiyahang mamatay by hanging sa Singapore. Late 1995 nang maiulat na si Nora ang nagwaging Best Actress sa Cairo International Film Festival sa Egypt for her performance in the Joel Lamangan megger, which also won as Best Picture. Nanalo si Nora sa YCC-Film Desk’s 6th Annual Circle Citations (Best Performer) at sa Star Awards, FAP at Gawad Urian (Pinakamahusay na Pagganap – Pangunahing Aktres; with co-winner Helen Gamboa for Tikoy Aguiluz’s Bagong Bayani, another Flor Contemplacion filmbio). Top box-office hit ang The Flor Contemplacion Story, for which the Guillermo Mendoza Memorial Scholarship Foundation, Inc. (GMMSFI) chose Nora as Box-Office Queen, the same honor she received in the early 1970s and 1980s. Si Nora ang Best Actress sa 1995 MMFF for Viva Films’ Muling Umawit ang Puso. Sa international filmfests, Nora again won as Best Actress in 1997. She got the Golden Pearl Award in Penang, Malaysia, for Viva’s Bakit May Kahapon Pa? Para sa naturang Lamangan megger, Best Actress din sa Gawad Urian si Nora (with cowinner Sharon Cuneta, for Olive Lamasan’s Madrasta).
1998 – 2001
Ang international fame, bilang Best Actress, ay nakamit ni Vilma in 1999, when her Star Cinema headliner Bata … Bata … Paano Ka Ginawa? – directed by Chito Rono – was entered as competition entry sa Brussels Film Festival. Released in 1998, Bata won for Vilma the Best Actress honors at the Star Awards, FAP and Gawad Urian, as well as the Best Performance award from the YCC-Film Desk. Dahil nahalal na alkalde ng Lipa City sa Batangas si Vilma Santos-Recto (she married then Batangas Congressman, now Senator Rafael ‘Ralph” Recto in December 1992), naging mas madalang ang paggawa niya ng pelikula. Pero hindi pa rin magmimintis si Vilma na manalo ng acting trophy, kapag din lang may panlabang pelikula, as in 2000 when she did Star Cineman’s Anak by Rory Quintos. Nanalo siyang Best Actress sa Star Awards.
2002, Vilma failed to win as Best Actress sa 2002 MMFF para sa major film na Dekada ‘70, megged by Chito Rono and produced by Star Cinema. Hindi naman nabigo ang Vilmanians sa mga sumunod na awarding, in early 2003, dahil kay Vilma napunta ang Best Actress trophies na kaloob ng Star Awards, FAP at Gawad Urian. Pati ng minor award-giving body na binubuo ng mga academician, ang PASADO (Pampelikulang Samahan ng mga Dalubguro). At ang kanyang ikalawang Best Performance award mula sa YCC-Film Desk in its annual Circle Citations. Panlaban ng bansa ang The Seventies (Dekada ‘70) sa 4th Makati CineManila International Film Festival (organized by Direk Tikoy Aguiluz). The film won a special jury prize at Best Actress award for Vilma (her second claim to international fame). In contrast, malaon nang walang pelikulang panlaban si Nora at this point. After Bakit My Kahapon Pa? In 1996, Nora did minor starrers: MAQ Productions ‘Mama, Dito sa Aking Puso, screenwriter Frank Rivera’s directorial debut; and Lupita Kashiwahara’s megger under Premiere Productions, Babae, an entry to the 1997 MMFF, for which Aunor got several acting nominations. Her last major performance was in Seven Stars Productions’ Sidhi, released in February 1999. Walang napanalunang trophy si Nora for her fourth Lamangan starrer, which was also panned by Manunuri ng Pelikulang Pilipino member Lito B. Zulueta. Both Nora and Vilma, however, were recipients of the Gawad Pan-Dekada (along with Richard Gomez) at the Urian rites in March 2001. Silang dalawa pa rin ang mga aktres na napagkalooban ng natatanging pagkilala ng Manunuri, para sa tigtatlong parangal na natamo nila – in the 1990s – sa kategoryang Pinakamahusay na Pagganap. Aunor won for Andrea, Paano Ba Ang Maging Isang Ina?, The Flor Contemplacion Story, and Bakit May Kahapon Pa?. Santos won for Ipagpatawad Mo, Dahil Mahal Kita and Bata … Bata … Paano Ka Ginawa?
2004, Kung susumahin, mahirap nang dagliang mabilang ang mga award nina Nora at Vilma, through the years, para sa mga pelikulang tinampukan nila. Ito rin ang puntong hindi ang pag-quantify sa mga natamong parangal ang mahalaga, kundi ang pagpapatunay na walang mintis sa kanya-kanyang laban, sa kahusayan, ang dalawang pinakamahigpit na magkaribal sa larangan ng pagganap pampelikula. The End. – William Reyes
NOTE: After their last acting contest (Naglalayag vs Mano Po 3 My Love), the two actresses went separate ways, Vilma decided to do mainstream commercial films widening her demographics (D’ Lucky Ones, cameo role, 2006; In My Life, 2009; The Healing, 2012) and Nora did several indie-art films (Care Home, 2006; Ingrata, 2006; El Presidente, 2012; and Sinapupunan – Thy Womb, 2012).