Rosa Vilma Santos tugged the hearstring of the Filipino moviegoers via Trudis Litt in 1963, her first movie at age nine that gave her the Famas Best Child Actress award. At that tender age, Vilma was also tapped to star with Gloria Romero and Rita Gomez in the movie Anak, Ang Iyong Ina, thus making her busy with two pictures. It might interest non-Vilmanians to know that little Vilma’s auditions for Trudis Liit was accidental. When she went to the Sampaguita compound with her mother, she was prodded to join the queue of hundred kids for an audition. When her turn came, she acted with premier villainess, Bella Flores. The Sampaguita patriarch, Dr. Jose Perez, was so impressed with Vilma’s performance that the plum role had to fall on Vilma’s lap. That was the start of Vilma’s reign up to the early ‘70s with box-office outings via Lipad, Darna, Dyesebel at and Mahiwagang Kabibe, Kampanerang Kuba, Wonder Vi, Anak ng Aswang, Batya’t Palu-Palo, and many more. These pictures were preceded with the tweezum-craze of the period – Teenage Señorita, Young Lovers, The Sensations, The Young Idols, Sixteen, Love at First Sight, My Pledge of Love and other Vi-Bot (Edgar Mortiz) starrers.
Phenomenon – But the early ‘70s saw the emergence of a phenomenon that defied all traditions and stereotypes – Nora Villamayor, the little brown girl from Bicol. Nora Aunor to all of us, practically swept us off our feet and she rose to dizzying heights never before seen in the Philippine cinema. Gifted with a golden voice, Nora is an illustrious alumna of Tawag ng Tanghalan. That was her passport to fame and fortune. Her meteoric ascent to superstardom marked Vilma’s descent to background attraction. Chanteuse Carmen Soriano recommended Nora to Alpha Records. The little brown girl from Bicol broke existing records in the local music industry, which marked the Golden Age of Local Recording. She spawned hits after hits and the airlanes played to the mass in a Nora mania. The next most logical step was to cross borders – to the movies – and this was where the fiercest of competitions began.
The Rivalry – Pitted against Vilma in a musical vs. musical, drama vs. drama, Nora, no doubt, had Vilma struggling for breath. Vi-Bot came a distant to Guy-Pip (Tirso Cruz III). The non-singer could not hold a candle to the gifted, awarded singer. In terms of early movie outputs, Banaue, And God Smiled At Me, showed Nora’s intensity as an actress – profound and eloquent. The eyes showed it all – which Vilma hadn’t really experimented at the beginning, except being hysterical which was taken for good acting. “Trudis Liit” in the battle for movie supremacy had to maneuver herself into a paradigm shift, she dared to tackle roles where Nora feared to tread. That was the spark of Vilma’s own genius. Vilma Santos in a complete turnaround showed ample flesh and gyrated like there was no tomorrow in the controversy-laden Burlesk Queen. She played a rape victim in Lino Brocka’s Rubia Servios – which many observers thought could have won her the Best Actress plum. Nora in Atsay bested her. To Vilmanians and to Vilma herself, that was a bitter pill to swallow. Undaunted, the actress continued improving and reinventing her screen persona. She also did Celso Ad Castillo’s multi-awarded Pagputi ng Uwak, Pag-Itim ng Tagak, and then came Relasyon in 1982, megged by Ismael Bernal, which gave Vilma the Grand Slam from the Urian, FAP, FAMAS, and Catholic Mass Media. The mistress role, which Nora may play with discomfort fitted Vilma to a T. Equally compelling were the roles she essayed in Broken Marriage, Sister Stella L., Tagos Ng Dugo, Pahiram ng Isang Umaga, Imortal, Ipagpatawad Mo, The Dolzura Cortez Story, Bata, Bata, Paano Ka Ginawa (Vilma won as Best Actress in Brussels), Anak,
Dekada ’70, and Mano Po 3. With sch kind of hypnotizing filmography would Vilma accept the backseat – with Nora at the driver’s seat? This is a battleground of cinematic excellence like no other. Nora Aunor, Vilma’s tormentor, chumed out classics like Tatlong Taong Walang Diyos, Bona, Andrea, Paano ang Maging Isang Ina, Bilangin ang Bituin Sa Langit, Ang Totoong Buhay ni Pacita M., The Flor Contemplacion Story, (Nora won as Best Actress in the Cairo International Filmfest.), Bulaklak sa City Jail, Muling Umawit ang Puso, Bakit May Kahapon Pa (another Best Actress for Nora in Malaysia International Filmfest) and of course, Naglalayag, Nora’s starrer which gave her third international Best Actress in Brussels. Lest we forget, Nora Aunor did the Filipinos proud with Bona in Cannes and Himala in Berlin where the actress received Certificates of Honor. With these outstanding accomplishments, couldn’t she claim her place of honor as the “Greatest Filipino Actress” ever? The two icons paired of with the ultimate in Philippine movies – Vilma with FPJ (Fernando Poe Jr.), Nora with Erap (Joseph Estrada) – blockbusters all, but the Vi-FPJ proved the bigger draw.
The Match-up – In terms of film output, Vilma has the slight edge with almost 200 movies to her credit since she started her film career as a child actress. Nora is not far behind though with more than 170 films to her credit. Although they understandably seldom make movies now, there was a time in their careers when Nora and Vilma each did 20 movies or so in a year especially in the early ‘70s during the height of popularity of their loveteams with Pip and Bot, respectively. In terms of film awards, the two are almost even. They are both FAMAS Hall of Fame awardees having won Best Actress five times – Vilma for Dama de Noche (1972), Pakawalan Mo Ako (1981), Relasyon (1982), Tagos ng Dugo (1987), and Ibulong Mo Sa Diyos (1988); Nora Tatlong Taong Walang Diyos (1976), Ina Ka ng Anak Mo (1979), Bulaklak Sa City Jail (1984), Bilangin Ang Bituin Sa Langit (1989), and Andrea, Paano Ba Ang Maging Isa Ina (1990). Not counting the awards season this year. Vilma has more Urian Best Actress trophies than Nora, 8-6, and Star Awards for Movies Best Actress tropies, 5-4; Nora and Vilma have the same number of Film Academy of the Philippines (FAP) trophies, 4-4, and Manila Film Festival trophies, one apiece; Nora, meanwhile, has more Metro Manila Film Festival best Actress trophies, 7-4 and international recognition, 3-2.
Vilma’s Urian trophies were for Relasyon (1982), Broken Marriage (1983), Sister Stella L. (1984), Pahiram ng Isang Umaga (1989), Ipagpatawad Mo (1991), Dahil Mahal Kita; The Dolzura Cortez Story (1983), Bata, Bata, Paano Ka Ginawa? (1998), and Dekada ’70 (2002). Nora won Urian for Tatlong Taong Walang Diyos, Bona (1980) Bilangin ang Bituin sa Langit, Andrea, Paano Ba Ang Maging Isang Ina, The Flor Contemplacion Story (1995), and Bakit May Kahapon Pa (1996). In the FAP Awards, Vilma won for Relasyon, Dolzura Cortez Story, Bata, Bata, Paano Ka Ginawa?, and Dekada ’70. Nora, on the other hand, won for her performances in Bilangin and Bituin Sa Langit, Andrea, Paano Ba ang Maging Isang Ina, Ang Totoong Buhay ni Pacita M. (1991), and The Flor Contemplacion Story. In Star Awards, Vilma was acknowledged for her roles in Pahiram ng Isang Umaga, The Dolzura Cortez Story, Bata, Bata, Paano Ka Ginawa?, Anak (2000), Dekada ’70 and Mano Po 3 (2005). Nora won for Merika (1984), Andrea, Paano Ba ang Maging Isang Ina, Ang Totoong Buhay ni Pacita M., and Muling Umawit Ang Puso (1995). Vilma was adjudged MMFF Best Actress for Burlesk Queen (1977), Karma (1981(, Imortal (1989), and Mano Po 3: My Love (2204).
In Manila Film Festival, Vilma won for Dolzura Cortez Story while Nora won for Naglalayag (2004). Nora boasts three international best actress trophies: Cairo International Film Festival for The Flor Contemplacion Story, Malaysia International Film Festival for Bakit May Kahapon Pa and Brussels International Film Festival for Naglalayag. Likewise, Vilma also has a Best Actress trophy from Brussels International Film Festival for Bata, Bata, Paano Ka Ginawa and another award from CineManila International Film Festival for Dekada ’70. The breakdown of their awards is as of 2004 only and does not include the awards season this year where both Nora and Vilma are frontrunners. We also just mentioned the major award-giving bodies that have television coverage and exclude other award-giving bodies handed out by different critics’ groups.
Their Firsts – Aside from these, Nora and Vilma each registered their own “firsts.” Consider these: Vilma is the first and only actress, so far, to win the prestigious Gawad Urian Best Actress Award for three consecutive years – Relasyon, 1982; Broken Marriage, 1983; Sister Stella L., 1984; the first and only actress to score an unprecedented three-time grand slam win for Best Actress Award – Relasyon, 1982; The Dolzura Cortez Story, 1983; and Bata, Bata, Paano Ka Ginawa?, 1988; the only actress play Darna four times – Lipad, Darna, Lipad and the Giants, Darna vs. the Planetwoman, Darna at Ding, and the first female mayor of Lipa, premier city of Batangas. Nora, on the other hand, is the first Filipina actress to win a number of international Best Actress accolade; the first actress to topple down the box-office supremacy of the bold genre in the ‘70s; the first singer-actress whose discography broke all existing records in the local recording industry; and the first certified “Cinderella of the Philippine Movies.” Until…Nora allowed herself to be bogged won by some domestic problems, which could not be said of archival Vilma Santos, whose professionalism has never been questioned. A character, which in the words of critic Nestor Torre, made Vilma the “Producers’ Choice.”
Somehow, this also affected Nora’s box-office record while Vilma continue to attract moviegoers and, in fact, still managed to be crowned as Box-Office Queen in 2001 with the monstrous hit Anak. Where does the parallelism lie in their married life? With Senator Ralph Rector as Vi’s husband and Nora long estranged from Christopher de Leon, it looks like Vilma has got the upper hand. Not that being estranged is a misfortune, but Nora is perceived to have fallen for the wrong men.
Politics – How about their excursion into the political arena? Though admittedly Nora made a President, she miserably failed her own bid when she miserably failed her own bid when she ran as Governor in her hometown. Whereas Vilma’s political star practically rose brighter and brighter as a three-time Mayor of Lipa City. Vilma is as luminous as ever – the true ‘Star for All Seasons,’ Nora is busy concerting abroad – singing, a craft she excels in where she began and made her the only “Superstar.” Circa 2005 awards season. Nora vies for Naglalayag and Vilma for Mano Po 3. For the nth time, Nora completes with her patent restrained acting, Vilma with her hysterical trademark. Let the competition begin…again! – Source: S Magazine READ MORE
- Official Web-site: Vilma Santos Recto
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- Wikipedia: Vilma Santos
- Wikipedia: Nora Aunor
- Superstar Nora Aunor
- Star For All Seasons Vilma Santos
- Nora Aunor Film Actress
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