A Very Long Rivalry – 1978

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Pre-1978 – 1977 was a very productive year for Nora Aunor. She did twelve films (Bakya Mo Neneng; Disco Baby; Ibilanggo si Neneng Magtanggol; Little Christmas Tree; Pag-ibig Ko’y Awitin Mo; Panakip-Butas; Pinakasalan Ko ang Ina ng Aking Kapatid; Roma Amor; Sapin-sapin, Patung-patong; Silang Mga Mukhang Pera; Tisoy; Wanakosey), mostly commercial films. The most notable ones were “Little Christmas Tree” with FPJ and “Bakya Mo Neneng” wirh Joseph Estrada. Vilma Santos on the other hand did only five films (Burlesk Queen; Dalawang Pugad, Isang Ibon; Masarap, Masakit ang Umibig; Pulot-gata, Pwede Kaya?; Susan Kelly, Edad 20) all were a smash hits. Vilma ended the year with a triumph at the December festival with her entry, “Burlesk Queen,” earning her a controversial best actress award and the film ended aa the top grosser of all the film entries.

“…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…” – William Reyes (READ MORE)

The duel of Victim Roles – “…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?…” – William Reyes (READ MORE)

Nora Aunor’s Films (11): (Atsay; Bakekang; Das A Las of Nonsense; Huwag Hamakin: Hostess; Ikaw ay Akin; Isinilang Ko ay Hindi Ko Tunay na Anak; Jack N Jill of the Third Kind; Mahal Mo Mahal Ko; Mga Mata ni Angelita; Pinagbuklod ng Pag-ibig; Sa Lungga ng mga Daga) – After the success of Kaming Matatapang ang Apog, Nora Aunor reunited with Dolphy in a smash hit, Jack and Jill of the third Kind, one of the few notable films out of eleven films she did this year. Her year ended with the success of her filmfest entry, Atsay winning her the historical best performer award and beating her rival Vilma.

Vilma Santos’ Films (13): (Mga mata ni Angelita; Amorseko: Kumakabit, Kumakapit; Bakit Kailangan Kita?; Kampus; Disco Fever; Ikaw ay Akin; Nakawin Natin ang Bawat Sandali; Pag-ibig ko sa iyo lang Ibibigay; Pagputi ng Uwak, Pag-itim ng Tagak; Pinagbuklod ng Pag-ibig; Promo Girl; Rubia Servios; Simula ng Walang Katapusan) – Unfortunately, Vilma’s successful year ended in a sour note, as she failed to win the festival award for a film, directed by Lino Brocka despite insider’s predictions. The only consolation again, was that the Rubia Servios remained the top grosser of the festival.

Nora Aunor’s 1978 acting recognition (3) – Best Performer from Metro Manila Film Festial for “Atsay” and Best Actress nominations from FAMAS (“Atsay”) and URIAN (“Ikaw ay Akin”).

Vilma Santos’ 1978 acting recognition (3) – Best Performer nomination from Metro Manila Film Festival for “Rubia Servios” and Best Actress nominations from FAMAS (“Pagputi ng Uwak, Pag-Itim ng Tagak”) and URIAN (“Ikaw ay Akin”).

Victim: Nelia – “…Atsay is remarkable in several ways. It has a strong social message, aimed at primarily those who forget that maids are also human beings…The most grievious sin of all is the ending. In the end, Nelia (Nora Aunor), after having been humiliated, beaten, raped, dehumanized by the vultures of the city, decides to stay in the city anyway in the hope that an impoverished construction worker (Ronald Corveau) will make her live happily ever after. Such ending, while assuring the viewer that human nature is not totally evil, is unmotivated and, in fact, goes against the very theme of the story. For Atsay is the story of how the city dehumanizes, of how human beings become swine (this point is made through blatant symbolism in a shot of Nelia inside a cage-like jeep), of how Manila is a prison (note Vitug’s several shots of cage-like structures). “Atsay” is a story of how individuals are no match against the cruelty of the city. The construction worker, for example, becomes the victim of a construction accident. A young pretty virgin from the province is raped while she’s drugged. A kind-hearted old man is shot down while protesting against exploitation. The ending of Atsay contradicts the film’s affirmations. It would have been much more in keeping with the theme (not to mention the current concerns of the national human settlements program), if Nelia were shown rejecting the city and, in hope, returning to her province for a new life….” – Isagani Cruz, TV Times 1979 (READ MORE)

Victim: Rubia – “…Simplistiko ang materyal at lalong simplistiko ang pamamaraan ni O’Hara sa karakterisasyon. Nagmumukha tanga ang mga tauhan (si Rubia at si Norman) samantalang medical students at naturingang doktor pa naman sial. Tinatakot na sila’y hindi pa sila humingi ng proteksiyon sa pulis. Ginahasa na si Rubia ay nakipagtagpo pa sa sementeryong madilim nang nag-iisa at nagpaganda pa mandin siya nang husto. At ang asawa niya’y wala ring utak. Biro mong sinundan ang asawa sa sementeryo nang nag-iisa! Dapat nga palang magkaganito sila kung napakakitid ng kanilang utak. Sa direksiyon ni Brocka, lumitaw ang galing ni Vilma Santos, at nakontrol ang labis na pagpapagalaw ng kanyang labi. Mahusay din ang eksena ng gahasa. Si Philip Salvador naman ay tulad sa isang masunuring estudyante na sinusunod lahat ang direksiyon ng guro. Kitang-kita mo sa kanyang pagganap ang bawat tagubiling pinaghihirapan niyang masunod: kilos ng mata, buntong-hininga, galaw ng daliri, kislot ng kilay. Limitado ang kanyang kakayahan at makikia ito sa kanyang mukha (na limitado rin). Walang-wala rtio si Mat Ranillo III, na parang pinabayaan para lalong lumitaw ang papel at pag-arte ni Salvador. Samantala, ang kamera ni Conrado Salvador ay hindi gaanong nakalikha ng tension at suspense, bukod sa napakaliwanang ng disenyo ng produksiyon ang pagbabago ng mga tauhan sa loob ng pitong taon batay sa estilo ng damit at buhok…” – Justino M. Dormiendo, Sagisag, February 1979 (READ MORE)

Post-1978 – 1978 confirmed the hot rivalry between Nora and Vilma, and their supremacies in the box office. This year also featured them in three films together, in “Ikaw Ay Akin,” an Ishmael Bernal’s take on a modern love-triangle; “Pinagbuklod ng Pag-ibig,” where they share a few minutes of screen time as the film was basically two parts, one was the story of Nora and Tirso Cruz III and the other was Vi with Romeo Vasques; the last film was the smorgasboard casted, “Mga Mata ni Anghelita,” featuring the late Julie Vega. Vi and Guy did not share a screen time but have a separate segments with the Julie, Guy was the “street sweeper” and Vi was the “worried wife.” The following year, Nora Aunor and Vilma Santos did eight films each. It was Nora Aunor’s turned to be directed by Lino Brocka. She did “Ina Ka ng Anak Mo” with Lolita Rodriguez a festival entry. Vilma’s entry was “Modelong Tanso” directed by Cirio Santiago and with Charito Solis. Nora’s Brocka’s film rewarded her with three accolades, two best actress from FAMAS and the local festival and a nomination from Urian. Vilma’s Modelong Tanso failed to earned her or Charito any acting nods. The only consolation was its one of top grosser at the festival. Vilma’s only acting accolades post Rubia was a nomination from FAMAS for “Halik sa Paa, Halik sa Kamay,” a film directed by the late Eddie Rodriguez.

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