Pre-1989 – “…As both Vilma and Nora reaped recognitions from a year full of award-worthy films that some considered, “Golden Year” for both, the coming years would be a test of who can sustain their popularity. Vilma seems to be on a decline after 1984. She only releases two films, the flop, “Doctor, Doctor, We Are Sick” and the smash hit, “Muling Buksan ang Puso.” Meanwhile, Nora Aunor’s career looks promising. She completed five films, mostly dramas, “Beloved” with Hilda Koronel; “I Can’t Stop Loving You” and “Till We Meet Again” with Tirso Cruz III; “Mga Kwento ni Lola Basyang” in a special guest role; “Tinik Sa Dibdib” with Phillip Salvador and Dina Bonnevie. Then in 1986, both Vilma and Nora did four films each. After the golden 1984 where both produced award-worthy films, critics noticed a decline in their next films which were mostly tired-melodramas. Despite this, both Nora and Vilma earned acting nominations, Nora in “I Love You Mama, I Love You Papa” from FAMAS while Vilma’s hit film “Palimos ng Pag-ibig” earned her nominations from Star Awards and FAMAS. The next year, 1987, a slight change of pace, Vilma is now concentrating more on television. She moved her show, VIP to GMA 7 and eventually changed its named to simply, “Vilma!” while Nora struggled with her own television show. It was Vilma who successfully maintained high ratings. Aside from this, she managed to complete four films and even guested on Nora’s produced film “Takot ako, eh!” Vilma’s other films were three dramas, “Ibigay Mo Sa Akin Ang Bukas,” “Saan Nagtatago Ang Pag-ibig?” and “Tagos ng Dugo.” The last two earned her some trophies, including her fourth FAMAS. Meanwhile, Nora released only three films, she also guested in “Takot Ako Eh,” and featured in “My Bugoy Goes to Congress” and the melodrama, “Tatlong Ina, Isang Anak.” Finally, a year before their final showdown, both Vilma and Nora’s career focuses on their television shows. They only managed to complete three films, Nora did the forgettable,”Balut Penoy” and “Sana Mahalin Mo Ako” while Vilma’s only film was “Ibulong Mo Sa Diyos,” a surprised winner in FAMAS and that allowed her to be elevated to their Hall of Fame pedestal. The last year of the decade seems to be the same for both Vilma and Nora, they only produced four films, one for Nora “Bilangin Ang Bituin sa Langit” and three for Vilma, “Imortal,” a festival entry; “Pahiram Ng Isang Umaga,” her last film with Ishmael Bernal and a special guest role in “Rizal Alih, Zamboanga Massacre.” As 1989 ends, Vilma’s career seems more brighter, her TV show are reaching its highest peak. On the film side, her filmfest entry, “Imortal” earned several acting trophies including a best actress trophy for her. Come, 1990 Nora and Vilma found themselves fighting it again mano a mano in the acting derby, Nora for “Bilangin” and Vilma for “Pahiram.”
After the EDSA Revolution – “…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)…” – William Reyes (READ MORE)
Nora Aunor’s Films (1): (Bilangin Ang Bituin sa Langit) – Nora’s only film directed by Elwood Perez and with perennial love team Tirso Cruz III turned out to be a big hit.
Vilma Santos’ Films (3): (Imortal; Pahiram Ng Isang Umaga; Rizal Alih, Zamboanga Massacre) – Like Nora’s sole film, Vilma’s three films were all a commercially success.
Nora Aunor’s 1989 acting recognition (4) – Best Actress from FAMAS; FAP; URIAN and a nomination from Star Awards, all for “Bilangin Ang Bituin sa Langit.”
Vilma Santos’ 1989 acting recognition (5) – Best Actress from Metro Manila Film Festival and Channel 2 Viewers Choice for “Imortal;” Best Actress from URIAN; Star Awards; and nomination from Film Academy of the Philippines, all for “Pahiram Ng Isang Umaga.”
Complex Transformation – “…Tirso Cruz III, never known for Great Moments in Acting, does have his moments here. The very idea that he is not overshadowed by his blinding co-star speaks well of his talent as well as of his rapport with his perennial screen partner. But “Bilangin” is clearly a Nora Aunor vehicle. The actress is in almost every frame of the movie, showcasing her awesome talent and exhibiting gradations of emotions, sad and pathetic, one moment, flippant and impetuous the next; loving and pleading now, then seething and raging like a woman scorned. Not only does she essay the complex transformation of a woman in a time period spanning her mid-teens to middle age. She also plays dual roles, those of Magnolia, a strong and determined woman, and her youthful, exuberant daughter. This was the same theme which the recent trashy “bold” picture, “Virginia P.,” aspired to dramatize, but failed, because, in that other movie, not only slapdash effort was visible; the filmmakers could not contain their contempt for the audience. In an accident in which her husband (Miguel Rodriguez) falls from a horse carrying a baby, the man dies but the tot miraculously survives…” – Mario A. Hernando, Malaya, 1989 (READ MORE)
Another Blockbuster – “…Topping Vilma Santos’ showbiz career for 1988 was her winning the “best tv host” title and her tv program Vilma as the best musical variety show from the Star Awards of the Philippine Movie Press Club. Vilma is a constant top rater. Nobody can question the result of the survey for its popularity, because everybody could see the glitter of the show with all the grand seting, artistic costumes, and selected celebrities as guests plus Santos’ vibrance, enthusiasm and untiring efforts in entertaining her audience. The actress is meticulous even in the selection of the color scheme of her costumes. For 1989, Santos promises a much better show for Vilma with more expensive props, more interesting musical numbers and some attractive numbers and novelties to render it a delightful viewing. The actress is now resuming shooting of Pahiram ng Isang Umaga which did not make it at the recently concluded Metro Manila Film Festival due to certain delays, like Ibulong Mo sa Diyos her current movie Pahiram… is supposed to be Regal Films’s first main attraction for 1989. Some of the scenes were filmed in the virgin forest of Botolan, Zambales. The serenity of the rustic place enabled the actress to re-evaluate her life before the New Year sets in. Santos has Gabby Concepcion and Eric Quizon for leading men in the movie. Quizon has admitted that so far this is his most challenging role in his entire movie career. The drama flick is expected to be another blockbuster and will reap acting honors for the actress. She is back with Ishmael Bernal in this movie, the same director who made possible her bagging all the best actress awards in 1982 for the movie Relasyon…” – Eddie O. Libo-on, Manila Standard, Jan 9, 1989 (READ MORE)
Post-1989 – The following year, Vilma and Nora battled it out in several acting award contests. Vilma was elevated to the FAMAS Hall of Fame making her ineligible to compete with Nora. With this, Nora won her fifth trophy, making her elegible for the Hall of Fame next year. There’s “First” in both Vi and Guy, Vilma’s Star Award best actress was her first from the PMPC while Nora’s Luna Award was her first academy award. At the URIAN, they tied as their best actress. When the award seasons ends, Nora and Vilma completed and releases three films, Nora Aunor released the much-loved, “Andrea, Paano ba ang Maging Isang Ina” while Vilma tapped A-1 list directors, Lino Brocka for “Hahamakin Lahat” and Laurice Guillen for “Kapag Langit Ang Humatol.” It was a repeat in 1991, Vilma and Nora remained prominent in the acting contest, with Nora taking a landslide advantage for “Andrea…,” winning nine nods while Vilma recieved only four nominations. Then the next year, it was almost an even outcome for both, Nora’s “Ang Totoong Buhay ni Pacita M.” earned her seven recognitions, six wins and a nomination from URIAN. The Urian award went to Vilma for “Ipagpatawad Mo.” She also recieved several nominations. The following year, Nora did not complete any film while Vilma releases “Sinungaling Mong Puso,” an acting triumph for co-star, Aga Muhlach. She also appeared in cameo role in fantasy festival film “Engkanto.” In 1993, both Nora and Vilma releases two films each. Nora did the forgettable “Inay” and tired “Ligaw-ligawan, Kasal-kasalan, Bahay-bahayan.” Vilma was more successful with the socially relevant AIDS film, “Dahil Mahal Kita, The Dolzura Cortez Story” and her first Chito Rono film and the smash hit, “Ikaw Lang.”
The next year, Vilma Santos earned more trophies (seven best actress awards and two nominations) while Nora received a lifetime achievement at FAP and her sole acting trophy for “Inay” from the Young Critics Circle. Then in 1994 Vilma followed the massacre trend with “Lipa: Arandia Massacre,” a big hit and the forgettables, “Nag-iisang Bituin” and “Relaks ka Lang, Sagot Kita.” Theres no Nora movie in 1994. Her big screen absence were a blessing because the following year, she released two hit films, “Muling Umawit ang Puso” and “The Flor Contemplacion Story.” Theres No Vilma movie in 1995. As Nora Aunor reaped the rewards of the previous year, she won eight trophies plus international recognition, she released the critically acclaimed “Bakit May Kahapon Pa?” while Vilma teamed up for the last time with FPJ as her comeback movie after her absence in the forgettable and flop movie, “Ikaw Ang Mahal Ko.” The next year, Nora Aunor releases two film. She teamed up with Judy Ann Santos in the disappointing film, “Babae” and much more disappointing, “Mama Dito sa Aking Puso.” If 1997 was a big disappointment for Nora, Vilma also has a film slump, her only film, “Hanggang Ngayon Ika’y Minamahal” with perennial love-team, Christopher de Leon was a big disappointment too. There is no Nora movie the following year, while Vilma finally came-up with a more serious project, Lualhati Bautista’s “Bata, Bata…Paano Ka Ginawa?” and gamely appeared in a cameo role in “Ang erpat kong Astig.”
The following year, Vilma reaped more acting trophies plus international recognition for “Bata, bata…” and at the same time, becoming more like a seasoned politician as she entered politics during the last few years of this decade. For Nora, 1999 started her becoming the darling of indie films, she released “Sidhi” co-starring with Albert Martinez. While there is no Vilma movie in 1999, the coming of new millennium turned out to be a lucky year for her. She did “Anak” with Claudine Barretto, a record-breaking film of year. It was clear by this time that Nora Aunor’s film career is on decline, there is no film for her in the next three years. If Nora’s film career is on decline, it seems like Vilma’s film career is experiencing the same but her camp explained, due to her tight schedule as politician, her tight schedule doesn’t allowed her to do film projects. On occasion she find time to do special one, in 2002, she entered the local festival via Chito Rono’s in “Dekada 70,” in another Lualhati Bautista novel. Her rare film excursion were fruitful as she earned nine acting trophies and another international recognition in 2003. Despite this, there’s no more new film for her and also for Nora. The following year, their fans rejoice as both came up with a respectable projects, an indie film for Nora and a commercial mainstream film for Vilma. Perhaps a final showdown is brewing?