A Very Long Rivalry – 1982

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Pre-1982 – “…For Vilma Santos, The previous year, “Pakawalan Mo Ako” was a huge summer hit that earned her a surprised best actress in FAMAS. That year also, she released “Ex-Wife” and “Hiwalay,” both about marital problems. Art imitating life, as there were reports that Vilma and now, ex-husband, Edu Manzano were having some problems. But Vilma as trooper as she is, any personal troubles were not publicly noticeable as she goes on with her work, business as usual. Also, Vilma gave birth to her eldest son Luis “Lucky” Manzano. By December of 1981, her film festival entry, Karma earned her another surprise best actress trophy. In an unrelated news, the entertainment industry were shocked to found that matinee idol, Alfie Anido died on Dec 31st. Like the death of Julie Vega and Rico Yan, it is still unknown the reason behind Anido’s death. By the end of ’81, Vilma is determined to make the coming year another productive and successful year. She released a total of six films, out of six, two were certified record breakers, “Sinasamba Kita (I Idolized You)” released in August and “Gaano Kadalas ang Minsan? (How Many Times is Onced),” released in November, both produced by Viva Films. The other four films (Relasyon, T-Bird at Ako, Never Ever Say Goodbye, Haplos) were mild hits. All of her hard work paid off because as early as January of the 1983 she was already poised to reap major awards. Meanwhile for Nora Aunor, 1982 were a mixed bag of mild hits and failed opportunities. “Mga Uod at Rosas,” her collaboration with Lorna Tolentino and director Romy Zusara produced a mixed reviews from the critics. Her excellent performance did not help as the film were just mild hit with the audience. Her follow up films, “Annie Sabungera” and “Palenke Queen” both comedies also didn’t do well at the box office making the expectation from her next film higher, as she teamed-up with the hottest star of 1982, her closest rival, Vilma Santos in Danny Zialcita’s fast paced film, “T-bird at Ako.” T-bird’s high expectation wasn’t realized as the film earned just a modest income. By December, all eyes were focused again on Nora and her most ambitious project to date, Ishmael Bernal’s “Himala,” produced by Imee Marcos’ Experimental Cinema of the Philippines. The film was an entry to the Metro Manila film festival. Nora Aunor was again proclaimed the “queen of local festival” as she won her third Metro Manila Film Festival best actress. Nora’s momentum was rising and she was conditioned to make some serious dent in the following year’s award giving seasons. Critics were all going “gagah” with Aunor’s gigantic performance as Elsa. They said, Himala was very effective in communicating its film’s message, it has moving moments and raw power….” – RV (READ MORE)

Grand Slam – “…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!…” – William Reyes (READ MORE)

Nora Aunor’s Films (7): (Annie Sabungera; Himala; Mga Uod at Rosas; No Other Love; Palengke Queen; T-Bird at Ako; Tinimbang ang Langit) – Nora Aunor had a mix output of forgettable comedies and awards-worthy films. She did seven films, two of which were notable, Ishmael Bernal’s epic festival entry, “Himala” and Romy Zusara’s “Mga Uod at Rosad.” She also took some time to do the lesbian film, “T-bird at Ako” with her rival, Vilma.

Vilma Santos’ Films (6): (Gaano Kadalas ang Minsan?; Haplos; Never Ever Say Goodbye; Relasyon; Sinasamba Kita; T-Bird at Ako) – Compare to Nora, Vilma had a solid year, commercially and artistically, she had two major hits, “Sinasamba Kita” and “Gaano Kadalas Ang Minsan,” the other four were mild hits.

Nora Aunor’s 1982 acting recognition (7) – Best Actress from Metro Manila Film Festival and Parade Magazine Awards and nominations from URIAN; CMMA; Film Academy of the Philippines; Lets Talk Movies, all for “Himala” and a nomination from FAMAS for “Mga Uod at Rosas.”

Vilma Santos’ 1982 acting recognition (5) – Best Actress from FAMAS; URIAN; CMMA; Film Academy of the Philippines; Lets Talk Movies, all for “Relasyon.”

Sensitive, Polished and Highly Passive – “…The small, dissipated and forgotten dusty town without rainfall awakens to exploitation and commercialism when an innocent girl called Elsa (Nora Aunor) claims to have seen an apparition of the Blessed Virgin. She later acquires healing powers. Along the lines of Lourdes, the whole village becomes a bustling commercial venue for mass-produced statue saints and bottled holy or tonic water. In later excursions into subplots, a close friend of Elsa who becomes a woman of easy virtue returns to Cupang, a virginal sister who is totally devoted to the religious mission, some enterprising matrons, then a kaleidoscopic look at hundreds of sick people with diseased bodies. A pivotal character is a cynical and young film director (Spanky Manikan) with a conscience. The latter becomes obsessed in capturing Elsa’s healing sessions on celluloid which leads to his candidly catching on film (by accident) a dark secret of Elsa, a secret which prompted the suicide of her sister. Here is an eloquent, powerful film that is full of grandeur and simple segments. It shows an atmospheric environment where illiterate but adulating, praying crowds desperate for a cure can be a hostile mob when the miracle they crave for doesn’t materialize. Nora Aunor as Elsa gives a sensitive, polished and highly passive and consistently low-key performance. She is letter-perfect for the role. Meanwhile, Gigi Duenas (a stage actress) as a girl on the wrong side of the tracks who operates a cabaret-whorehouse is singularly brilliant and provides a striking contrast to the spiritual life of Elsa…” – Variety, January 26, 1983 (READ MORE)

Peeled-off Apprehensions – “…Thee film has unblushingly spoken for the Filipino urban society and its increasing acceptance of adultery as a social habit. It could have been a repetitious tale of a man with two women. But the writers have interestingly conducted the story through the precarious steps of a young, single, beautiful and supposedly decent girl. Marilou (Vilma Santos) has fallen helplessly in love with Emil (Christopher de Leon), a married man. When Emil’s wife decides to leave for Mindanao because she couldn’t stand him anymore, Marilou then decides for them to live together. Overjoyed with the prospect, she presses on to keep their relationship thrilling, warmer and stronger. But her efforts over the months only depresses her as she sees Emil gradually locking himself into a door she couldn’t enter. The mutual delights she had previously imbibed had soured into irritating silence and alienation. Her mounting disillusion flares up into throwing a couple of dishes. She opts for a separation only to yearn for him again. They go back to each other. She becomes pregnant. Suddenly, Emil suffers an attack and dies in her arms. Marilou whirls in grief for a time but bounces back to being “single”, attractive but perhaps no longer “decent”. The writers have fed significance into the conversations by filling them with popular ideas on marriage and relationships, engaging the viewers to respond with their own beliefs. There is irony though in the confessions of Emil and Marilou, in happier times, that each had been a better person upon being loved by the other. But their life together contradicted that statement. Her selfishness is revealed. “Ikaw lang ang iniintindi mo” he says and it uncovered his insensitivity. “Ako rin, may ego”, She replies. Vilma Santos confidently showed she felt the character she was portraying. Her depiction of feelings and emotions easily involve the viewers to share in her conflicts and joys. In this film, she has peeled-off apprehensions in her acting. Christopher de Leon has also been supportive in emphasizing the characterization of Marilou. He suitably complements Vilma’s acting. The director, Ishmael Bernal, displays his flair for taking scenes of Vilma putting on make-up. Unwittingly, he has suggested that whatever make-up is put on over adultery, it is still adultery…” – Lawrence delos Trinos, Star Monthly Magazine, July 1982 (READ MORE)

Post-1982 – “…While Vilmanians celebrated their idol’s historical win, Noranians redeemed their broken ego by lining up to the 1983 Manila International Film Festival on June 24th, “Himala” was chosen as the opening gala film together with Hollywood film, “Gandhi” as the closing. After the awards season of 1983, Vilma Santos released three more films after the disappointment, “Ayaw Kong Maging Kerida.” On June 9th, Viva Films released “Paano Ba ang Mangarap?” that turned out to be another box office hit. Few months afterwards Regal films released Bernal’s “Broken Marriage,” the follow-up film after the successful grand slam film, “Relasyon.” And finally, four days after Vi’s birthday, Viva Films released Marilou Diaz-Abaya’s drama, “Minsan pa Natin Hagkan Ang Nakaraan,” another box office hit. This film plus the two films mentioned above confirmed her bankable status. Not to be outshine again, “Himala” continued its relentless fight for recognition, winning the bronze prize at the 1983 Chicago International Film Festival on November of 1983 (Nov 4-18 1983)….” – RV (READ MORE)

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