It’s a Bird! It’s a Plane! It’s a Vilma!

ARTICLES - Lipad Darna 2

Thanks to the Internet, I was able to do a cursory analysis of the real score between the Vilma Santos & Nora Aunor rivalry, based on the data base from their respective web sites. This piece zeroes in on their battle for the Horror/Fantasy Genre Queenship, which is the theme of the current Vilma! Newsletter.

Nora Aunor was an early ’70’s phenomenon. She broke the mestiza, statuesque screen diva mould and eclipsed the likes of Susan Roces, Amalia Fuentes, Helen Gamboa, Pilita Corrales, Vilma Valera, Rosemary Sonora, Gina Pareno and Hilda Koronel. The gripo dramatic princess Vilma Santos who is as petite as Nora is really her nemesis.

The ’masa’ went gaga over Nora’s golden voice, records, magazines and movies. The competitor cum warrior in Vilma Santos did not stop her to join in the fray of juvenile escapist fare of inane musicals about boy meets girl under a mango tree. We saw other ’small’ musical stars in Esperanza Fabon, Eddie Peregrina and Co. ad infinitum. Tall is out, petite is in. The Nora-Vilma battle was a lopsided affair at least for a while. The serious acting era will come later. And that is another challenge for any serious Vilma-Nora watcher to do a thesis on.

The ’bomba’ craze put a damp on the Nora-Vilma rivalry. As fans grew tired of Nora overall, her dalliance with Tirso Cruz and those silly ’pito-pito’ movies directed by Artemio Marquez, Vilma Santos saw an opening. Enterprising and creative directors Joey Gosiengfiao and Elwood Perez saw a goldmine in Vilma Santos.

The middle class teeny bopper fans who had purchasing power and discretionary income to plunk on movies and fan mags were bored of the repetitive musical genre. They were looking for something new. It also helped that martial law was declared and the New Society put an end to the ’ef-ef’ mania. Goodbye, ’bomba’, hello Vilma! Vilma Santos filled the moviegoers’ void and after the release of Takbo, Vilma, Dali! and Hatinggabi Na, Vilma in 1972, Vilma was on her merry way to the box-office queenship. Nora’s handlers couldn’t believe that a non-singer rival with a thin voice but a gutsy performer stole the crown from the superstar while she wasn’t looking as she continued to sing under a mango tree. The emancipation from Nora Aunor was really made official when Lipad, Darna, Lipad shattered box-office records and gave Erap is My Guy and an FPJ flick stiff competition at the tills, in 1973.

1973 was really Vilma’s banner year. She won her first FAMAS for Dama De Noche and kept Nora edgy and on her toes with the successful box-office results of her fantasy flicks in succession: Dyesebel, Anak ng Asuwang, Maria Cinderella, Wonder Vi and Darna and the Giants.

In 1974, Vilma ruled the box-office with FPJ (Batya’t Palu-palo) and escapist flicks such as Phantom lady, Kampanerang Kuba and Kamay na Gumagapang. Mathematically speaking, no one contested when Vilma and FPJ were declared 1974’s Box office Queen and King. Actually, there was no turning back for Vilma as she holds the specter and crown as the longest reigning box-office and movie queen (refer to published data base at the Internet).

In 1973, Nora’s spin doctors concocted Super Gee as her ’answer’ to Vilma’s Darna but sadly, it did not ignite the boxoffice the way Darna and Erap Is My Guy did. Vilma Santos went on to make a total of four Darna movies (Lipad, Darna, Lipad!, Darna and the Giants, Darna and the Planetwomen and Darna at Ding), the most successful Darna franchise. Yes, there was Edna Luna as the original Dyesebel; Rosa Del Rosario as the first Darna; and Nida Blanca as Babaing Sputnik. And then there was Nora Aunor as Super Gee. But no other actress has been as popular as the fantasy characters she created than Vilma.

From Darna to Dyesebel, to Kampanerang Kuba. Vilma is the veritable Fantasy/Horror Movie Queen. Generation after generation, she is the Heroine for all Seasons and Reasons. As a bird, Vilma is like an eagle, who soars the skies with majestic flights and easy landings, like her brilliant career. As a plane, she is the supersonic jet whose trajectory is decisive, and travels at almost the speed of light, like her winning streak from all frontiers. Like Darna, she has a golden heart but a nerve of steel, like the competitor and warrior that she is. Don’t mess with Vilma Santos. It’s a bird, it’s a plane, it’s Darna! Zoom, zoom, Vilma Santos! – Mar O. Garces, V Magazine, 2009 No. 5 (READ MORE)