“…Dear Uncle Mars, Dapat sana ay hindi na namin sasagutin ang mga detractors ni Vilma dahil hahaba lang, but in as much as they have already succeeded in riding on the popularity of Vilma, sasagutin na lang namin para sa kanilang kasiyahan. Madali naman talagang maunawaan ang kanilang mga actions ngayon. Gagawin talaga nila ang lahat ng kanilang magagawa para maka-ride sa popularity ni Vi ngayon. So, in behalf of “Solid Vilmanians” & “Vilma Santos Solid Phils.,” here goes our answer. The question: Sino ngayon ang number one female superstar? The answer: Vilma Santos with emphasis on NOW. To begin with, the claim of Nora’s drumbeaters that Nora is Queen of Phil. Movies for ten years is not accurate. Dahil ten years mean from 1968 to 1978 which is not right. Even in 1969, sila pa ni Amalia, Susan, Helen Gamboa and Rosemarie ang biggest stars. I have records to prove this and Baby K. Jimenez knows this dahil kasikatan pa ni Susan Roces nang ikinasal siya noong December 1968 (si BKJ ay isa sa mga abay sa kasal) at si Susan pa ang isinusulat niya nuon.
Inumpisahan si Nora na tawaging superstar in 1970 at hindi niya solo ang pagiging superstar, dalawa sila ni Vilma and again I have records to prove this. Even the Sunday Times Magazine then, acknowledge Vilma as a superstar. Nora was always addressed as Superstar and no one addressed her movie Queen. Nagsulputan na lang ang mga write-ups ng kanyang mga drumbeaters na Nora is Queen after na lumabas ang cover story of Expressweek by Ricardo Lo na “Vilma Santos: A Queen For All Seasons,” January 18, 1978. So, ang tawagin si Nora na Queen from 1968 to 1978 ay malaking kamalian at insulto sa mga nakakaalam. She was almost finished as a star before “Banaue.” Bumagsak na siya nuon from the rank of superstar. Many people attested then that “Banaue” was her last card para makaakyat uli sa superstardom. Then during the filming of Banaue, she was the one who used Christopher de Leon as a stepping stone para makaakyat uli. Then dahil sa marami niyang gimik bumandera siya uli in 1975. Pero kahit bumandera siya hindi naman nabawasan ang pagka-Superstar ni Vilma. In 1976, ang nag-reign supreme ay ang mga bold stars. Infact, our groups of superstars were affected by the bomba pictures. Even Fernando Poe, Jr’s pictures ay talo ng kay Alma Moreno. In the middle part of 1976 nga, sabay na ipinalabas ang kay Vilma’s “Mapagbigay Ang Mister Ko” at Nora’s “Wanted: Dead or Alive” together with Barbara Luna’s picture, mas pinilahan ang kay Barbara Luna. So, 1976 was the year of the Bold Stars except in the latter part when the Metro Manila Filmfest was first held in December of that year.
So, let us have a close examination of their performances last year 1977. Katulad ng observation ni Mr. Joe Quirino, “Nora started 1977 auspiciously while Vilma was way way down the popularity sweepstakes. Nora began last year by winning prizes and other awards. But for some reason, Nora failed to follow-up this momentum in her career. Let’s admit it, Vilma these days is more popular than Nora Aunor because of Vilma’s winning the best actress award.” (Seeing Stars. Times Journal, January 17, 1978). Yes Nora started the year 1977 with a good showing. She won awards left and right, the URIAN, the FAMAS, nomination sa PATAS. More offers to do movies, making lagare of two or three movies while Vilma although she hugged the limelight pa-isa-isa lang ang movie na ginawa niya. Infact, half of the year 1977 wala siyang pelikula na napalabas. July na nang may naipalabas na pelikula ni Vilma which was “Pulot-Gata Puwede Kaya,” “Susan Kelly: Edad 20,” “Dalawang Pugad Isang Ibon”October 7, Masarap, Masakit Ang Umibig” October 21. July to October, Vilma’s picture were only four but they were such big hits, it can’t be denied attention.
Anu-ano ang ginawa ni Nora noong 1977? 1. Pag-ibig Ko’y Awitin Mo; 2. Silang Mga Mukhang Pera; 3. Pinakasalan Ko ang Ina Ng Aking Kapatid; 4. Sapin-Sapin, Patung-Patong; 5. Disco Baby; 6. Panakip Butas; 7. Neneng Magtanggol; 8. Little Christmas Tree – November 25; 9. Roma Amor – December 19. And sometime in October may na-publish na top ten box-office hits of 1977, tatlo ang kay Vilma, followed by Alma’s two movies, then one each of Fernando Poe Jr. and Niño Muhlach, Dolphy and Nora. The record shows na isa lang ang kay Nora which was “Pinakasalan Ko Ang Ina Ng Aking Kapatid” na talo pa that time ng Masikip, Maluwang ni Alma. So October pa lang, the writers and movie columnist already called Vilma the box office Queen. Kahit na ipinalabas ang “Little Christmas Tree”, still Vilma was the Queen dahil kung hit man ang said picture, it cannot be attributed to Nora alone dahil there was Fernando Poe, Jr. So come December at film festival. From all indications matatalo pa nga sana sa box-office ang Burlesk Queen dahil ito’y luma na as of December.
Si Vilma lang ang pinakabida, no play-up of a love angle at hindi ito ang unang pagsuot ni Vilma ng bikini while Bakya Mo Neneng ay malaki ang pang-akit dahil sa love triangle nila ni Tirso Cruz III at Joseph Estrada. Hindi mo rin maisantabi and box-office power ni Joseph Estrada, pero tinalo pa rin ang “Bakya, inspite of the fact na tatlo sila at for adults pa ang “Burlesk.” Sa ten days showing, Php360,000 ang lamang ng Burleask Queen and three hundred sixty thousand is three hundred sixty thousand in any language. So ang crowning glory ni Vilma ay ang box-office returns ng kanyang pelikula. Not so much of the award dahil let’s face it, in Philippine movies, kung sinong artista na ang pelikula ay kumikita sa takilya, siya ang tinitingala ng lahat, may award man o wala. Hindi ba there were months na si Alma ang proclaimed Box-Office Queen pero wala pa siyang award, hindi ba? In the 1976 filmfest pa lang humina na talaga si Nora sa takilya dahil binigyan na siya ng mahusay na direktor, Director Lupita Concio, the movie was all hers dahil supporting lang si Jay IIagan but it failed to make it to the top grosser. Ito’y kabilang sa last three pictures of the ten entries.
So saan ngayon ang pinagreynahan ni Nora? “Nora Aunor had more flops last year than hits. Infact, Alma had more hits kaysa kay Nora although may flops din siya,” (Cris Almario, Kampeon, February 9, 1978). “Vilma had more hits last year than Alma. So it was actually Vilma who was 1977’s biggest female star and not Alma afterall.” (Tony Mortel, Daily Express, January 31, 1978). Then hindi tama na sabihin ng mga drumbeaters ni Nora na wala pang makakapantay kay Nora sa kasalukuyan. Nakakatawa pero she’s even being left out of the box-office Queen race last year pa! “Vilma Santos can topple down any actress, bold or not if she sets her heart into it,” (Ricky Lo, Expressweek, January 26, 1978). Si Nora Aunor ay hindi pa nakakawala sa whims and caprices ng kanyang fans. While Vilma according to Chelo Banal of Panorama “Vi took big leaps to get to the Php 300,000 level today, passing through the loveteam hysteria, and graduating to WOMANHOOD from good girl roles. All of a sudden, Vi was getting kissed and torridly yet. The fans have grown older themselves and accepted that nobody stays sweet and innocent forever although there is still a whiff of sweet innocence about Vilma.”
Well, alam nating lahat na mahirap talagang tanggapin ang katotohanan but they had to admit it whether they like it or not because the record shows. So as Mr. Joe Quirino says, “1977 ended Vilma as the box-office Queen and 1978 started with Vilma as the No. ONE female superstar and indeed the Queen of Philippine Movies. So Vilma reigns supreme! Very truly yours, Mrs. Terry Quitalig President, Solid Vilmanians…” – Terry Quitalig, Mars Ravelo sa Bulaklak, March 13, 1978 (READ MORE)