By Haidee C. Pineda, images by Leonardo A. Reyes
(SEPT. 1)— She was petite with dark skin tone and very humble but, she was the brightest star that afternoon.
Veteran actress Nora Cabaltera Villamayor, more popularly known as Nora Aunor, arrived at the UP Film Institute Cine Adarna on Aug. 27 dressed in a pristine white Filipiniana attire that elegantly fit her small frame. She was honored by the UP College of Mass Communication as the 10th recipient of the prestigious UP Gawad Plaridel Award for her excellence in film and television.
Aunor was accompanied by her colleagues and friends, among them, award-winning scriptwriter Ricky Lee and multi-awarded film director Joel Lamangan.
As she marched to her seat during the processional, hundreds of loyal fans known as “Noranians,” gave her a standing ovation. Among the guests were National Artist for Literature Dr. Bienvenido Lumbera, members of the Board of Regents and the UP officials, faculty, staff and students, and guests from other universities.
When the Superstar went up the stage to accept the award, the Noranians almost shook Cine Adarna with their thunderous applause while some were on the verge of tears, feeling very proud of their idol.
Aunor confessed she was really nervous when she learned that she was to receive CMC’s highest distinction. But, as she regained her composure, she thanked everyone and said “Hanggang Grade 2 lang po ang inabot ko sa aking edukasyon kaya noong bigyan po ako ng karangalang ito ay para na rin po akong naka-gradweyt sa Unibersidad.”
She said the inspiration and the secret to her career’s longevity that spanned more than five decades is: “Lahat ng ginagawa ko ngayon ay paglingon sa aking nakalipas. At iyung mga inspirasyon na nararamdaman ko ay galing mismo sa mga taong naniniwala sa akin noong ako’y kumakanta palang hanggang sa ako ay naging artista nga po.”
Instead of a lecture, Aunor shared stories about her life from the time she was still struggling to help her family make ends meet, to the time she joined the “Tawag ng Tanghalan,” and until she became a multi-awarded actress. She also shared insights on her passion for making quality films that influenced her to venture into producing movies.
Aunor confessed that she has never attended an acting workshop although she thinks it is important. She said sometimes the actors would discover for themselves their own strategy on how to portray a certain role. What is important, she said, “Hangga’t maaari po, ang bawat karakter ko ay hindi dapat pareho sa karakter ko sa ibang pelikula.”
Her advise to the younger batch of actors was “Kapag isinapuso ninyo ang eksena, at naiintindihan mo ang kaeksena mo, lumalabas na natural (ang lahat).”
In addition, she said “Magtulungan po tayo na patuloy nating gawin kung ano iyung nararapat na gawin sa industriya lalo na sa mga baguhang artista na gumawa rin sila ng mga pelikulang makabuluhan at tulungan natin sila sa pagganap sa karakter nila sa pelikula…para maiangat natin ang industriya ng pelikulang Pilipino hindi lang dito sa Pilipinas kundi lalo’t higit sa lahat ay iyung makilala sa ibang bansa.”
The Gawad Plaridel, named after the Philippine hero Marcelo H. del Pilar’s nom de plume, Plaridel, is the College of Mass Communication’s (CMC) distinction for Filipino media practitioners who have excelled in any of the media (print, radio, film and television) and have performed with the highest level of professional integrity in the interest of public service.
In his welcome remarks, UPD chancellor Dr. Michael L. Tan said “Si Nora Aunor ay ang natatanging superstar dahil siya lamang ang artistang Filipino na matagumpay na nakatawid sa lahat ng larangan ng sining sa pagtatanghal.”
Tan also said “Para sa komunidad, para sa pambansang unibersidad, kayo po Ate Guy ay ang pambansang alagad ng sining.”
UP President Alfredo E. Pascual, Chancellor Tan, CMC dean Dr. Roland B. Tolentino awarded her a trophy specially designed by National Artist for Sculpture Napoleon Abueva. The citation on the certificate of recognition was read by CMC professor emeritus Dr. Nicanor Tiongson.
CMC recognized Aunor for her “unique artistry and versatility as a singer” and for “portraying with keen intelligence and uncommon sensitivity an amazing range of cinematic roles.”
The citation listed the films that showcased her excellence as an artist as “Fe, Esperanza, Caridad” (1974), “Minsa’y Isang Gamugamo” (1976), “Tatlong Taong Walang Diyos” (1976), “Bona” (1980), “Himala” (1982), “Bakit May Kahapon Pa” (1996), “Naglalayag” (2004) and “Thy Womb” (2012).
She was also commended for producing quality films that raised the bar in Philippine filmmaking, through her NV Productions like “Banaue: Stairway to the Sky” (1975), “Alkitrang Dugo” (1975), “Tatlong Taong Walang Diyos” (1976), “Tisoy!” (1977), “Annie Batungbakal” (1979) and “Bona” (1980).
Aunor was also recognized for starring in memorable and long-running television programs like the variety show “Nora Aunor Show” and “Superstar” that showcased her skills in singing and dancing that set a trend in Philippine television, and the weekly drama anthology “Nora Cinderella” at “Ang Makulay na Daigdig ni Nora” that brought to the public both fine and dramatic acting and relevant narratives of everyday life.
CMC also cited Aunor “Para sa paghamon niya sa pamantayang kolonyal na nagtatanghal sa mestiza bilang huwaran ng kariktan sa pelikula at lipunang Pilipino at sa paggigiit niya na ang tikas ng kayumanggi —balat na kulay ng gintong pulot, buhok na sing-itim ng uwak, at katawang balingkinitan—ay kapantay ng iba pang uri ng kagandahan, lalo na’t sa Pilipinas ay kinakatawan ng kayumanggi ang nakararaming may lahing Malay, na umiral mula panahong pre-kolonyal hanggang kasalukuyan, mula kanayunan hanggang kalungsuran, mula barong-barong hanggang mansion.” [For challenging the colonial standard that portrays mestiza as the benchmark of beauty in films and the Filipino society and for asserting that being “kayumanggi”—skin color of golden honey, hair as black as crow, and slender figure—is the same with other types of beauty, particularly in the Philippines where being “kayumanggi” represents majority of the Malay race, that prevails in the pre-colonial times up to the present, from the province to the city, from a shanty to a mansion.]
She was also recognized for using her “tremendous popularity as an opportunity to help the masses…appreciate films and plays that dramatized and analyzed the abject conditions of the Filipino majority and the poor and powerless characters that she played with conviction.”
Tolentino delivered the closing remarks. The event’s emcees were broadcaster and CMC alumni Ivan Mayrina and Gretchen Fullido.
Aunor now joins the roster of Gawad Plaridel past recipients Eugenia Duran-Apostol (2004, print), Rosa Vilma Santos (2005, film), Fidela “Tiya Dely” Magpayo (2006, radio), Cecilia “Cheche” L. Lazaro (2007, television), Pachico A. Seares (2008, community print), Kidlat Tahimik (2009, independent filmmaking), Eloisa “Lola Sela” Canlas (2011, radio), Florence “Rosa Rosal” Danon-Gayda (2012, television) and Jose “Pete” Lacaba (2013, print).
During the program, an audio-visual presentation in honor of Aunor was shown to the audience. It was directed by CMC Professor and UPFI director Prof. Roehl Jamon.
The UP Concert Chorus and UP SAMASKOM provided the intermission numbers. — With reports from the UP College of Mass Communication