Category: national treasure

backlash: “Noranians of the world, Unite!”

big mistake, mr. president.  you just lost a lot of votes for your annointed in 2016.  already there is a poster going around sa facebook, exhorting noranians to unite.  the punchline:  You have nothing to lose but Noynoy.” #MayHimalaSaNational Artist!  aray.

malaki-laking constituency po iyan, sir.  di nga po ako makapaniwalang binale-wala ninyo sila, kami, as though your liberal party had the 2016 elections in the bag.  or maybe you THINK you already have the 2016 election in the bag?  but what makes you think so, mr. president?  what makes you think that you won’t be needing the votes of nora’s fans, who are legion?

hmm, suddenly I’m remembering recent tsismis that there’s a shortlist based on some highly credible secret survey and it includes vilma santos-recto among the vice-presidentiables.  yes, vilma herself, nora’s “archrival” in film.  can vilma be the ace up your sleeve, sir?  you don’t need nora because you have vilma, or you hope to have vilma, as mar roxas’s running mate in 2016?

but, if yes, vilma, then why should it mean no to nora as national artist?  charlie manalo’s mole in the palace thinks it’s because you think that it might offend vilma.  carmen pedrosa’s insider source thinks it’s because “if nora were given the national award, she might dilute the impact of the political strategy.”  and then there is also sharon cuneta daw to contend with as liberal party campaigner.

hindi ko gets.  bakit ma-o-offend si vilma at si sharon kung magagawaran ng national artist award si nora?  mas deserving ba si vilma kaysa kay nora, or deserving rin si vilma pero bakit si nora ang inuuna?  seriously?  ganito rin kaya ang takbo ng isip nina vilma at sharon?  that vilma is the equal of nora?

i beg to disagree.  vilma may be a good actress – she was outstanding in burlesk queen – but it’s telling that she has no film that ever won her any nomination or award in international film festivals.  she has also never acted on stage, and hardly ever on tv.  what she did on tv was sing, in her own musical variety show that ran on and on, week after week, for more than a decade, even if she has no musical talent whatsoever, as in, she has a singing voice that only fanatic vilmanians could love; in effect she lowered the bar and paved the way for the likes of loveli-ness and now annekapal, na kulang na lang ang i-love-you-lucky to end the show, swak na.

nor can it be said that vilma was a paragon of virtue back in the good old days before she finally settled down with senator ralph recto a.k.a. VAT-man of the alta sociedad political clan.  it was a brilliant career move, from showbiz to serious politics.  in fairness  vilma has excelled at playing that game, nakikinig kasi sa asawa, lol,  at may panalo talaga siya as VP sa 2016.

pero kapag tinapatan siya ni grace poe (who is on the shortlist of presidentiables) as running mate of binay, then may tulog si ate vi, mr. president, and/but noranians could swing the vote.  itsura ng iglesia.

gary granada weighs in

Abrera agreed with Coloma that the President “doesn’t have to explain anything.”

Simply because you are not obliged to does not mean you may not. Lalo na sa mga namumuno, ang pagkakataon na magpaliwanag ay higit na mahalaga kaysa karapatang magpasya sa isang bagay. It is in those grand opportunities, those rare times when people are eager to hear from their decision makers, that leaders are able to rally people behind and around their supposed social vision. Sayang sir, nakapag educate ka pa sana sa mga kababayan natin kung paano nga ba ikaw magdesisyon sa matuwid mong daan.

Ate Guy, National Artist

I was six the year Ate Guy starred in Himala. I grew up loving Pinoy popular and mass culture, local TV and movies, and knew only of Ate Guy as Elsa, the barrio lass who held a whole community in the palm of her miraculous hand. At some point in college I would realize the magnitude of this role, the breadth and scope of its importance, how scholars have studied it, how it made Nora into an icon. More importantly, how Nora as an actress made that role iconic. — Katrina SS

on nora’s two most internationally acclaimed films (short ‘reviews’)

By J. Neil C. Garcia

HIMALA (Digitally Remastered)

Revisiting Ishmael Bernal’s masterpiece, Himala, is instructive in the way all nostalgia is instructive: it affords one the chance to touch the past from one’s bearings in the present, and to instantly notice the difference in oneself—basically, how one is no longer what one used to be…

This time, Himala strikes one not so much for the unity of its vision as for its opposite—which is to say, its ambivalence, its half-heartedness, its hesitations, chiefly due (one now more keenly understands) to its imbricatedness in Marcosian largesse (filmed in the Ilocos, supported fully by the artistically inclined presidential daughter), that doubtless forced the director’s hand to downplay his critique of the religious and sociopolitical structures that promote if not tolerate the immiseration of the symbolic barrio on one hand, and on the other to ascribe the suffering of its inhabitants to the vagaries of a whimsical nature (all those congenitally malformed and misshapen bodies, and of course, the inclemencies of unpredictable weather, represented here by the protracted drought), as well as the immorality and general “unkindness” of human beings to each other.

One now also sees that this “doubleness” likewise derives from its syncretic aesthetic gestures, that distinguish it as a filmic project, at the same time that they arguably confound it—neorealistic on one hand, and nationalistically allegorical on the other. Despite the years—and their surfeit of willfully miserablistic films—one still finds, in any case, astonishing moments in both registers (for instance, the prostitute Nimia’s gritty and grisly dialogue, about rolled newspapers, bottles and fish being shoved by a gang of sadistic junkies into her vagina that, in the end, felt and looked like a squelched tomato), and the epic and riveting final scenes, that eventuate in the image of the seething and mumbling masses inching up the barren hillside on their knees, in what must have been Bernal’s emblem for the Filipino condition: stubbornly irrational and religiously devoted, if only because entirely desperate to survive.

The “demystifying” by Elsa of the miraculous, her swan song that sees her confessing to fabricating the divine visitation, the visionary’s owning up to her prevarication—none of this will prevent Filipinos from believing in the ministrations of miraculous providence, because there’s little else that they can believe in or do (Sepa actually says this to her husband, Bino, early in the film). The pathos of this hyperbole contains the kernel of Bernal’s materialist critique, which isn’t quite as pointed as it could have been, had the circumstances been different…

What hasn’t changed, however, is one’s quiet awe at Nora Aunor’s singular and soul-searing performance, which is still an astonishment to behold…

* * *


Brillante Mendoza’s Thy Womb could’ve been more fortunately titled, and its pacing could’ve been fine-tuned here and there, but it’s doubtless a great film, soaked in the inks, forms and movements of our southern islands’ natural splendor on one hand, and entirely committed to the task of a closely observed life on the other.

This film unfolds by braiding these two rhythms into each other, as is the way of the people whose little-known story it attempts, in its own careful and admittedly limited way, to tell. Moreover, what seemingly impedes it—namely, the narrative oscillation, the “doubleness” of its vision as documentary and as drama—is revealed, in the end, to be part and parcel of its insight, as embodied in the placid greatness and numinous depth of Nora Aunor’s exceptional performance: the heroism of the devoted and barren wife, her largeness of heart and self-abnegating love for her husband, is indissociable from her world, which permeates her very being, entwined as her spirit and character must be in the weft and woof of her culture’s ever-imperiled and resolutely enduring life.

The film opens with Aunor’s character, Shaleha, midwifing a birth. It ends the same way. Her story is entirely interfolded, like a thread, into her world. The desire to allow her husband to have a child with another woman isn’t unnatural at all, in this life. Shaleha’s sacrifice is heroic, but also entirely organic in this reality. To my mind, the film succeeds in dramatizing this.

It’s not perfect, this film. But the flaws are forgivable. And they are even possibly necessary, to confound its own claims to authenticity. What Mendoza succeeds in doing, by situating Shaleha’s life so unobtrusively in this world—the weaving in and out between the dramatic and the ethnographic—is to render inevitable her decision to be selfless: it is notable, but also entirely possible, in this kind of life. The dignity of this people, caught between inexorable forces (national and global), dancing through the minefield of abject “precarity,” yearning towards the consolations of tradition, seeking again and again the truth of the spirit: a story Aunor tells so eloquently, using little else than the quiet scripture of her face.

Her performance here is probably in the top five of her very best performances, and yes, she doesn’t shirk—she never shirks—her duties as an actor, enfleshing her character to the point of defacing her own acting self (she looks every inch her age in this film, even more, and that is entirely germane to the role she is assuming). Clearly, Aunor allowed her director to guide her, but she also worked intuitively, as she always did, in her best and most memorable performances. Her best scenes here are the wordless ones. Mendoza clearly understood that Aunor’s strength lies in her face, which speaks stories without her actually saying anything. And yes: her hands and her general “form” are so eloquently utilized in this film, as well.

A particularly haunting scene is that of Aunor’s character clinging to her husband (played by Bembol Roco) in the rain, as they are paddling their way back from the mosque to their house. Again and again, the most haunting images are that of her face: as she looks at the crescent moon, which is a spiritual symbol, as well as a marker of time passing, and yes, as they make love for one last time.

Cherished, in their innermost faith, by their gracious and compassionate God, the people of Tawi-tawi dance in the midst of gunfire and depredation, hunger and drought, and it is this very same ethos that animates the barren woman’s actions, for as her own people remind her, life must be lived for others, and with hope, no matter how difficult and tight-fisted it often is… Once more, Aunor sears into our memory the persona she enacts into powerful art, and we cannot help but recognize, in the luminous alchemy of a face that’s been softened by the rheum and chastised by the exertions of eventful age, the sadness and pain (as well as horror) of the knowledge of our own forfeited happiness, as well as the glimmerings of a stubborn hope that our own abiding faiths must urge upon us.

Transformative cinema. A gem of a film.