Superstar Blues

Parade Dec 1980

I am an unabashed fan of Nora Aunor. Her phenomenal rise from “rags to riches” never fails to rouse the green-eyed monster in me. The countlessness and constancy of her following never ceases to amaze and impress me.

In the beginning (a decade or so ago) though, when all Aunor had going for her were the golden voice and the hordes of screaming devotees, I almost wrote The Superstar off as simply another successful, if hysterical, product of the mass media machine.

But Aunor didn’t let the grass grow under her feet. She branched off into cinema and the next thing I knew she was reaping Best Actress and Best Picture awards left and right from prestigious-enough local film academies. I changed my tune then, even forgave her for neglecting her singing career. There’s more to the girl after all, thought I.

A Gate Pass

I literally jumped at the chance to interview Nora Aunor. Why not? It is not an easy matter for a free-lance writer to get a celebrity of her super-stature, one yet who has her own coterie of scribes to pen whatever she deems fit for public consumption.

I had visions of going beyond and / or beneath the usual, of catching Aunor with hair and guard down, of subtly but brilliantly eliciting profound thoughts and personal insights borne of her unique life experience.

It didn’t take too long, of course, before I realized that there was going to be no “candid conversation” with the Superstar, no intimate soul-baring tete-a-tete in the privacy of her boudoir.

The interview was arranged for Parade by Manny Fernandez, one of Aunor’s publicity officers, and in return for the favor I was to please mention certain Aunor starrers currently being promoted. The setting was Fil-Am Studios in San Francisco del Monte where Aunor was dubbing for the movie “Bona.”

The Pick-Up

Tape recorder in tow I hied off with friend Mitch (a.k.a. Maya Valdez na kaibigan ni Ate Guy) to pick up Fernandez at the corner of Roces Ave. and Quezon Blvd. A plumpish moustached bespectacled man, Fernandez could not stop talking about this, his first blind date. As for Mitch and me, we were both suffering vile hang-overs and our grins were pasted on like paper moons.

On to Fil-Am Studios we went, past the guards who didn’t bother to ask us for I.D.s (thank heavens), into the dubbing room where Aunor and Director Lino Brocka were busy at work.

ASIDE. In the making of local movies, the shooting of scenes (where the director goes “Lights! Camera! Action!”) and the laying on of the sounds (dialogue, music, special effects) are not accomplished simultaneously. An actor emotes twice, so to speak: once at the filming, and once more at the dubbing studio. A film is divided into brief loops, each of which is run over and over again on a huge screen until the dubber is ready to speak the appropriate lines with the appropriate emotions in synchronization with the lip movements on film. END

The Waiting

I was introduced to Aunor by Mitch, and then again by Fernandez. My credentials established, I supposed that we were going to get it on and over with right off. Instead we found ourselves ensconced in padded movie-theater seats, watching and listening to Aunor dub screaming crying raining scenes with amazing emotion and precision.

During a lull Brocka regaled us with a tale about an aspiring extra who needed more than a dozen takes to get her lines satisfactorily synched. Aunor, I found, is a natural at it. I marvelled at the effortlessness with which she mustered her emotional energies.

I was impressed and all that jazz. But my appointment was for two p.m. and it was already past four. My hang-over was gone and I was raring to go. What now, I wondered. Neither Aunor nor Brocka was showing signs of getting ready for a break.

During another brief lull, Mitch and I went up front (where the mics are situated) to sound Aunor off on whether her next day’s schedule might better accommodate an interview. I didn’t consider a 10-minute coffee break ample time for one, nor was I willing to sit around for much longer.

Aunor was apologetic and readily agreed to my suggestion that we try it again on the morrow. But, she said, we would still have to meet at the studio because she had more dubbing to do, though on and off, all day. Oh, great, I thought, the ultimate drag!

A Lecture

To top it all, when Bibsy Carballo (another Aunor PRO) heard that I was thinking of splitting, she and Fernandez ushered me off to the coffee shop, ostensibly to offer me a cuppa, but in reality to lecture me on how-to-deal-with-a-Superstar.

CARBALLO: I hope you don’t mind, ’no? Pero you’re not dealing with an ordinary celebrity here. Superstar yang kausap mo. Kahit na sabihin niya na okay lang, bumalik ka bukas, ikaw rin! Baka bukas hindi na siya in the mood. Mabuti ngayon at mukhang maganda ang timpla niya. Madaldal. Kung minsan hindi yan makausap.

Nonplussed me: Ah . . . ganoon ba yon?

CARBALLO: Alam mo ba, ang daming magazine dyan na humihingi ng interview with Guy. Yung isa nga tatlong buwan na naghahabol. Ikaw, nandito ka na, aalis ka pa.

I had stepped into another world where no rules exist except those that the Superstar herself spins off, improvises on, from moment to moment. I felt distinctly disoriented.

And that wasn’t all. I was asked, too, for a run-down of the questions I had prepared. Baka naman daw kaya na nilang sagutin para kay Guy, o baka naman daw mga hindi rin sasagutin ni Guy. I almost fell off my seat.

The Promise

Back to the dubbing room Carballo went to work her particular kind of magic. A few more minutes na lang, she promised.

Fernandez waited with me out in the lobby. Perhaps not to keep an eye on me in case I was thinking along lines of escape, but to keep me company. No doubt he empathized but he was too caught up in the Superstar game to be of any help.

As it turned out I had done right to make waves and rock the boat a mite. In less than 15 minutes, my trusty tape and I were face-to-face with the Superstar.

Nora Aunor is no raving beauty. She is a passably pretty Pinay, petite and light, brown and dusky. Pilipino is her tongue and mundane is her conversation.

Q: Napaka-hectic pala ng buhay mo.

A: Hindi naman. Kaya lang ihinahabol namin sa Filmfest itong “Bona” at saka “Kung Ako’y Iiwan Mo.” Tapos meron pa kong dalawang pelikulang nakalinya. Sabi ko nga, sa susunod isa-isa lang. O kaya, maglagare man, tama na yung dalawang pelikula.

Q: Nabalitaan kong meron kang away sa KBS.

A: Oo. Hindi na nga ako dapat magsalita pa dahil ayoko na sana ng gulo hangga’t maaari. Kaya lang sumama ang loob ko sa KBS sa nangyari. Ganito kasi yon. Nagsho-show ako sa “Superstar” nung narinig ko na merong nagsasagutan sa likod. Nagsumbong sa akin yung isang kasama ko, si Andy, na binastos daw siya nung audioman. Pinagsabihan siya na huwag galawin ang mic ko. Kasi pagkakanta ko, ibinababa ko ang mic ko. Pero hindi maganda ang pagkakasabi sa kasama ko. Kaya kinausap ko yung audioman, itinanong ko kung anong problema. Eh pinagtaasan ako ng boses. Hindi ko na lang pinansin dahil meron nga akong show. Maya-maya heto na naman. Yung isa ko namang kasama ang tinabig, na nakasakit na. Ano na naman yon, sabi ko. Katatapos lang nung isa, meron nang panibago. Pero hindi ko pa rin pinansin. Akala ko pangkaraniwang away lang.

Tapos, nung pauwi na kami, napansin ko na naiwan yung isa naming kasama sa loob. Binalikan ko siya at hustong-husto nakita ko na inaambaan na nitong audioman ang kasama ko. Doon ako lumapit sa audioman. Pero parang tinapik ko lang siya sa pisngi. Hindi ko sinampal. Meron pa ngang nakaharang sa amin kaya hindi ako nakalapit ng husto. Nakangiti pa nga ako. O, tapos na yan, ha, sabi ko pa.

Kinabukasan, or two days after, binira ako ni Rod Navaro sa radyo. Binira nila ako sa “Eat Bulaga,” ginawa pang pa-contest. Sabi ko, bakit naman ganoon. Ang feeling ko parang wala na yung protection na dating ibinibigay sa akin ng KBS. Tapos nabalitaan ko pa na nagreklamo pa daw sa Crame yung audioman. Meron daw mga physical injury, mga tama sa katawan, kesyo ganoon.

Kaya sumama ang loob ko. Kaya wala ako sa huling show ng “NV Compound.” At malamang, hindi ako lalabas sa “Superstar” hangga’t hindi naaayos ito. Hindi sa lumalaki ang ulo ko. Kaya lang, ang sa akin, parang pamilya ko na ang KBS. Kasabay ko mag-start ang KBS. Hindi ako galit. Nagtatampo lang ako. Parang anak na nagtatampo sa magulang.

Q: Marami ka pa rin bang mga alalay?

A: Ang mga fans basta napalapit na sa akin, hindi ko na itinuturing na fans. Kaibigan na ang turing ko sa kanila. Kasama ko sila sa mga lakad ko. Ayoko ngang tinatawag silang alalay e.

Q: Bakit parang iba nang iba ang mga kasama mo?

A: Hindi naman. Nagkakataon lang na yung iba nag-aasawa, yung iba nakakahanap ng ibang trabaho.

Q: Hindi ka ba naghahanap ng anonymity kung minsan?

A: Oo. Madalas naiisip ko na sana makapag-shopping ako na walang nanggugulo. Kasi malimit mangyari sa akin, halimbawa’t namimili ako, hindi ako makapili ng mga gusto ko dahil lahat sila nagsusunuran, nagpapapirma, ganyan-ganyan. Dampot na lang nang dampot. Napapamahal tuloy ang nabibili ko.

Q: Meron ka pa bang natitirang mga panaginip na hindi pa natutupad?

A: Sa pagka-singer ko, siguro yung maka-perform ako on stage na ako lang mag-isa. O kami lang ng banda. Yan ang hindi ko pa nagagawa. Mag-live concert.

Q: Kailan mo balak isakatuparan yan?

A: Pag wala na siguro akong ginagawang masyadong maraming pelikula. Matagal ko nang balak yan kaya lang sabi ko, kung apat-apat naman ang ginagawa kong iba, wala rin akong time para mag-rehearse. E importante yon. Ako pa naman. Meron akong daga sa ganyan. Kaya kailangan talaga yung mapapagukulan ko ng panahon.

Q: Pagdating sa pagka-artista, meron ka pa bang hindi nagagawa?

A: Ang pinakamimithi ng isang artista ay ang makakamit ng mga award. Sa ngayon wala na akong hinahabol pa kundi ang pagbutihin na lang ang aking pag-arte. Lalo na ako, marami pa akong hindi alam, marami pa akong matututunan.

A Final Toast

I had set out to plumb the depths of a superstar’s soul but failed dismally in the attempt. Asking Aunor personal questions is like banging one’s head against the proverbial stone wall. Going beyond and / or beneath the usual is simply not allowed.

So much for my interviewing skills, said my ego to my soul.

Here’s looking forward to the golden day when Aunor sheds her defenses and emerges from her snug superstar cocoon.

You have a rare tale to tell, milady, but the cat’s got your tongue, methinks.

Post Script

The following Aunor starrers have December-January playdates: “Bona” with Philip Salvador, directed by Lino Brocka: the story of an aspiring actor and his alalay (kasama?). “Kung Ako’y Iiwan Mo” with Christopher deLeon and Rollie Quizon, directed by Laurice Guillen: the story of a superstar-singer and the two men in her life (true to life?). “Bakit Bughaw ang Langit” with Dennis Roldan, directed by Mario O’Hara: the story of a mental retardate and the woman who helps him find his way through life.

Fair enough?