MANILA, July 5, 2014—“Nora Aunor is a phenomenon,” a member of the clergy said, echoing the sentiments of legions of other Filipinos—Noranians or not—who believe the actress deserves the title National Artist.
“Lest it be forgotten,” Fr. Eric Santos said in Filipino, “that once upon a time, there was this simple, petite, not-so-good-looking provinciana [village lass] who, with her acting prowess and golden voice, revolutionized the way Philippine cinema is made, and in whom ordinary people could see themselves.”
Before Aunor’s meteoric rise to superstardom, the color-conscious local movie industry was lorded over by the mestizo—part-Caucasian, part-native—whose tall noses and creamy-white skin, separated the actors from the fans.
Santos, though himself a self-confessed Vilmanian [Vilma Santos fan], laments the injustice done to Aunor in being denied the highest honor a Filipino artist, living or dead, could receive from the government.
“I was hurt by what happened, but the support being given me by my countrymen—my colleagues, fans and friends, nuns and priests, teachers and the media, National Artists and ordinary Filipinos here and abroad, who own me as the people’s artist—is worth more than the trophy I will ever receive from those in power,” Aunor said in a message.
The issue made it to the headlines when Aquino, who, as president had the last say on who would be National Artist, decided against giving Aunor the award.
In a released statement Tuesday, July 1, PNoy cited the actress’ “illegal drugs conviction” in the United States as reason for not naming her as a National Artist.
This, the president explained, “might send the wrong message if she is made a National Artist”.
According to PNoy, his father, the late Senator Benigno “Ninoy” Aquino Jr., was a fan of the “Superstar”.
“I respect Aunor and her craft, but the government’s clear, ‘zero tolerance’ stance against drugs must take precedence,” he said.
But the actress’s US-based lawyer Claire Navarro Espina explained in an official statement that her client was charged for allegedly possessing, not using drugs. (Raymond A. Sebastián)