There was no red carpet, no glamorous gown, no crystal glasses nor endless bottles of champagne at the 6oth birthday celebration of the Philippines’ one and only Superstar, Nora Aunor.
But everything was just as it should be.
On May 21, business mogul Manuel V. Pangilinan and his media network TV5 organized a very successful party for its top talent, the critically acclaimed actress from Iriga City, at the far from glitzy Meralco Multi-Purpose Hall, with 250 of her fiercely loyal Noranian fans as special guests.
The celebration, though not what is expected of a Superstar’s stature in terms of venue and personalities, was very fitting for La Aunor’s milestone because she spent it with the very people who made her who she is: A star who has been revered and extolled beyond compare despite the ups and downs of her overly colorful life.
The fans, whose ages ranged from the 50s to the 70s, were served a sumptuous buffet, as well as a visual feast with floor-to-ceiling photo reproductions of their idol, and a very touching and well-organized program from TV5. The party may have been simple, but La Aunor’s mother studio, which she proudly credits for resurrecting her career after her long hiatus in the United States, spared nothing in brining on the waterworks among fans, friends and the Superstar herself.
Rise to superstardom
Born Nora Cabaltera Villamayor on May 21, 1953, the would-be Superstar first came into public consciousness when she won the legendary talent search Tawag ng Tanghalan in 1967.
Starting out as a singer, she would guest in concerts and TV shows of the decade’s popular celebrities, among them Pilita Coralles, Carmen Soriano, the late Ike Lozada and German Moreno.
After becoming the best-selling recording artist of Alpha Records shortly after her Tawag ng Tanghalan victory, Dr. Jose Perez of what was then the biggest movie company, Sampaguita Pictures, knocked on her door, and thus began her exceptional movie career.
Critically acclaimed both locally and internationally for her performances in such Filipino classics as Minsay’ Isang Gamu-Gamo, Atsay, Bona, Himala, Bulaklak sa City Jail, The Flor Contemplacion Story, and most recently, the 2013 Asian Film Awards Best Picture Thy Womb, Aunor has five Famas Best Actress Awards, Six Gawad Urian Awards, eight Metro Manila Film Festival Wards, four Luna Awards, four Young Critics Circle Awards, a Cairo Film Festival Award, an Asia Pacific Screen Awards, an Asian Film Awards, a Berlin Film Festival Award nomination, and a Venice Film Festival Awards nomination. (Wikipedia)
Her life an open book, her alleged addition to gambling, alcohol and drinking affected both her career and personal life, ending her 11-year-marriage to actor Christopher de Leon in 1996 (with whom she has one biological son, Ian de Leon, and four adopted children, Lotlot, Matet, Kiko and Kenneth de Leon), and forcing her to migrate to the United States for a total of eight years.
In all these, her fans never left her side.
Throughout the evening’s highly entertaining program on Tuesday night, both pre-taped and live speeches from La Aunor’s family, friends and fans, and even members of the press who had been covering her life and career from the very beginning, recalled the extraordinary effect she had both on screen and in the flesh, thus making her the country’s Superstar.
The director of her long-running variety show and good friend Kitchie Benedicto was an endless source of amazing stories on just how “super” the star was at the height of her career.
“We would literally have to go over the bakod just to make it in time to the studio for the show because a sea of fans were permanently in front of Guy’s house,” she reminisced. “Ate Guy” is Nora’s nickname in the industry.
“She is the only artist to date who held a concert at the Luneta with people stretching as far as Taft Avenue,” Benedicto continued. “And what was more amazing about that story is that Guy was actually sick at the time and was even connected to I.V. (intravenous fluids) but she didn’t want to disappoint her fans so we had a ramp made so we could roll her up the Quirino Grandstand stage. To this day, tumatayo pa rin ang balahibo ko pag naaalala ko kung gaano kalakas ang hiyawan ng mga tao.”
Mercy Lejarda, a longtime entertainment writer, next took the microphone and recalled how astounded she was when she went to visit a very tired Nora Aunor at the set of a movie in the 1970s to find her fans lined up outside her room as she slept.
“Isa-isa silang pinapapasok sa kuwarto ni Ate Guy at habang natutulog siya, para siyang isang santo na pinupunasan ng mga fans ng panyo nila, at pagka-tapos, hinahalikan ang mga panyo nila.”
Through all these, the Superstar just bowed her head in her trademark “Ate Guy” move, sincerely humbled and moved by just how she has been beloved for her God-given talent—as well as her human frailty—by her equally beloved Noranians.
What a night it was indeed, which came to a close with 60 of her fans going up the stage to give their idol gifts, thank her for inspiring them, and in countless instances, helping them through their own difficult lives. The Superstar hugged each one so tightly, whispered personal messages into their ears, kissed them, and thanked them back.
Everything was just as it should be.