Hail to the Last Four Queens of Philippine Movies
By Alwin M. Ignacio
They reigned at a time when the movies were king. And television was second fiddle – it did not have the popularity, prominence and power then.
The universe has been most kind to a majority of us, especially those who grew up watching Filipino movies and television. During our wonder years up to the present, the silver screen gave us four outstanding super women to admire, embrace and love. They are Nora Aunor, Vilma Santos, Maricel Soriano and Sharon Cuneta, they are the last four queens that reigned supremely this side of Tinsel town,
This league of extra ordinary women somewhat lived parallel lives. All were plucked from obscurity. They started as bubble gum starlets, they had their fair share of love teams, and eventually, the moment arrived when they worked their assess off, egos bruised, pride lowered, humbled yet triumphant – trained by legendary film masters such as Lino Brocka, Ishmael Bernal, Celso Ad Castillo, Mario ‘O Hara, Mike de Leon, Elwood Perez, Maryo delos Reyes and others, who were instrumental in bringing out and showing to the public, that they are indeed actresses of distinction.
In the course of their careers, they had their fair share of box office hits and flops, critical acclaim and vitriol, real and imaginary intrigues, they have battled it all and survived, with scarred hearts yet remaining true to their core – women of substance and power.
They also had their fanatics, and boy, the Noranians, Vilmanians, Maricelians and Sharonians, were a different lot. They were, and till this day and age of social media boom, not content to name calling and downsizing, they were lunatics, in a way, ready to slap. scratch, box, kick, pull another person’s hair, even willing to shed blood, just to defend and protect their idols honor, who they love blindly and fiercely.
The quartet of feminine power, also had their lionesses’ share of personal debacles that tested their individual strengths as women. All sorts of gossips – whether imagined or probably for real – they faced head on, and after every major battle, it left them bruised, confused, dazed, vaginas pounded, hearts trampled, and spirits heavily wounded. And yet, they managed to stand up, rise above it all, and embrace the horrors and honors of life and move forward to start again and rise above it all.
They live. They laugh. They cry. And oh, how they loved! That is why up to now, we still admire them. We get our inspiration from them. Yes, we love them, but we understand them even more now, and as we understand that they are humans like us, we bow our heads and thank the heavens for this four Queens.
Nora Aunor, the Superstar
Nobody can question her artistry. And no one dares to raise an eyebrow with regard to the title bestowed on her, universally we accept that Aunor is the one and only superstar and the country’s greatest actress.
After giving up on Tirso Cruz III (her perennial love-team) and Maria Leonora Teresa (their doll), and she became Rosario in Tatlong Taong Walang Diyos, which according to critic Noel Vera, is the greatest Filipino movie ever made, Mario O’ Hara, unleashed the actress in Nora. And her works with other film masters further showcased her range and power as an actress.
With Lino Brocka, our collective jaws dropped as we witnessed her, “Hayup! Hayup! Hayup!!!!” outbursts, as Ester who discovered that it was her husband who impregnated her mother in Ina Ka Ng Anak Mo. And in Bona, that pivotal moment, her cinematic orbs filled with rage, as she muster courage to throw boiling water at Philip Salvador.
My personal favorite, Aunor as Adora Bernal in Beloved wherein she was rich, sophisticated and launching a battle against another equally talented actress and a true sophisticate at that, Hilda Koronel.
The tribulations and triumphs in Ate Guy’s life are an open secret. And despite her faults and pitfalls, Nora continues to survive and shake the entertainment industry.
Though they have not given her the honor of National Artist for Film, to the majority, Nora is the Philippines’ national actress. Recently, she became part of the ensemble cast of Little Nanay.
Next year’s awards derby will definitely be more exciting because the superstar continues to portray challenging roles in stellar movies such as Whistle Blower and Taklub.
Vilma Santos, the Star for all Seasons
After Ate Guy, the next movie queen is Vilma Santos, tagged as the Star for all Seasons. Vilma and Nora are the longest reigning movie queens and their rivalry remains unmatched.
Santos was always the lesser star compared to Nora, the superstar. In her wonder years, Vilma was deliciously plump, with an oval face, mestizo, yes, had her own share of hits at the box-office but still the star referred as Ms. Number Two.
Then a eureka moment happened, she starred in the box-office hit and critical sensation Burlesk Queen, with the Messiah, Celso Ad Castillo as its director. With her unforgettable burlesque dance of death, gave Vilma the respect and acceptance she longed for, people took her seriously and finally, Vilma indeed was the actress and arch-nemesis of Nora.
Some samples of their epic film battles were, Aunor for Atsay and Vilma for Rubia Servios, Guy and Lolita Rodriguez in Ina Ka Ng Anak Mo versus Vi and Charito Solis in Modelong Tanso, Guy and Vi’s first movie with the late National Artist for Film Ishamel Bernal in Ikaw ay Akin with the unforgettable no dialogue confrontation scene. And of course, when they both became Bernal’s muses, Nora for Himala and Santos for Relasyon wherein Vilma brought home all the best actress trophies that awards season making her the very first grand slam best actress.
Ishamael Bernal directed film Relasyon, continues to be a favorite of many. It is the best mistress themed motion picture. To this day, many recollect how riveting she was in Emil’s (Christopher de Leon) death scene and how her face spoke in volumes, as Marilou, looking at their love-nest for the very last time.
Just like Guy, Vilma’s life is an open book. And in all her struggles, the public witnessed how she survived it all.
This year, her movie Everything About Her, with Angel Locsin and Xian Lim, earned considerably at the box office. She runs for higher office, as congresswoman as of the moment.
Sharon Cuneta, the Megastar
Sharon Cuneta’s Bituing Walang Ningning, was the reason why Sister Stella L bombed at the box-office. It takes a queen to dislodge another queen and this battle royale that Sharon won, is proof positive of power and lure of Cuneta as a box-office figure.
The reigns of the four, by some divine intervention, or was it a cosmic plan, crossed paths, especially in the mid-late eighties and early nineties, and it was inevitable that they will slug it out in the platforms that they were part of – cinema and television.
Cuneta started out as the darling of the middle class and the new moneyed moviegoers. She was introduced in Dear Heart, a modern day fairy tale that enthralled the public. We just loved the way she spoke, in perfect baby talk with a “kolehiya” sing-song accent and in this movie, and the many that followed, gave us a glimpse on the lives, houses, outfits, past times and hang-outs of Manila’s bourgeois and culturati.
Sharon’s box-office hit movies were aplenty. She even sold records that went gold and platinum, concerts that were well-attended as well, and of course, her numerous commercial endorsements that really moved the product in the market.
Of the many movies she made (even if she won most of her accolades from the over-rated Madrasta), her best, according to this Glitter.ph correspondent’s book, was Nang Iniwan Mo Ako. She was so emotionally anchored and committed to her character. she gave it the perfect mix of vulnerability and tenacity. As the middle-aged wife left by her husband for a younger woman, Cuneta nailed her part.
Lately, the megastar busies herself as a judge for Your Face Sounds Familiar and is still a sought after product endorser. Sharonians are eagerly anticipating her movie comeback.
Maricel Soriano, the Diamond Star
People first loved her as the “Taray,” in the many comedies she did with her Kulit, love team William Martinez. Being a comedienne is a natural thing that Soriano can do, and she does it with aplomb, since she became like a real daughter of comedy royalties, the late greats Dolphy and Nida Banca, the lovable Puruntongs, of the cult sitcom classic John en Marsha.
Naturally loquacious and gregarious, she was always a riot in all movies that displayed her comic flare.
Then she did Shayne in Saan Darating ang Umaga, and the dramatic confrontation she had with Nida Blanca, to this day, remains in our memories, “Ayoko mag-itim. Ayoko magluksa. Wala sa damit, wala sa kulay ang pagmamahal. Narito, nasa puso, nasa utak!.”
After Umaga…, the public was made aware that she can now retire all her Inday Bote and Inday sa Balitaw personas, pronto!
There are two Soriano movies that are easily the audiences’ favorites. first in Separada, where she uttered the lines with so much convictions. “Oo, bahay ko ‘to! Dahil ako ang nagbabayad ng ilaw, ako ang nagbabayd ng tubig! Get out of my house! I don’t need a parasite!” And of course, in Ikaw Pa Lang ang Minahal, a career defining performance ever that earned her so many acting nominations. She was just so electrifying specially when she said to Charito Solis the lines, “Darating siya, alam ko darating siya at mamahalin niya ako para sa mga taong hindi nagmahal sa akin.”
And yes, Maricel continues to be loved, her last TV outing, Ang Dalawang Mrs. Real was a ratings winner. And in Lumayo Ka Man Sa Akin, she showed the millenials, that she can still play cookie and zany with so much confidence. All we need to wait is her next drama offering.
Nora Aunor, Vilma Santos, Sharon Cuneta and Maricel Soriano, to the last four movie queens, thank you for the inspiration, thank you for breathing life and soul to your unforgettable roles and all the Noranians, Vilmanians, Sharonians and Maricelians will love you forever.