The idea of this article is not new; there were countless articles tackling the context and analysing movie roles of Nora Aunor and how it can be used to empower women. Indeed, while many Filipinos (especially haters and non fans) argued that her roles are limited to “awa” type of roles, these people did not realize that there are some things that are beyond the roles that she portrayed on screen. In celebration of “Women’s Day”, it is time that these people should be reminded on the importance of some of her movie characters in awakening the consciousness of many Filipinas towards empowerment.
When she started her career in the movies, she only did cameo and minor roles, but that did not deter one producer that he saw great potentials from her. Probably, Artemio Marquez was so intelligent that he was able to deduce that Filipinos at that time especially women needed role model and what a better way to manifest it through Nora Aunor. Yes, most of her major fans at that time were the “katulongs”, the plain housewives, the plain Jane, and other ordinary women in the society. Nora Aunor gave them hope when she became famous not only as a singer but a movie star as well.
She gave them the idea that you do not have to be rich and beautiful to succeed. She instilled into the minds of millions of Filipinas that arm with perseverance (she failed Tawag ng Tanghalan on her first attempt), talent (she did not have formal acting training), and self-confidence (she was too dark to become a celebrity) and your dreams will be realized. There were several stories documented on this inspiration and motivation Nora’s celebrity status impacted not only women but Filipinos in general. The most glaring example is the plain Vilma Santos whose career was also pulled up when Nora became famous.
Going back to her movie roles, there is no denying that indeed she was very effective portraying alalay, katulong, tinder, sidewalk vendor, sabungera, palengkera, stage mother, faith healer, NPA rebel, OFW, Badjao midwife, demented tiyahin, hopeful nurse, and among others. These roles are your typical Filipinas that you meet maybe not every day but in many points in your life. Filipinos revelled on her movie characters because they can really relate and empathized with her because these roles are them and Nora is one of them from the beginning.
What do these roles imparted? There are many lessons that you can gather from her movies roles when it comes to women empowerment. For example, in terms of justice, you can say that it is within her hands to avenge women’s state of exploitation (think of Bona), that justice is still difficult to come by (think of Flor Contemplacion), and that over time and period it will eventually come (think of Magnolia.) The truth is that millions of Filipinas have yet to experience real justice.
As noted by many, glamorous roles were quite few. This is however an indication of the real situation when it comes to empowerment. Women today, despite advances in terms of promoting feminism, millions of Filipinas are still relegated as supporting roles; millions are still sidewalk vendors, OFW’s seeking greener pasture for their families, millions are still selling their bodies to earn money (yes, Nora did a hostess role once), millions of women are still dreaming that they can utter “bullshit” to their husbands, millions are praying that somewhere there is a fairy godmother for them who will sponsor their education, and among others. This only shows that women today are still marginalized. The opportunities for women to succeed are always blocked by men who still believe that the bedroom or the maid’s quarter is where women should be.
If she is indeed championing women’s empowerment how come her movies today and even some during her heydays did not earn money? It is also an indication of the real status when it comes to women. Millions of Filipinos are still denying the fact that women are exploited in our society. They did not come in flocks to avoid being hurt because they believe that they cannot help Shaela in her predicament. They did not want to be reminded that a lot of them have demented relatives. They want to escape the reality that their instinct is to keep the money Mabuti found instead of reflecting first. Sadly, millions of women are quite satisfied with what they are and what they have right now and they do make their own initiatives to improve their own status. Thus, they keep on dreaming and escaping by watching those inane movies.
Note: I do not own copyrights of the images found in this article. I got them from Google image and thank you to whoever owns the copyright.