Paoay sees miracle in Nora Aunor statue
PAOAY, Ilocos Norte—If miracles do happen, then a sculpture of a famous actress in character could draw voyagers in this northern Luzon community.
It took sculptor Gerry Leonardo of Philippine High School for the Arts 30 days to build the statue of iconic actress Nora Aunor’s character in the award-winning 1982 film “Himala.” Leonardo said he hoped the sculpture would soon become a pilgrimage site in this municipality.
The life-size, fiber glass statue of Aunor was unveiled on Saturday night at the sand dunes where “Himala” was filmed.
The unveiling of the statue, which depicts Aunor’s character Elsa deep in prayer and kneeling in front of a withered tree, capped a day of tributes for the country’s premier dramatic actress that also saw this town conferring on her the title of “adopted daughter” of Paoay.
Municipal officials led by Mayor Dolores Clemente and Vice Mayor Jessie Galano handed Aunor a copy of their resolution making her part of Paoay’s family.
The teary-eyed actress thanked the town and narrated her experience when she filmed “Himala,” one of the highest-grossing Filipino films in the 1980s directed by National Artist Ishmael Bernal and produced by Ilocos Norte Gov. Imee Marcos, in sleepy Barrio Cupang, which is more known today as the home of the Paoay sand dunes in Suba village.
The Bernal movie bagged major awards at the Metro Manila Film Festival in 1982. It received even more success and world accolades from the 1983 Manila International Film Festival. It also won the 2008 CNN Pulse Asia award.
In 2012, Aunor and the film helped give birth to the province’s “Himala sa Buhangin” Festival, which takes a current generation of Filipinos back 30 years.
Story of Elsa
“Himala” is the story of Elsa, a young girl whose tale of witnessing an apparition of the Virgin Mary caused a hysteria in a drought-plagued village. The story written by Ricky Lee and based on a true account that dates back to the 1960s has a scene with Aunor shouting the now famous lines, “Walang himala! Ang himala ay nasa puso ng tao! Nasa puso nating lahat! (There are no miracles! Miracles are in people’s hearts, in all our hearts!)”
The film is also one of the best testimonials for Aunor’s nomination as national artist.
When asked about clamors for her to be awarded the recognition, the actress replied in Filipino: “If it comes, then thank you. If it doesn’t, then thanks just the same to those who love my work.”
The new Paoay statue represents Himala’s main character Elsa as a “beacon of light.” It becomes part of a “cinematic trail” being developed by the provincial government as part of its campaign to boost tourism.
“We hope to continue to trace the history of Ilocos Norte in cinema. But we have to take it slowly. We will focus on the most important [places where iconic films were shot] and I believe that it will be part of our cinematic trail in Ilocos Norte,” Marcos said.
In 2012, the provincial government formed the Media Incentives Desk to help and provide incentives to film enthusiasts and movie producers who decide to use the Ilocos Norte landscape in their projects.
International actor Mario Maurer of Thailand filmed “Suddenly It’s Magic” here. Around 70 percent of this movie produced by Star Cinema was shot in the Ilocos Norte towns of Paoay, Burgos and Pagudpud.
The movie “Si Agimat, Si Enteng at Si Ako,” the recent Metro Manila Film Festival entry of actors Vic Sotto and Sen. Ramon “Bong” Revilla Jr., was also shot here.
Hollywood movies like “Born on the Fourth of July” and “Mad Max” had location shots in the La Paz sand dunes of Laoag City.
Sites frequented by movie makers are the century-old Paoay Church, the Paoay sand dunes, the Bangui windmills, the Patapat viaduct in Pagudpud town, Sitio Remedios in Currimao town, and the Kapurpurawan rock formation in Burgos.
According to Marcos, the exposure provided by these movies has given free advertising to the province.