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Nora Aunor breaks silence on national artist issue

/ 01:00 AM July 01, 2014

MANILA, Philippines–After a week of incessant debates and discussions on various platforms and endless opinion-making from various personalities on the national artist controversy, the woman at the center of the storm finally breaks her silence, with a message that rivals in its intensity her monologue at the end of the film “Himala.”

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Nora Aunor, the actress whose name President Aquino excluded from the list of the latest batch of national artists, released a short and simple statement, in eloquent Filipino, to the media on Monday.

Before her announcement, however, Aunor made a more provocative statement, by wearing a black T-shirt emblazoned with the words: “Proud to be Filipino. Ashamed of my government.”

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Photos of Aunor, wearing the combative shirt, were taken on Saturday on the last shooting day of her latest film, Joel Lamangan’s “Hustisya,” an entry in this year’s Cinemalaya Philippine Independent Film Festival.

Aunor’s photos made a lot of buzz in cyberspace—particularly, on the Facebook pages of her supporters.

Does the T-shirt express Aunor’s sentiments on the contentious cultural issue?

In the statement she issued on Monday, Aunor wasn’t as antagonistic. She merely expressed her gratitude to all the people who have stood by her throughout the brouhaha.

‘Hurt’

She said she was initially “hurt” by the turn of events, but the “outpouring of support that I saw and felt from my countrymen—my colleagues in the industry, fans and friends, priests and nuns, teachers and other academicians, media people, national artists, even ordinary people from here and abroad”—more than made up for the disappointment.

The people’s reaction “made me feel that, with or without the trophy and honor that are given by those in power, the Filipino masses have already spoken and have conferred the highest honor on [me], by declaring [me] the people’s national artist in their hearts.”

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She said she regarded this populist honor as “more genuine and fulfilling because it came wholeheartedly from the very people who inspire her to be a good artist.”

Aunor explained that the people’s support gave her “the strength and boundless inspiration to further hone [her] craft, to persevere in sharing whatever talent [she has] and to strive harder to become a good and noble citizen of this country.”

Vintage Aunor

She ended the message, thus: “Maraming salamat po at pagpalain po kayo ng Diyos (Thank you very much and may God bless you all).”

It was vintage Aunor.

And now for the story behind the T-shirt.

Actor Gardo Versoza, her costar in “Hustisya,” told the Inquirer in a phone interview on Monday that the T-shirt was his gift to Aunor.

“She saw me wearing the shirt on the set last Saturday,” Versoza said. “Naglambing siya. She said she liked it.”

Old shirt

At first, Versoza was hesitant to give Aunor a used shirt. “Nahihiya ako sa kumare ko dahil luma na ’yon (I was embarrassed about giving my son’s godmother an old shirt). I wanted to give her a new one, but she insisted.”

Aunor is the godmother of Versoza’s 8-month-old son Uziel.

Versoza literally gave Aunor the shirt off his back.

Versoza designed the shirt, chose the material and found a supplier with the help of his partner Ivy. He had those shirts made, he said, to express his feelings on the state of our country.

“I was disheartened by the pork barrel exposé,” he said. “I was saddened by our country’s problems. Even before the national artist controversy came up, my kumare and I have been talking about all these issues on the set.”

He said he and Aunor saw eye to eye on many points.

“We both felt that even though there were many show-biz people who had joined politics, the government was not doing enough to support the movie industry that is practically dying,” he said. “We felt the same way about a lot of issues.”

Versoza has been egging Aunor on to direct a movie. “I think she is ready to direct a film. She doesn’t even have to go to school to study filmmaking. It’s innate in her.”

He recalled that he and Aunor had come up with a possible concept for Aunor’s second directorial job. (She directed an unreleased film, “Greatest Performance,” in 1989.)

Hard-hitting film

“She said she wanted to make a political film, a hard-hitting film that will expose what is happening in our society now,” Versoza said. “A movie that’s not afraid to criticize those in power.”

Zandro Rapadas, convener of Nora Aunor for National Artist Movement, told the Inquirer that his group met with several other organizations on Thursday to come up with a unified stand on the issue.

“We have five options, legal and political,” Rapadas said in a phone interview on Monday. “We will announce our next step at the forum to be held at Ateneo on Wednesday.”

Nora effect

Dubbed “The Nora Effect: A Forum on the Crisis in the Order of National Art,” the gathering is set at 4:30 p.m. at Ateneo de Manila University’s Convergent Technologies Center.

Rapadas said he was coordinating closely with other organizations, Concerned Artists of the Philippines, Alliance of Concerned Teachers and Ako Bicol party-list group.

Ako Bicol sponsored House Resolution No. 973, “urging the President, the Cultural Center of the Philippines and the National Commission for Culture and the Arts to declare Aunor a national artist.”

Ricky Lee, the scriptwriter behind “Himala” and “Hustisya,” said Aunor was not the least bit discouraged by the controversies surrounding her exclusion from the roster of national artists.

“She has already given a lot to our country, but at age 61, she still continues to give of herself. The year is only halfway through, but she has already finished four movies and there are more projects to follow,” Lee told the Inquirer on Monday.

Apart from “Hustisya,” she top-bills three other indie films: Adolfo Alix Jr.’s “Padre de Familia” and “Whistleblower” and Perci Intalan’s “Dementia.”

Lee said Aunor was also planning to give free “acting, writing and directing workshops through the Nora Aunor Foundation. She wants to help in discovering new talents—whether in the cities or in far-flung provinces.”

 Originally posted: June 30, 2014 | 4:48 pm

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