Beyond the Noranian blues

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By Myke U. Obenieta

So to speak

Thursday, June 26, 2014


BULLS never go extinct as long as bullies exist. One of them in our midst may even assume the appearance of a president. Never mind if he was hell-bent on making us believe a lamb would have suited him fine, especially with his silence after the sly rearing of his horns. Thus he butted his head against the heroine who have long been lionized for being not only authentic but also audacious in exceeding our expectation on the role of the underdog.

Rabid, thus, the rapt devotees of Nora Aunor are sometimes described as if her magic were madness. Ah, Noranians! Such name-calling does spit-fly with contempt, as if stomping merry at the parade of her prodigious talents were the bakya—this bamboo slippers worn rough-shod by an evil boar in many a grandmother’s tale when the moon loomed monstrous.

But such labeling some of us wear like a badge of honor, having made sense in awe at the way she has been an inspiration: conquering the challenges of her humble origin and desecrating our culture’s colonially enshrined template of celebrity while breaching the boundaries of music, television, film, and theater.

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See how her transcendent streak has figuratively incarnated the legend of the cat’s nine lives long after her career had yielded more than her fair share of tragedies and tabloid muck over alleged misdemeanors. Even her bane turned out to be a boon for stand-up mimics who have milked her misfortunes dry.

Through it all, recklessly genius and irrepressibly genuine, she has blazed forth a formidable body of work that orients us into the wonder of witnessing not so much who she is but who we are as a nation, casting light on the complexity of our identities, if not the neurosis out of our historical ironies. And she’s still here, hailed as world-class actress with her unprecedented achievements in various international film festivals.

As pop-culture scholars waxed exultant of her significance—short of appropriating Edith Piaf, Meryl Streep, and Barbra Streisand into her larger-than-life dimension—posterity may yet reveal how she has survived the fate of her contemporaries in showbiz, or how its bizarre power has transmogrified their flair for pretense into a mania for politics.

Meanwhile, she continues to show us what makes her tick: defiant, defining timelessness.

At 61, she is collaborating with the country’s best directors in at least five new projects even as her old films get resurrected for special screenings. Her brother may have been mistaken for a pig in one of her iconic films, but no way she’ll be misjudged as a sloth either.

For real, she has even become the pet peeve of the country’s most powerful man who has unceremoniously erased her honor as National Artist despite resounding affirmations from the panel of experts he summoned for the selection process. Failing her, he succeeded only to make her more newsworthy—a figure of “national interest” which his spokesperson invoked as essential to his discretionary power of defining the last word in the epic paradox between legality and morality.

Alas, indiscretion becomes him as the disgrace of presidential prejudice against her has disrespected not just the virtue of due process but more so the value of nationhood exemplified by the massive evidence of her acclaimed body of work that has nourished our culture’s soul.

Something indisputable, indeed, as early as 1983 when she was named one of the Ten Outstanding Women in the Nation’s Service (Towns) for her artistic output. She made history again in 1999 when the Cultural Center of the Philippines awarded her the Centennial Honors for the Arts: the only actress among “100 premiere Filipinos” that included the painter Juan Luna, the scholar Resil Mojares, and most of the country’s National Artists.

Lesser mortals, of course, can only hope at best to become president. Or, a “political animal” whose “considerations in choosing National Artists may include factors other than artistry,” according to the lawyer of the National Commission for Culture and the Arts (NCCA) in defense of Aunor’s honor.

The lawyer’s distinction may as well sum up the President’s problem out of his impulses—destructive, uncreative, divisive. Thus, while the din of protests over his disrespect of Aunor seems to drown out the persistent drone of other national issues, what’s amplified is his sense of absence— this untamed creature of his own cluelessness.

Small wonder he can’t be trusted to be his sister’s keeper, at least, to spare us her litter out of the merry spectacle of her mediocrity. As for her execrable exercise in defacing the Noranian monument, even a dimwit can see that Nora Aunor’s initial is inescapably National Artist. No need for magnifying lens.

As for the President, whose full name, is Benigno Simeon, well…we don’t have to spell out what BS also means.

(geemyko@gmail.com)

Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on June 27, 2014.

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