Why Nora Aunor deserves to be a National Artist

An illustrious career spanning four decades. Photo: Inquirer.net

By Mauro Feria Tumbocon Jr.

For months now, expectations are high, at least among her fans, admirers and supporters, that Philippine Superstar Nora Aunor has been named for the Order of National Artist, along with five others. Such list was submitted to the Office of the President for conferment.

Sadly, rumors are rife that said conferment is being delayed. Her selection — after undergoing a rigorous process of nomination and peer evaluation – is reportedly being questioned on account of her “morals.” Details I hesitate to mention because they are without merit.

If we were to base her being named as National Artist for Cinema and Broadcast Arts, on artistic achievement alone and her impact on popular culture, if not contemporary Philippine history, hers is certainly unequalled, unparalleled, perhaps, will never be duplicated even in this millennium.


• Her more than four-decade long career spans all media – including radio, recording, television, cinema, live entertainment, theater; she is the only star/performer who can lay claim to the title Queen of all Media, indeed.

• Her popularity as star/performer is phenomenal: her movie, “Guy & Pip,” 1971 (with Tirso Cruz III) is the highest-grossing movie of all time (when adjusted for inflation); her recording, “Pearly Shells,” sold one million units, becoming one of the biggest-selling records; her TV program, “Superstar,” was the longest-running musical-variety show.

• Her film works are nothing short of remarkable: the only Filipino actor who won international recognition in five continents; the only Filipino actor whose films were shown in top three international film festivals; the only Filipino actress named by CCP Centennial for the Arts; the only Filipino actor acknowledged by HBO as one of the world’s greatest living actresses.

If indeed it were true that her selection is being jeopardized by accusation of moral transgressions — her celebrity and genius have both inspired awe (from her fans and admirers) and envy (from her detractors and professional rivals) — then, this serves as a dangerous precedent for subsequent artists who will undergo the same process of selection.

Are we to accept that all of them should be questioned of similar “sins of morals”? How do we make of current national artists and would-be candidates who are known to be alcoholics, philanderers/womanizers, gamblers, who have been accused of physical assault, enablers of dictators, conmen, drug dealers, etc.

Is Nora Aunor’s supposed “sins” really worse than them? If she were to be denied of this national recognition, then justice is lost. Let she/he who is without sin, cast the first stone!

Mauro Feria Tumbocon, Jr. is director of the Filipino Arts & Cinema International, a San Francisco-based nonprofit organization promoting films by Filipino Americans, Filipinos from the Philippines and the Filipino diaspora. FACINE has been organizing film festivals for more than 20 years now. This essay originally appeared on the author’s FB page.

With co-star Tirso Cruz III and their pretend ‘child,’ a doll they named Maria Leonora Theresa: Sensational love team

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