In the name of the artist


Filipino actress Nora Aunor works best with Filipino filmmaker Mario O'Hara.

There, I've said it. Oh, Aunor--a multimedia, multi-awarded giantess in the '70s and '80s--has done excellent work with other directors (Bona (1980) with Lino Brocka, Himala with Ishmael Bernal, Merika (1984) with Gil Portes, but arguably her finest films were with O'Hara (Condemned (1984); Bulaklak sa City Jail (Flowers of the City Jail, 1984); the great Tatlong Taong Walang Diyos (Three Years Without God, 1976). If Brocka had his favorite actors (Philip Salvador, Gina Alajar) and Bernal his (Vilma Santos, Maricel Soriano), O'Hara's is possibly Nora.

O'Hara & Aunor: Stellar tandem 
More than a filmography they share a quiet sensitivity, a kind of shyness; they would rather avoid the spotlight if they could help it (but when it falls on them, they step up with the confidence of veteran professionals). In temperament they could conceivably be brother and sister, having practically grown up together as workers and artists in a pitilessly changing industry. 

Talk about pitiless, O'Hara and Aunor have not worked with each other for some twenty-four years, and time has taken its toll--O'Hara has gained a mane of white hair, Aunor's expression has grown solemn, even careworn. The actress has spent almost eight years out of the country, in seeming exile, trailed along the way by stories of bankrupt finances and a drug possession charge. Now she's come home, and judging by all the media fuss she seems bigger than ever, and we (at least those who've never really forgotten) wait with bated breath for the results of their first collaboration in decades. Will lightning strike yet again? Is the magic still there? 

It is. Sa Ngalan ng Ina (In the Name of the Mother) is that rare creature in Philippine television, the political melodrama. Longer and more complex soap operas have been mounted on Philippine television before, and politics has been touched upon before, but far as I can recall there has never been a series (the exact name of the genre is, I believe, the teleserye) fully driven by politics, hinging upon the election into office and subsequent administration of the main character. This particular production will run for only the month of October--meaning the production budget (which is lavish) can be and has already been measured out, and the storyline guaranteed, more or less, not to run out of gas (a common complaint, apparently about many a teleserye--that they have overstayed their welcome).

It's a whirlwind of a melodrama--without much wasted breath O'Hara and co-director Jon Red (brother of independent filmmaker Raymond Red) take material written by Dinno Erece, Jerry Gracio, Benedict Mique, Pamela Miras, and establish the dozen or so characters of the story, their often conflicting motivations, the tumultuous milieu in which they operate.

Philippine elections have traditionally been a chaotic affair, to put it mildly; I'd call it a cross between an endless town rally and a three-ring circus, with the occasional rival-gang shootout interrupting the festivities. The idea of setting a melodrama during a province's gubernatorial elections is, to put it mildly, genius--the marriage of tone and substance makes such perfect sense it's a wonder no one's ever thought of it before. Complex machinations and even more complex plot twists? Nefarious treacheries and lurid sex? Vicious confrontations among political rivals, long-time friends, blood brothers? Torture, car chases, assassination attempts? Either you're watching a lengthy melodrama (with a Hollywood-sized budget I'm guessing The Godfather, Part 1 and 2) or it's election season in the Philippines, baby; don't forget to wear a raincoat (for the mudslinging and spittle) over your bullet-proof vest. 

This is familiar territory for O'Hara; his Bagong Hari (The New King, 1986) is set in a large and powerful (if fictional) province, where two rival factions vie for the position of governor of the land. The fictional province is Manila, the office of governor a stand-in for the office of President of the Philippines; the relatively small-scale struggle (relatively; I thought O'Hara had wrought a rarity among noir films--the noir epic) served as metaphor for the nationwide struggle to wrest power away from former president Ferdinand Marcos.

Sa Ngalan ng Ina while lighter in tone (Bagong Hari received an "X" rating from the censors board for its extreme violence) is broader in scope, ranging from housewife-turned president Cory Aquino's rise to power (she was chosen to run against Marcos for the sentimental value of her husband Ninoy's death--presumably assassinated under orders from Marcos' wife, Imelda), through her struggles as naive Chief Executive against traditional politicians (trapos) and the military (here represented by the province's police force) alike constantly underestimated her). The series even throws in a subplot involving secret recordings--a reference to the "Hello, Garci" tape scandal that marred former president Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo's administration. 

Easy to equate the characters to their real-life inspirations: Elena Deogracias (Aunor) is the Cory Aquino figure, her husband Amang (Bembol Roco) the martyred Ninoy; wheelchair-bound Pepe Ilustre (Christopher de Leon) is Ferdinand Marcos, the voluptuous Lucia Ilustre (Rosanna Roces) his ruthless wife. The script introduces several interesting changes to the actual story: turns out Elena and Pepe were once lovers (as Aunor and De Leon were in real life), and their children also romantically involved (a la the late Bienvenido Noriega's comedy musical Bongbong at Kris). The script cunningly links not just to recent political history (Aquino vs. Marcos, with a touch of Macapagal-Arroyo) but to recent popular movie history (Aunor vs. De Leon).

So--topical relevance; high production values; a royal flush of excellent actors (along with the main stars there's Leo Rialp, Raquel Villavicencio, Alwyn Uytingco, Eugene Domingo), a solidly constructed, intricately plotted script. Not a bad vehicle, overall--but a television melodrama? How to reconcile this with O'Hara's reputation as one of the Philippines' better filmmakers?

Actually there's nothing to reconcile; O'Hara has always embraced melodrama--it's where he comes from. He got his first break in a Proctor and Gamble radio show in 1963, years before meeting Brocka, and Filipino radio is nothing if not melodrama. He acted on the theatrical stage; wrote scripts for and acted in Brocka's TV series Balintataw. His script for Tatlong Taong Walang Diyos was originally written for the drama series Hilda, a dramatic showcase for Brocka protege Hilda Koronel. At one point he was the director of the hit series Flordeluna, starring Janice de Belen in the 1980s--you might say he improved the series. On occasion I've caught him directing the odd episode of Lovingly Yours, Helen; he did one of the better instalments for Eddie Romero's 1896 TV mini-series, Alitaptap sa Gabing Madilim (Firefly in the Dark Night) based on a Lualhati Bautista script. Far as I know he's still acting onstage, and on radio. 

In short O'Hara does not put on airs, and has not lost touch with his roots--he takes this project seriously, and has lavished it with his distinct visual and narrative sensibilities. You see it in the camerawork--though O'Hara has always maintained that video is a less expressive medium, you wouldn't think it looking at the film's extravagant lighting scheme (all those large-scale night scenes--night scenes with their need for floodlights are always more expensive to shoot). 

You see it in big ways--the many parties, rallies and large crowds; in several of the action sequences, the biggest to date being the safehouse assault. O'Hara in films like Kastilyong Buhangin (Castle of Sand, 1980) and the aforementioned Condemned and Bagong Hari has proven time and time again he's a competent action director, and he proves it yet again here (I'm only assuming O'Hara directed the scene, of course--and if I'm wrong then the credit rightly belongs to Red). The assault is realistically staged, cleanly shot and edited, and not a little suspenseful (can't help but think that the gang leader's last stand on the mansion's highest alcove is a little bit inspired by the finale of Kurosawa's Throne of Blood (Kumonosu-ju, 1957).  

You see it in subtler ways--the first meeting between Elena and Pepe in an old church, for example. Pepe in his wheelchair sits up and turns to look at the camera; he is limned in light against a dark background. Reverse cut to Elena, a dark silhouette against brilliant sunlight, contrasting light and shadow used to contrast two physically and temperamentally different actors (the dusky, quietly intense Aunor, the mestizo-looking, more easygoing De Leon). Later you have party leader Apo Lucas (Leo Rialp) approaching Elena in a gazebo, and the sequence is shot and framed like a stage production not unlike A Midsummer Night's Dream.

Which makes all kinds of sense--Apo will offer Elena the candidacy for governor and it's meant to be a quietly moving moment, the episode's dramatic high point. But Apo's intentions are false; he means to use her as a puppet figure. He assumes Elena has visions of power, and that her ambitions are a mere fantasy he can grant or cause to vanish at any time, much like dreams--or much like, as Puck suggests, most of what happens in Shakespeare's play (If we shadows have offended / think but this, and all is mended / that you have but slumbered here / while these visions did appear).

I can't help but play this game, who's directing what scene--I keep thinking most of the sweeping crane shots are Jon Red's (really beautifully done, some of them), and most of the high static overhead shots are O'Hara's (he occasionally likes to assume a God's eye view of the action, to remind us how small and helpless we really are). I'm guessing all the church scenes are O'Hara's, mainly because they have the feel of his work (locked-down camera, simple setup, sharp mise-en-scene). 

I'm guessing the sound editing and music cuing are O'Hara's work--as he likes to put it, they're so radio. Conversations from the next scene often overlap the images of the previous scene; at one point the conversation on television runs on in the background while the scene has already cut from studio into the Ilustre's bedroom--a nice way of telling us that, despite all of Lucia's protestations, she does have something to do with what they're talking about on TV.

Perhaps oddest of all is a trick O'Hara uses at least twice, where the image suddenly slows down while conversation runs on ahead. You get a sense of events moving past you, past the characters, past everyone's control, while you're left staring at slowed-down people struggling to catch up. It's easily his most disconcerting effect.

Actingwise, there's very little to fault. Eugene Domingo as Pacita presides over Elena's household and governor's office like a born second-in-command; her salty down-to-earth wisdom makes one think of Sancho Panza, supporting the fragile Don Quixote. Leo Rialp as Apo has few scenes, but what few he has stands out (his charming old patriarch act very much caught me by surprise, as I was at one point thinking this political party seemed too squeaky-clean for its own good--Rialp quickly put paid to that misconception). The lovely Raquel Villavicencio as former Vice Governor Dorinda Fernando doesn't have a consistent presence--the script writes her out of entire episodes--but her character when actually there is wonderfully bitchy, a real power-climber and seasoned survivor. Alwyn Uytingco as Elena's stepson Alfonso has the showy role, the prodigal child, and plays it to the hilt; he knows, however, that when called to play differently (as in the aftermath to the assassination attempt gone wrong) that that is his moment, and he comes through wonderfully.

Christopher De Leon as Pepe Ilustre reportedly refused to take direction from O'Hara when they did Tatlong Taong Walang Diyos over thirty-five years ago (though for the record I liked him there); he's apparently learned enough to listen now, as his is a largely restrained performance. His scenes with Aunor have a beautiful delicacy to them, as if the two veterans know they only have to do very little to suggest page upon page of intense feelings between them. Rosanna Roces plots and rants and fumes as Pepe's evil wife Lucia, and you can tell she's having the time of her life with possibly the role of her life, as the melodrama's chief villainess. If Ray's Johnny Guitar (1954) is basically a confrontation between two powerful women, so is Sa Ngalan ng Ina (fact is, I think we're ahead of the United States in depicting women taking power onscreen--our women have now reached the level of achievement of Ray's film, in reducing the men to trophy husbands); Roces steps up to the plate across Aunor and delivers an over-the-top performance worthy of Joan Crawford herself.

It's a spectacular success, but what stays in one's memory are the quieter moments. There are the scenes of Aunor and De Leon in church, of course, but then there's the very quiet, very fine scene of Pacita feeding Alfonso, and Alfonso wishing she and not Elena were his stepmother. It's more than just killing time; it helps show us a more motherly side to Pacita, and an altogether more human side to Alfonso--when he does what he does later in the show, we can't forget having seen that side, and it makes his later anger all the more unsettling. Later Lucia confronts Pepe, and we realize that for all her evil machinations and adulteries she does love him, very much; if anything, she does it all out of a sense of love, not hate. You realize you're watching not a virago but a woman after all, flesh-and-blood and full of helpless anguish at the treacheries of the human heart. 

As for Aunor--what else to say about her? When Amang dies on the treatment table the room bursts out in a symphony of grieving. Aunor knows she has to play against that, to pull your eyes down, down, down to her so you're aware that, while everyone else is being far more demonstrative, the news has hit her the hardest. Later, she has a simple scene with Domingo putting away Amang's clothes where it's her effort not to cry, instead of the usual histrionics and tears, that makes the scene so quietly moving. 

It's not perfect work, and perhaps the most serious flaw in it is Elena's sainted goodness, which is almost too good to be true. But we're only halfway through the series, and hopefully O'Hara, Red, and the rest of the filmmaking team will manage to show us more sides to our heroine, give us the clay feet as well as the halo. 

O'Hara helps out; he has Aunor flash out in steely anger more and more often, and I remember a line she delivers to an underperforming police officer that deserves to be an oft-quoted classic ("Remember I had my own son arrested--think what I'd do to someone outside my family!"). Most of O'Hara's work seems to consist of modulating Aunor's glamor, of having the camera treat her thematically, according to the demands of the narrative, instead of protecting her as befits the star of a big production. Often Aunor looks harried and exhausted, and it's heartrending to see her like this (you feel all the problems of the series weighing down on her). Once in a while though he relents, finds a certain angle...and suddenly she's gorgeous to look at, our Superstar forever, the literal face of Philippine cinema. 

(Photos: Joel Leonor Quilang)


Exciting possibilities, exceptional production


Nora Aunor’s latest and perhaps last comeback to the local TV-film scene should, by rights, be a major entertainment event. Not just yet another turgid, florid melodrama, but a production with a theme and significance commensurate to the iconic actress’ proven worth.

The good news is that her prime comeback vehicle, the month-long TV5 miniseries, Sa Ngalan ng Ina, is shaping up to be such an event.

Perceptively megged by Mario O’Hara, the series is more than just a convoluted and prolix family drama, it’s a seething study of politics, Philippine style, with all of its dark and dangerous twists and turns – and telling insights into the Filipino psyche.

Morality tale. As the new series’ cautionary political morality tale swiftly unreels, a well-loved gubernatorial candidate (Bembol Roco) is killed at a political rally, leaving his widow (Aunor) to (like Cory Aquino) carry the torch. In so doing, she reveals that she isn’t the meek pushover many people thought she was.

Other revelations in the series’ first three episodes include the fact that the widow had a past relationship with the governor (Christopher de Leon) who’s now her political foe (and the suspected mastermind of her husband’s murder). It’s also intimated early on that he isn’t guilty, but his ambitious wife (Rosanna Roces) could very well be.

As the plot dramatically thickens, the series’ significant themes emerge and glisten, exciting us with the possibility that Sa Ngalan ng Ina could be as exceptional as it has promised to be. On the local teleserye scene, where self-serving melodrama instead of authentic drama rules, that really is an eventuality worth celebrating.

Emphasis. To be sure, some “danger signs” are evident that may limit or detract from the series’ worthy objectives. There appears to be too much emphasis on the other and young members of the slain politician’s family, and some of the young actors assigned to those roles are not up to the thespic task at hand.

Also less than choice is the rather standard way that the production stages and handles its “political” scenes, which betrays a lack of “actualized” insights in the process that the story seeks to expunge.

Some production details are similarly and distractingly inept, like the “dramatic” veil that Nora is made to wear in the funeral scenes, which threatens to “drown” her slight frame and upstage her in a major way. And the decision to make Rosanna wear a brightly colored outfit at the funeral was similarly too “TH.”

But, these are details. What matters most is the firmness of the series’ plot, character and thematic development, and that’s coming along relatively well– so far. In addition to the gathering strength and force of Nora’s lead portrayal, Bembol also did well in his all-too-brief appearance, and Rosanna, Eugene Domingo, Karel Marquez and Alwyn Uytingco are also coming on strong.

Unfortunately, Christopher tried to get by with mannered “voice acting” in his early scenes. By the third telecast, however, in his first long scene with Nora, he managed to drop the melodramatic “act,” and the thespic chemistry between them was stirring to behold. We hope that, from here on in, the actor will continue to give us seminally focused moments like that, instead of mannered approximations thereof.

Other thespic “grace notes” thus far were provided by Nora’s speech at her first rally, Leo Rialp’s subtle political machinations, and the exceptionally telling scene between Eugene and Alwyn, ostensibly just a small and offhand interlude at mealtime, but in fact an eloquent expression of their unique relationship and what they felt about what was happening to their family and to their town.

It is grace notes like these that tell us that more than just simple storytelling is happening in this series, which could end up as one of the year’s best extended dramas-- and proof positive that Nora Aunor still has what it takes, and is here to stay. (NESTOR TORRE, Philippine Daily Inquirer, 7 October 2011)

Click video below to watch the recording of the theme and the making of Sa Ngalan ng Ina

Odes to the initial episodes

October 4: Last night's episode was comparably muted to the high drama of Monday's initial telecast. Most of the scenes are low key, fast-paced and a tad underwhelming from a visceral standpoint.

This could pose a problem to casual viewers exposed to and unwittingly dumbed down by current soap opera conventions. For instance, the brisk shift in mood and emotion might alienate them a bit. Nasanay na kasi sila sa overly drawn-out exposition and plotting. For years, the duopoly has steadily dieted them with heavy emoting, high-strung moments, overly-staged scenes to better tug at their heart strings and tear ducts.

Acting in general remains uniformly/consistently fine. Para sa akin walang lumutang o lumamang ngayong gabi. Special mention, though, goes to Nora (napakasuabe), Eugene (who's such a joy to watch given her inherent comedic timing) and Ian (strong screen presence). I'm also loving Boyet's histrionic-free tackling of his role. It’s when he opts for restraint that his remarkable acting chops are most evident. Bilang director, mahusay talagang rumenda at kumumpas ni Mario O’Hara.

There seems to be a hint of irony in Boyet’s miting-de-avance in terms of time frame. I’m used to seeing/hearing such pivotal campaigns scheduled and mounted in the evening or even at midnight especially in Metro Manila (but I could be wrong). The governor, whose incumbency has supposed to have plunged the province in abject darkness, delivers a rousing speech of reconciliation and forward-moving in ample day light.

The quiet yet intense gazebo scene between the Superstar and theatre stalwart Leo Rialp, for me, was a highlight. To think that it wasn’t even a close-up! Napakahusay ng ipinamalas nilang body language. Ramdam mo ang reservations and fears ni Nora sa pagpasok sa pulitika as the predatory kingpin Leo smooth-talks her into it.

October 5: For that understated yet riveting Boyet-Guy church face-off alone, SNNI is truly worth anyone’s viewing time. Tenderly staged and photographed, it was beautifully acted by the drama queen and king. Of course, their being an erstwhile couple informed and inspired how they played out this scene.

It begins with the initial eye contact. Mga matang nangungusap... na nakikipag-usap sa mga matang nakikiusap.

The conversation flip-flops in tone and content. From painfully polite to curt and biting. Their actions, heartbreakingly-tentative. The quiet tension is akin to a dam about to overflow. ‘Di man nila sabihin, halatang may pagmamahal, pananabik, hinanakit o pag-aalinlangan pa rin sila sa isa't isa. May nakakubling kilig. Mayroong kibot na iniinda. One false slip and, lo, the floodgates of loving emotion would be upon them. But Governor Ilustre and Dona Negra know better.

I’m sure all the lovers on the planet can relate to this scene. Viva La Aunor! Kudos to Christopher! And thank you, Direk!

Meanwhile, the interplay between the characters of Eugene and Nora is so good! Their chemistry is reminiscent of the Nora-Louella Albornoz tandem in the early '80s. This one is even better because Uge is a big dramedy star in her own right.
Bukod kina Pepe at Elena, napakasarap ding panoorin ang batuhan ng linya at emosyon nina Patricia Toribio at Elena Toribio vda. Deogracias. She holds her own in her scenes with her Ate. Patricia provides the much-needed comic relief especially when she flirts incorrigibly with Ian’s character. So, it's nice to see the dolorous Elena smiling for a change.

I’m also glad that we see a more playful and less-guarded side in Alwyn’s character. The same cannot be said of Osang’s character, which still one-dimensional for now. I’m positive that she’ll be able to showcase a different shade of Mrs. Ilustre's persona in the coming days. On the other hand, I still can’t emphatize fully with the Romeo-and-Juliet love team. I can’t fathom how their respective families, political rivals at that, could’ve allowed such a relationship to prosper. Further, the hands shown playing the piano don’t seem to match those of Christopher’s. (O marunong ba talaga s’yang tumugtog?)

The reference to Himala's famous sermon on the mount is cute. Natawa ako sa eksenang ito. The escalating feud between Andrea and the Vice Governor is something to watch out for. Magaling si Raquel.

Nora’s enunciation is clear and crisp-- she proves her excellence in voice acting once more! Mapatagalog man o mapa-ingles, matatas n'yang naipahahayag at naitutulay ang tamang mensahe at emosyong hinihingi ng eksena.

Nora's miting de avance scene is quite believable. She sounds like a politico: the mien, the gestures, the look, and the voice.

October 6: Another compelling episode...

--As the narrative unravels, we are further led into the town’s and province’s dark, menacing and malignant political landscape. Where dynasties, warlords and mobsters rule. Where politics are personalistic, parochial, even petty in nature. Isn’t it a telling reflection of our dysfunctional national politics? Ano kaya ang kahihinatnan ng Pollyanna-esque character ni La Aunor?

--For me, one scene and one performer stand out. Brimming with dramatic fireworks is the grand political debate between Nora (Dona Elena Toribio vda. Deogracias) and Christopher (Governor Jose Pepe Ilustre). It’s a classic mind versus heart confrontation. The main protagonists are equally in fine form. Nothing over-the-top or caricaturish. No stealing of thunder or lightning. Only give and take.

Guy and Boyet invest the scene with an authenticity that could only come from their real-life forays into Philippine politics either as campaigners or candidates. Both deliver fiery oratories laced with humor and sly digs; punctuated by fierce stares or patronizing looks. The dichotomy between a traditional politician and a new breed is fairly established here.

Boyet continuous to impress with his tone-perfect rendering of a politician facing a career sunset. He looks and sounds comfortable in his role. (No surprise there since he’s a current provincial board member.) Napalutang n’ya ang isang self-confident person na confined in a wheel chair. He’s effective in cleverly masking his “I’m-going-to-chew-you-up-and-spit-you-out” stance with his affable yet calculated demeanor on stage.

The Superstar seems to have channelled her ‘kingmaker’ rep/status in real life (she has helped elect three Philippine presidents into office). And the result is spell-binding. Tagos sa puso ang bawat linyang binitawan n’ya. Napakarubdob! Here’s a public speaking template that politicos should take note of.

--Kaya lang medyo nabitin ako. How, I wish the creative team prolonged this scene. Mas mahabang balitaktakan, mas maigi. (One more nitpick: kaunti ang crowd ng supposedly pinakamalaki at pinakaaabangang political gathering in the province.)

--Sa eksenang ito pa rin, parang namangha o nabatubalani yata ang mga co-star nila sa husay nina Nora at Boyet, kaya may mga sandaling bumitaw sila sa kanilang characterization.

--In my opinion, it is Eugene Domingo who shines most brightly tonight. The woman is so effortless in lighting up her every scene. Ang karakter n’yang si Patricia Toribio ang nagsisilbing ningas sa madilim at malungkot na mansion ng mga Deogracias. She neatly lacerates people with her ironic humor. She also knows when to be serious and tell people off. Talagang kahanga-hanga ang pagiging naturalesa n’ya sa pagpapatawa, pang-ookray o pakikipaglandian.

--Again, the scenes of JM and Karel are dragging and uninteresting. I’m sorry but at this point parang filler lang ang kanilang mga eksena. Talagang kulang sa chemistry ang dalawa, which is unfortunate because you can see Karel giving her all and JM trying his best.


Still undisputed after all these years

Last night viewers have seen the return of the country's one and only Superstar in the small screen via TV5's miniserye Sa Ngalan ng Ina.

Nora Aunor, playing the role of a doting wife and a political family's matriarch, has once again redefined acting on television.

Sa Ngalan ng Ina, opened with a political tension brewing in a quaint provincial setting. Nora's character is the wife of Bembol Rocco who is running for the gubernatorial seat. And true to the country's political setting, Bembol's character was killed during a political rally after a bomb exploded.

The breakdown scene showed Nora's intense performance, making me realize how she has raised the bar for exemplary acting and evolved a style that can be called her own.

The Superstar's performance is not just about crying. It's all about giving the proper emotions required by the scene. It's not exaggerated. It's between Jacklyn Jose's subtle acting and Vilma Santo's hysterical style.

I must also commend the supporting casts, who have complemented well the presence of the Superstar. Eugene Domingo showed her acting flare, not overshadowed by Nora whom she shared the scene with.

Christopher de Leon has yet to take centerstage. Rosanna Roces is expected to portray an intense villain in the show, and I am hoping that she'll shy away from the mental cum insane style of villains often seen on TV.

Nadine Samonte is also good here, while Edgar Allan Guzman has proved he's acting trophy a worthy one.

And to quote PEP, directors Mario O' Hara and John Red are able to capture the raw, rustic charm of a probinsiya; and the drama, tension, and violence of politics in just one episode.

Kudos TV5!

The superstar shines again


These days, basta magaling umiyak, a star can easily earn the dramatic actress tag.
However, not all drama actresses are created equal.

Throughout her career, local showbiz icon Nora Aunor has raised the bar for exemplary acting and evolved a style truly her own.

Tonight, local TV audiences will get reacquainted with the Superstar's inimitable acting prowess in Sa Ngalan Ng Ina.

"Sa mata pa lang," says her co-star Christopher de Leon—himself an award-winning and high-caliber actor.

TV5's upcoming mini-serye, which will premiere on October 3, is aptly described as "the grandest political drama ever seen on Philippine television."

It doesn't have the imposing backdrop of the multi-awarded Korean Drama series The Big Thing (2010), but directors Mario O' Hara and John Red are able to capture the raw, rustic charm of a probinsiya; and the drama, tension, and violence of politika in just one episode.

As it deviates from the sterotypical fanstaseryes or telefantasyas, Koreanovelas, local adaptations, and remakes that dominate mainstream TV nowadays, it attempts to break new barriers, and—hopefully—stand out as a worthy precedent.

THE STORY. The concept is reminiscent of how the Presidency was thrust upon former Philippine President Corazon Aquino in 1986. But the setting is in a province, so it doesn't have the feel of the EDSA Revolution at all.

Through the eyes of love and sorrow

Elena Deogracias (Nora) is the main character. She's a simple housewife who suddenly finds herself embracing the complexities of political life and government power after the assassination of her well-loved husband Amang Deogracias (Bembol Roco).

She will be facing conflicts in her own home, where stepchildren Andrea (Nadine Samonte) and Alfonso (Alwyn Uytingco) will try to make her life more difficult. She will have her share of insults and disparagement from the people around her. She will encounter impediments—Pepe Ilustre (Christopher de Leon), a man from her past, and wife Lucia (Rosanna Roces), a powerful lady whose family name has ruled the province for so many years.

But she will rise above the chaos.

The series will have a lot of drama (not the exaggerated kind), plus, the thrill and mystery as the plot thickens.

THE CAST. In this project, the Boyet-Nora tandem gets resurrected.

"Hindi na kami bata," states the Drama King in one of his previous interviews; still, "may pitik pa rin," as the Superstar puts it.

But more than the chemistry that Noranians will surely rave about,  non-Nora fans will also appreciate the tagisan sa pag-arte between two of the country's most-awarded actors.

It won't happen yet in the first episode, which will only show a meaningful exchange of glances between the ex-couple.

Likewise, Osang's fierceness is not going to be that evident yet. But as far as the packaging is concerned, she earns a "bongga ang asta!" remark from some press people.

Cinemalaya 2011 winners Eugene Domingo (Pacita Toribio, sister of Elena) and Edgar Allan Guzman (Angelo, the good son of Amang) are effortlessly good. The latter's crying scene after the doctor told the family about his dad's death is quite a stealer.

As for Nadine and Alwyn, they will be playing aggravator roles.

The StarStruck alumna already has the stance of a promising actress. She has the face of an angel with an ambitious mind and potentially-odious heart. Her acting is not exaggerated, but needs a bit more intensity in the way she delivers some of her lines.

For his part, Alwyn's rebellious character has given him depth as an actor—parati siyang galit. This project will put an end to his pa-tweetums days.

A FITTING COMEBACK PROJECT FOR THE SUPERSTAR. Nora is poised to put drama back into the limelight with this Mario O' Hara obra.

Tender tears, mournful monologue  
With what's going to be aired tonight—her earnest prayer, her frantic dash from the plaza to the hospital, her pain after learning about the death of Amang, her breakdown while choosing the barong that her husband will wear—Elena has the power to evoke and provoke.

She will not just reduce viewers to tears, but make them leap out of their seats and join her quest for justice.

Of course, the directors deserve a pat on the back as well for the first episode's seamless storytelling and realistic treatment.

Sa Ngalan Ng Ina doesn't have elaborate sets, overstated effects and scoring, and too stagy scenes, but what it lacks in grandeur it more than makes up for in coherence and depth—essential elements with which to dissect a politics-related quandary.

Lastly, Nora's star will shine again, if not reconquer Philippine television. It's about time aspiring actors take a page from the Superstar's book, and heed her sage wisdom: "Hindi mabibilang ang iyak na galing sa puso." (Reposted from the Philippine Entertainment Portal website)


The mania, the mystique, the majesty

In this illuminating essay, prize-winning poet/scriptwriter Jerry Gracio shares not only his intimate experience of Ms. Nora Aunor's cultural phenomenon and significance as an artist but also his impressions as part of the creative team behind her landmark TV5 miniserye Sa Ngalan ng Ina:


The flowering of a phenomenon
Hindi pa ako pinamumuklan nang unang sumikat si Nora Aunor. Pero aware ako sa rivalry nila ni Vilma Santos. Maka-Nora kasi si Tatay, maka-Vilma naman si Nanay. May mga pagkakataong laman ito ng diskusyon nila sa bahay. Ayaw ni Tatay kay Vilma dahil hindi marunong kumanta, ayaw ni Nanay kay Nora dahil ito ay negra. Pero nagkakasundo sila na parehong magaling umarte ang dalawa. Hindi lang sila magkasundo kung sino ang mas magaling.

Noong bata pa ako, madalas kong marinig si Tatay na kumakanta ng “Love Story”, theme song sa pelikulang Guy and Pip the Movie (Moreno, 1971). Napakarami naming plaka ni Nora dati. Sabi ni Nanay, noong bata pa ako, kahit hindi pa marunong magbasa, kabisado ko ang title ng mga plaka ni Nora. Pero ang “Love Story” na lang ang natatandaan ko nang buo ang lyrics. Hanggang ngayon, kapag naririnig ni Nanay ang  mga unang linya ng kanta: “Where do I begin/ to tell the story of how great our love can be...” hindi si Nora ang naalala niya kundi si Tatay.

Pero noong nakaraang linggo, napanood niya sa TV si Gary Valenciano, kinakanta ang paboritong kanta ni Tatay. “Si Nora ang original na kumanta n’yan,” sabi niya. “Kabesado ‘yan ng Tatay mo,” sabay reklamo dahil bago sa pandinig niya ang version ni Gary. “Ba’t binago nila ang kanta ni Nora?” sabi ni Nanay. Hindi ko masabing hindi si Nora ang original na kumanta ng “Love Story” kundi si Andy Williams. Baka magalit si Nanay dahil ang alam niya si Nora ang kumanta nito kaya naging paborito ito ni Tatay. Hindi ko rin maitanong kung Noranian na siya.    

Hindi pelikula ni Nora ang unang sine na napanood ko sa totoong sinehan; pelikula ni Vilma, ang Darna at Ding (Navoa/Robinson, 1980). Grade five ako, nagkayayaang mag-bonding ang staffers ng school paper kaya naglakad kami papuntang Odeon sa Recto mula sa simbahan ng Tondo para manood ng sine. Naging instant fan ako ng Darna series. Nagsabit ako ng lace sa harapan ng shorts ko at dumapa sa sofa, nagkunwaring lumilipad na parang si Vilma. Kaya tuwang tuwa ako nang mapanood kalaunan sa TV ang Darna Kuno? (L. Carlos, 1979) ni Dolphy. Posible rin palang maging Darna ang lalaki.      

A thespic highlight as Rosario in Mario O'Hara's
classic Tatlong Taong Walang Diyos
Naging Darna ako dahil kay Vilma pero na-in love ako sa pelikula dahil kay Nora. Tatlong Taong Walang Diyos (O’Hara, 1976) ang unang seryosong pelikula ni Nora na napanood ko. Sa pelikulang ito, si Nora ang bida. Pero hindi siya totoong bida dahil kumampi siya sa mga Hapon.

Ang Tatlong Taong Walang Diyos ay kuwento ng teacher na si Rosario noong panahon ng pananakop ng mga Hapon. Kasintahan ni Rosario si Crispin (Bembol Roco) na kailangang umalis para sumapi sa gerilya. Nang maligaw ang opisyal na Hapon na si Masugi (Cristopher de Leon) sa bahay nina Rosario, ni-rape niya ang dalaga. Muling bumalik si Masugi sa bahay nina Rosario para humingi ng tawad pero hindi siya tinanggap ni Rosario. Nang hulihin ng mga Hapon ang tatay ni Rosario at malamang buntis siya kay Masugi, napillitan siyang magpakasal sa opisyal na Hapon. Magiging dahilan ito para tawagin siyang collaborator at itakwil ng buong bayan.

Noong bata pa ako, hindi pa uso ang Japayuki at malakas pa ang sentimyento kontra-Japan, uso pa ang mga sineng giyera na ang laging kalaban ay mga Hapon. Patok din ang war series na Combat na pinagbibidahan ni Vic Morrow. Kaya malinaw na Kano ang kakampi at kalaban ang Hapon at mga Nazi.
Critics saw the birth of a major actress in
Mario O'Hara's Tatlong Taong Walang Diyos
Pero hindi ko maintindihan kung bakit nagkaroon ako ng simpatiya kay Nora na kumampi sa mga kalaban. Na-realize ko kung gaano kagaling si Nora. Nakumbinsi niya ako na tama siya kahit alam nating mali ang kanyang ginawa para sa nakararami. Kaya sa huling eksena sa pelikula, nang palibutan siya ng mga nagluluksang kababaihan sa loob ng simbahan at kalbuhin siya bilang ganti sa kanyang pagiging traydor, ang simpatiya natin ay nasa karakter ni Rosario, wala sa mga kababaihan, namatayan man sila ng asawa, anak, o kaanak.

Naging tagahanga ako ni Nora mula noon. Naging anti-US bases ako dahil sa Minsa’y Isang Gamugamo (Kashiwahara, 1976); binasa si William Henry Scott dahil sa Banaue (G. de Leon, 1975); at nangarap maging scriptwriter dahil sa Himala (Bernal, 1982). Nang una kong sulatin ang Santa Santita (Guillen, 2004), muli kong pinanood ang Himala, binasa ang script ni Ricky Lee. Buti na lang, hindi ako naging tibo matapos panoorin ang T-bird at Ako (Zialcita, 1982). Hindi puwedeng maging tomboy ang lalaki. Puwede lang siyang maging beki.

Ang totoo, hindi nawala ang first love ko kay Vilma, anim na beses kong binalikan sa sinehan ang Saan Nagtatago ang Pag-ibig (E. Garcia, 1987) dahil aliw na aliw ako sa “Si Val! Si Val! Lagi na lang si Val... Si Val na walang malay...” Kamakailan, binalikan ko ang Relasyon (Bernal, 1985) para sana sa isang remake ng Regal at hindi pa rin nagmamaliw ang paghanga ko sa pagganap ni Vilma sa naturang melodrama. Paborito ko ang Tagos ng Dugo (M. Delos Reyes, 1987), hindi ko makalimutan ang dialogue sa Alyas Baby Tsina (Diaz-Abaya, 1984): “Kung saan ako nakatayo, iyon ang teritoryo ko.”

A cathartic scene in Lino Brocka's Bona 
 Pero “maingay” ang pagganap ni Vilma, kaiba sa mas “tahimik” na pag-arte ni Nora. Hinahanap ko si Vilma kapag tahimik ang mundo ko. Kailangan ko si Nora kapag masyadong maingay ang mundo.

Pinangarap ko noon pa na makasulat para kay Nora. Nagkaroon na sana ako ng chance noong 2003, nang ipasulat sa akin ang “Bituin, Buwan at Araw”. Si Elwood Perez sana ang magdi-direk, isasali sana sa Metro Manila Filmfest. Pero hindi natuloy ang proyekto, hindi tinanggap ng Filmfest Committee ang script dahil hindi raw commercially viable. Hindi rin ako nagkaroon ng pagkakataong ma-meet si Nora.

Kaya laking tuwa ko nang kausapin ako ng headwriter ko sa TV5 na si Benedict Mique para maging brainstormer para sa isang mini-serye na pagbibidahan daw ni Nora. Kakaalis ko lang noon sa una kong soap, hindi ko makaya ang deadlines, natatagalan akong tapusin ang script dahil hindi ko gusto ang istorya na ang premise ay mas matanda pa sa humukay ng ilog. Kaya pinayuhan ako ni Benedict na mag-brainstorm muna o mag-once a week drama. Pero nang malaman kong si Nora ang bida, nakiusap ako kay Benedict na pagsulatin kahit isang linggo lang. Pinagbigyan naman ako ni Benedict at ng aming creative consultant na si Elmer Gatchalian.

Method in madness as Bona
Nag-lock in kami para sa proyektong ito, walang labasan ng hotel room hanggat hindi tapos ang istorya. Sa simula pa lang, malinaw ang sabi ni Direk Mario O’Hara: “Bahala ang writers sa creative dahil hindi medium ng direktor ang TV, medium ito ng writer.” Nagtalo-talo kami nina Benedict, Dinno Erice, Pam Miras at Charlotte Dianco; nagdiskusyon, nagpuyat. Alam naming sa TV ipapalabas ang Sa Ngalan ng Ina pero sa simula pa lang, malinaw na pampelikula ang atake namin sa script. Tapon sa labas ang nakasanayang inter-cutting na eksena, ang sukat na sukat na mga sequences na current sa soap, ang dialogue-driven na paglalahad ng istorya, ang maraming soap conventions. Sa umpisa pa lang, nagkasundo kami na walang magkakaroon ng amnesia sa Sa Ngalan ng Ina. 

Sa isang meeting ng creative team, inimbita si Nora. Hindi ko alam na darating siya. Kaya nang pumasok si Nora sa conference room, natahimik ako. Alam kong maliit si Nora. Pero hindi ko inexpect na ganoon siya kaliit. Pero kung gaano siya kaliit, ganoon din kalaki ang kanyang presence. Pinupuno niya ang buong kuwarto. Malalaman mo raw na magiging sikat na artista ang isang tao kapag “lumaki” siya sa harap ng screen. At ganoon si Nora. Hindi lamang siya lumalaki kapag tinamaan ng kamera. Lumalaki siya sa iyong paningin. Karaniwan ang kanyang itsura, pero alam mong hindi siya karaniwan. Nagsimula siya bilang tindera ng tubig sa tren, mahirap tulad ng karamihan sa mga kababayan natin. Pero nakaangat na siya sa iba, bagamat bahagi pa rin ng karamihan.

A transcendent performance as Elsa in 
Ishmael Bernal's world-class Himala
Tahimik ako sa buong meeting, nakatingin lang sa kanya, inaalala ang lahat ng emosyon nang una kong mapanood ang mga pelikulang siya ang bida: nainis ako sa kanya sa Bona (Brocka, 1980); ayaw kong magkita sila ni Lolita Rodriguez sa Ina Ka Ng Anak Mo (Brocka, 1979); humanga sa pagsasalarawan niya ng isang amasona sa Andrea, Paano Ba Ang Maging Isang Ina? (Portes, 1990).

Nang magsalita si Joan Banaga tungkol sa work schedules: na bibigyan si Nora ng sariling air conditioned tent, trailer van, sariling make-up artist, stylist, bodyguards, etc., nahihiyang nagsalita si Nora: “Huwag naman po masyado, nakakahiya.” Tumaas ang boses ni Joan: “Hindi ka dapat mahiya. You deserve it! Ikaw lang ang superstar dito.” Tumahimik si Nora. 

At naalala ko si Tatay. Palaging sinasabi ni Tatay, sayang si Nora. Mayaman na sana si Nora, hindi na sana naghihirap, etc. etc. Naririnig kong sinasabi niya ito bilang tagahanga. Gusto ko sana siyang sagutin dati na “Tay, hindi naman lahat ng tao, habol ang yaman, hindi naman nasusukat ang tagumpay ng tao sa dami ng pera sa bangko, sa dami ng investments, sa dami ng properties. Iyon lang Himala, sapat na iyon, iyong Bona lang, sapat na. Iyong Centennial Honors for the Arts, sapat na. Dahil masusunog at aanayin ang bahay, hindi mo madadala ang pera mo sa hukay, pero iyong ibuhos mo lahat ng galing mo sa kahit na isang pagganap bilang artista, hindi na iyon mabubura.” Hindi ko sinabi ito kay Tatay, natatakot akong ibalik sa akin ang sermon: bakit ka nagtitiyagang magsulat samantalang mas may pera sa ibang career? Bakit ka nagsusulat ng tula, samantalang wala namang bumibili ng aklat mo, hindi ka naman kumikita? Etc. Kaya hindi na lang ako kumikibo kapag naglalabas si Tatay ng tirada laban sa kanyang idolo.

Personifying a timeless presence
Pero nang marinig ko ang sinabi ni Joan, naisip ko, sa kabila ng lahat ng negatibong publicity, totoo man ang mga ito o hindi, may mga tao at entities pa rin na nakaka-appreciate sa kontribusyon ni Nora sa industriya bilang artista. Oo, maaaring luka-luka siya tulad ng maraming tsismis, maaaring naghihirap siya, tulad ng usap-usapan ng marami. Pero napakarami namang luka-luka sa Pilipinas. At ano’ng masama kung maghirap, kung naghihirap din naman ang mayorya sa sambayanang Pilipino? Ang totoo, kasalanan ang maging mayamang mayaman sa isang lipunang labis ang kahirapan. At ang masama, iyong magluka-lukahan pero wala namang K. May karapatan kang maging luka-luka kung ikaw si Nora. Ibinibigay ko na sa kanya ang karapatang iyon.

Lumabas ako ng conference room at umiyak. Tinapos ko nang mabilis ang assigned script ko para sa Sa Ngalan ng Ina. Pero sinadya kong hindi magpunta sa advanced screening kung saan naroon mismo si Nora at iba pang mga artista. Sa TV ko aabangan ang Sa Ngalan ng Ina ngayong gabi, iisipin na hindi ko siya nakita, nakausap, nakasabay mag-yosi. Karaniwang tao akong humahanga sa isang artista na ang itsura at istorya ng buhay ay tulad din ng karamihan sa atin. At dahil dito, lalo ko siyang minamahal. (JERRY GRACIO)

Click video below to watch the recording of the theme and the making of Sa Ngalan ng Ina


They came, they saw, she conquered

The jury is out! Based on the feedback from those who watched the pilot episode of the TV5 miniseries Sa Ngalan ng Ina at its red-carpet premiere recently, the bar has been set higher for other primetime fare. So far so fine, or so they agree: 

"The teleserye directed by Mario O’Hara and Jon Red doesn’t have the usual look of a teleserye; it has the looks of  a film masterpiece compressed for television...There is no doubt that Nora Aunor is the stand-out of this teleserye but the supporting players  led by Eugene Domingo as Pacita Toribio and Alwyn Uytingco as Alfonso Deogracias are just as good. Rosanna Roces, for one,  delivers one hell of a performance (at least in this one preview  episode) matching everyone’s dramatic intensity..."
Pablo Tariman, critic

La Aunor in a Cory Aquino-styled role
"Nothing short of a film in its appeal... And what about Nora Aunor’s performance? She has remained highly cinematic in her looks...The fabled brilliant voice and sense of truth in her eyes linger, drip and still reign high...even after watching her...Far amply the greatest actress of all time. To believe me you must watch the premiere on Oct. 3 (the red-letter day in the history of Philippine television)."
George Vail Kabrisante, entertainment columnist

"A visual delight, an absorbing viewing experience... It is comparable to a gigantic HBO cable movie offering. Sa Ngalan ng Ina is Lino Brocka resurrected. The acting gems of Christopher de Leon, Bembol Rocco and  Ms. Nora Aunor (whom de Leon himself acknowledged as the one and only superstar) plus the genius of director Mario O'Hara (who considers La Aunor a national treasure) makes the miniseries a rare treat not to be missed."
Remy Umerez, entertainment columnist

“Wow, first of its kind, rated A na pelikula ang kalidad...Grabe. Galing.
MJ Marfori, entertainment reporter/radio host

“Outstanding ensemble acting (special kudos to La Aunor, Alwyn Uytingco, and Osang!), masterful direction, topnotch production values. It's like watching a well-crafted film. The death scene of Bembol is masterfully, poignantly staged and is devoid of bathos and soap-opera shtick.”
Ron Maceda, film enthusiast

"True enough, everyone agrees that the series is bound to reassert Aunor’s stature in the industry given the kind of acting prowess she shows in the drama. It is also clear that TV5 did not scrimp on budget and on getting the services of top co-actors and crew members to make Sa Ngalan ng Ina such a high-quality series. All the scenes, in fact, are shot in full high-definition (HD) quality."
Jojo Panaligan, entertainment writer

"Kailangang ulit-uliting panoorin ang eksena nina Nora Aunor at Eugene Domingo kung saan pinagpipilian ni Elena (Nora) kung alin sa tatlong barong--na bawat isa ay may kakabit na kasaysayan--ang ipasusuot sa pinaslang na asawa. Di ko napansin si Eugene sa unang panood dahil bagong Nora Aunor na naman ang aking namalas dito--gumaganap ayon sa kanyang edad, iba ang texture ng boses at bitaw ng linya. Natitiyak kong gumawa si Eugene ng sariling marka bilang kaeksena ni Nora Aunor pero sa mga susunod na panonood sa eksena ko na ito makikita.”
Nestor de Guzman, UP Press editor and Superstarstruck website moderator

"Ang gaganda ng mga eksena at ang gagaling ng mga artistang kasama sa cast. Parang isang malaking pelikula. Panalo si Nora Aunor na after eight years ay wala pa ring kupas ang pag-arte."
Rowena Agilada, entertainment columnist

"Wala ni isa mang media na sumaksi sa pagpapalabas ng pilot episode ng mini-series ni Nora Aunor ang makapagsasabi na kinupasan ng panahon ang kanyang pagiging henyo sa pag-arte. Ito ay malinaw na makikita sa bawat eksenang kanyang nilabasan."
Veronica Samio, entertainment columnist
Paparazzi frenzy at the premiere
The Superstar addresses the audience.

With Eugene Domingo and Mother Lily

Click here to see more photos from the red-carpet premiere.

"Very exciting, action-packed ang pilot. It's very promising. Sana ma-sustain ang energy at anticipation sa mga eksena."
Monchito Nocon, consultant, Film Development Council of the Philippines

"Bongga ang unang episode ng Sa Ngalan Ng Ina...Malalaki ang mga eksena at mukhang napapanahon ang tema ng kuwento. Of course, si Nora Aunor ang  numero unong ipinagmama-laki ng serye na minsan pa ay pinatunayang siya pa rin ang nag-iisang Superstar ng bansa. Nangangabog pa rin ang kanyang acting kaya naman kahit ang mga kasamahan niyang baguhang stars ay mararamdamang nage-effort talagang makasabay kay La Aunor..."
Ambet Nabus, showbiz columnist

“Aamin ako, may mga eksena dito na hindi mo alam, tumutulo na pala ang mga luha sa inyong pisngi, ganyan katindi ang mga eksena.”
Alex Datu, entertainment writer

“Magandang teleserye, parang pelikula pagkakagawa... mabilis ang pacing at higit sa lahat napakagaling ni La Aunor.” 
Vener Antonio Mejia, barangay councilor

"Mukhang may potential toprater ang TV5 sa kanilang unang miniserye...Exciting ang napanood naming pilot episode...Maganda ang lighting nito at lokasyon, at kapana-panabik ang mga eksena.  Narito ang mga elementong hinahanap ng mga mahihilig sa teleserye, mas mabilis lang ito matatapos dahil tatagal lamang nang isang buwan ang mini-serye.Saktung-sakto kay Nora ang papel ng isang ina, na dahil sa pagkamatay ng kanyang asawa ay mapipilitang tanggapin ang res­ponsibilidad na naiwan nito at pasukin ang mundo ng pulitika. Matagal man siyang nawala ay pinatunayan ni Ate Guy na hindi pa rin kumukupas ang kanyang pagkaaktres. Palakpakan ang audience nu’ng premiere night sa eksenang humahangos na tumakbo sa plaza si Elena matapos ang pagsabog, tapos ay humagulgol siya habang yakap ang duguang bangkay ng asawa...Malamang maging si Governor Vi ay maengganyong tutukan ito gabi-gabi."
Allan Diones, entertainment columnist
Mutual admiration society

With son Ian: Thespic genius in the genes

Directors Mario O'Hara and Jon Red are all ears
to Edgar Allan Guzman's response to the press

Click here to see more photos from the red-carpet premiere.

“Kung ang pagbabasehan ay ang pilot episode... ito ay isang obrang tunay na ipagkakapuri ng buong industriya ng telebisyon at pelikula hindi lamang dito sa Pilipinas, kundi maging sa ibang bansa... kaya naman tunay na kaabang-abang ang mga susunod pa nitong mga episodes... abangan sa TV5 ngayong Oktubre, ang nakaaantig pusong kwento...”
Jolly Sy Butawan, telecommunication employee

“My fave scene: ang pagkakabitiw ni Elena ng linyang, 'Hindi nabibilang ang luha ng puso!' Grabe!” 
Albert Sunga, talent handler

"Bukod kay Ms. Nora Aunor na mata pa lang ay talagang umaarte na, isa sa umagaw ng pansin namin at talaga namang lumutang sa unang episode pa lang ng SNNI ay ang young actor na si Alwyn Uytingco...It’s a powerhouse cast kung saan nakita namin na talagang binusisi ang istorya, pinagkagastusan at talaga namang natangay kami sa mga napanood naming mga eksena...
Melba Llanera, entertainment writer

"Ang kabuuan ng pilot episode ay gustong gusto ko. Hindi na 'ko pipili ng eksena. Kung puwede lang na huwag nang kumurap! Nabitin ako. Sana October 3 na nang masimulan ko nang mapanood gabi-gabi ang SNNI!"
Bernie Placido, creative director, Ivory Music and Video

"Parang pelikula na nga ang dating...Sana nga huwag itong bitawan sa pagsubaybay ng mga manonood. Dahil pilot episode pa lang ‘yung nakita namin, parang gusto na naming mapanood ang mga susunod pang episodes..."
Pilar Mateo, entertainment columnist

See video of the fanfare during Aunor's arrival at the premiere:

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