In most movie awards and other showbiz presentations, we often see Noranians and Vilmanians fighting (with the other camp), screaming and rooting for their respective idols.
But before them, there were the Amalians and the Susanians - and, a generation before that, the fans of Gloria Romero and Nida Blanca.
To this day, Gloria Romero is acknowledged as the Queen of Philippine Movies in the ’50s. Nida Blanca, however, was also a Queen in her own right and had a tremendously large fan following who all went to see her musical comedies with Nestor de Villa at the Dalisay Theater (a movie was shown in only one theater in those days).
Since Gloria and Nida were rivals in those days, they were always subjected to comparison by fans and other showbiz observers.
Gloria was tall, queenly and had regal bearing. Nida, on the other hand, was cute, pert and sprightly.
Gloria’s movies, however, were more varied because she was made to do dramas, comedies and musicals. Nida (although she was able to prove that she, too, could be effective as a dramatic actress) was stuck (to her frustration) with musical comedies because her mother studio, LVN Pictures, obviously didn’t want to tamper with her success in this genre.
And what a great dancer and comedienne Nida Blanca really was! And how her fans adored her.
Some of them would even heckle the fans of Gloria Romero and say, "Yang si Gloria n’yo, pinipilit lang n’yang sumayaw eh hindi naman magaling." "But that’s true! I’ve always been the first to admit na hindi ako magaling sumayaw. Aminado ako du’n," claims Gloria.
Fortunately, the rivalry of their fans hardly affected her relationship with Nida. "Kami ni Nida, ni minsan, hindi kami nagkasamaan ng loob niyan," stresses Gloria.
However, they weren’t really close friends in those days – which was understandable since they were from different movie companies.
In most movie functions – like those glamorous FAMAS nights at the Manila Hotel – they would just say hi and hello to each other. Even if they wanted to have even a short chat with each other that wasn’t possible because Nida would be at her table with friends from LVN, while Gloria would be with her colleagues from Sampaguita.
When both turned freelance artists in the early ’60s, Nida put up her own movie outfit (in partnership with Nestor de Villa) and gave Gloria a film assignment. The movie was Huwag Kang Sisingit and that was quite a casting coup. It starred the love teams of Nida Blanca and Nestor de Villa – plus that of Gloria Romero and Luis Gonzales.
During the filming of this movie, Gloria remembers that Nida treated her very well and was very solicitous toward her. In one scene where we were supposed to sing, I couldn’t get the lyrics right so Nida even wrote them down for me," recalls Gloria.
The next time they were cast in another movie together was in the 1984 Regal production of Anak ni Waray vs. Anak ni Biday which was directed by Maryo J. delos Reyes.
The following year, Gloria was approached by Lino Brocka who told her, "I need you for a movie. But would you mind playing support to Nida?" The good-natured person that she is, Gloria readily agreed and said yes right away to the project.
The film was Miguelito: Ang Batang Rebelde (with Aga Muhlach playing the title role). Nida was cast in the lead role of a mother who – after spending 15 years in prison on trumped-up charges – had to fight another battle to get back her son (Aga) from her former lover (Eddie Garcia) who had become a powerful town mayor.
Gloria, on the other hand, was cast in the secondary part of Eddie Garcia’s trophy wife and Aga’s foster mother.
Nida won four acting trophies for her performance in this film and each time she won, she would get a congratulatory call from Gloria. (When Gloria started collecting Best Actress trophies early this year for Tanging Yaman, Nida would be among the first to call Gloria to say congratulations.
Gloria and Nida obviously became very fond of each other after all those films and through the years.
But the only time they really became very close to each was when they did the sitcom 50 Carats, O Di Ba? (along with the late Charito Solis) in the early ’90s.
Until last year, they’d see each other in the ABS-CBN dressing room regularly because their sitcom (Richard Loves Lucy for Gloria and Pwedeng-Pwede for Nida) were being taped on the same day. "I’d ask her kung kumusta na ang mother niya at si Kaye. And then, she’d ask me about my daughter Maritess and my apo, Chris," volunteers Gloria.
"We would also talk about our days in Sampaguita and LVN, but we never discussed our supposed rivalry kasi, for us, wala ’yon," points out Gloria.
A week before Nida’s violent death, Gloria and Nida both found themselves by chance at the Rustan’s department store in Cubao.
"Nida looked very good that day. She was in a pageboy hairdo and was very well dressed. She was even sporting a gold necklace. But she sounded a bit sad kasi kamamatay lang ni Nenita Vidal (Dr. Bong Erana in real life) and she said that she just spoke to Lita Gutierrez via long distance and kumalat na daw ’yung cancer niya," relates Gloria.
Nida’s last statement to her is something that she (Gloria) will never forget: "I’m prepared to go, but my wish is to have a peaceful and happy death."
Nida was finally laid to rest yesterday, but her death – as we all know – was far from peaceful and happy.