50 years of Nora Aunor

SOUNDS FAMILIAR - Baby A. Gil (The Philippine Star) - March 15, 2017 - 12:00am

A friend called my attention to this after the piece about Vicor Music celebrating its 50th year in the business came out. He said, “It is now also the 50th anniversary of Nora Aunor.” Oh yes, indeed. Just as Vicor was leading the way towards the creation of the new Filipino pop music, there was Nora mesmerizing fans everywhere, bucking stereotypes and in her own quiet way, ushering in a new era in Philippine entertainment.

It was in 1967 when Nora became the grand champion of Tawag Ng Tanghalan, the talent show on television that was then considered a major starmaker. Among its discoveries were Diomedes Maturan, Pepe Pimentel and Ric Manrique Jr. It was not her first time to compete. She almost made it a year before when she was only 13 years old with her rendition of You and The Night and The Music but she lost out to Jose Yap. She came back better prepared the next year and aced it through 14 weeks of competition. On finals night, Nora performed a perfect Moonlight Becomes You and was named the winner.

Winning the Tawag contest came with the big breaks every newcomer aspires to and 1967 sent Nora on a whirlwind tour of everything. She was recruited for television, first in portions in Operetang Sampaybakod and Oras Ng Ligaya and later on in her own show with Jukebox King Eddie Peregrina, The Nora-Eddie Show. She appeared in movies like All Over The World and Way Out In The Country as support to Rosemarie Sonora and Ricky Belmonte. She recorded songs like Silver Moon and My Song Of Love for Villar Records. She appeared in concerts like The Timi Yuro Show at the Araneta Coliseum.

There was really nothing monumental happening for Nora at the start but unknown to her and to everybody, changes that would rock the entertainment scene were already simmering around her. For one, movie stars of the time were tall fair-skinned mestizas. Nora was not even five feet tall, dark and puny-looking but already commanding a big fan following. Local recorded songs then were either kundimans and balitaws or Beatles and Ventures rip-offs for the younger listeners. The 14-year-old Nora appealed to young fans and she could sing torch ballads like nobody else, which older record buyers liked. Without her lifting a finger, she was able to change the buying and listening habits of Filipinos.

Thanks to Nora, the doors were opened to more pint-sized young singers like Edgar Mortiz, Perla Adea, Romy Mallari, Esperanza Fabon, etc. Even actresses like Vilma Santos and Hilda Koronel got into the singing game because fans expected it of them. They were all making movies, doing television and radio shows, recording albums, many of them with original works by Filipino composers like Edgar Mortiz’s My Pledge of Love and Vilma Santos’ Sixteen by Danny Subido. Nora’s first big hit was The Music Played, a Tom Jones cover but it was not long after that she got her first big-selling George Canseco song, Forever Loving You in an all-Filipino original album under her new record deal with Alpha Recording.

Nora moved on to bigger things after 1967. The TV show became the high-rating, long-running Superstar. The movie stint turned into box-office blockbusters that broke existing records with her team-ups with Tirso Cruz III and Manny de Leon. The singing got better and better with some of the most memorable Filipino covers ever, Florante’s Handog, Pilita Corrales’ Kapantay Ay Langit, Cinderella’s Superstar Ng Buhay Ko and many others. 

Nora would go on to greater things as an actress, singer and film producer whose work is also admired in other countries in the years that followed. But for now, let us all remember how it started one evening in 1967 when she sang and changed the world.

Incidentally, also celebrating his 50th anniversary as a singing star is Jose Mari Chan. The future sugar magnate was already a campus idol at the Ateneo University where he was known for his Cliff Richard vocals. He made his television debut in 1966 as host of the teen dance show Nineteeners. A year later in 1967, he made his recording debut with Afterglow. The song was Jose Mari’s original composition and it became a big hit.

Afterglow was soon followed by Deep In My Heart, another one of his works. And while he would from time to time do some adaptations like The High and The Mighty, it was with his own originals that he attained massive success. Some of these are Can We Just Stop And Talk A While, Refrain, Beautiful Girl, Constant Change, Please Be Careful With My Heart, Afraid For Love To Fade, A Love To Last A Lifetime, Perfect Christmas and the song that has to begin and end the Filipino Yuletide celebration year after year and in more after years to come, Christmas In Our Hearts.

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