Last week, PEP (Philippine Entertainment Portal) presentedthe first of the three urban legends about Nora Aunor.
To know which of the urban legends about Nora is fact orfiction, PEP sought the help of Noranian Nestor de Guzman, editor of the Noranian book Si Nora AunorSa Mga Noranian: Mga Paggunita at Pagtatapat (Milflores Publishing, firstprinted in 2005, Php 360). From him we learned that the urban legend about Norahaving a fling with then Hollywood newcomer Don Johnson (of Miami Viceand Nash Bridges fame) was just plain fiction. Nestor revealed, however,that someone else briefly carried a torch for the Superstar—the internationalstar Sajid Khan from India.
Sajid Khan became a teen sensation in the States, longbefore Bollywood. Nora and Sajid starred in Tower Productions' The SingingFilipina (1971) directed by Tower's co-owner Artemio Marquez. Nestor saidSajid was so smitten by Nora, that after doing The Singing Filipina,Sajid followed Nora to the Philippines in May 1971 to pursue the "specialfriendship" that developed between them while they were shooting their movie.
But Sajid failed to see Nora. During their movie's premiere,Nora was not there to promote the movie with Sajid. Even the media had no ideawhere the Superstar was. Sajid left the Philippines without even a glimpseof the little brown girl with thegolden voice who captured his heart.
It was later learned that the reason behind Nora's absencewas her secret meetings with theboy she refused to be in a movie with a few months before. The same boy she fell in lovewith after a couple of movies together and gave her a pretty, blonde child-sizeddoll to symbolize their love for each other. But they had an argument over hisbeing linked to beautiful, tall, and fair-skinned starlets. This mestizo ladfrom a famous musical family from Tondo who has been secretly meeting with Nora is no other than her reel and real love, Tirso Cruz III, or Pip to his and herfans.
"But during those times, Nora and Pip must not be seentogether," Nestor said. "Nora was in the middle of a legal battle.Nagdemandahan kasi ang Sampaguita Pictures at ang Tower Productions over whichproduction outfit should really have the right to get Nora's services as talentin their movies."
Nora originally was a Sampaguita talent in 1967. She didonly supporting roles in Sampaguita movies. It was Tower Productions thatlaunched Nora to full stardom in 1969 with D' Musical Teenage Idols. InNora's next movies with Tower, she was paired with Tower's contract star Mannyde Leon. Nestor said, "Galit kasi sina Guy and Pip noon nung lumipat na si Guysa Tower, kaya ang pinush na love team ng Tower, yung Nora-Manny [de Leon] na."
Nestor told PEP that after Tower learned of the frequentsecret rendezvous of Nora and Tirso, Tower put a tight security on Nora toprevent her from seeing Tirso and the fans of their love team.
"Understandably, bad for business yun. Kasi si Tirso nasaSampaguita at yung Nora-Manny love team, maiiwan na talaga sa ere kung mawawalasi Nora sa Tower. Kaya binantayang maigi si Nora ng mga taga-Tower at ni MamayTunying [Nora's mother] na kampi sa Tower."
Just when the Guy and Pip fans thought all hope was lost, newssuddenly broke out that Nora had finally returned to Sampaguita and to Pip'sarms. Thanks to "Operation: Kumbento" and to the "Lucky 12."
What is "Operation: Kumbento"? Who are the "Lucky 12"?
Are they even real? Are they fact or fiction?
EITHER LOVE OR THE CONVENT. December 6, 1970, whileshooting The Singing Filipina in the U.S., Nora sent a letter to herreporter-radio broadcaster friend Inday "Ate Luds" Badiday. Inday had beenNora's close friend ever since their 1967 interview, after Nora won in Tawagng Tanghalan. Nestor said Nora terribly missed Tirso and that was thesubject of her letter to Ate Luds.
"Ipinagtapat niya sa sulat na si Tirso ang kanyang unangpag-ibig kaya hindi niya ito malimot. Nasabi ni Nora na kung ‘di rin langmagiging sila ni Tirso, pipiliin niyang pumasok na lang sa kumbento. Classifiedang sulat pero binasa ito ni Inday sa kanyang radio program sa DWUL. Ito angugat ng ‘Operation Kumbento,' led by Inday with the members of Lucky 12,composed of the most fanatic Guy and Pip fans."
Nora "Tita Noy" Calderon was Tirso Cruz III's publicist from1970 to 1980. She was witness to just how die-hard the Lucky 12 were insupporting Guy and Pip.
"Sobrang die-hard yung Lucky 12 na yun. After nilangmaitakas si Guy from Tower at maibalik sa Sampaguita at kay Tirso, parang silayung naging special bodyguards nina Guy and Pip. Sobrang loyal sila, lalo nakay Nora. Naghahalinhinan nga sila kung magbantay kay Pipo nung araw. Kasi siNora selosa masyado, so sila, binabantayan nila si Pip, sa mga shows, sashooting ng mga pelikula, hanggang sa bahay, nakabantay sila. Inaalam nila kungsino yung kinakausap ni Pip sa telepono, kung sino yung nali-link kay Tirso.Nire-report nila kay Nora, ‘tapos gumagawa sila ng paraan para matigil yungpagkaka-link kay Tirso nung babae," recalled Tita Noy.
One incident that showed how far the Lucky 12 would go forGuy and Pip was during the time Pip was being linked to a newcomer, daughter ofa well-known veteran actor.
"Pumunta sila sa set ng pelikulang ginagawa nina Pip at ni[newcomer]. Inaway nila siya. Halos mahubaran ng damit sa sobrang galit nilakay ___. Pinigilan lang sila ng iba pang mga tao doon sa set. Ginawa nilangexample si ___ para sa iba pang gustong ma-link kay Pip. Mula nga noon, walanang na-link kay Tirso," narrated Tita Noy.
When PEP asked about their identities, Tita Noy said shecan't remember their names but she knows each one of them by face. She referredPEP to Kuya Germs's secretary Carmelite, but we found out that both Kuya Germsand Carmelite are out of the country as of this writing. Tita Noy also told PEPshe doubts Carmelite will reveal the names of the Lucky 12. With the thingsthey did during their "tour of duty," it would be risky to reveal their names.
"THE GREAT ESCAPE." Noranians refer to Nora's rescuefrom the Tower Productions people as "The Great Escape." Nora's biographerRustum Quinton has an account of how it happened.
"Naganap ang tinaguriang ‘Dakilang Pagtakas' ni Nora noong May 1, 1971. The night before, naroon pa si Nora sa bahay nina ArtemioMarquez, kasama si Kitchie de Leon [anak ng may-ari ng KBS] at ilang reporters.Balisa si Nora at hindi masabi sa mga kasama ang naging desisyon na gumawa muling pelikula sa Sampaguita.
"Bandang alas-singko ng hapon, tumakas si Nora sa kanilangbahay sa Pasig, sakay ng taxi, kasama ang kanyang Ate Tita at si Pae, angkanyang secretary. Lingid ito sa kaalaman ng kanyang mga magulang, peroinaasahan sa Sampaguita. Sa studio, naghihintay na kay Nora sina Doc Perez,German Moreno, Inday Badiday, Tirso, at ilang tagahanga. That very same day,they started to shoot Guy and Pip.
"Namalagi si Nora sa Sampaguita compound. Hindi na pinayaganna maglabas-masok sa studio ang mga movie writers. Isang gabi, may dalawangkotse na nagpaputok ng baril sa harap ng compound. Binigyan si Nora ng policesecurity ni Mayor Norberto Amoranto ng Quezon City."
According to Tita Noy, the Lucky 12 helped in Nora's escape.
"Idinaan nila sa likuran ng bahay si Nora. Sa Pasig kasiyun, kaya sa likod, sa may Pasig River, idinaan nila. ‘Tapos nag-taxi silapapuntang Sampaguita. Mabilis lang lahat."
After "The Great Escape" the Lucky 12 was always on callevery time Ate Luds would shout "Operation: Kumbento!" on her radio show.
In Nestor de Guzman's book Si Nora Aunor Sa Mga Noranian...isthe account of Rosita Salazar, a member of the Grand Alliance for Nora Aunor,Philippines (GANAP), on Operation: Kumbento and the Lucky 12's ultimatemission:
"Noong araw ay halatang-halata kapag may tampuhan [sina Guyat Pip]. Madalas may talangka sa ulo si Guy, kung saan-saan nagpupunta, sobrangselosa. Nagluluksa rin si Maria Leonora Theresa kapag magkahiwalay ang mga"magulang"—dinadamitan siya ng itim. Malulungkot na kanta ang pinapatugtog niGerman Moreno sa radyo. Sumisigaw naman si Inday Badiday ng ‘Operation:Kumbento!' Misyon ng Operation Kumbento na gumawa ng paraan para magkabalikansina Guy and Pip. Leader si Inday Badiday at miyembro ang grupong Lucky 12."
Next week: Tales of Nora Aunor's popularity. On why theSuperstar phenomenon cannot be duplicated or surpassed by anyone today.
(TO BE CONTINUED NEXT WEEK)