Quezon City, May 9, 2002 (STAR) by Butch Francisco - In my Tuesday column, I listed the names of some of the past Best Actor winners in the Gawad Urian. Below are the Manunuri’s Best Actress winners in the last 25 years:

Up to the mid-’70s, the country’s elite crowd still looked down on Nora Aunor. She was bakya and masa. She was a superstar, all right. But she still didn’t have this reputation as a good actress. Sure, she won Best Actress (for Juan de la Cruz) in the 1972 Quezon City Film Festival. But that award really didn’t count because it came from an insignificant awards body.

In 1976, however, she was finally (and officially) recognized as a fine actress. This was when she won her first Best Actress trophy (for Tatlong Taong Walang Diyos) from a major awards body – the Gawad Urian of the Manunuri ng Pelikulang Pilipino.

Nora won five more acting trophies from the Urian after that for these films: Bona (1980), Bilangin ang Bituin sa Langit (1989), Andres, Paano Ba ang Maging Isang Ina? (1990), The Flor Contemplacion Story (1995) and Bakit May Kahapon Pa? (1996)).

Among her award-winning performances, my favorites are those of Bona, Flor Contemplacion and Bakit May Kahapon Pa? Her performance in Bilangin ang Bituin sa Langit, however, is one that I can watch over and over again and not get tired of it. Despite the film being "commercial," her role in it is difficult because it requires her to age from that of an impoverished high school student to that of a high-successful and influential career woman who has built her own business empire. In the latter part of the film, she also has to do a dual role – as the central character Magnolia and as Magnolia’s rebellious daughter, Maggie. Nora was voted by the Manunuri as Best Actress of the decade twice – in the ’80s and in the ’90s.

Nora Aunor is clearly a Manunuri favorite. Most industry members (including Vilma Santos) are aware a lot of Manunuri members are "Noranians." The Manunuri members, of course, do not necessarily operate on fan mentality. In the acting categories, they choose the ones who really deliver the outstanding performances of the year. In this sense, we can also call Gina Alajar a Manunuri favorite.

Gina is among the local actresses with the most number of Urian trophies – six to be exact. She first won for Brutal (Best Actress, 1980). The next year, she duplicated her feat and became the runaway winner for Salome. In 1986, Gina won again the Best Actress trophy for Kapit sa Patalim. In the ’90s, she went on to win two Best Supporting Actress trophies: For Biktima in 1990 and Mulanay in 1996. Gina Alajar was also named one of the Best Actresses of the ’80s.

Jaclyn Jose is another actress with a long string of Urian trophies. The first time she won was for Takaw-Tukso (Best Actress, 1985). The next year, the Manunuri did not give out awards. But when the Gawad Urian resumed in 1988, she was again adjudged Best Actress for her performance in Itanong Mo sa Buwan. A year later, she became an Urian winner for the third time – as Best Supporting Actress in Macho Dancer. In 1995, she won her fourth Urian trophy – as Best Supporting Actress in The Flor Contemplacion Story. On Saturday, Jaclyn Jose may yet win another Urian trophy if she gets voted Best Actress for Minsan, May Isang Puso.

Vilma Santos – unlike Nora, Gina, Jaclyn and even Chanda Romero (during the Manunuri’s early years) – was never known to be a Manunuri favorite. Ironically, she is the one with the most number of Urian acting trophies – seven in all.

In the ’70s, Vilma a perennial Urian nominee; but also a perennial loser. In 1982, however, she won her first Urian (for Relasyon) and there was no stopping her after that. On record, she is the only actress who has won three Urian acting trophies in a row. After Relasyon she won successively for Broken Marriage and Sister Stella L. Later, she won four more for the following films: Pahiram ng Isang Umaga (1989), Ipagpatawad Mo (1991), Dahil Mahal Kita, The Dolzura Cortez Story (1993) and Bata, Bata, Paano Ka Ginawa? (1998). Like rival, Nora Aunor, Vilma Santos was also declared Best Actress of the decade in the ’80s and ’90s.

Two veteran actresses who won Urian trophies more than once, unfortunately, are no longer with us: Charito Solis and Nida Blanca. Charito, first won as Best Actress for Ina, Kapatid, Anak (1979) and as Best Supporting Actress for Kisapmata (1981) and Karnal (1983). Nida, on the other hand, is a two-time Urian winner. In 1985, she won Best Actress for Miguelito, and Batang Rebelde and, the year later as Best Supporting Actress in Magdusa Ka.

Like Charito and Nida and Jaclyn and Gina, there are two other veteran actresses who can swing from lead to supporting characters with great ease and even win Urian trophies in the process. I’m talking about Elizabeth Oropesa and Daria Ramirez. Daria was the second Urian Best Actress winner (for Sinong Kapiling, Sinong Kasiping?) in 1977. Three years later, in 1980, she won Best Supporting Actress for her very brief appearance in Agila.

In the case of Oropesa, she could have been among the first Urian Best Actress winners had the organization been established earlier. You see, in 1973, the FAMAS was rocked by a terrible scandal. To clean up its image, the FAMAS members – in the next two years – invited critics to sit down with them and help the organization choose the winners.

Practically all the critics who served as FAMAS judges during those two years became the founding members of the Manunuri when the group was formally organized in 1976. When Oropesa won the FAMAS Best Actress in 1975 (for Lumapit, Lumayo ang Umaga), it was actually under the Manunuri jurisdiction. Then she won the Best Supporting Actress trophy for Milagros in 1997. Two yeas later, she returned with a vengeance and scored a Best Actress grandslam for Bulaklak ng Maynila.

The list of Urian Best Actress winners also includes Beth Bautista (Hindi sa Iyo ang Mundo, Baby Forcuna, 1978); Pilar Pilapil, who delivered a quiet, but very moving performance in Napakasakit, Kuya Eddie (1986); Lorna Tolentino (her anguish as a mother who loses her young son to a stray bullet pierces through the hearts of moviegoers in Narito ang Puso Ko); Gelli de Belen (the youngest Urian Best Actress winner) who won for The Secrets of Sarah Jane in 1994; Helen Gamboa (despite her very fair complexion and mestiza features, she still pulled it off marvelously as a domestic helper in Bagong Bayani) and Zsa Zsa Padilla who proved to everyone that aside from singing, she can also act well and win awards for it – thanks to her performance in Batang PX.

Last year, it was with pleasure that the Manunuri gave the Best Actress award to one of local cinema’s finest gems, Gloria Romero, who at age 67 wowed everyone with her spectacular performance in Tanging Yaman.

Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

All rights reserved