Jojo Devera, a film critic and longtime Nora Aunor fan now based in Arizona, remembers 1978, the height of the Nora-Vilma rivalry, when Nora’s Atsay went head-to-head with Vilma’s Rubia Servios.
“Nakapila ako sa Coronet 2 [a theater on Aurora Boulevard in Cubao] para manood ng Atsay when the other fan commented na katulong lang ang bagay na role kay Nora. Then humalakhak siya nang pagkalakas-lakas. Umalis ako sandali sa pila, nilapitan ko ’yong fan. Wala akong sinabi. Basta sinampal ko lang siya. Nagpalakpakan ’yong mga Noranian na kasama ko sa pila.”
Nora’s fans say they feel a connection to her because they feel that she is one of them. With the fans who have been fortunate enough to have been admitted into her inner circle, this intimacy is magnified a hundredfold.
Even though he had met Nora back in 1983—he was introduced to her by designer Goule Gorospe, who was then designing gowns for Superstar—Jojo Devera says he didn’t really become close to her until 2004. That was the year he helped out in the final performance, at Virginia Beach, of the first leg of Nora’s Power of Two U.S. concert tour with Kuh Ledesma.
Jojo was in charge of the teleprompter. He was standing on the left side of the stage, and the air conditioner, which was at full blast, was pointed at his head. After the show, while everyone went to the staff party, Jojo begged off and returned to his hotel room because he wasn’t feeling well.
A few minutes later, Jojo recalls, he heard a knock at the door. It was Nora, bringing Tylenol, water, noodles, alcohol, and a washcloth. She fed him, gave him an alcohol bath, and stayed with him until she thought he was asleep. When she left, Jojo was reduced to tears. He couldn’t believe that his idol had nursed him through a head cold.
The next morning, Jojo awoke rejuvenated. He says that Albert Sunga, alluding to Nora’s faith healer character in the film Himala, told him: “Ginamot ka ni Elsa.”
The sense of intimacy that Nora showed towards Jojo often grows to the point where Jojo’s friend Albert feels he has a duty to counsel his idol. Albert remembers a fans’ day at Quezon City’s Amoranto Stadium in 2003. Nora was wondering what gift to give to her followers. She settled on buying sacks and sacks of rice as giveaways.
“Kung minsan,” Albert says, “gusto mo nang paluin ang kamay. ‘Ate Guy, ano ba? ’Yon bang huwag mong i-equate lagi sa pera, kasi napakaraming nagmamahal sa ’yo na hindi naghihintay ng anumang kapalit. Kaya sila nandiyan, hindi dahil ’yong kailangan mong magbigay sa kanila. Kasi mahal ka nila kung sino ka.’”
If Nora’s fans are demonstrative, so is Nora herself. The morning after his bout with a head cold, Jojo says, he and his retinue had to leave Virginia and go back to New Jersey. They said their goodbyes to the Superstar, who was crying as if she didn’t want them to leave. In the van going back to Jersey, Jojo got a call from Nora.
“Nagpapasalamat,” Jojo says. “At nararamdaman kong umiiyak uli siya, nalulungkot.”
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