Ron has sent us more reviews of Nora movies. It's from The Urian Anthology, 1980 - 1989, a Manunuri ng Pelikulang Pilipino collection of movie essays. Urian members, I hope it's okay that I posted the reviews of Nora movies from the book. All Noranians all over the world will be grateful to read the reviews and ultimately, I'm sure, will purchase the book once it is available online. If you want it remove from the website, email me at pinoymovies@yahoo.com and I will remove it immediately. Thank you.
***SOURCE: The Urian Anthology 1980-1989

REVIEW: 'Merika

Emmanuel A. Reyes Tempo, 1984


"'Merika" comes at a trying moment when the foremost thing on people's minds is to flee the archipelago for more rewarding frontiers. Sadly enough, after 38 years of independence, the Filipino no longer sees his own country as land of opportunity. The promise of progress has gone bust. Traditional values of home, family, and love of country have consequently eroded under the threat of hunger and torment. The need for more money has become apparent. Faced with the need to survive, the Filipino is forced to seek work elsewhere. He is happy for a while to be in another corner of the world. But when he realizes that he is no longer the king of his own culture but a servant of a more affluent race, he starts to dream about home and wish for that life he had left behind.

"'Merika" doesn't attempt to declare anything big about Filipinos and their life in the United States. It's a simple story of loneliness and survival in the land of milk and honey. And it is precisely this simplicity that allows the film to bring to surface with uncommon details of alienation and despair in a life where success is measured by a dollar-earning job and a bag of American groceries.

We see a fairly representative sector of Filipinos living in America through the eyes of Milagros Cruz (Nora Aunor), a nurse working in a New York City hospital. It is her fifth year on the job and life for her has become a predictable routine of quick meals, subway rides, Caucasian patients and late night TV. To augment her income, she holds a second job at a nursing home. Although her two jobs keep her well-off, Mila harbors a secret wish to come home to the Philippines. And while her wish is not an impossible one, the decision involved is a difficult one to make.

For Mila, her decision to come home or to stay is largely shaped by a circle of Filipino friends and acquaintances, all of whom have changed in outlook and attitude towards their native land and their adopted country. For the most part, knowledge of events back home has become speculative while knowledge of the new land has become increasingly material and resentful. An aging Filipino whom Mila befriends at the nursing home becomes her surrogate father. The old man is angry at the manner in which his generation was received by the Americans in the years before the war. Mila's younger friends, on the other hand, are luckier in terms of present-day opportunities. While some have remained honest, others have become callous, even rotten, in adopting the American way of life. All have moments of pride in terms of achievement but no one cares to admit the degradation one goes through to earn that better life, Mila's final decision comes with much pain but it's one deed that's a tribute to human courage and determination.

What is clearly admirable about "'Merika," is its affecting portrait of loneliness, so thoughtfully realized by Nora Aunor's touching performance, Gil Portes's direction and Doy del Mundo and Gil Quito's homely screenplay. The film does not emphasize a single, urgent cause for Mila's wanting to go home precisely because such loneliness cannot be quantified. For the migrant Filipino, this kind of loneliness exists in mind and heart but it can never be completely expressed. It's a feeling so deep seated, it couldn't be relieved entirely, even by a long-distance call. The film utilizes many images to describe this sad feeling---from chilly scenes of winter to bare trees, disabled senior citizens, to the never-ending pictures on television. It all adds up to a very, very cold account of a life of sacrifice in a country of great expectations.

After menacing ventures abroad ("Miss X," "Carnival Queen"), Gil Portes finally lands on solid ground with "'Merika." For once, the travelogue approach to shooting pictures abroad is smartly avoided. We can forgive the movie for its little flaws. After all, it's a tender effort that's one form the heart.