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For the genus of moth, see Himala (moth).
Himala (Miracle)
Himala FilmPoster.jpeg
Directed by Ishmael Bernal
Produced by Bibsy N. Carballo[1]
Charo Santos-Concio
Screenplay by Ricardo Lee
Story by Ricardo Lee
Starring Nora Aunor
Music by Winston Raval
Cinematography Sergio Lobo
Edited by Ike Jarlego, Jr.
Distributed by Experimental Cinema of the Philippines (1982)
Star Cinema (2012)
Release dates
25 December 1982
5 December 2012 (re-release)
Running time
124 minutes
Country Philippines
Language Filipino, English
Budget 3,000,000 (estimate)
Box office ₱ 30,000,000 (estimate)

Himala ("Miracle") is a Filipino film directed by National Artist Ishmael Bernal of the Philippines in 1982. The film's script was written by multi-award winner screenwriter Ricky Lee based on the story of a teenage girl on Cabra Island in the province of Occidental Mindoro between 1966 and 1967.[2][3]

Himala was filmed entirely in the province of Ilocos Norte in just three weeks with a budget of only 3 million. The film premiered at the 1982 Metro Manila Film Festival, and in 1983, became the first Filipino film to be included in the "Competition Section" of the prestigious Berlin International Film Festival. Since then, Himala has been exhibited in a number of film festivals around the world.[4]

On 11 November 2008, Himala won the Viewer's Choice Award for the Best Film of all Time from the Asia-Pacific Region in the 2008 CNN Asia Pacific Screen Awards beating out nine other outstanding movies voted by thousands of film fans around the world.[5][6] The ten finalists were chosen by critics, industry insiders and actors—including Bollywood stars Amitabh Bachchan and Aishwarya Rai. [7][8]

Philippine superstar Nora Aunor is best known for her performance in the film as the visionary Elsa. Her portrayal is considered by most Filipino critics as the best of her career.[7]

On its 30th anniversary, Himala is the first of the 3000+ films restored by the ABS-CBN Film Archive and Central Digital Lab, Inc.[9] The restored version premiered at the 69th Venice International Film Festival.[10][11][12]


The setting is a small town named Cupang, a community set in an arid landscape. The townsfolk believed that the drought they were having was a curse placed on the upon the town for driving away a leper years before.

During a solar eclipse, Elsa (Aunor), a local young woman, allegedly saw an apparition of the Blessed Virgin Mary atop a barren hill, the same place where her adoptive mother Aling Salíng (Labalan) found her as a baby. Right after, she started faith healing local residents assisted by her friends, Chayong (Centeno) and Sepa (Quiambao), who eventually became part of her "Seven Apostles",[1] including entrepreneur Mrs. Alba (Palileo). Word spread around and soon pilgrims and tourists started arriving in Cupang to visit Elsa's house, distinguished by the big sign "Elsa loves you," to see her. At the same time, enterprising residents of Cupang started businesses like selling religious articles, offering accommodations, among others, capitalizing on the sudden influx of local and foreign patients and tourists.

Orly (Spanky Manikan), a filmmaker, arrived in town to make a documentary about Elsa, interviewing her and people who personally know her. Around the same time, Elsa's childhood friend Nimia (Dueñas), now a prostitute, returned and established a kabaret (a sleazy nightclub/brothel) for tourists, which was later ordered closed by the Seven Apostles.

One day, in the church's confessional, Orly revealed to the town's Catholic priest (Lamangan) that he saw two drugged youths from Manila raping Elsa and Chayong on the hill. The filmmaker was holding a tremendous guilt; instead of helping the two victims, he continued capturing the incident on film, as he needed a scoop for his struggling career.

A cholera epidemic spread throughout Cupang, with Sepa's two children dying after eating tainted meat at Elsa's house. Chayong then hanged herself because of shame from the assault. Authorities quarantined Elsa's house, closing it off from patients. Elsa blamed herself for all of the deaths and decided to stop healing. Eventually, the patients and tourists stopped coming, leaving the town the way it was before the hoopla.

Elsa started showing signs of pregnancy from the rape. Mrs. Alba concluded (erroneously) that it is "Immaculate Conception" (when she really meant a Virgin birth) and proclaimed that Elsa is truly blessed. At the exact moment, thunder started roaring in the background, followed by pouring rain. The townspeople rejoiced and played in the rain, convinced that the miracle has returned and that the curse was finally lifted. Mrs. Alba and the crowd returned to Elsa's house and called out to her. She commanded her followers to call everybody to assemble on the hill.

In front of her congregation, Elsa, apprehensive at first, eventually professed that there were no miracles, no sightings of the Virgin, and pleaded that people themselves invent gods, miracles, curses and such. In the middle of her speech, a gun pointed towards her, was fired, hitting her on her chest and a violent stampede ensued. The old and infirm who came to be healed, including children were trampled upon in the mass hysteria. Injuries were everywhere.

Elsa gasped her last breath in her mother's arms, looking towards the sky while Orly and other reporters captured her last moment on their cameras. Wailing and crying ensued after the announcement of her death, and the crowd started gravitating towards her. As Elsa was being taken to a waiting ambulance, her followers lifted her lifeless body overhead, in a crucifix position, as the crowd wanted to touch her. Crowds were scampering all over the hill as they followed Elsa down to the car. Against her husband's will, Sepa shouted to the crowd, proclaiming that Elsa was a saint, a martyr for the world's suffering. She led the congregation in praying the Hail Mary on their knees going up the hill as the ambulance carrying Elsa drove away.[1]


Production staff and full cast of Himala:[1]


Full Cast[edit]

  • Elsa - Nora Aunor
  • Mrs. Alba - Veronica Palileo
  • Orly - Spanky Manikan
  • Nimia - Gigi Dueñas
  • Aling Saling - Vangie Labalan
  • Chayong - Laura Centeno
  • Sepa - Ama Quiambao
  • Baldo - Ben Almeda
  • Igme - Cris Daluz
  • Mrs. Gonzalez - Aura Mijares
  • Priest - Joel Lamangan
  • Bino - Ray Ventura
  • Pilo - Crispin Medina
  • Chief of Police - Tony Angeles
  • Mayor - Joe Gruta
  • Bella - Estela de Leon
  • Narding - Lem Garcellano
  • Lucio - Cesar Dimaculangan
  • Lolo Hugo (Blind Man) - Mahatma Canda
  • Aling Pising (Beggar) - Vicky Castillo
  • Nestoy - Richard Arellano
  • Intong - Erwin Jacinto
  • Jack-Jack - Jeremiah Sird
  • Himself - Potenciano de Guzman
  • Reynaldo Mababangloob III
  • Nelson Obach


Subject and impact[edit]

Himala is the story of Elsa, a barrio lass whose supposed visions of the Virgin Mary change her life, turning her into an overnight sensation and causing mass hysteria in a poor, isolated northern Philippine village suffering from a drought. The film is centred on the issues of religious faith and faithlessness, morality, and truth.[7] As Elsa, Aunor delivered the film's most iconic line in the climax:

Himala became a box-office hit, earning an impressive 30 million, becoming one of the highest grossing Filipino films in the 1980s. Aunor also won several awards for her performance. it is also considered as one of the greatest Filipino films of all time.


Himala has won numerous awards and distinctions in the Philippines and abroad, including Best Picture from the 1982 Metro Manila Film Festival and the 1983 Catholic Mass Media Awards.

At the Manila Film Festival, the movie swept 9 of the 11 awards available. Aunor won the Best Actress trophy for her role in the film at the December local film festival, and was nominated for other top acting awards in the Philippines. She was nominated for Best Actress at the 33rd Berlin International Film Festival, where Himala vied in the prestigious competition for the Golden Bear Award.[13] The film was personally handpicked by Festival Director Moritz de Hadeln in the official selection.

The film's international honors also included the Bronze Hugo prize at the 1983 Chicago International Film Festival; it received a special religious citation in the 1983 Asia-Pacific Film Festival held in Taipei, Taiwan; and it was selected as the opening film for the 1983 Manila International Film Festival.

Himala was the choice of the Filipino film critics' society Manunuri ng Pelikulang Pilipino as one of the ten best films of the 1980s. In 2002, the same critics' group named Himala one of the best Filipino movies for the last three decades, from 1970 - 1999.

Bernal, the film's director, was conferred the National Artist Award posthumously (he died in 1996). His body of work was accorded the high recognition of Gawad CCP para sa Sining in 1990, and the Centennial Honors for the Arts, on the occasion of the 100th anniversary of the Philippine Declaration of Independence and Nationhood in 1998.

Himala was the only Filipino film that made it to the shortlist of the Best Asian Films of All Time chosen by CNN International in 2008.[14][15] It was cited for its "austere camera work, haunting score and accomplished performances [that] sensitively portray the harsh social and cultural conditions that people in the third world endure."

Year Group Category Nominee Result
1982 Metro Manila Film Festival [16] Best Picture Won
Best Director Ishmael Bernal Won
Best Actress Nora Aunor Won
Best Supporting Actor Spanky Manikan Won
Best Supporting Actress Gigi Dueñas Won
Best in Screenplay/Story Ricky Lee Won
Best in Editing Ike Jarlego, Jr. and Ben Pelayo Won
Best Cinematography Sergio Lobo Won
Best in Art Direction Raquel Villavicencio Won
Catholic Mass Media Awards Best Picture Won
Best Screenplay Ricky Lee Won
Best Supporting Actor Spanky Manika Won
Best Supporting Actress Gigi Dueñas Won
1983 FAMAS Best Picture Nominated
Best Director Ishmael Bernal Nominated
Best Supporting Actress Gigi Dueñas Nominated
Gawad Urian Awards (Manunuri ng Pelikulang Pilipino) Best Actress Nora Aunor Nominated
Best Picture Nominated
Best Director Ishmael Bernal Nominated
Best Supporting Actress Gigi Dueñas Nominated
Best Supporting Actress Ama Quiambao Nominated
Best Sound Vic Macamay Nominated
Best Screenplay Ricky Lee Nominated
Best Production Design Racquel Villavicencio Nominated
Film Academy of the Philippines (Luna Awards) Best Actress Nora Aunor Nominated

Gawad Urian Awards[edit]

  • One of the Ten Best Films of the 1980s, URIAN (2000)[4]
  • One of the Ten Best Films from 1970–1999, URIAN (2002)[17]

Other awards[edit]

  • Winner, Bronze Hugo Awards, 19th Chicago Film Festival (1983)[18]
  • Asia-Pacific Film Festival Special Achievement for Best Depiction of Socially Involved Religion (1983)[4]
  • Best Asian-Pacific Movie of All Time, CNN APSA Viewers Choice Award (2008)[3]

Stage version[edit]

Screenwriter Ricky Lee collaborated with the Cultural Center of the Philippines' resident theatre company Tanghalang Pilipino (TP) to stage a musical version entitled Waláng Himala.

Originally, the collaboration intended to stage a "sequel," set twenty years after Elsa was shot (the same time that had lapsed since the movie was shown). It would have starred Nora Aunor in the role of Elsa, establishing her as surviving the gunshot.

However, Aunor was not available and the team went on to produce a musical version of the movie. It was staged in the Huséng Batutè Theatre of the CCP in 2003 in the 20th season of TP. The libretto was by Ricky Lee, music and musical direction by Vincent de Jesus, lyrics by Vincent de Jesus and Ricky Lee, direction by Soxie Topacio, set and costume design by Gino Gonzales, choreography by Jose Jay Cruz and lighting design by Benjamin Villareal, Jr. May Bayot played the role of Elsa together with Isay Alvarez as Nimia, Cynthia Culig-Guico as Chayong, Eladio Pamaran as the Reporter and Dulce as Nanay Saling. Bayot won an Alíw Award for Best Actress in a Musical that year.

Due to popular demand, it was re-staged at the larger Tanghalang Aurélio Tolentino in 2004 in the 21st season of TP with the same artistic team. It went to Shanghai, China in 2008 as the Philippine representative to the Shanghai International Theater Festival. Waláng Himala which was the final song in the musical, was featured in CCP's Gala 40th Anniversary Concert "Rubies," performed by mezzo-soprano Clarissa Ocampo with the Philippine Philharmonic Orchestra, arranged and conducted by Maestro Chino Toledo.

The original cast recording, produced by de Jesus, was recorded in 2008 and was released independently and is available for download at http://www.mymusicstore.com.ph/album/vincent-de-jesus/1099017/Himala_(Original_Cast_Recording).html.

"A CELEBRATION OF THE MUSICAL - HIMALA, 10TH ANNIVERSARY," a concert celebrating the musical will open on March 15, 2013 at the PETA Theater Center featuring the original cast and several new performers.


In 2012, Himala was restored in HD. The restoration was done by ABS-CBN and Central Digital Lab. The Restored Film was first premiered in 69th Venice Film Festival, and was released in the Philippines on December 5, 2012. "Himala" Restoration Project: Restoring, Relieving, and Re-experiencing a Multi-awarded Filipino Film Classic won the Anvil Award 2014 of Merit for PR Programs on a Sustained Basis - Art and Culture/Heritage/Tourism.[19]

List of Film Festival Competed or Exhibited[edit]

  • 1982 - Metro Manila Film Festival
  • 1983 - 1st Manila International Film Festival (Exhibition)
  • 1983 - 33rd Berlin International Film Festival, 18 February to 3 March 1983 (Competition)
  • 1983 - 19th Chicago International Film Festival (Competition)
    • Award: Bronze Hugo Award
  • 1983 - 29th Asia Pacific Film Festival
    • Award: Special Achievement for Best Depiction of Socially Involved Religion
  • 1984 - Moscow Film Festival
  • 1998 - First Philippine Film Festival Vienna, Austria, September 21–24
  • 1999 - 21st Hong Kong International Film Festival
  • 2001 - 3rd Cinemanila International Film Festival Tribute to Ishmael Bernal, December 7–16
  • 2002 - UCLA Filipino Film Festival Classics of the Filipino Film, May 10–12
  • 2006 - New York Filipino Film Festival
  • 2008 - Asia Pacific Screen Awards (APSA)
    • Award: CNN Viewers Choice Award as Asia Pacific Best Film of All Time
  • 2012 - 69th Venice International Film Festival (Venice Classics),[20]
  • 2014 -The 20th Festival International des Cinémas d'Asie | Festival du Film Asiatique de Vesoul "Cinemas d'Asie" (11-18 Feb 2014), France[21]
  • 2014 - 50th Chicago International Film Festival (Exhibition)[22]


  1. ^ a b c d Lee, Ricardo. "Si Tatang at mga HImala ng Ating Panahon - Himala", p. 54-93. Bagong Likha Publications, Inc. (1988).
  2. ^ MiracleHunter, Inc. (2008). "Marian Apparition Claims of the 20th Century". The Miracle Hunter. Retrieved on 2011-03-28.
  3. ^ a b Pythias08 (2008-11-27). "CNN Screening Room's feature on Himala". YouTube. Retrieved on 2011-03-28.
  4. ^ a b c (2008-10-21). "Himala: A Treasure of World Cinema". Superstarstruck.
  5. ^ "Filipino film 'Himala' wins CNN APSA Viewer's Choice Award". CNN.com. Retrieved on 2011-03-28.
  6. ^ Dlanorsk5 (2008-12-26). "Nora Aunor HIMALA as CNN Viewer Choice Award as Best Film in Asia-Pacific". YouTube. Retrieved on 2011-03-28.
  7. ^ a b c (2008-10-27). "Himala in CNN film poll". Inquirer.net .Retrieved on 2011-03-28.
  8. ^ Plaza, Gerry (2008-11-12). inquirer.net, "CNN: ‘Himala’ best Asian film in history". Inquirer.net. Retrieved on 2011-03-28.
  9. ^ ABS-CBN launches restored version of Himala
  10. ^ "Restoring Himala". Philippine Daily Inquirer. 5 August 2012. Retrieved 29 October 2012. 
  11. ^ "May Himala! Restored film proves real global classic". Yahoo!. 16 August 2012. Retrieved 29 October 2012. 
  12. ^ "Restored version of Himala premieres at the 69th Venice Film Festival". Manila Bulletin. 18 August 2012. Retrieved 29 October 2012. 
  13. ^ "Berlinale: 1983 Programme". berlinale.de. Retrieved 2010-11-17. 
  14. ^ "Himala is one of CNN-UK's top 18 Asian films". gmanews.tv.
  15. ^ (2008-10-22). gmanews.tv, "Himala vies for CNN’s Viewers Choice Award". GMA NewsTV.com.
  16. ^ "Himala - 1982 Metro Manila Film Festival". Video 48. Retrieved on 2011-03-28.
  17. ^ "Pinalakang Gawad Urian". Manunuri ng Pelikulang Pilipino. Retrieved on 2011-03-28.
  18. ^ "Chicago International Film Festival 1983". IMDB.com.
  19. ^ "ABS-CBN, humakot ng 9 na parangal sa Anvil Awards". Retrieved 2014-02-28. 
  20. ^ "Venice Classics". Retrieved 2014-01-26. 
  21. ^ "Vesoul focuses on Philippines and Vietnam". Retrieved 2014-01-23. 
  22. ^ "Chicago International Film Festival - Summer Screenings Program 2014 Schedule". Retrieved 2014-06-09. 

External links[edit]