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Himala is a landmark 1982 film directed by Ishmael Bernal. It tells the story of a young woman in a small town in the Philippines who claims to have seen an apparition of the Blessed Virgin Mary and suddenly begins to exhibit healing powers. More than a movie about faith-healing, the film is an excellent commentary on Third World poverty and backward and contradictory rural customs. The lead role is superbly played by one of the country's premier dramatic actresses, Nora Aunor.



The film is set in the sleepy, dry town of Cupang (actually shot on location in Ilocos Norte). The locals believe the drought to be a curse placed on them for driving away a leper. However, after Elsa (Nora Aunor) claims to see an apparition of the Blessed Virgin Mary, the sad, forgotten town is consumed with commercialism and exploitation. Elsa mysteriously acquires healing powers and the whole village becomes a bustling venue for mass-produced statues of saints, tours, bottles of miraculous water, and souvenir T-shirts. Hundreds of people come to see her: from overweight matrons in fancy cars to undernourished beggars and countless sick people with diseased and malformed bodies.

There are two subplots. The first is the homecoming of Elsa's close friend (Gigi Dueñas), who is labeled the town's harlot. The second subplot revolves around a cynical film director (Spanky Manikan), who is obssessed with filming Elsa's healing sessions. In the process, he unknowingly films a dark secret about Elsa, which leads to the suicide of her elder sister. Meanwhile, Elsa herself is thoroughly exploited and the course of her life is manipulated beyond her control. The film's most memorable line comes when Elsa finally yells to a crowd of people "Walang himala! Ang himala ay nasa puso ng tao...ang himala ay nasa puso nating lahat!" (There is no miracle! The miracle is in the heart of a person...the miracle is in all our hearts!)


Himala swept the major awards at the Metro Manila Film Festival in 1982 and was accorded the prestige of opening the 1983 Manila International Film Festival under the auspices of then First Lady Imelda Marcos. The film was produced by the Experimental Cinema of the Philippines on a budget of three million pesos, triple the normal amount then for a Tagalog movie.

The film itself won numerous awards, including Best Picture from the 1982 Metro Manila Film Festival and the 1983 Catholic Mass Media Awards. The film's international honors include the Bronze Hugo Prize at the 1983 Chicago International Film Festival. Himala is also the Manunuri ng Pelikulang Pilipino's choice as one of the best films of the 1980s.

Superstar Nora Aunor's role in this movie has been called the best performance of her career. It won her the Best Actress trophy at the Metro Manila Filmfest and was eventually nominated for top acting accolades by all the other award-giving bodies in the country. She almost won the best actress prize at the 1983 Berlin International Film Festival where the film vied for the Golden Bear Award, having been personally handpicked by Festival Director Moritz de Hadeln himself to be part of the official selection.

On the 30th year after its release, Himala is the first of the 3,000 films restored by the ABS-CBN Film Archive and Central Digital Lab, Inc. The film's restored version premiered at the 69th Venice International Film Festival in 2012.


Himala movie poster

Film Festivals/Exhibits

The film has been shown at the following film festivals and exhibits: 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)
  • 1983 - 29th Asia Pacific Film Festival
  • 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)
  • 2012 - 69th Venice International Film Festival (Venice Classics)
  • 2014 -The 20th Festival International des Cinémas d'Asie | Festival du Film Asiatique de Vesoul "Cinemas d'Asie" (11-18 Feb 2014), France
  • 2014 - 50th Chicago International Film Festival (Exhibition)


Nora Aunor in one of the film's memorable scenes.

Berlin International Film Festival (1983)

Chicago International Film Festival (1983)

Gawad Urian Awards (1983)

Filipino Academy of Movie Arts and Sciences (FAMAS) 1983

Film Academy of the Philippines (Luna Awards) 1983

Metro Manila Film Festival (1982)

Catholic Mass Media Awards (1982)

Other Awards

  • One of the Ten Best Films of the 1980s, URIAN (2000)
  • One of the Ten Best Films from 1970-1999, URIAN (2002)
  • Winner, Bronze Hugo Awards, 19th Chicago Film Festival (1983)
  • Asia-Pacific Film Festival Special Achievement for Best Depiction of Socially Involved Religion (1983)
  • Best Asian-Pacific Movie of All Time, CNN APSA Viewers Choice Award (2008)


"Celebrity, religion, poverty, and fanaticism collide in "Himala", arguably one of the best Filipino films ever made...If you can choose only 1 Filipino film to watch, let it be "Himala".- Russell Jayme from Philippines and United States"

"Himala is a very good film...However, what makes it not only a good film but a great one are the questions it dares to ask. Celebrity, religious hyprocricy and commercialism, poverty, and fanaticism collide in "Himala". In a country overwhelmingly spoon-fed with Catholicism, "Himala" dares to question the institutions and truths we've created and challenges us to do the same. - Noel"




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