Furore as Philippines film star gets snubbed for top award

MANILA (AFP) - President Benigno Aquino's snub of one of the Philippines' most accomplished film stars for a top cultural award has sparked a furore amid talk her political ties and lifestyle were to blame.

Nora Aunor, 61, was among six people short-listed by the National Commission on Culture for the Arts for "national artist" honours this year, but her name was missing from the awardees announced by Aquino's office last week.

Commission spokesman Trixie Angeles told AFP on Tuesday it was bemused about the omission, which has sparked outrage in the local film industry and social media.

"She has an excellent body of work, there is no question about her talent or artistry," Angeles said.

"We are talking about a lifetime's worth of spectacular work here."

Aquino spokesman Herminio Coloma said in a statement the award recognises "those who excelled in the arts and letters and embodied the goodness and nobility of the Filipino people".

From humble beginnings Aunor - born Nora Villamayor - burst onto the entertainment scene in the 1960s as a singer with a powerful, soulful voice.

She also starred in movies where her petite, dusky looks broke stereotypes of fair-skinned leading ladies patterned after Hollywood.

Aunor has won several "Best Actress" awards at local and international film festivals.

Last year she took home the "Best Actress" trophy at the annual Asian Film Awards in Hong Kong for her powerful portrayal of a midwife in the locally produced "Thy Womb".

But her personal life has suffered several setbacks including an arrest in the United States for illegal drug possession, and ties to various scandal-plagued Filipino politicians.

In 1972 she campaigned for Ferdinand Marcos who later ruled as a dictator, and she also endorsed the presidential candidacies of fellow movie star Joseph Estrada in 1998 and Gloria Arroyo in 2004.

Current president Aquino has been at odds with all three.