Jiro Manio: Muy Magnifico!
- Ricky Lo () - July 11, 2004 - 12:00am
And the winner is...

In six of the awards derbies this season, the same name was called as Best Actor – Jiro Manio for Magnifico.

It’s a feat.

At 12 (last May 9), Jiro is the youngest ever to win as Best Actor, an achievement reminiscent of Tatum O’Neal’s who was the youngest to win a Best Supporting Actress Oscar (for Paper Moon, 1976), and a grand slam at that!

Muy magnifico!

In the landmark movie produced by Violett Films and directed by Maryo J. delos Reyes from an award-winning screenplay by Michiko Yamamoto, Jiro played a boy named Magnifico who is so good and so generous that he might as well be a Christ figure. Magnifico goes around carrying his autistic sister (played by Isabella de Leon with touching realism) on his back (Atlas burdened by the problems of the world?), breaking his piggy bank to buy medicine for his sick grandmother (Gloria Romero), spreading good cheer among his neighbors with his smile and generosity, and baffling his parents (Albert Martinez and Lorna Tolentino) with a long big box he’s building (as coffin for his grandma but, by a twist of fate, turns out to be his own).

How could a 12-year-old be so good, fleshing out such a complex character seems so easy?

He must be a born actor.

The public as well as his co-stars are all praises for Jiro.

Albert Martinez: "He’s very quiet. His parents obviously brought him up so well. He’s respectful, kind and unassuming. He listens very well to direk Maryo’s instructions and delivers the emotion with such rawness. I already knew during the shooting pa lang that he would rake in all the awards because I myself believe in his performance. I attended almost all the awards in support of the project. Not in any way have I thought of bagging an award for myself because I was already convinced that Jiro was the Actor of the Year."

Lorna Tolentino: "Super-gaan siya ka-trabaho. Like any normal kid, mahilig siya maglaro. He loves to play with Koochie, my dog, on the set. Kaya niregaluhan ko siya ng dog. ’Yon ang naging bonding namin.

"As an actor, he’s punctual and professional. When I arrived on the set, nandoon na siya sa paligid kasama ang mga bata, as if doon na siya nakatira. At-home na at-home siya with the kids. Super in character, without him realizing it. He’s a natural. Totoong-totoo siya."

Jiro is in Grade 6 at the Holy Child Parochial School in San Juan, Metro Manila. The following Conversation was done last Thursday (July 8) during his lunch break.

How do your class- and school-mates react to you?

"Okay lang. We are equal. Pantay-pantay kami. When I won, they congratulated me."

Are you the only showbiz guy on campus?

"There was another one last year; I forgot the name. Nag-graduate na."

Are your grades okay?

"Okay lang."

Are you a teacher’s pet?

"No, I’m not."

So far, how many awards have you won all in all? Can you count them?

"Twelve. Six as Best Actor for Magnifico (FAMAS, Star Awards, PASADO, Urian, Gawad Tanglaw and FAP Awards). The rest for Best Actor (three for Bagong Buwan, from Guillermo Mendoza Memorial Awards, Metro Filmfest and Star Awards; one for La Vida Rosa, from PASADO; and two for Anghel sa Lupa)."

Where do you keep your trophies?

"Sa sala. Naka-display."

Which of the awards do you treasure most?

"All of them."

But I guess Magnifico is your most memorable movie.

"Of course... Because I’m the lead actor in it and I won as Best Actor for it."

Who did you think was your nearest rival for Best Actor?

"Si Christopher de Leon (for Mano Po 2)."

Not your Tito Albert (Martinez)?

"Nakalaban ko siya sa Golden Screen (new set of awards given out by a group of movie writers) but I lost." (Note: Other award-giving bodies categorized Albert as Supporting Actor.)

You’ve grown taller since the shooting of Magnifico, haven’t you?

"Yes. During the shooting of Magnifico, my height was only 4 feet flat. Now, I’m 4’8"."

How are you similar to your character in Magnifico?

"He’s like me; I’m like him. I also teach kids. I share with my playmates. Sa school, nagpapahiram ako ng gamit. I’m generous, like Magnifico."

Is your family complete – you know, with your parents, lola, etc.?

"Complete. We’re only two children in the family. I’m the eldest."

What does your mom do?

"She’s working abroad, in Japan."

What about your dad?

"He’s here. He accompanies me to my shootings."

You’re such a good actor. How were you able to portray Magnifico so beautifully?

"Direk Maryo helped me a lot. When they gave me the script, binasa ko and then... ’yon na!"

That easy? You didn’t recall sad experiences in your life?

"No, I did not. If I didn’t understand something, I simply asked direk. And then he explained everything to me. If I had to cry, I’d ask, ‘Direk, iyakan ba ‘to? Paano ba ito?’ Yon lang."

Are you a cry baby in real life?

"No, I’m not."

But you cry so easily.


Why, have you had many sad experiences?

"Wala lang. It’s natural with me."

What do you recall for you to cry?

"Wala lang. If they ask me to cry, I cry. Ganoon lang."

Happy ba ang childhood mo?


What pointers did you get from your co-stars?

"Sabi ni Lola (Gloria Romero), magpakabait lang daw at huwag lalaki ang ulo. Tita Lorna is very kind; she even gave me a dog. Mahal ’yon! Tito Albert naman always reminded me to concentrate. Sabi niya, ‘Hahakot ka ng awards.’ Nagkatotoo ang hula niya."

Wasn’t it hard going around – and acting! – with Isabella de Leon (as his autistic sister) on your back?

"Hindi naman. Magaan naman siya, e."

What was your hardest scene?

"None. Everything was easy. Okay lang."

Have you had any acting experience before you joined showbiz?

"None. Hilig ko lang talaga ang acting."

You’ve been abroad twice for Magnifico (which is doing the rounds of international film festivals)...

"...to Czech Republic and to Rome."

won the Best Picture (Kids Division) at the Berlinale late last year, but you didn’t go.

"May klase kasi ako, e. So far, Magnifico has already 50 awards all in all. Dami na, ‘no?"

What did you do at the Czech Republic and in Rome?

"Nominated kami sa Czech; nanalo kami ng Best Film sa Rome. But there were no awards for actors. I was interviewed in Rome and it was shown on TV all over the country."

What are your likes and dislikes?

"I love to play basketball, when there’s no school and no taping. Sa taping, kali-kalikot ng cellphone."

What do you splurge on with your extra money?

"Nothing much. I save."

How did you get into showbiz?

"I joined the Starkids contest on Sanlinggo nAPO Sila (which later became MTB). I was only 6 then. I won. Then they cast me in the soap Labs Ko si Babes with Jolina (Magdangal) and Marvin (Agustin). And then I appeared in MMK (Maalaala Mo Kaya), Basta’t Kasama Kita (as Robin Padilla’s brother), Tanging Ina the TV Series (as one of Ai-Ai de las Alas’ children), pagkatapos nagkaroon ako ng mga pelikula and then, yon na... mga awards."

Being an actor is really your dream. Don’t you have any other ambition?

"I also want to be an engineer. Or an action star."

An action star? But you’re a good drama actor. Why action star?

"Wala lang; okay lang."

Who’s your favorite action star?

"Si Robin Padilla. Ang galing-galing, e!"

Are you fond of watching movies?

"Mahilig din. But I can’t watch as many as I want to because of my classes."

How many times a week do you watch movies?

"Once a week."

What was the last movie that you’ve seen?

"Spider-Man 2."

Aside from Robin Padilla, who are your other idols?

"Wala na. Siya lang."

Haven’t popularity and success gone to your head?

"Hindi! I’m still the same."

No star complex at home or in school?

"None. I’m still the same. Simple lang ako."

Do you still help in the household chores?

"Siempre! I help sweep the floor and clean the dishes."

Where do you live?

"In San Juan. In our own house."

Can you top your performance in Magnifico?

"I still don’t know. According to Madame (Violet Sevilla, Violett Films lady boss), gagawa daw uli kami ng pelikula with direk Maryo para sa Metro Manila Filmfest."

When you grow up, who do you want to be like?

"Si Robin Padilla."

Can you describe yourself briefly?

"Simpleng bata. Mahilig maglaro ng basketball. Okay lang."

(E-mail reactions at rickylo@philstar.net.ph)

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