A reason to rejoice

STARBYTES - Butch Francisco -

There are people in the entertainment profession I love (they know who they are) and there are those I am fond of. Manilyn Reynes falls under the category of people I am fond of — until last year.

Before I get into that, however, let me tell you first why I was quite fond of her.

It is not difficult to like Manilyn. On screen, you know she has talent and she is easy on the senses.

A former child star (an award-winning one), I began admiring her when she was still with That’s Entertainment because she was among those who could really sing. I was just starting to write for this paper then and I remember saying that she sang like a nightingale — long before it was ascribed to Lani Misalucha.

When the time came I met her in person, she charmed me no end. I don’t particularly remember our first meeting, but every time we would see each other, she would always be so gracious and pleasant. But we couldn’t claim that we love each other because we were never able to develop a deep friendship between us since we never got to work together — anywhere. However, she is a very sweet and likable person and it shows in her disposition. Even husband Aljon Jimenez is just as warm and sincere.

When Aljon and Manilyn one time sat in the panel of Showbiz Lingo in the mid-’90s, husband and wife gave Cristy Fermin and I a plaque each for something we did for them. I no longer recall what it was. But I do remember that they gave us a plaque of appreciation each.

I have tons of plaques — in both wood and glass — stored in the old house. The one I got from Aljon and Manilyn I think was actually a framed certificate, except that I don’t recall anymore where it is. However, I remember the gesture and that’s what matters most. My fondness for them — for her, particularly — must have started there. But it was cemented one instance in summer of 1996.

It was actually the eve of the 19th Gawad Urian and one of the production numbers was supposed to feature Nora Aunor singing Mahal on a moving bamboo raft (yes, it really moved on stage). When it was time for recording, Nora sent word that she’d prefer to sing the theme song of The Flor Contemplacion Story instead. I said no, our TV producer Tessie Celestino said no, while director Al Quinn hit the ceiling (it was his concept, after all).

The theme song of The Flor Contemplacion Story and the bamboo raft just wouldn’t go well together. Besides, Nora already sang the same piece in all the other awards presentations and we wanted to be different.

When it was clear that Nora wasn’t doing the production number, I started searching town for an alternative. Aster Amoyo suggested the name of Manilyn. Manilyn was in Broadcast City that time and we had the study tape immediately sent to her. The costume wasn’t a problem. There was a dress originally sewn for Nora Aunor waiting in the atelier of a fashion designer (I no longer remember which one). Nora and Manilyn at least were of the same height. The only problem was —  and this I remember still — the bust area because Manilyn was breastfeeding that time and is basically more gifted than Nora in that department. We left that problem for the costureras to solve. We were just too happy that we found a replacement who had the talent, but did not have an ego the size of Cuneta Astrodome. Very few singers would have agreed to that. Of course, it’s not really so bad if you are a substitute for Nora Aunor. But you’re still just filling in for somebody — on a last-minute notice at that. Manilyn, however, showed us what a trouper she is and displayed the true mark of professionalism.

Nora eventually won the Best Actress prize (in a tie with another Flor Contemplacion, Helen Gamboa who also won for Ang Bagong Bayani), but it was Manilyn who saved the night for the Gawad Urian.

From then on I always wished for her success and was happy to see her evolve into a talk show host on Moms. I was fond of her more than ever.

Last year, when she had a horror film, the person in charge of production asked me if I could write about the project by interviewing one of the cast members. This I was going to do gratis — as I always do for that production person (because I thought he was my friend). I chose Manilyn, of course.

Unfortunately, there was a screw up somewhere and in a way I ended up blaming Manilyn in part for it. Whenever we would see each other, I would still be very civil toward her, but cold as a cat’s nose. The fondness was gone. I was sure she felt it and that must have made her uneasy.

I realize now, however, that I’ve been unfair toward her. I analyzed the situation carefully and basically she was just caught in the crossfire. I apologize to her for all that frostiness.

Manilyn now celebrates her 25th year in show business with a concert — Manilyn Live at 25 — at the Aliw Theater on Oct. 27. I don’t think I can be there (although she invited me and that is so sweet of her), but I will pray fervently for the success of her show.

All those 25 years, she showed us decency in her entertainment and in her dealings with people (especially to me when I was being cold and frosty toward her).

After spending a quarter of her life in this profession, she deserves this celebration. This I say with extreme fondness for one of the most genuinely lovable people in this business the past 25 years.

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