Baron Geisler.
Joy Torrejos
Wild child finds home, salvation in Cebu
Karla Rule (The Freeman) - January 5, 2019 - 12:00am

CEBU, Philippines — When news of his death spread like wildfire, Baron Geisler himself commented that it rang a bit of truth: Because from the ashes of the country’s most publicized wild child arose a new, better version.

 

“I believe I’m a more focused man. I have my spirituality intact. And I have plans. I have big plans and I’m really thinking about the future. Also, I developed the heart to help,” this is what the actor said about his identity nowadays when he resurfaced from his rehabilitation to drop by The Freeman office and grace one of its online shows.

When popularity turns to infamy, people almost always remember the missteps. And no one knows Baron’s shortcomings better than himself.

“I was living in hell, to tell you the truth. I was in and out of brawls, jails…” he shared. “I had no direction. I thought I was my own god. I was living in my own world, I created a fantasy. There were times I wanted to take my own life. Coming from hell and going to Cebu, learning the 12 steps [program for recovering addicts/alcoholics], getting out of my comfort zone, living in reality where Kuya J taught me how to snap out of it…”

The Kuya J he refers to is Jheck Yap, head counsellor and program director of Yap Wellness Center in Cebu City, where Baron stayed for another go at rehab.

Looking back, Baron said he turned to alcohol when there where issues he didn’t want to face head on. He wondered why he couldn’t seem to stop drinking.

Entering show business as a child actor in 1994, Baron auditioned just for kicks. Apart from his controversies, Baron is also known as one of the most convincing actors with numerous accolades under his belt. After singing, a little dancing, a bit of smile and charm, he was soon taken under the wing of mentors who taught him the tricks of the trade. He appeared in seminal shows like “Ang TV,” “Tabing Ilog” and many other notable film and television projects.

“I had a lot of mentors. I really believe in mentorship,” he said when asked how he got so good despite having no acting background. “Nowadays, I don’t want to judge, but the young, they forget about having a mentor. It’s very important because this person will really guide you because he already went through it. One of my acting mentors is Mr. Johnny Delgado…sobrang dami, hindi ko ma-mention. I fell in love with the lights, the characters, the gorgeous people. Nung time na yun, nakikinig pa ako.”

But Baron fell into bad influence. “Nagsimula ako, I was about 13 years old. Marami na akong character defects na pumasok and na-develop throughout the years. Maayos naman ako pinalaki ng nanay ko but if you hang out with the wrong crowd, eventually, you become like them.”

He didn’t know it then, but he was spiraling out of control. On the surface, he was indulging his drinking habits and enjoying the party scene. In retrospect, Baron mused that a lot was going on : losing his father at 19, breaking up with his girlfriend – it seemed like a good idea to drink.

Since then, Baron’s list of wrongdoings and scandals – brawls, sexual harassment, assault, among others – got longer. The image of him inebriated and aggressive was in the public eyes. It was official, Baron was Philippine showbiz’s wild child.

Baron’s reckoning came March of last year when he ended up in jail facing charges of grave threat, alarm and scandal, and possession of a bladed weapon after getting into a scuffle and allegedly threatening to kill his brother-in-law. Before that, he was already facing one complaint after another.

“October2017r, nagkasunod-sunod yung mga kaso ko. Nagkaroon ako ng alarm and scandal issue. Na detain ako, eventually lumabas sa Lapu-Lapu City yung smoking sa lavatory. So I had to go to Cebu for hearings and pay fines or it’s six months to six years. Buti nalang yung kaibigan ko was there to guide and introduce me to Sir Jheck,” Baron recalled.

Baron used to not worry if he was out of work because he his mother willingly acted as a safety net. But when she passed away and he was serving time, there was no escaping the consequences of his actions. For one, he ran out of cash to pay for a hotel room. So his friend, a former client of Yap, asked the latter to let Baron crash for the evening.

On his first night, Baron arrived at Yap Wellness Center with a drink in hand. The coach told him that there were rules and forbidding alcohol was one of them. So Baron stayed outside the premises until he emptied his bottle.

“From then on, almost everyday kinulit ako. Yung patience niya, sobra sa akin,” Baron said of Yap, who incessantly urged the actor to change his ways, telling him that if he went back home, things will only get worse for him. But Baron still returned to Pampanga, and soon showbiz headlines all read the same thing: Baron was in jail after the altercation with his brother-in-law.

For four days, Baron barely ate, didn’t have visitors. He was staying in a small cell beside a poorly-kept bathroom with feces for company.

“That’s where, kahit papaano, I had spiritual awakening. I asked for a Bible, buti nalang mabait yung guard,” the 36-year-old said.

In those days of isolation, Baron claims of a vision.

“It was crazy,” he exclaimed. “Nakahiga lang ako, then lahat nga mga dati kong sins biglang—even nung lasing ako—biglang lahat ng sinaktan ko, in a minute or less…”

“Parang sinabi ni God na you really are a bad person. You better repent if you want to live. If you don’t stop this, either you go to hell or go to a mental institution. That really woke me up. That got me scared. I said, ‘Oh, there is a God.’ Wala na akong tama nung time na ‘yun eh. Four days, that was ano… I was saying, ‘Okay, I’ll man up’.”

And so, when his siblings came to visit and told him how many places were willing to take him in for free, Baron asked to be taken back to Cebu.

“Please, I’ll really take this seriously. Please, in Cebu,” he had pleaded. “I don’t know for some reason my heart just wanted to be in Cebu.”

And so Baron once again found himself at the gates of Yap Wellness Center. Yap, saying he saw past Baron’s defense mechanism of aggression, was among those who contacted Baron’s sister when he heard of his incarceration.

Among the reasons Baron was visible in Cebu was because Yap Wellness Center is a semi-open facility which allows clients to go out alongside recovery coaches. Before a client is taken in, the facility assesses their case and refers them to other programs if they are not fit for a semi-open program like theirs.

“It took a lot, he was the toughest I ever encountered,” began Yap. “I’ve been in this industry for almost seven years. Baron is different because I have to create boundaries because of his status. He’s a celebrity and the character that he has, ang hirap masabihan. He’s Mr. Know-It-All. It was really a challenge instilling that acceptance, let him accept what he really is. That’s the hardest part.”

“I have to make him aware of his behavior. To tell him straight the things he doesn’t want to hear. To really think about the consequence. When he was active, he would never think about the consequence. I told him once, ‘Okay drink. You know where you’re going after. You know what’s going to happen,’” he continued.

Yap saw that the program began to work when he saw Baron struggle. The actor was said to walk out of sessions, unable to accept the things Yap told him.

Countless times, Baron, a self-proclaimed alcoholic who also suffers from depression, thought about leaving the program. Once, he was shaking with want for a drink. He thought Yap was crazy when he was told to do what he wanted, wanting to be somehow stopped deep inside. Instead of drinking, Baron eventually learned to talk.

“This guy knows what he was doing. He would say something to me, after three days tsaka ko pa lang… ganoon ako ka slow. I can trust this guy,” Baron said. “There will always be doubt. I’m probably smarter than his guy, but at the end of the day, always, always, mali talaga ako and then nasa kanya ang huling halakhak.”

After six months, Baron was officially clean and sober. He graduated from Yap Wellness Center and kept tabs with his coach.

“Nakakaiyak ‘to,” Baron said of his journey under Yap’s guidance. “Every time, he keeps saying: ‘At the end of the day, Baron, you will get your worth back.’ And true enough, slowly and slowly I am getting my worth.”

At the time of our interview, Baron was seven, going eight months clean. While Baron mused that his mom was somehow a co-dependent who enabled him and his behavior by tolerating and protecting him, he speaks of her passing again. The circumstance allowed the cracks inside of Baron to surface.

“I believe nothing is an accident. Everything was planned and God-ordained. After more than two decades, this is the first time na more than seven months akong clean,” said Baron, who now claims to be a devout Christian, sharing the word of God and does speaking engagements about mental health.

“I still struggle every day. I have to work on my program on a daily basis, and also on my depression.”

Baron now considers Cebu his home, saying that God brought him to the center of the Philippines, and therefore the heart of the country where he found himself, his aspirations and God’s purpose for him.

“In rehab, they give you a structure. Wake up early, meditate then pray. Then I work out. And for the past two months, just taking care of the barbershop. Focusing on the barbershop, my sobriety, connecting with my family, my core group, always being around them,” Baron said of what he’s up to lately, which  also includes participating in the Maranatha Christian Fellowship.

Part of Baron’s healing process is accepting that he has hurt other people apart from being a danger to himself. He prays for those he has hurt. At times, making direct amends might do more harm, which is why Baron opts to show his change through deeds.

Apart from being connected with the Philippine Mental Health Association Cebu and doing talks alongside professionals, Baron and Yap opened a barber shop called Gents Barber PH to start anew and pay it forward.

“This barbershop is my way of making amends. Parang it’s to show na, guys, I love myself already. I’m taking care of myself. The people I’ve hurt are mostly those who love me and if they see me succeed, they can trust me, I’m dependable, that I can manage my life…then that makes them happy. And that’s my main goal. It’s not just all about my happiness. I was so self-centered. It was all about me.”

In rehab, Baron worried that people might not want to have anything to do with him anymore. So he thought about investing on something. With the help of his siblings who reached out to put Baron on his feet, they were able to put up Gents Barber PH which had its grand opening on November 15 last year at Gaisano Country Mall.

“It’s really tough for recovering addicts or alcoholics to go out in the real world with nothing for us. Kasi nga kami yung weirdos. Nobody would trust us. Biglang naisip lang namin ni Kuya Jheck, why don’t we put up a barbershop?”

“This excites me, sobra. I love the history of barbershops. It’s a communal place, exactly like Yap Wellness Center where people just chat and banter, some talk about politics or gossip. Talking is already therapeutic for us. Just by spilling out whatever you want. The good thing about the barbershop is that it’s basically to pay it forward and give back to the community,”  an energized Baron shared.

The shop – apart from P99 haircuts, snacks, and video game consoles – also offers a free six-month barber apprenticeship program or those recovering from substance abuse. On their first month, Gents Barber PH gave out free haircuts to those recovering from substance use to give them that look-good-feel-good boost.

Knowing there will be naysayers despite his efforts, Baron quipped that this journey is no longer about pleasing others.

“People who use God as an escape, the payback is really bad. I have an intimate relationship with God. It’s not even about people-pleasing,. I want this to be quiet but since I’m a celebrity, napansin lang nila yung symposiums. Kapag bumalik pa ako sa dati, mas mabaho pa ako…pag ginawa ko yun parang dinuraan ko na sa mukha yung Panginoon. Isipin niyo na lang ang iniisip ko ngayon na before I even think about having that first drink, I wouldn’t even think about it.”

“Before kasi, tinuro na hindi! Dapat macho! But actually it’s okay not to be okay,” he shrugged. “It’s okay to show emotions and be authentic.”

While in treatment, Baron spoke to his family. Their relationship has slowly healed.

Baron shared that many of his showbiz colleagues wanted to help him out.

“Actually, marami sa showbiz ang tumulong sa akin na makilala ang Panginoong Diyos. I was just very hard-headed. And I’m grateful nga sa industry—they gave me many chances. More than 10, many chances… I wasn’t ready to change. And I did not believe that I could change. I was giving up and I wanted to take my own life.”

Among Baron’s goals is to return to acting. He’s just waiting for that one phone call that would get him back on track. He misses playing a character.

“I love everything about showbiz. There is nothing I hate about it. It’s actually my first, one and only true love. Which was wrong because it came first above everything else, even family. Dapat pala may pattern: you have God, family, then business or work.”

As he puts it, he’s most fond of the people in showbiz, more than the awards and the characters. Among his regrets was overlooking the bond with his workmates.

“I think the most important thing, and that I regret also, is not seeing or not even recognizing the camaraderie and family ng mga tao behind the scenes. Andoon yun when I was young. Because of me wanting to have things my way, I slowly did it my way na nagtago ako sa parang mountain.”

While there are offers for roles, Baron also wants to focus on his healing. When it comes to his characters, he acknowledged that there will be limitations. But his coaches have encouraged him to share his gift so long as he tries to “be the light” wherever his livelihood leads him.

“Right now I just want to… feeling ko hilaw pa. I’m ready but give it a few more months. I want to get to know, stay closer to God, get to know Him more. Focus on my business here and give back to the people. Also, continue my symposiums.”

His message to those who wish to see him back on screen? “Very soon. I’m just waiting for that call... Ako kasi gusto ko pagbalik ko sa industriya, wala ng sablay si Baron.”

Baron extends his thanks and love to those who reached out to him, such as actor JM De Guzman. While he hasn’t met up with fellow stars John Lloyd Cruz and Kaye Abad (who are now regularly in Cebu), he invites them to visit him at Gents Barber PH and catch up.

Baron, who wasn’t able to speak for almost a month because of the shock during rehab, knows how hard it can be to manage. He says he was able to do it with friends, family, mentors and his higher power.

“It’s really hard. You’ve got to learn how to crawl first before you can walk,” he said.

“Take the first step. The way I did, I just trusted, surrendered to the program, and accepted that I was a bad person. It’s okay to admit that because you can change. We have hope and we have a future. Lean on God and make the right choices.

BARON GEISLER
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