Edu Manzano lives in a house brimming with little and big tales.
Every corner serves up an anecdote that Edu relishes to recall--from the gate where a Philippine flag is posted to the swimming pool around which he does his daily run. (Yup, run, not swim.)
Nestled among trees and shrubs thoughtfully scattered on a manicured lawn, Edu's home has, in his words, the vibe of "buhay sa probinsiya."
Indeed, the cricket sounds start coming toward late afternoon.
"Can you tell you're in San Juan?" the 63-year-old star asks PEP.ph (Philippine Entertainment Portal) during the house shoot, and he clearly asks it with pride.
"Ang sarap dito, lalo na kung mahangin. Matahimik. Nakaka-relax. You can forget na nasa Metro Manila ka."
He had the 1.1-hectare property boxed in by a concrete wall.
"Dati kasi walang pader 'to, yun yung kagandahan ng lugar na ito. Ako na nagtayo ng pader…pero parehong bakod, may mga pinto, daanan."
He adds, deadpan, "So I'm very, very close to my neighbors. So yun nga yung hihingi or hihiram ka ng kuwan, asukal or yung longganisa? Yes, oo."
His favorite area is "outside," where he likes to dine al fresco with guests.
The "outside" faces a mini-garden, where Edu has a partial view of the swimming pool and where he can totally watch seven robust dogs play.
"Later on, in the evening, if you're still here, makikita niyo ang tahimik dito.
"Kaya mahal na mahal ko yung San Juan. It's quiet, walang tricycle kang maririnig.
"Unang-una, this is out of the regular na daanan ng tao, so there's a nice breeze."
The Kapamilya actor has been a San Juan resident since 2009.
He bought the house and lot from the family of Francisco "Bobby" Manosa, the national architect whose notable works are the high-end Amanpulo resort, the Davao Pearl Farm, the Coconut Palace at the Cultural Center of the Philippines complex, and the EDSA Shrine, to name a few.
Edu tells the story, "Yung kapatid nilang babae, when she passed away early 2000s, iniwan muna yung bahay.
"But, of course, pag di tinitirahan, nagde-deteriorate, so they put it up for sale."
Interestingly, the first time Edu set foot in the house was 30 years ago, when a friend got married.
"Dito yung reception, ako yung best man. So, sino mag-aakala, 30 years later, dito ako titira?
"No inkling, no money, walang kapera-pera."
In 1998, Edu ran for office in the city of Makati and became its vice-mayor. Question is, why did he transfer to San Juan?
"Nanggaling na ako sa Pasig, sa Quezon City, sa Makati, United Parañaque. For 20 years, so talagang inikot ko lang yung Metro Manila."
He says he ended up choosing the city of San Juan, a highly urbanized city with pockets of old-world charm, to be near his children.
His son Luis, by multiawarded actress and House Representative Vilma Santos, lived in Green Meadows in Quezon City, in a house given to then-27-year-old actor in 2007 by Vilma.
Meantime, Edu's two other children, Enzo and Addie, by former model Rina Samson, went to private schools in Greenhills in San Juan.
Edu ties it all up. "Well, kaya nga kami lumipat dito before is may anak ako sa Greenhills, may anak ako sa Xavier [School]. So, in terms of proximity sa schools, maganda.
"Kasi, dati...nung nasa Makati, gigising ng five o'clock ng umaga yung mga bata para makaiwas sa traffic.
"But then when we moved here, nilalakad na nga nila. Sa Greenhills, pag wala pa yung sundo, nilalakad na lang pauwi.
"Dito kasi, naging malapit sa lahat ng circle of friends nila."
And how is the neighborhood?
"The best," he answers quickly. He then adds soberly about the street where he lives: "Traffic, medyo lumala nang konti kasi napa-central yung San Juan. So ito ngayon, ginagawa pang shortcut para makaiwas ng traffic.
"Lumipat ako dito ng 2009, talagang ang luluwag ng lahat ng kalye.
"Pero kung marunong ka, may mga maliliit na kalye diyan na puwede mong daanan.
"Magugulat ka, nasa Maynila ka na, nasa Mandaluyong ka na, nasa Pasay ka na...pero secret yun."
Aside from being known as the city of four Philippine presidents--Diosdado Macapagal Jr., Ferdinand Marcos, Joseph Estrada, and Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo--San Juan is said to be a favorite of Filipino-Chinese businessmen.
Edu tells the tale. "Merong sinasabi kasi, kung titignan sa mapa, yung hugis is like the belly of the dragon, kaya sinasabing good feng shui.
"It is where the food is taken in and stored, e, so it symbolizes wealth and prosperity."
Has his life been masuwerte?
"Sa lahat ng bagay! Dito, nakita ko na lalong umangat yung career ko, even my children."
A ONE-STORY HOUSE
The bungalow style suits him perfectly.
From the garden, the house seems small, but it actually has rooms for all his children.
From the time Edu purchased this house, he says his primary goal has been to have a house where family members can see each other a lot.
"Never naman sa buhay did I want a very, very big house," he says.
"Gusto ko lahat accessible, at kahit yung nandirito mga anak ko, isang sigaw mo lang, andiyan na, e, di mo na kailangan hanapin pa."
He adds, "Unlike yung malalaking mansion. Of course, I have nothing against having a big mansion, pero hindi ko nakita yung need for a mansion.
"Dito, happy na ako, kumportable kami, kumportable yung mga bata, so nanatiling ganito. Of course, may mga konting improvements.
"May guest house, kasi minsan pag nagdi-dinner yung iba, e, nakakainom nang konti, hindi ko muna pinapauwi, pinatutulog ko na lang dito.
"Yung guest house, may sariling banyo, so sila puwede matulog, gumising, at umalis, or puwede magpaluto na lang ng breakfast."
Presently, a part of the guest house is occupied by three of the seven house dogs.
In all, Edu takes care of two Labradors, three Golden Retrievers, and two rescued Aspins (aka Asong Pinoy).
Did he consult an interior designer for the interiors?
"Actually, no. I had some good friends who would come and say, 'Uy, ba't di natin gawing ganito?'
"Pero yung formal na may kinuha ako, no."
PRIVATE ART GALLERY
But, if one outstanding feature has to be named in Edu's house, it has to be his collection of artworks.
The actor-host has hundreds of paintings and sculptures, each with a story to tell.
PEP.ph columnist Jojo Gabinete once estimated that Edu's art collection counted more than 400.
Edu confirms, "Marami. Marami din nasa bodega.
"Every show, pag may nakita ako, makatsamba ng isang maganda o dalawa, babaguhin na naman lahat 'to.
"Trying to keep the air or environment clear, lively, magaan, hindi yung mabigat.
"I am a big fan of yung mga contemporary artists."
But he does not want to call himself a "collector."
He says, "Malalim na yun. Talagang grabe ang collection nila.
"I started collecting in the 1990s. Meron akong nakikilang from Discovery Frames, Mrs. Navarro ang pangalan...
"Sabi niya, 'You know, nakita ko mahilig ka sa kabayo, bibigay ko sa iyo 'to, pa-frame mo.'
"That became my first actual framed piece. Pina-frame ko yung kabayong iyon.
"It was by a young little sculptor, and then she said, 'I think baka magugustuhan mo ito, and she went, 'tapos ipapa-frame ko.'
"Then I moved on to some of the masters, and then all of a sudden, nagising ako to the fact na napakaraming mga talented contemporary artists.
"Because when you get to travel all over the world, andaming nakikitang mga galleries.
"I like going to galleries. At diyan ka lang sa loob, nakaupo ka lang diyan…tignan mo lang minsan yung mga reaksiyon ng tao."
Clearly, he has become a fan of contemporary Filipino artists.
"When I started hearing about galleries dito, so binibisita ko yung mga galleries. Kung nakikita mo yung art ng mga Pinoy, ang gagaling...can be compared to international artists.
"Di lang natin nabibigyan ng tulak, sapat na marketing nung kanilang mga produkto, e.
"But now, when you go to Singapore, you go to Germany, you go to New York, andaming mga galleries featuring Filipino contemporary artists."
"It's high time na sana, hindi lang puro yung masters. I have all the respect in the world for our masters. Pero contemporary art plays a very very big role in society now, and we should really...ipagmalaki natin sa buong mundo."
He does not have the masterpieces of, say, Vicente Manansala or Botong Francisco, but he owns some Cesar Legaspi, Jose Joya, and Manuel Baldemor.
"The elders, medyo nakabukod sa isang lugar," he says about his curation of paintings in his house.
"But the ones that are here, dito, labas-pasok ng bahay, it sets the mood."
Among his favorites is one by German-born painter Rudolf Bauer's non-objective drawings.
Edu tells the story. "That is among the smallest pieces, pero with a sense of history.
"Because yung pinakapaborito kong artist in Guggenheim Museum, the artists during his time were considered degenerates because hindi sila nakakatulong sa, wala silang nadadagdag sa Aryan race, so they were all jailed."
In the mid-30s, Nazi leader Adolf Hitler referred to the Aryan Race as "gifted above all other races," according to Encyclopedia.uhmm and the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum.
"Nung kinulong sila, they could not pursue or continue their art, so itong si Rudolf Bauer, ang ginawa niya, kahit anong klaseng papel and para lang makapagsulat.
"So I was able to find in San Francisco, in Weinstein Gallery, kung saan it's called 'prison art' kasi nakakulong siya in 1936 at nag-drawing siya, at minsan sa palad at sigarilyo, kung anong makita."
Though his late mom Rosario Manzano played the piano really well, "Ako hindi ako marunong." He adds, "Did you see what happened kanina? I invite friends who can play the piano."
Interestingly, four artworks in Edu's collection used to be part of a huge billboard in Paris.
Edu tells PEP.ph (photos below): "That was a billboard, isang malaking billboard kung saan may mga show, may nagpapa-sked ng mga shows.
"Dati, wala yung sticker, ipapaskil, 'tapos dadaanan ng mga tao.
"Sa dami ng mga palabas or through the years, sa bigat, nahulog yung buong billboard.
"'Tapos may isang bumili ng billboard, yun, pinaghati-hati.
"So can you imagine kung ilang artist ang dumaan diyan? Ilang mga shows, productions? So everything has a sense of history."
For example, he points to a chair that he says was "gawa sa kutsara."
Edu adds, "That is by a painter called Bunny Santos. Si Bunny, wanted to expand yung kanyang practice of different subjects.
"So nag-enroll sa TESDA, kumuha ng welding. Babae to, ha? Welding.
"So, after that. Ito yung creation niya after TESDA. Kutsara na pinagwe-weld-weld niya doon."
A sculpture in his living area was done by Daniel Dela Cruz.
"One of our country's finest contemporary sculptors!" Edu enthuses.
"He came from New York, was an industrial engineer, napagod, came here, umuwi, started practicing this.
"And he's now one of the most successful artists."
Another painting has an interesting story.
"Yung malaking-malaking parang may agila na may hawak na baby, that was painted when he was 13 years old...
"Nakita mo yun? Ganun kagaling.
"And then pagkatapos niya ipintura, binaril niya yung painting. So ang nakita mong nakabaon, yung mga bala iyon..."
Thiswire mesh sculpture of a nude model was personally hand-carried by Edu from San Francisco to Manila.
"Kasi medyo yun…fragile. It was bought in Sausalito, California, by an American artist called Randy Cooper.
"Sinuwerte ako, kasi ako yung huling sumakay, sinigurado ko wala akong katabi. So ako yung last to check in.
"Oo, pero talagang naka-seatbelt iyan, pero nakakahon. Siyempre, matatakot ka, di pwede sa bin kasi baka may maglagay ng maleta."
Every artwork he buys is "very personal" to this American-born Filipino star.
He muses, "They may not be appreciated by everybody, pero para sa akin, napaka-importante."
Is it costly to care for paintings?
"There's a gallery called Art in Formal ni Ms. Tina Fernandez. There's a doctor, Steve Lim ng St. Luke’s, one of the bigger collectors, Mike Tomacruz, you know, all these people. Ces Drilon is also a collector. They’re all there to lend their wisdom.
"If ever you need help with the framing, you don't have a pupuntahan.
"So I don't pretend na alam ko ang lahat. I'm not afraid to call and say, 'Tulong naman.'"
With his children now all grown-up, his dogs have become the center of Edu's attention.
"There's Cinco, Uno. There's Hera, Oris, and Nikka.
"And then may dalawa akong rescue na galing sa anak kong si Addie--sina Shawn and Chewy.
"Hindi ako nagpangalan nun, a."
The multi-awarded actor/host reveals why his gardener Jericho picked those names.
"Yung dati kong kasama sa bahay...siya yung nagpangalan.
"Nung tinanong ko sa kanya. Sabi ko, 'Busy ako, e, bigyan mo nga ng pangalan itong dalawang aso, kasi kararating lang galing sa anak ko, e.
"So, after two days, 'Anong pinangalan mo dito, Jericho?'
"Sabi niya, 'Chewy.'
"'Chewy? Bakit Chewy?'
"'E, kasi grabe kumain, e.'
"Sige, pagbigyan mo na.
"'Jericho, ano yung pinangalan mo dito sa isa?'
"'Yung black and white?'
"Sabi niya, 'Shawn.'
"Sabi niya, 'Sir, kasi mukhang Dalmatian.'
"Totoo iyon, di ako nagbibiro. Di ko lang masabi sa kanya, na medyo okay, okay lang."
When walking his dogs during late afternoons, some people recognize him, and address him either as "Mr. President" or "Lucas Cabrera," his role in FPJ's Ang Probinsyano.
He says, "Ang buhay ko dito, pag nilalakad ko yung mga aso, and since andami nila, kailangan by turns.
"Di puwede yung palaging ruta. Kelangan after two days, babaguhin mo yung ruta.
"So dito ako nakilala sa San Juan dahil lagi akong may asong bitbit."
He says, "Kelangan medyo mababa yung araw or kahit sa gabi pag umuuwi ka nang late, and then gising pa sila? Pampaantok."
But most of the time, he says, "Wala nang pumapansin sa 'kin."
Sometimes, Coco Martin's fans would stop him, "Mr. President, wag mong sasaktan si Cardo, a."
Asked about the number of people who help manage his household, he replies, "Dito sa bahay you'll never know. Tatlo ngayon, bukas labinglima.
"Kami, ano, the house is open. Di kami lumalabas. Mas gusto ko dito na lang, nag-iimbita kami ng tao."
How often do the kids visit him?
"Not often enough," he answers sounding matter of factly, but his eyes actually turn sad.
"Christmas, this year, andito sila.
"Enzo and Addie, they're both in New York now. Graduate ng La Salle and Ateneo, respectively, and now, they're pursuing higher learning."
Finally, we asked about the Philippine flag in front of his home.
"Akala nga nila embassy ito, e," he quips.
"No, actually, like I said kanina, parang sa Pasig at sa Paranaque, everywhere I stayed, I always have the Philippine flag.
"Oo. I always made sure, kasi like I'm saying, my father, naku, patriot iyon…
"And then sinasabi nga namin, 'Bakit sa ibang bansa, laging naka-display yung bandila nila? Dito sa Pilipinas 'pag Independence Day lang?
"Yeah, so, we'd like to encourage everybody na it's important that we should be proud of our heritage.
"And proud of us as a people. So, isang ehemplo iyan."
SHOOT PRODUCER: Nikko Angelo Tuazon
PHOTOGRAPHER: Kurt Alvarez
ART DIRECTOR: Jeremiah Idanan
SHOOT ASSISTANT: Edmond Grava
VIDEO TEAM: Gio Oliva, Criselda Carreon