The Tough Stuff: Teen newbies dish out life’s early lessons and responsibilities

"Ako napagdaanan ko na ’ata lahat, e. Siguro ngayon, dapat matuto tayong mag-limit sa sarili natin. Siyempre mga bata pa kami. Mahirap naman pag nagkaroon ka ng maagang responsibilidad sa buhay. Yun yung dapat pag-ingatan namin ngayon," says 18-year-old Neil Coleta (middle) whose comical antics mask his maturity. Yen Santos (left) and Julia Montes (right) show a mature sense of responsibility in their own ways.


The growing-up phase is notorious for first-time heartaches, handling bigger responsibilities, and coping with a lot of adjustments. The tough stuff that comprise young adulthood, and being able to surpass them, is what makes growing up a rewarding and worthwhile experience.

Most people would think that teen newbies Julia Montes, Neil Coleta, and Yen Santos, cast members of ABS-CBN’s new young adult series Growing Up, are living the teenage dream as their showbiz careers skyrocket. Not so, however, for Julia Montes, Neil Coleta, and Yen Santos are surviving life’s early trials.

THE BREADWINNER. Sixteen-year-old Julia Montes, who earned recognition for her emphatic mean-girl performance as Clara in the remake of Mara Clara, puts her family on top of her priorities.

Asked what she wants to experience as a teenager, Julia rephrases the inquiry into what else she has to improve on.

"Siguro sa family mas [gusto ko] maging mature. Yun yung gusto kong ma-experience para mas makatulong ako sa kanila," says Julia.

She adds that one’s teenage life is also meant to be enjoyed. "Lahat naman tayo dadaan sa ganung stage, hindi na natin [ito] mababalikan."

The half-German mestiza is the bread-and-butter earner of her family. On top of her to-do list is to save up for a home that her family could cherish as their own. Julia, or Mara Hautea Schnittka off-screen, is in fact far from the snobbish brat that she once portrayed.

Being family-oriented is perhaps a key value that her by grandmother Flory Hautea imparted while raising her.

What’s the most grown-up thing she has experienced so far?

Julia answers, "Ako na talaga yung nagpapa-aral sa mga kapatid ko. Simula nun kasi na-feel ko, kasi lola ko matanda na, hindi natin masasabi."

She has long understood that she will be the one to support her younger brothers, 15 and 8 at present.

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"Kasi mama ko deaf-mute and hindi naman siya makapag-work... Ako na yung magiging ate and mommy na rin nila. "

Julia’s parents have been separated for years and she grew up without a father figure. Thus she remains strong and independent.

FIRST HEARTBREAK. Neil Coleta, on the one hand, possesses a charm that could deceive anyone. His winsome demeanor and attractive smile are not telling of his maturity for an 18-year-old.

"Kung sa [mga] napagdaanan, napagdaanan ko na lahat," says Neil, or Nicos in the famous iced tea commercial.

The past two years have been a bumpy ride for Neil who appeared on TV5’s Gossip Girl adaptation, Lip Gloss, and did a few commercials for a Voice sandwich, Jollibee, and Smart.

The experiences that forced him to grow up, he shares, are his first two years in the university.

"Kasi totoo naman, taga-Cavite ako tapos nung nag-varsity ako, ang dami kong pinagdaanan sa Manila. Naging independent ako."

"Natuto akong maging ganito, maging, alam mo yun? Tumayo mag-isa. Dapat alam mo yung gagawin mo. Natuto akong magluto, magtipid. Alam kong naging independent talaga ako."

It was not the transition from the province to urban Manila, however, that jolted Neil out of boyhood. He reveals that his last relationship with a non-showbiz girl was the most trying moment in his life so far.

"Siguro yung pagdating sa ex ko, nasaktan ko siya. Ewan ko, nasaktan din ako.

"Kasi parang nung nag-artista ako, dun niya lang ako minahal e. Dun lang ako minahal. Minahal niya ako dahil nag-artista na ako. Pero minahal ko siya nang sobra.

"Kasi ako pag nagmahal ako... pinapakilala ko kung ano yung ako. Pangit naman kung makikipag-plastikan ka. Pinapakita ko sa kanya kung ano yung ugali ko.

"Sabi ko sa kanya, ’wag mo isipin na artista ako. Kumakain din naman ako, kumakain din ako ng kwek-kwek, ng isaw, ng mga ganun."

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Neil reveals that the relationship ended with a tirade of negative rants on social networking site Facebook which turned a few of his admirers against him. He ended up losing his support group and the girl he genuinely had affection for.

"Nasaktan ako. Wala namang perpektong tao. May nagawa din akong mali."

"Pero dun ako nag-grow. Sa lahat ng mga sinabi sa aking masasakit na salita, parang natuto ako na dapat mag-ingat.

"Na dapat ’wag basta-basta... sa trabaho kong ’to... [dapat] matuto akong mag-ingat."

Neil likewise mentions that his role in Growing Up also speaks of how he is in real life. While a natural comedian, he also shares the wisdom of his character. "Deep inside, [yung character ko] may pinagdadaanang mabigat. Pero pagdating sa barkada, ako yung kuya talaga e. Kuyang-kuya ako."

LIVING AWAY FROM FAMILY. Sweet-faced Yen Santos meanwhile confesses that she wants to allot her teenage years discovering herself without being in a relationship.

"While growing up, gusto ko ma-enjoy ang pagiging single ko. Hindi yun dapat minamadali at dadating po yung sa tamang panahon. Gusto ko rin po magbigay ng time for myself..."

"Wala po talaga and wala rin pong nanliligaw sa akin. Dahil na rin sa ayaw ko pa. Mas gusto ko nang i-prioritize yung trabaho ko ngayon," Yen explains.

From teen program Good Vibes, Yen leaps to Growing Up and could only feel grateful for the blessings being showered on her. "Sobrang saya ko ngayon at very, very thankful. Feeling ko po napaka-blessed ko sa mga opportunities na dumadating sa akin.

"Actually hindi ko ine-expect na magiging ganito ako after nung PBB [Pinoy Big Brother Teen Edition] ko. Hindi ko po inaasahan na mabibigyan ako ng ABS ng projects, ng trabaho. Very, very thankful po ako talaga na nagtitiwala po [sila] sa akin."

At 18, Yen is learning the ropes of living away from her family. The pretty lass from Nueva Ecija now has a condo unit to herself and while she can practically do anything she wants to, Yen pines for home.

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Her most grown-up experience? "Yung pagiging independent ko," she states. "Kasi natututo ako ngayon na mabuhay mag-isa without my parents."

The happy sparkle in Yen’s eyes suddenly turns into tears, "Sa sarili ko ako na lang yung ’andito, di tulad ng iba. Yung iba nag-aaral, kasama yung family nila.

"Kasama nila sa gabi, matutulog, kumakain. Tapos ako... naiiyak ako, namimiss ko sila."

Yen maintains her composure nonetheless. She knows that this is how life should be.

"Pag wala akong trabaho umuuwi ako, tapos pag hindi naman din sila masyadong busy, sila naman yung dumadalaw dito pero sobrang dalang kasi," she continues.

"Naiinggit nga ako sa iba na kasama nila yung mommy.

"Pero naiintindihan ko naman kasi meron akong mas maliit na kapatid na 13 years old so yun yung binabantayan ng Mommy ko."

Yen is not apologetic however for almost breaking down. "Pagdating sa family ko, sobrang sensitive ko, sobrang love ko talaga sila. Kasi sila yung kayamanan ko sa buhay. Sa kanila kaya ko isakripisyo lahat. Ganun ko sila kamahal."

RESPONSIBLE YOUTH. Teenagers have reason to look up to Julia Montes, Neil Coleta, and Yen Santos who are role models even outside their charmed showbiz careers.

Julia for one acknowledges the example she sets for her peers. "Nagtatrabaho ako and nag-aaral ako para sa family ko, para sa future din nila, hindi lang para sa akin.

"Family-oriented ako, sana lahat ng kabataan ganun din. Walang sirang family. Kulang man, walang sirang family."

Yen shares the same sentiments as Julia. She also contributes in their family’s rebuilding of their home in the province which was badly damaged during the previous typhoons.

"Mula nung nag-showbiz ako, nagpapagawa ako nung house namin.

"Simula nung nabagyo kami, ang daming nasira dun sa house namin. Nagsunod-sunod yun e tapos hindi siya agad naayos. Tapos ngayon eto na nagtatrabaho na ako, yung kinikita ko dito, imbis na ipambili ko ng... kailangan ko, binibigay ko kay Mommy para ipagawa ng house.

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"Siyempre mas gusto kong maayos yung titirahan nila doon."

As the "kuya" of the Growing Up cast, Neil offers support and advice to his younger co-workers. On shooting days gone bad, he lends them his words of encouragement.

"’Wag kayong magbabago, binigay sa atin itong trabahong ito, binigay itong character na ito, nagtiwala sa atin, ’wag nating sayangin," Neil tells them. He recognizes the pressure that their work puts on him and his co-stars.

"Parang nape-pressure kasi sila, nahihiya kasi napapagalitan.

"Hindi naman mawawala yun, sabi ko. Wala namang perpekto artista na hindi nagkakamali. Lahat naman tayo nagkakamali.

"Ibigay natin yung best natin."

The best advice he gives them?

"’Wag kayong yayabang. Kung may marinig kayong positive, tanggapin niyo. Kung may natanggap kayong negative, tanggapin pa rin para at least mag-grow kayo."

Clearly, it’s not rainbows and butterflies, glamour and fame that these teenagers are in this business for. And it’s always good to know that some remain level-headed as they strive to get the most out of their youth while they can.


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