(Updated) Johnny Manahan breaks silence about why he left ABS-CBN

by Rachelle Siazon
Jan 20, 2021
Johnny Manahan, aka Mr. M, opens up about huge burden he carried as the man behind Star Magic that was "never addressed" by ABS-CBN management.
PHOTO/S: Star Magic / Jerome Ascaño for Summit Media

Sa loob ng 50 taon niya sa entertainment industry, nakilala si Johnny Manahan sa kanyang husay bilang star builder, producer, at director, partikular na sa bakuran ng ABS-CBN.

Nakilala rin siya sa industriya bilang Mr. M.

Malaking bahagi ng kanyang karera, na sa tantiya niya'y "35 or 40" years, ay ginugol niya sa paghulma ng mga pinakasikat at pinakamagagaling na artista ng ABS-CBN.

Sa tagal na raw niya sa ABS-CBN ay naging saksi siya sa "two beginnings" at "two closures" ng network.

Mula raw ito nang opisyal na maitatag ang korporasyon ng ABS-CBN noong 1967, hanggang sa maipasara ito ng gobyerno dahil sa martial law noong 1972.

Sakop din ang panahon ng pagbangon ng ABS-CBN noong 1986 at paglago nito bilang giant broadcasting network ng mga sumunod na taon, hanggang sa pagkaitan ng Kongreso ang prangkisa ng Kapamilya network nitong 2020.

Sa kuwento ni Mr. M, noong taong 1966 ay tumatambay na siya sa ABS-CBN studio para panoorin ang legendary comedians na sina Dolphy at Panchito.

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Nagsisimula siya bilang isang free-lance worker sa showbiz nang ideklara ni dating Pangulong Ferdinand Marcos ang martial law mula 1972 hanggang 1986. Kabilang ang ABS-CBN sa mga ipinasarang media companies noon.

Isang taon mula nang magbukas muli ang ABS-CBN, o noong 1987, hinikayat daw si Mr. M ni Frederico "Freddie" M. Garcia—na kilala naman sa industriya bilang FMG— na tulungang makabangon muli ang network. Executive vice president at general manager ng network nang panahong iyon si FMG.

Pumayag si Mr. M. Sumama siya sa ABS-CBN bitbit ang Chicks To Chicks, ang sitcom na kanyang idinirek at pinasikat sa Channel 13 mula 1979 hanggang 1987.

Napalitan iyon ng titulong Chika Chika Chiks sa bakuran ng ABS-CBN, kunsaan tumagal ito hanggang 1991.

Noong 1992, magkatuwang sila ni FMG sa pagbuo ng Talent Center, na ngayon ay kilala bilang Star Magic, ang tagapamahala ng talents ng ABS-CBN.

Si Mr. M ang direktor ng mga sikat na sitcoms ng ABS-CBN, kabilang ang Palibhasa Lalake (1987-1998), Abangan ang Susunod Na Kabanata (1991-1997), Home Along Da Riles (1992-1997), at Oki Doki Doc (1993-2000).

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Siya rin ang naghulma ng ASAP, ang long-running Sunday musical-variety show ng ABS-CBN, na nagsimula noong 1995 at umeere pa rin hanggang sa kasalukuyan.

Noong July 9, 2020, nang hindi i-renew ng Kongreso ang prangkisa ng ABS-CBN, bahagi pa rin si Mr. M ng ABS-CBN.

Sa pagsusuma niya ng kanyang career sa network, ika nga ni Mr. M: "ABS-CBN has been good to me."

Kaya ganoon na lang ang sorpresa ng industry watchers, at pati na rin ng publiko, nang umalis si Mr. M sa kanyang naging home network for "35 or 40 years."

Kasabay nito ay naibalita ang pamumuno niya sa Sunday Noontime Live, ang blocktimer Sunday musical-variety show na umere sa TV5 mula October 18, 2020 hanggang January 17, 2021.

Bakit nga ba nagdesisyon si Mr. M na lisanin ang ABS-CBN?

Sinagot ito ni Mr. M sa pagharap niya sa Summit Media "Sandwich Session," isang virtual conference na dinaluhan ng iba't ibang digital sites ng Summit Media, kabilang na ang PEP.ph (Philippine Entertainment Portal).

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Nagkaroon din ng hiwalay na eksklusibong panayam ang PEP.ph kay Mr. M sa parehong araw, Martes, January 19, 2021.

Noon pa lang November 2020 ay inimbitahan na ni PEP.ph editor-in-chief Jo-Ann Maglipon si Mr. M para sa panayam na ito.

Bihirang magpaunlak sa media si Mr. M. Hindi siya lapitin ng entertainment press at hindi rin naman niya kina-cultivate ang mga ito.

Sa pagkakataong ito, mapapansing kalmado pero diretso niyang sinagot ang lahat ng katanungang ihinarap sa kanya ng Summit Media at PEP.ph editors at reporters.

PROBLEM WITH STAR MAGIC AND THE "SHADOW TALENT CENTER"

Lumalabas na ang desisyon ni Mr. M na umalis sa ABS-CBN ay walang kinalaman sa pagkawala ng prangkisa ng ABS-CBN, o maging sa offer na gumawa ng blocktimer show sa TV5.

Ayon kay Mr. M, ang isang malaking nag-udyok sa kanyang bumitiw sa puwesto ay ang pagtayo ng "shadow talent center" na hiwalay sa Star Magic, na dinala niya sa management upang ayusin.

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Pakiramdam ni Mr. M at ng staff ng Star Magic ay unti-unting nawawalan ng pool of talents ang kanilang agency dahil dito.

Si Mr. M ay chairman emeritus ng Star Magic bago siya umalis ng network.

Prangkang lahad niya: "There's a shadow talent center in ABS-CBN, and they have their own managers and they manage their own stars.

"The people from the Pinoy Big Brother, we expected to manage these people after they come out of the house.

"No, they set up their own organization. It was like a counter organization."

Ang siste, kadalasang sumasabak sa showbiz ang ex-housemates pagkatapos ng kanilang stint sa reality show na Pinoy Big Brother (PBB).

Ipinaliwanag ni Mr. M na may mga ex-housemates, na sa halip na ipaubaya sa Star Magic, ang namamahala raw sa career ng mga ito ay ang mismong mga namumuno sa PBB.

"Dati kasi yung PBB, pumupunta sa Star Magic.

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"After a while, ever since they got the idea na maybe they should put up their own, they started picking people who they wanted to pick.

"In other words, yung latak papunta sa amin."

May inilunsad din ang pamunuan ng PBB na Star Hunt, ang audition caravan ng ABS-CBN, na layuning maging "one-stop shop" para sa auditionees na maaaring isabak sa iba't ibang reality shows ng network.

Tila walang pakikipag-ugnayan sa Star Magic pagdating sa pool of auditionees na nadidiskubre roon bilang potential talents.

Kinalaunan, mayroon na rin daw binuong aspiring idol group mula sa Star Hunt.

Nasasagasaan daw ang scope of work ng Star Magic.

"That didn't sit too well with my people," diretsong sabi pa rin ni Mr. M.

"It's not like I was whining and complaining. My people were complaining to me, 'Mr. M, papaano ba iyan? They have their own talent center and their own talents.'

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"I said, 'Yeah, that's not too nice. That makes us irrelevant.' Maybe they're trying to make us irrelevant."

Ayon pa rin kay Mr. M, sinubukan niyang kausapin ang ABS-CBN management hinggil sa set-up ng tinawag niyang "shadow talent center."

Ayon kay Mr. M, "I took this up with higher management. Nothing happened for two years. Nothing happened for three years."

Dagdag nito, "We brought it up to highest management and nothing happened. I miss the days when FMG and Charo were around. Because of their high ethical standards, they would have done something about it.

"As FMG used to say 'kanya-kanyang raket yan!' Raket namin yan, the discovery and training of artists, not anyone else's!"

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THE "OLD-TIMERS" AND THE "NEW GUYS"

Sa puntong ito ay binanggit ni Mr. M ang ABS-CBN top executives na matagal niyang nakatrabaho at nakakausap pagdating sa mga suliranin sa trabaho.

Kabilang si Freddie M. Garcia (FMG), na nagsilbing president and CEO mula 1998 hanggang 2003.

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Binanggit niya si Rolly Cruz, na katuwang ni FMG noon sa pagbuo ng programming ng ABS-CBN.

At binanggit din ni Mr. M si Charo Santos-Concio, president and CEO ng ABS-CBN mula 2008 hanggang 2015. Matapos bumaba bilang presidente, naging chief content officer ng network si Charo.

Sabi ni Mr. M: "All the old guys like me—Freddie retired; Rolly Cruz, he passed away; Charo Santos retired—and there was nobody else to talk to except the new guys.

"I don't think they understood. They didn't understand the fact that it was a corrosive thing to do—having another talent management center there."

Puno man ng pangamba ay wala raw magawa noon si Mr. M.

Ulit niya, "They never addressed it. What am I gonna say to my people?"

MR. M'S CONDITION WHEN HE AGREED TO MANAGE TALENT CENTER

Tandang-tanda pa raw ni Mr. M ang usapan nila noon ni FMG nang kumbinsihin siya nitong itayo at pamunuan ang Talent Center noon.

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Balik-tanaw niya: "I never expected to be a talent manager. I was a director and then I was a producer.

"I was in a management position, but I never imagined myself as a manager.

"But he said, 'You know, kailangan natin iyan Johnny, e. Because right now, si Mother Lily is a great help to us...'"

Ang tinukoy na "Mother Lily" ni Mr. M ay si Lily Monteverde Yu, ang founder ng Regal Entertainment, na gumagawa ng mga pelikula at may sariling pool of talents.

Patuloy ni Mr. M, "Because she helped ABS-CBN by giving ABS-CBN all her talents.

"Mother Lily is one of the reasons why ABS-CBN is such a big organization now, thanks to Mother Lily and other people like that."

May kasunduan daw sina Mr. M at FMG sa pagbuo ng sariling pool of talents ng Kapamilya network.

"See, when I said, 'Okay, Freddie, let's do this thing,' I also said, 'Freddie, one condition, I talk to only you and no one else, and I will be free to do whatever I want to get this talent center going.'

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"I said, 'It will work if there's only one talent center like Star Magic.'"

Naiintindihan daw ni Mr. M na ang "boss" ang may "last say" sa isang corporation tulad ng ABS-CBN.

"That's why I made a treatise with the boss when we started," saad ni Mr. M.

Sabi pa niya sa usapan nila noon ni FMG: "Di ba, Freddie, madalas mo sabihin kanya-kanyang raket?

"In other words, you don't mind me, I don't mind you. You do your thing, I do my thing.

"Di ba, Freddie? Kanya-kanyang raket ito."

Pero marami raw ang nagbago sa paglipas ng panahon.

"People now, nakalimutan nila yun. Gusto nila kunin raket namin—Star Magic."

Tukoy pa ni Mr. M sa problemang dala-dala niya bilang chairman emeritus noon ng Star Magic, apektado ang ibang talents.

Tanong daw kay Mr. M: "What will happen to us?"

Sagot daw niya: "Haay... The only way is to fight harder."

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ON STAR MAGIC'S INDEPENDENCE FROM ABS-CBN MANAGEMENT

Bilang talent manager, isa raw sa mga sinisiguro ni Mr. M ay tapatan ng network ng ang kontribusyon ng kanilang prized stars.

"We were proud of the fact that when we were in Star Magic, the talent was number one. The artist was always number one.

"Since we represented the artist, we thought of his future, we held them on a level at par with the station."

Sinisiguro raw ni Mr. M na patas ang negosasyon pagdating sa talent fee ng stars.

Tila naging isyu rin umano iyon sa Star Magic at ABS-CBN management.

Si Mariole Alberto ang pinuno ng Star Magic mula 2007 hanggang sa magretiro ito nitong December 2020.

Kaagapay ni Alberto sa pamamalakad ng ABS-CBN si Mr. M., na bagamat retired ay nanatiling aktibo bilang chairman emeritus ng Star Magic.

Simula January 2021, pumalit kay Alberto bilang Star Magic head si Laurenti Dyogi, na unang nakilala bilang resident film and TV director ng ABS-CBN.

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Dati siyang business unit head ng PBB, hanggang sa na-promote bilang head ng ABS-CBN Production for Entertainment noong 2013.

Si Dyogi pa rin ang head ng entertainment production habang pinamumunuan ang Star Magic ngayon.

Tingin ni Mr. M, magandang may check and balance pagdating sa pamumuno ng Star Magic, partikular na sa pag-prioritize ng kung anumang makabubuti para sa star.

"There's Lauren Dyogi who took over the Star Magic. It's a bad thing.

"Because when management takes over Star Magic, who's gonna watch management?

"Management does a lot of bad things for the artist.

"Quis custodiet ipsos custodes? Naks, Latin yun, a! Who's gonna watch the watchers? Sila-sila yun, e."

Nabanggit ni Mr. M kung bakit dapat hiwalay ang ABS-CBN management at ABS-CBN talent-management arm.

"Siyempre mauuna yung needs nila kaysa dun sa talent. You can see that when it comes to negotatiating talent fees.

"Kawawa yung talent, e. That's one of the reasons why."

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Diin ni Mr. M: "The primary duty of Star Magic is to see to the welfare of the artist.

"If there is a conflict of interest with TV production—as in determining roles or the amount of money due the artist—we usually side with the artist.

"Now, if they assume the role of managers and watch out for the welfare of the artist, what happens now if there is a conflict of interest?

"Who will step up in defense of the artist?"

"IT WAS TIME TO GO."

Sa huli, naisip daw ni Mr. M na mas makabubuting sumuko at bumitiw na lang sa puwesto.

"Maybe I should just forget about everything. Do something else," sambit niya.

Hindi maiwasang maging sentimental din si Mr. M sa dami ng pinagdaanan niya sa ABS-CBN.

"The other reason was, well, I just thought it was time to go.

"Because I found myself walking, like touring the studios and feeling nostalgic about the old days.

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"All of a sudden, I can see in the corner Panchito. I can see the ghost of so-and-so.

"So I said, 'Oh my god, I had been here so long.' Fifty years on the whole.

"This is gonna be my 50th or 51st [in the industry], 35 or 40 of those in ABS-CBN, so I'm really old.

"So I said, 'Maybe time to go.' So I just dropped the hat."

Nagkaroon ba ng pagkakataong makausap niya muli ang ABS-CBN management?

Sabi ni Mr. M, "They wanted to talk to me. I said, 'No more. Huwag na lang.'"

Ang plano raw talaga ni Mr. M ay magpahinga muna at maging abala sa kanyang home life, lalo na't kasagsagan ng COVID-19 pandemic.

Tinanggap lang daw niya ang proyektong maging creative consultant at direktor ng Sunday Noontime Live para matulungan ang na-retrench na mga empleyado sa ASAP na magkatrabaho uli.

Nagkaroon ng malawakang retrenchment sa ABS-CBN matapos hindi ma-renew ang prangkisa ng network noong July 2020.

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Pumayag ang ABS-CBN stars na sina Piolo Pascual at Maja Salvador na sumama sa proyekto ni Mr. M dahil sa pagnanais ding makatulong sa mga empleyadong nawalan ng trabaho.

Ang SNL ay iprinodyus Brightlight Productions, na pag-aari ni dating congressman Albee Benitez.

Nag-premiere ang SNL noong October 18, 2020, nguni't biglaan itong kinansela at huling umere nitong January 17, 2020.

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Johnny Manahan, aka Mr. M, opens up about huge burden he carried as the man behind Star Magic that was "never addressed" by ABS-CBN management.
PHOTO/S: Star Magic / Jerome Ascaño for Summit Media
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