You could stare all you want; you’d be hard-pressed to see a scar.
Former Star Magic talent Janelle Manahan survived a horrific incident—the brutal slaying of her boyfriend, actor Ramgen Revilla, on Oct. 29, 2011, which left her with gun shots to the face and shoulder to remember it by.
Her relationship with Ramgen’s mother, Genelyn Magsaysay, has been strained since his brother RJ was thrown in jail and sister Ramona fled the country.
Janelle has since filed a supplemental complaint relative to the murder case, and an antiphoto and video voyeurism case against the family after a sex video of the young couple was posted online.
Scars always go deeper than the physical level, and lesser souls would have crumbled. But Janelle has no time for drama.
The Janelle who faced the Inquirer multiplatform team on Monday was far from the perennially weeping victim immortalized on television news programs. She answered each question, whether polite or probing, with astonishing self-assurance, wistful candor, even unexpected levity. (Her impersonation of comedienne Rufa Mae Quinto was spot-on.)
Quite tellingly, she mentioned Ramgen by name only once throughout the hour-long exchange. Armchair psychologists might detect a wounded woman grappling with loss, but from what we saw, Janelle has moved on.
She has a lot on her plate, too. She just finished a new movie, her big-screen debut, Ian del Carmen’s “Bad Romance.” It opened in 11 SM Cinemas in Metro Manila, Cebu and Iloilo on Wednesday.
Off-cam, she has joined the real-estate industry and moved into her own condo unit. Best of all, she has a new love.
It may seem too soon for naysayers, but Ian, who’s also her cousin, has nothing but admiration for Janelle, who’s all of 23 years young.
“What she went through was not easy by any measure. Her story can inspire a lot of people,” he said.
This is only your first movie?
I joined (the talent search) “Star Circle Quest” in 2005 and did TV shows. I was in “Panday” and “Let’s Go.”
What was this shoot like?
Doing an indie movie can be fast-paced pala. We shot nonstop for a whole day. I was so tired, I went straight to bed. I had a dinner date, but I was too sleepy.
Who was your peg for your character, the teleserye actress Sarah Alonzo?
I had no idea what my role would be. I got a copy of the script on the day I reported on the set. She’s supposed to be a composite of Sarah Geronimo and Bea Alonzo.
Did your teleserye experience help?
Yes, but it had been five years since my last acting job. I had a hard time crying. But I have a deeper well of emotions now. I know that my acting used to be shallow, fake. This time, I felt more natural, more comfortable.
How did you change as an actress?
I guess because of what happened, I gained wisdom. I have a clearer understanding of things, a different perspective on life. I’m more mature.
If it were not Ian, would you have done this movie?
Maybe not. He called about it just a few months after the incident. My family was really cautious at the time. I wasn’t going out of the house, I had no cell phone. My mom allowed me to meet with Ian only because she knew him. (Ian said they shot all her scenes in his house—for security reasons, mainly, but also because it cost a lot less.)
How did you deal with not having a phone?
I had to, for six to eight months. My family didn’t want me to be in touch with friends by phone because they might ask me out. But they were sending private messages on Facebook.
Do you still get threats?
Not anymore—and I’m no longer worried because, should anything happen to me, there’d be just one suspect.
How many surgeries have you had so far?
I had two in the hospital, and one dental surgery. My teeth are not yet aligned. We thought the damage could be corrected by braces, but I have one more dental procedure with Dr. Steve Gan, in July.
Why is there no scar?
The only scar is right at the bullet’s entry point. The surgeons studied it carefully. As much as possible, the incisions were done internally, sa gum area, so I could go back to show biz, if I wanted to.
One side of my face is okay but the other side is still 10 percent paralyzed. At first, I was scared that I would no longer look normal. Technology is amazing. To think I haven’t had plastic surgery; it was just reconstructive.
Were the procedures expensive?
The hospital bills reached P2 million. Then I had checkups and therapy sessions for the nerves in my face.
When did you ask for a mirror?
Right away—before the surgery. Actually, after getting shot, when the cops arrived, I looked at myself in the mirror. I had no idea where I was hit.
I was also shot on the shoulder, which shattered a bone. My biggest worry was that I wouldn’t be able to surf again. But I’ve been surfing again lately—last time was in December, in Pagudpud (Ilocos Norte).
We have questions here from Twitter followers @InqEnt: How did you recover so quickly?
I have my family to thank. They were so supportive, I never felt sorry for myself. They made sure I was never alone because I tended to recall what happened.
Did your parents become overprotective?
Yes, for a few months, but gradually, they let go. I wanted to prove to them that I was no longer in danger. Also, I wanted to feel normal again. I even moved into my own place.
How difficult was that, feeling normal again?
It wasn’t, really. It may sound weird but recovery was really quick for me. I am surprised, too. I’m still into target shooting pa nga.
Oh, but in the first few months, I would get paranoid when anyone knocked on my door. I’m okay now. Going out and interacting with people helped a lot. I never wallowed, either. I know that if I keep dwelling on the past, I’ll get stuck.
Do you still think of Ramgen?
Sometimes when I’m alone, when I am not doing anything, I still do. Or if I see his favorite dishes (sinigang, green mangoes and bagoong) or hear his favorite songs (“Promise” and “Dahil Ikaw”). It used to be an everyday thing, then once a week… when I started working, it sort of stopped. I can really be focused kasi.
How long were you together?
Five years. Some friends still ask how I did it. One said she locked herself in her room for a year, crying, after splitting up with her boyfriend. I said, “Hello? You just broke up. My boyfriend died.”
Would he have wished this, you getting over it quickly?
It’s weird, we discussed this before. If one of us died, would it be okay to have a new relationship soon after? I don’t think he’d want me to mourn too long.
Another question from Twitter: Are you ready for a new love?
I used to think I can’t fall in love again, that I’ll be happy, on my own for the rest of my life. Now I know that when it comes, you can’t run away. I asked his permission, I asked him for signs. He was the jealous type; I wanted to make sure. In short, I have a new love. They are totally different. Ramgen was mestizo, my new boyfriend is moreno. We’ve been together for three months. My mom is eager to meet him.
Is it okay with the new guy that your name will be forever attached to Ramgen’s?
He doesn’t care about the past. He has no issues.
Did your requirements change?
When you’re young, you’re into the superficial—handsome, maangas (cocky). Now, I want someone who’s smart, hardworking, kind, family-oriented, God-fearing. I myself was impulsive: Okay, I’ll give up my career and live with you. I’ve learned to set boundaries. I need to have my own life.
You’re also a comedienne?
I met Rufa Mae Quinto—I didn’t know that she talked that way in real life. We were chatting about sad stories, but she was still talking like her characters in the movies. I started laughing so she asked me (imitates Rufa Mae): “Bakit ka tumatawa? Seryoso ako. Grabe.”
Do you remember how you were two years ago, in your TV interviews after the incident?
Sometimes I Google my name and watch old videos. I want to know how other people perceive me. New acquaintances would sometimes tell me: “You’ve lost weight pala.” Thank you!
What’s the latest development in the murder case?
There was a hearing last week. I may have to show up for one more cross-examination with the lawyer of (accused) Ryan Pastera. One last time. After that, I don’t have to appear in court again. I’m kind of worried about the outcome of the case, but I’m prepared for anything.
I want justice. I also really want to move on. But I gave him my word—that I would tell the truth.
Are your parents okay with your decision?
They’re not okay with it. And they don’t think I should have filed the case. But it’s my decision and they support me.
Are you sure of your recollections, no doubts at all?
None. I don’t want to go around accusing people and make a mistake. This is a big case. I thought about it long and hard.
Is it harder that you’re up against your late boyfriend’s family?
Yes. [During] a hearing, they’re all present and I’m alone, and I hear all sorts of things from their camp. Deadma na lang. It wouldn’t help to allow myself to be hurt.
How’s your relationship with Ramgen’s mom?
Mom Gen is mad at me. When I was in the hospital, I was told she was telling people: “I love Janelle. I hope she gets well soon.” But things have changed. I can’t blame them; they’re family. They don’t think I should be testifying.
Before the shooting, we were okay. I treated her like my own mom; She treated me like a daughter.
Has anyone from the family tried to reach out?
I still talk to [Ramgen’s] two youngest siblings. I also get to talk to the sons of Kuya Bong (Sen. Revilla), Bryan and Jolo. We move in the same circles. But I am no longer in touch with the rest of the family.
So you still do target shooting?
Ramgen introduced me to target shooting. He wanted us to have a common hobby. I was not as good as he was. He was quick and he did competitions. But I hit the target naman.
Do you own a gun?
I used to. It was his. I don’t think I want a gun in my home.
Another Twitter question: How did you cope when the sex video scandal broke?
I was very affected. I didn’t want to go out. But my family talked to me. They’re conservative and had every right to judge me. But they assured me that they were behind me, that it wasn’t the first time that anything like this happened. After that, I was ready to face people again.
Now, at work, when the subject comes up, my officemates have learned to be casual about it. But because in the field I meet different people, I had to prepare myself. I took all sorts of training, workshops—what if anyone brought it up?
How did the workshops help?
I used to be extremely sensitive—I would cry so much if I hear his name. But now I’m fine. At work, drama is not allowed. That’s how my coworkers want it.
Field work helped me see that, indeed, the most successful people are not dramatic… even if their life is full of drama.