Real-life drama for Janine Gutierrez
After a two-year wait, Janine Gutierrez finally lands a lead role in the GMA 7 afternoon soap “Villa Quintana,” which premieres Nov. 4.
Gutierrez plays a feisty heiress in love with a poor chap (Elmo Magalona) in this remake of a 1990s series that originally starred Donna Cruz and Keempee de Leon.
Gutierrez, whose parents are actors Lotlot de Leon and Ramon Christopher Gutierrez, relates to her character’s willful streak. “She was educated abroad. So she is modern and independent. She fights for her beliefs.”
She herself fought tooth and nail for her dream to become an actress. “My parents eventually gave in because I had already graduated from college. They saw how determined I was, too.”
The real-life drama in Gutierrez’s young life could rival the sudsy plot twists in local soaps, however.
A year ago, mom Lotlot finally touched base with her biological father, former US Navy man Donald Olson, in Chicago.
Gutierrez and her siblings met recently their American grandfather who is currently in Manila for a monthlong holiday.
“I feel lucky that I have lots of grandparents,” she quipped.
Her adoptive maternal grandparents are acting royalty Nora Aunor and Christopher de Leon. Paternal grandparents, on the other hand, are Asia’s Queen of Song Pilita Corrales and Sampaguita Pictures actor Eddie Gutierrez.
“When something unexpected happens, you can’t help feeling glad and thankful. I am happy for my mom,” she told the Inquirer. “All her life she had been searching for her father. She visited him in the United States last year.”
She said that a missing part in the puzzle of her mom’s life had been found.
Aunor adopted Gutierrez’s mom as a baby.
She described her initial meeting with her granddad as “surreal.”
“Now I know the meaning of lukso ng dugo,” she explained.
(Lukso ng dugo is an inexplicable feeling of instant recognition upon meeting a stranger who turns out to be a relative.)
“He looks a lot like my mom. Although we don’t have physical similarities, I can see myself in some of his personality traits,” she said. “He reminds me of Santa Claus.”
“Janine and my dad are both soft-spoken and gentle. But he also likes to joke around,” said De Leon.
The search for her dad was a personal crusade for De Leon. “I knew his name so I Googled him seven years ago. There are lots of Donald Olsons out there, so I asked the help of former Sen. Richard Gordon of Subic. I wrote my dad a letter and was so happy when he responded.”
According to her granddad, even before her mom got in touch with him in 2006, he had been duly updated about the goings-on in her life.
“He said that he knew everything about my mom,” said Gutierrez. “Filipino friends had been sending my mom’s pictures to him through the years. He was just hesitant to reach out to her because he didn’t want to bother her. He thought she was already happy with her life.”
Now, father and daughter are making up for lost time.
“He is staying with my mom until November,” Gutierrez said. “We make it a point to dine out with him as often as we can.”
De Leon said she felt strongly about introducing her kids to her dad: “They should know their roots. Family is important to us.”
Gutierrez admitted to feeling “pressured” being in the shadow of her famous relatives, but she took it as a challenge to push herself to do her best.
“They are known for being professional. They excel in the industry,” she remarked. “Honestly, I’m the one who puts pressure on myself. I carry their name so I have to impress them in everything that I do.”
That’s her goal as an actress.
“Acting is what I want to do in life. I want to go far in this business. I want to leave my mark. I want to make my family proud,” she said.
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