Tired from an afternoon of raiding houses, showering prizes and entertaining at a barangay for Eat Bulaga’s Juan for All segment, Jose rushes to get ready for a photo shoot- something that he still haven’t gotten used to doing yet. This and many other rituals and activities celebrities undergo haven’t changed Jose Manalo one bit, he remains simple and very much grounded. He doesn’t buy fancy clothes and uses his shoes until the soles fall off. Despite being dubbed by a local magazine title as one of the country’s most “beautiful” celebrities, Jose knows he doesn’t fit the matinee idol prototype. In fact, during shows and pictorials, he refuses to be made-up; he does the work himself because he doesn’t like troubling other people. Instead of becoming an obstacle, Jose’s awareness of his lack of drop-dead good looks is one of the reasons that pushed him to differentiate himself and strive even harder.
Despite his success, Jose still remains humble, closely tied to his roots as a Tondo boy who goes to gatherings to sing and entertain people. Sometimes he still goes to the neighborhood where he grew up in Tondo, joining the neighbors and exchanging jokes. It’s this exact setting that makes him the most perfect person for Juan For All, a TV segment that goes to the grassroots to closely interact with people whose dreams resemble those that Jose once had: to build a better future for his family.
WORKING AT A YOUNG AGE
At an early age, Jose learned how hard it is to raise a family. Born in a family of seven, the five siblings helped their parents earn money so they can eat three times a day. While his father worked as a policeman, Jose helped his mother sell lugaw in Divisoria. “Mga 9 years old ako nung nagtutulak ako ng kariton, nagtitinda ng lugaw.” he recalls.
All these childhood difficulties had become Jose’s motivation that pushed him to be a hard-working family man. At the tender age of 18, Jose got married and had to quit school to support his own growing family. At the brink of succumbing to poverty, Jose had to work triple time and shuffled in between jobs in order to put food on the table. Without a college degree to back-up his inborn intellect and talents, Jose grabbed each and every small-time or odd job that came his way: he became an errand boy, a dancer, a stand-in and an extra in TV shows and movies. He knew he did not have the pleasure of being picky with jobs, any gig that would pay him an extra buck was well-received.
“Nagtitinda ako sa Quiapo. Nagstart sa candy tapos nagtinda ng paisa-isang kaha ng sigarilyo. Nagtinda ng ulam at kanin na nakasupot, doon sa Tondo General Hospital. Nagba-basketball din ako kung may kukuha sa akin. Binabayaran ako ng 50 or 100 pesos kada laro. Di ako lumapit sa magulang ko. Tinaguyod ko yung sarili kong pamilya.” he recounts.
Jose’s family has become an integral part in his shaping to be a comedian, something that he values the most. He had an uncle who was also a performer. He was the one who taught him how to sing and dance and perform at family and barangay gatherings. This became his informal training to become an entertainer. His parents encouraged him to become a singer and a dancer. During his high school years, he has already begun joining small dancing and singing contests, which earned him, and his family, extra money from his winnings.
Jose also had a three-year stint as a Boyoyong Clown. He was one of the first performers of the group before it was formally named as such. After this, he was picked by Herman Escueta, a director, to join the cast of Valiente. Escueta first saw him in dancing and singing contests in Tondo.
Valiente, where he played the role of a household boy, became Jose’s big break into showbiz. His stay in the series made him exposed to the tricks and trade of the entertainment work in a more intimate way. Being surrounded by big-name actors in the set influenced his work ethic and the way he honed his craft.
After Valiente ended its run, he worked as a production assistant in Eat Bulaga; however the production heads saw his potential and recognized his hard work that is why he was promoted to become a floor director. “During a meeting with Eat Bulaga’s director Herman Escueta and Malou Choa-Fagar, Jose burst into tears because they were asking him to resign. He was afraid they were letting him go for good but he didn’t know that they wanted him to resign as a floor director so he could join the show as a host.
“Talagang umiiyak ako kasi ayaw kong mawalan ng trabaho. Nung nagkaroon ako ng trabaho, talagang inalagaan ko sya. Importante talaga sa akin yung trabaho ko. Akala ko pinagre-resign na nila ako talaga yun pala eh papalabasin na nila ako ng unti-unti as a host ng Eat Bulaga.” he says.
Jose has now become one of the most recognizable faces in the TV show. His outstanding performance as an actor and as a comedian has been recognized by several award-giving bodies. He even won a Best Supporting Actor award in the 2005 Metro Manila Film Festival for Enteng Kabisote 2. Together with Wally Bayola, they have a string of novelty hits and won the 43rd Box Office Entertainment Awards’ Bert Marcelo Lifetime Achievement Award and Most Popular Male Novelty Singer. They also had a successful sold-out concert at the Araneta Coliseum. He has also several product endorsements under his belt, including Alpine Sterilized, a heritage milk brand, which reinforces his image as a celebrity who people look up to as a figurehead of success and humility.
Although until now, Jose refuses to recognize his stature as one of the country’s most sought after comedians.
“Sa ngayon, kahit hindi kayo maniwala, hindi ko pa sya nararamdaman. Hindi ko kasi sya nilalagay sa isip ko, na ako ito, si Jose Manalo. Minsan nagji-jeep pa nga ako eh. Kahit nasa mall ako, sinisigawan ako ng mga tao. Masarap yung nakikita ko kasi nararamdaman ko na nakakapagpasaya ako ng tao. Na nasusuklian ko ng kaligayahan yung mga tao na humahanga sa akin.” he explains.
A DEDICATED FAMILY MAN
When he was still juggling small-time jobs, Jose gave his very first humble paycheck to his parents. Now that he is earning more than enough, he still extends this fortune to his mother and father. He has started dreaming big for them, as well. Jose wants his loving parents to experience a taste of the “good life” they only dreamed of having back then.
“Sinusunod ko yung mga inuutos at pinapangaral ng mga magulang ko. Puro kabutihan ang pinapangaral nila sa akin. Ngayon para masuklian ko ang kabutihan nila, pinapaayos ko yung bahay nila at naibili ko na din sila ng magandang sasakyan. Pinapagamot ko rin yung sakit ng tatay ko.” he says.
Jose’s family has become his number one supporters, always rallying behind him in whatever endeavor he pursues in life. And with his stay in Eat Bulaga, the cast and crew have become his second family. All throughout the years, each of them has formed a special bond. Jose knows how important they are in his life, and this is what his Eat Bulaga family makes him feel also in return. In his recent birthday celebration in the noontime show, the cast, crew, and Jose’s family prepared a surprise for him in one of the houses that Jose, Wally, and Paolo Ballesteros were visiting for Juan for All. When Jose opened the door, he couldn’t believe the surprise that awaited him. His brothers, sisters, and even his kababata were there to give Jose a birthday that he deserved. At the end of the day, it is his family Jose turns to for strength and motivation to do greater things in life, so it is a big joy for him to see his family happy and well taken care of.
He has also maintained a good relationship with his mother. And despite his hectic schedule, Jose made sure that he takes care of her and gives her the pampering she needs. Straight after an exhausting show in Zirkoh Bar last May, Jose even took his mom to Baguio City to celebrate Mother’s Day.
“Para sa isang ina, nakikita ka ng anak mo na nandiyan ka. Nakikita mo siya na masaya, masagana, maganda ang buhay, masayang-masaya ako! Talagang hindi ko alam na darating ang araw na magkakaanak pala ako ng artista.” his mom, Anita Manalo, told Showbiz Central in an interview. Jose’s mom is really proud of what he has achieved and how he has supported his family in any hardship that they encountered.
Jose is proud of what his parents have taught him, especially his dad who was a loving and caring family man, something that he aspired to be. He knew that his parents raised them to be passionate in what they do and prioritized the welfare of their families in whatever they do.
“Maayos ang pagpapalaki sa amin ng mga magulang ko. Kahit na andun kami sa Tondo. Sa tingin ko kahit saang lugar, basta mali ang pagpapalaki ng magulang, mali ang laki ng bata. Nasa pagba-bantay na rin ng magulang kung pano lilingapin yung mga anak. Sa tatay ko nakuha yung sobrang magmahal sa pamilya.” he says.
With his hard work, Jose was able to send all of his kids to school. Three of them already finished college and two younger ones are still in school. It’s his children that keep him grounded as a celebrity, even reminding him to greet fans and smile whenever they go out. He’s proud that he was able to give them a strong upbringing.
“Hindi ko inii-spoil yung mga anak ko kahit na may konti na kaming pera. Hindi naman sila lumaki na materialistic. Hindi namin pinagkakagastusan yung mga bagay na hindi dapat pinagkakagastusan. Kasi gusto ko silang matuto na hindi lang pinupulot ang pera.” he shares.
A REFRESHED PERSPECTIVE
Fame, of course, has its price. For Jose, the downside of being under the spotlight is the hectic schedule he has to deal with, and this eventually took a toll on his health. Physical wellbeing is one of the top priorities of Jose as a hardworking artist, because for him, hard work is nothing if your body is giving up on you. In order to cope up with his unforgiving busy timetable, Jose tries to live a healthy lifestyle by exercising, running and eating healthy which includes drinking the milk he coincidentally endorses.
“Mas malaki yung tulong pag healthy at active ka, mas naging malusog na ako kahit busy. Hindi ako nakakaramdam ng sobrang pagka-hapo. May hingal pero hindi yung sobrang pagod. Alam kong mas nadadagdagan yung strength ng katawan ko.” he continues.
Whenever he goes to different barangays, he has more energy and focus to learn about the people and their lives, something that he is very familiar with because he grew up in a similar environment.
“Di ako masyadong nabibigla kapag nasa barangay kami kasi dun ako lumaki. Nagkakaroon na rin ng drama, kasi nararamdaman mo kung ano yung hirap na nararanasan nila. At nakakarelate ako kasi naranasan ko rin yun kasi dun ako nanggaling.” he says.
IDOL NG BAYAN
His success from a small Tondo boy to one of the most respected comedians in the business is something that was born out from strong perseverance. Looking back at all the things that he’s been through, Jose is really thankful for the blessings that he is able to share with his family and fans from his job. Because if there’s one thing that he takes away from his long hours on the road, enduring the heat while shooting in different barangays, it’s that his greatest achievement is his ability to make people laugh despite the hardships that they’re enduring. It’s this passion, coupled with the love and support that he gets from his family, that fuels his drive to become a better person and be an example to everyone who looks up to him.
Jose is also grateful that he is able to touch lives with his line of work. He is comfortable with reaching out to them. He faced the same problems of these people who want to rise above the reins of poverty by grabbing the opportunities life throws at them. It’s this motivation that makes Jose someone to look up to, an idol even, for those who work hard, whether a call center agent, a nurse, or a construction worker. He knows that it’s his ordinariness that makes him more accessible to his fans; a more relatable person that they can aspire to be. Jose Manalo has become a symbol of success to many hard working Filipinos, and he will continue to inspire thousands more with his humility and (beyond socially-accepted good looks) undeniable charisma.
“Mahalin mo trabaho mo at wag kang gagawa ng kahit anong makakasira sa iyo. Dapat masaya kayo sa ginagawa nyo. Hindi mo kailangan magpakasosyal. Walang kalaban ang tao kungdi sarili nya. Ikaw lang makakapagsabi na “Gusto ko to, gagawin ko to!” Ikaw lang makakapagsabi, wala nang iba.” he shares.