The incredible burden of being Genelyn Magsaysay
GENELYN’S LAMENT. Genelyn Magsaysay talks to Philippine Daily Inquirer’s Fe Zamora about the death of her son, Ramgen Revilla, her relationship with her other children, her life with and without former Senator Ramon Revilla Sr. and her childhood. Video by INQUIRER.net’s Noy Morcoso and edited by Cathy Miranda
Sub: Following traditional views on the mother being the vessel of values, the moral compass and the guiding light of her children, a morbidly curious public has put this single mother of nine under searing scrutiny. Just what kind of mother was Genelyn Magsaysay that three of her children could possibly be involved in the gruesome murder of their eldest sibling?
Until her son, actor Ramgen Revilla, was shot and stabbed in his room at the family residence in BF Homes, Paranaque on October 29, 2011, Genelyn Magsaysay was just a 42-year-old mother of nine faced with the usual domestic concerns – budget, teenage angst and managing her time.
When she first burst into primetime TV, she was a bereaved mother tearfully asking for justice for her dead son. Then the police revealed its findings: Genelyn’s other children may have plotted the murder of their eldest sibling.
It was then that her world collapsed. Losing a child is an emotional nightmare for any mother; how much worse can it be when police and witnesses point to her other children as suspects?
“My children are innocent,” Genelyn has insisted in so many interviews. She has maintained that the police are wrong and that she wants justice for her son Ramon Joseph, one of the suspects now in jail, and daughter Maria Ramona Belen, another suspect, who has fled abroad and is on the wanted list of the Interpol.
How has it come to this?
Mothers are usually considered the light of the home, the guiding hand and moral compass who transmits values to the children as the paterfamilias is widely seen as breadwinner. Following this customary view, one wonders what kind of mother Genelyn has been, what values she has raised her children on, how she has nurtured the bonds that existed among the siblings, how she herself was raised, how she could have had nine children in this age of planned parenthood, and so on.
Genelyn’s story turned out to be as interesting as the side stories coming out in the RamGen murder case.
In a lengthy chat at the Paparazzi Restaurant at the EDSA Shangri-La Hotel in Mandaluyong, Genelyn brought along her lawyer Jeffrey Gepte and talked about being the daughter of the late Senator Genaro Magsaysay, and how her nine children themselves were sired by another senator, movie actor and former senator Ramon Revilla Sr.
“Anak sa labas” was a term Genelyn often heard while growing up in Pasay City where her mother, former movie starlet Lyn Madrigal, owned a stall at the Libertad market. It was painful,” she recalled, and vowed that she could have children who were “not bastards, like myself.”
Genelyn and Genevieve were the daughters of Atty Genaro Magsaysay, the younger brother of charismatic President Ramon Magsaysay, who died in a plane crash in March 1957.
Seized with sentiment from the memory of well-loved Ramon, his fellow Zambalenos voted his younger brother Genaro to the House of Representatives that same year. He was also elected senator in 1959, and re-elected in 1965. Genaro was married to Adelaida “Baby” Rodriguez, the daughter of Eulogio Rodriguez Sr., a former Senate President and stalwart of the Nacionalista Party (NP).
Genelyn, who was born in 1969, said she knew her father was the man who often visited them in a car and brought them for vacation in his island in Zambales. “He would fetch us from school in his big car. Somehow, he would know where we lived,” she recalled. He would take them to the Hyatt for spaghetti and milkshake.
“I was madaldal (chatty) even as a child,” Genelyn recounted. When she would run out of powdered milk, she said she had no qualms calling up her father’s house. Once, she said, the phone was picked up by her half-brother, Generoso. “I introduced myself to him. Kayo pala si Kuya Osong (So you are older brother Osong),” she said. Generoso’s other brother is Alliance of Volunteer Educators (AVE) Partylist Rep Eulogio “Amang” Magsaysay. (Yes, it’s the same guy who hit the headlines sometime ago for allegedy calling an airline flight attendant a “menopausal bitch.”)
Her father’s stature was impressed upon Genelyn in terms familiar to a child. “We had clothes straight from Cinderella’s factory where we were fitted. If I had short-sleeves, Genevieve would have long-sleeves. We had so many shoes and undies.” When she was about 8, her father asked her if she would like to go to the States “where I could have new shoes, new clothes everyday!” But the plan never pushed through because Genaro died soon after.
At the funeral, Genelyn said she and her sister were formally introduced to the Magsaysay clan. She even got to know “Mama Baby” and the other Magsaysay women. Lyn’s daughters were accepted by the Magsaysays, but they had to use Lyn’s husband’s surname Pantoja until the court officially declared the two girls to be Magsaysay’s children in 2003. By that time, Genelyn was already a mother of nine children with movie producer and action star Ramon Revilla aka Nardong Putik.
As per Genelyn’s account, she was a 16-year-old graduate of the Generosa de Leon Memorial School in Parañaque when she and Genevieve tried their luck in showbiz. Her screen name was Genelyn Madrigal.
She was introduced in the Regal Films comedy “Family Tree” and in “Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow,” which starred Gabby Concepcion, Maricel Soriano and Snooky Serna. She also played a bit role in Susan Roces’ TV show “Panahon.” In one of their tapings, Ms Roces even brought Genelyn from a studio in Novaliches to her home in Pasay City, an act of kindness that Genelyn treasures to this day.
A twist of fate and a mistaken call led her to the arms of Revilla, Genelyn said. It was actually her sister who was offered a bit role in an Imus Productions film, but a confused talent coordinator called up Genelyn instead. At the cast meeting in the Revilla mansion in Imus, she was introduced to Revilla.
“The first thing he said to me was: would you like to drink coffee? I told him, Sir. I don’t drink coffee,” she recalled.
Genelyn was told that she was going to play the role of the daughter of a rich man. But the script was altered and a rape scene was added. Revilla was to play the role of a man who happened to be at the place where the young Genelyn was to be raped. She balked at first, “because I had to wear spaghetti straps.” Anyway, she did her role as directed. It became obvious to everyone in the set that Revilla had his eyes on the cute mestiza because as the talent coordinator would later tell her: “Hindi ka na Regal Baby. You are now an Imus baby.”
The courtship, if you can call it such, was straight from the movies. “He asked me if I wanted to be his leading lady, I said No, sir. Hindi tayo bagay (We’re not a good match). You’re tall. I’m short. Bagay sa iyo si Ms Dang Cecilio.” (The former Bb. Pilipinas who also tried her hand in action movies in the ’80s.)
“He also asked me if I had a boyfriend. I told him, none. He told me, bakit di mo ako subukan? Why not try him for a boyfriend? Just to try. Kasi kawawa daw siya walang nag-aalaga sa kanya. (Because he’s pitiful, he said. Nobody is taking care of him,) unlike Dolphy who has Alma Moreno. I was also told that his wife was in the States, so I presumed hindi na babalik (she won’t be coming back).”
A reference to her father Genaro established a “connection” that that would be crucial to the development of the relationship. Revilla told Genelyn that he had offered to help Genaro campaign in Cavite when the latter ran as vice president to presidential candidate Sergio Osmeña Jr. in 1969. “Parang nagkaroon ng koneksyon,” Genelyn recalled. She felt more special everytime Revilla would introduce her to his friends “as the daughter of Senator Magsaysay.”
“I did not ask his age, it did not matter to me. Besides, he looked young,” she said. On a road trip to Los Baños, Genelyn said Revilla made an offer a young girl in love could not possibly refuse. “He said he wanted to have ten children with me, with a yaya (nanny) for every child. I said yes without thinking of the future,” she recalled.
“I was really blinded with love. I also told him I will not continue this relationship without love,” Genelyn said. Thus, at 17, Genelyn became a mistress to the 59-year-old Jose Acuña Bautista, known in the movies as Ramon Revilla.
“He decided not to include me in his movies, but he brought me along during dubbings,” Genelyn said. Months later, Revilla took her to a farm in Bacoor where he kept horses and other animals. A one-room wooden structure stocked with feeds for horses was converted into Genelyn’s dwelling.
“I told him, how can I sleep here? I have no blankets, no pillows. He said: Even if you are the daughter of a senator, I cannot afford to bring you to the hotel every day. I was so sad. I cried. I was four months pregnant.
“My mother was furious. She threatened to go to court because I was minor. I told her, if you do that, I will not side with you. I even told her, would you rather that I follow in your footsteps – get married, have children, then separate; get married again, have children, separate again? I didn’t want to be like my mother. I wanted to stand up where I was. It was complicated.”
Genelyn gave birth to Ramgen Jose on February 12, 1988. Ten months later, on December 20, she celebrated her 19th birthday delivering her second child, Maria Ramona Belen. Seven more babies would tumble out of her womb in the next eight years. She had one miscarriage, she said.
Revilla’s desire for ten children with her was actually fulfilled, Genelyn said, beaming. “Don Ramon wanted ten children, so I gave him ten.”
Despite a number of household help commanded by a majordoma, Genelyn said it was not a picnic raising nine children. Revilla would visit them on weekends. He would take them all to Baguio for a week. The children would join their more than 50 brothers and sisters on Christmas Eve and on Revilla’s birthday at the Revilla mansion in Cavite. But the day-to-day parenting, Genelyn did all by herself.
“I disciplined them and made sure I informed their father when their grades were low. I made it clear that I wanted him to be a part of their lives. He signed their report cards,” she said.
Each child, she said, has his or her own unique, endearing ways. Ramon Joseph is “mabait (kind-hearted), I’d give him P20 and he’d agree to clean the bathroom.”
Ramona, she said, is the mediator and lawyer, ready to defend her younger siblings from their mother’s scolding.
But Ramgen, her first born, will always be special to her. “He taught me how to be a mother,” Genelyn said, in near tears. “People just don’t realize how painful it is to be in this situation.”
On October 29, 2011, Ramgen was shot and stabbed to death inside the family home in Paranaque. Ramgen’s girlfriend, Janelle Manahan, survived to tell her story. So far, the police investigation has pointed to Ramon Joseph as the mastermind. At least two other siblings, Ramona and Gail, are listed among the suspects. A squabble over family funds led to the murder, the police said.
Genelyn maintains that her children are innocent and vows to defend them. “The Lord gave me 23 years of Ramgen. I supported him in all his endeavors. Now Ramgen is in a place of comfort – no pain, no hatred, no bitterness. Ramgen is with the Lord.
“I cannot say I cannot help my other children. They need a mother who will stand by them at this point in time. I will fight for justice for Ramgen, but I will also support my other children in the struggles they are facing. I will stand firm for all my children. I have to worry for the living,” Genelyn said.
Asked who she thinks is behind the murder of her son, Genelyn quoted a TV commentator: “No one will kill over allowance. But for inheritance, maybe.”
Andrea Revilla-Ynares, a daughter of Revilla Sr. (and half-sister of Genelyn’s children) who has been assigned as the family spokesperson, declined to talk to the Sunday Inquirer Magazine but sent word that their father is keenly aware of developments in the Ramgen case.
A family friend of the Revillas however revealed that the octogenarian senator “loves his children with Genelyn; they are better provided than the others.” From the wooden, “train-like” dwelling at the Rancho, Genelyn and her children were soon moved to a house at the Revilla-owned subdivision in Bacoor before finally settling in at BF Homes, Paranñque, in a two-storey five-bedroom Mediterranean-styled villa. All the kids were sent and ferried to private schools in their own vehicles and were attended by nannies.
To give Genelyn a regular source of income, a six-storey building in the commercial area in Imus was awarded her and her children. Called “Pogi Bldg,” it has become their temporary residence after the shooting. Unconfirmed rumors also say that Don Ramon has actually given Genelyn 18 million cash, to make sure that his children with her remain secure in the event of his untimely demise.
In this Inquirer interview, Genelyn cited an incident when a politician’s kin had made her and her three oldest children, Ramgen, Ramon and Ragene, then aged 12,11 and 10, sign a document relinquishing any claim to the Revilla estate.
Jealousy, according to the source, wrecked Genelyn’s harmonious relationship with Revilla Sr. Genelyn, the source claimed, had expected to be asked to live at the Cavite mansion after the death of Revilla’s wife, Azucena Mortel, in 1998.
Instead, Revilla asked his children with Azucena to allow another woman, Ellen, to live in a smaller house beside the mansion. After a stroke three years ago, the semi-paralyzed Revilla moved into the smaller house with Ellen, who has become his caregiver.
“Genelyn was never asked to live there because she’s quarrelsome,” said the source, who claimed having received threatening text messages from Genelyn.
Genelyn denied she ever coveted the “Number One” spot which was left “vacant” in 1998. “When Mommy Cena died, Don Ramon told me that he still can’t live with us. That’s okay with me.” She was aware early on that there were many women in Revilla’s life. “But others have gotten married, or entered into other relationships. Ako, walang ganoon (But not me).” Three years ago, however, she learned about Ellen’s ascendancy. “Hindi lang pala ako ang natira (It turns out I’m not the only one),” Genelyn said, wistfully.
Who is Ellen? The source said Ellen is not a new woman in Revilla’s life. Now in her fifties, Ellen has five children, four of them professionals. Revilla’s eldest son with her is a pilot. She has also raised an engineer and an architect.
But the source said Ellen has nothing to do with Revilla’s refusal to see Genelyn these days. Ramgen’s death and the alleged involvement of his siblings dealt a fatal blow to the Genelyn-Ramon Revilla partnership. “Revilla Sr.knows what’s going on with the case. He is hurting. That’s why he doesn’t want to see Genelyn.”
Genelyn has found solace in the Bible. “I feel empowered by the Lord. He’s my only source of strength,” she told SIM, and added that she’s trying to wean herself from sleeping pills, a dependence she had developed while battling depression for years.
She debunks reports about her obsession with Louis Vuitton bags, the Pradas, Tiffany’s and other luxurious goods that have supposedly dragged the family to financial ruin. When her family’s monthly allowance was slashed to P150,000 from P350,000, Genelyn said she was hard up trying to make both ends meet. “All along, they thought it was enough,” she quipped.
“I just wanted the best for my children, as befit their place in society as children of a senator. When they go fine dining, aren’t they supposed to wear fine clothes?” she said. Don Ramon is a generous man, she added. “If he can provide for others, why not for my children?
Inside the mansion, Don Ramon has also taken to reading the Bible daily, the source said. “He is remorseful. He has realized his mistakes. He prays for himself, his children and for Genelyn.”
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