Netizens were surprised to read on their Facebook and Twitter feeds this weekend a post about ABS-CBN executive Johnny Manahan’s “open letter to the gentlemen of Congress.”
The veteran TV and live show director, who has shepherded generations of talents into stardom, is low-key even if he grew up in the high-profile show-biz world. And he’s known to be a man of few words, an introvert. Yet here he is, adding his voice to the growing support for the country’s largest and most influential broadcasting network, whose franchise renewal is up for decision this week.
Manahan wrote his open letter with candor.
He began by saying that 2021 will be his 50th year in the entertainment industry. “In the 1960s, I attended the dedication of the ABS studios in the Bohol Avenue address and started “my career as a gofer, designer, music coordinator, crane operator, floor director and finally as a director in 1970.”
In 1973, a year after the network was shut down by martial law, he found himself “bouncing around for 13 years as a freelancer on Channels 2, 4, 5, 7, 11 and 13.”
In 1986, at the height of the Edsa 1 revolt, he answered the call to join People Power. “I climbed the walls along with Jim Paredes and Johnny Delgado to ‘liberate’ the ABS compound from the military.”
He continued, “And when Freddie Garcia (‘FMG’) asked me to transfer two of the highest ratings shows I had on Channel 13 to restart a sputtering ABS relaunch, this started my 34-year journey with the nascent ABS corp.”
The most striking part of his letter read:
“I have come to know the Lopez family and the Lopez organizations . . . None compares to them when it comes to a progressive, meritorious, compassionate and decent organization . . .
“Now it seems that a gang of four wants to finish the long run of ABS. With their niggling, petty-fogging and hair-splitting, they have unearthed technicalities that only a Talmudic scholar or medieval philosopher would appreciate.
“ABS is not perfect. No one said it was. It is open to criticism and is willing to correct mistakes and take concrete steps to improve itself. So let us not throw away the baby along with the bathwater!!!
“It was right to bring to light the true conditions of the workplace and the pittance received by technical crews and artists working 22-24-hr days. You got that right, Cong. Mike (Arroyo) . . . Hope you, Cong. Boying (Remulla) and your fellow lawmakers . . . as a whole appreciate the ABS record of entertainment and public service and find it in your hearts to grant a reissue of the ABS franchise…
“The Marcoses stole ABS from the Lopez family in 1973! Please do not steal it again!!!”
While known as a director of dozens of hit TV series and concerts, Manahan’s legacy is also the ABS-CBN Talent Development and Management Center, later renamed Star Magic, where he mentored the likes of Piolo Pascual, Claudine Barretto, Angelica Panganiban, Diether Ocampo, Bea Alonzo, Kim Chiu, Gerald Anderson and John Lloyd Cruz.
In the late ‘80s, ABS-CBN hired Lino Brocka to start a talent development program for the station to have its own stable of artists. But Brocka died in a vehicular accident in 1991. Freddie Garcia passed on the job to Manahan.
Though Manahan was not into managing talents, he said yes out of a sense of commitment and loyalty to the network.
It has been a long, fulfilling journey, from being a production hand to helping shape Philippine popular culture.
Now Johnny Manahan, or “Mr. M,” as he’s known in the industry, wants to be heard.