EXCLUSIVE: Edu Manzano Talks About Fatherhood And His Latest Digital Show, "#GoodVibes With Edu"
"You're put in this world to do your thing, to have your fun. You can have fun! I'm 64 and having so much fun," he shares
Really, really good single malt Scotch—it's not exactly an approved remedy for COVID-19, but Edu Manzano sure hasn't minded pouring himself a glass every now and then as he spends 100 days and counting at home under quarantine.
Aside from the tiger eye-colored drink, there is his bonsai and his dogs to be thankful for, too—lots and lots and lots of dogs! Edu's rescues and Labradors have been his best buds throughout this ordeal where he, a person who thrives in the presence of (human) company and relishes face-to-face interactions, has been forced to sit out the pandemic with little to no contact with the rest of the world, and for an indefinite amount of time, at that.
See, if Edu had been coal before the lockdown was imposed in mid-March, by now, he would be a round brilliant cut diamond fit for a princess. And it's not because quarantine has polished him to perfection; that's just how much pressure he's been under during the last three months, gritting his teeth and clenching his fists as he grapples with boredom and frustration while acknowledging the necessity of extreme health protocols.
"You can't lock me up, sorry!" he says in jest, at least partly.
"It was a rough first two weeks, then I was humbled on week three. At about week nine, it was already, 'Wala ka nang magagawa. Tanggapin mo na,'" he jokes, as he flashes that smile that his most loyal fans will recognize even from miles and miles away.
And when Edu Manzano cracks a joke and the corners of his eyes wrinkle in unison with his laughter, you know that things are finally starting to look up.
As millions of Filipinos wipe the weariness from their eyes and shake off the stiffness in their bones to return to work, so does Edu.
It feels like an eternity and a half has passed since he was on set, surrounded by a production crew, and going through the motions of taping but finally, in July, he's glad to be heading back to the daily grind. He has a couple of teleseryes and a film to return to—projects put on hold since the summer—but he has something else he's excited to talk about.
You'd think that Edu's four-decade long career has placed him in every imaginable genre and platform available, but at 64 years old, he's found that there is still new territory to conquer. And he couldn't be more eager to dive right in, cannon balling into the water like a school boy enjoying the first day of the school break while he's at it.
With enthusiasm, he shares, "Now I'm doing a TV show, which is digital! Surprise!"
He admits that it's a crazy big leap from being a Zoom noob to becoming the host of his very own digital show, but for him to be able to move with the times and turn COVID-flavored lemons into the sweetest lemonade there ever was, he knew that a booming, resounding "Yes!" was the only acceptable response to the opportunity.
But that's only one half of the surprise; the other is that the Metro Channel show, titled #GoodVibes With Edu, is a talk show.
For the uninitiated, that's a huge deal for Edu, and it's certainly cause for celebration for those longing for a break from the state of the world these days—and that makes everyone.
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I have always believed that happiness is contagious. If you have been following me on Facebook or Instagram for a while now, you may have noticed my favorite hashtag #goodvibeslang - posted along with humorous and positive content. I always see to it to infect people with good vibes especially in these challenging times. I invite you to join me for a good laugh on June 21, Sunday for GOOD VIBES WITH EDU on @metrochannelph! See you!
"I used to have a talk show on Channel 2 called Not So Late Night With Edu. It ran for a few years... And I enjoyed it," he recalls.
"We tried to make it a local David Letterman or Johnny Carson or Jay Leno. We would do things off the wall, do things that people couldn't imagine that we could do! We were doing such crazy things that we found a niche. People still tell me that they miss the show," Edu adds.
Anyone familiar with the names of Late Night from the US and UK should be nothing but hyped for what's coming their way. While talk shows aren't new to Filipino viewers, what gives #GoodVibes With Edu its character is its crystal clear intention to veer away from talk about purely celebrity life, chismis-fueled confrontations, and iyakan moments. In the same way that the likes of Stephen Colbert, Seth Myers, Graham Norton, and Conan O'Brien encourage their famous guests to be themselves sans the celebrity persona and publicist-approved behavior, Edu is bringing the same style to his very own show where he hopes viewers can get to know their idols from an entirely different perspective.
The more spontaneous, off-the-beaten path, and au naturel, the better.
"The best part about it is that I ask [guests] the questions no one else does. Hindi naman ako ma-intriga. I don't have to dwell on their personal lives... You just listen, and maybe they'll say something that no one else has heard before. I like it when it's not a showbiz interview," Edu continues.
Three episodes have been completed so far. The first features Edu's kids, Luis, Addie, and Enzo in a rare occasion where all three of them are together. The second brings together some of the cast members of Palibhasa Lalake (oh the memories of Richard Gomez and Amy Perez will stir up from the 80s baul!). The third is dedicated to the Cruz cousins Sunshine, Donna, and Geneva (an international reunion!).
Expect more Pinoy pop culture nostalgia to set the tone for the coming episodes.
It's been a real pleasure for everyone involved; Edu finally returns on-cam (and explores a potential alternative career path), his guests are free to poke fun at themselves and engage in not-often-witnessed banter, while those tuned in are treated to a respite from disheartening content that has dominated the Internet for way too long.
Out with the bad vibes, and in with the good. Filipinos know that they've earned that, at the very least.
#GoodVibes With Edu premiered on June 21, just in time for Father's Day. And what a Father's Day it's been for Edu, indeed.
"I'm actually alone," he says, when asked about who he's been stuck with at home during quarantine, so yes; that means spending Father's Day on his own, tucked away from those he wishes he could hug and be hugged by.
His eldest, Luis, can't come around as often because of the same restrictions keeping Edu within the four walls of his house. His two younger children, Addie and Enzo, are even farther away, living their own lives in New York City. They've both been based abroad for at least two years now since leaving to pursue their own dreams after their college graduations.
About five years or so—that's how long it's been since Edu has celebrated Father's Day with all three of the Manzano kids, making his show's first episode all the more special.
The quiet of quarantine life has made it easier for Edu to reminisce the times when Luis, Addie, and Enzo were still just that—kids.
"I used to be able to take them on a vacation every year. Once we went to Istanbul, then Hawaii, then Morocco, and the US Virgin Islands. I always want to go someplace and do something I've never done before. And then Luis got really busy, Addie decides to live and work in the States, and Enzo is out on sabbatical. Those trips that we were taking then—it was when we could take everybody—we would really set aside that date just so we could be sure that everyone would be together," he shares.
But what's a dad like Edu to do?
Fatherhood, like all things, is not immune to time and change. Children grow in body, mind, and spirit, and before dads know it, the teeny, tiny bean-shaped humans they cradled on the way home from the hospital all those years ago are now out and about in the world, making a difference and kicking major butt.
"It's bittersweet with a capital B," Edu smiles.
He is in awe when he sees the heights his children have reached.
Luis, without needing too much explanation, is a welcome face to see in many popular primetime programs. Addie, on the other hand, is living independently for the first time and taking care of herself ("She takes the trains and buses, the subway!" Edu says with the incredulity of a protective father). And then there's Enzo, who left to study political science and journalism, who recently made it to the headlines for totally unexpected reasons: he held a one-man protest in New York to condemn the Philippine government's move to broaden their tools for silencing dissent.
Asked what Edu is most proud about his children who have transitioned to adulthood without a hitch, he doesn't hesitate.
"I'm proud of me! I look at them and I say, You did a pretty good job!'" he quips.
"They fall down and I'm there to pick them up, but other than that, I see how they are. They don't have that lost look. They know exactly where they are. I'm just proud when I see it.... It made me happy that I could let go and when I know that they have the ammunition to go through life. The moment you make them independent, they're making their own money and their own decisions, that's what makes me the happiest dad in the world," Edu beams, and deservedly so.
He pats himself on the back for making it as far as he did with all three of his children because it wasn't always this way, truth be told.
In fact, right now is when Edu feels fatherhood the most. His recent discovery of the joys of being a dad was so meaningful and so life-changing that not even physical distance (or a life-threatening disease) could spoil them.
"I learned," he says.
"I'm the lucky one. They let me back in the door," he goes on.
But as the wise say, a lesson learned is better learned late than never.
Edu is, of course, talking about how he was left to figure out what it meant to be a dad almost a little too late, at a time when his relationships with his children were hanging by a thread. He implores other dads (and moms, too) to heed his advice, lest they have less forgiving children.
"It was a big mistake thinking that the most important part of being a dad is putting food on the table," he begins.
"When my kids would ask me if we could do something, I would say I was busy. If they would ask to go to Tagaytay over the weekend, I would say, 'Why don't you guys go ahead? I'll follow. Update me.' I thought that the moment I paid tuition, put food on the table, and there's gas in their car, okay na. And then you realize that they've all grown up, and when you start to reach out, they say, 'Dad, my friends are waiting for me. I have to go. I'll see you later.' And then you're like, 'Oops.'" Edu divulges.
Children don't stay children for long, and if you're slow to pick up on that special time in their lives when mom and dad, and no one else, are their favorite people in the whole, wide world, regrets are sure to follow.
"That's when I started [asking], 'Do I have to fill out a new application to apply as Dad?, to quietly try to sneak my way back in?" Edu says.
As it seems, his application wasn't only approved, but ended up on the preferred applicants list. And in the end, he was deemed to be the best candidate to fill in the vacancy and he's since enjoyed numerous promotions, raises, paid vacations, and a full retirement package, to boot.
These days "I love yous" and "I love you toos" are shared between Edu, Luis, Addie, and Enzo as easily as a family-sized bowl of popcorn on movie night at home. Calls are accepted at any time of the day (even when its 4 p.m. in New York, and 4 a.m. in Manila), and as for keeping each other updated? That's an every day occurrence for these four.
Edu is more than satisfied with where his heart as a father is at.
Perhaps his kids and his mended relationships with them are to thank for, well, attracting the good vibes; how his new show launched on Father's Day and had his kids as its very first guests could be Divine Providence working behind the scenes, the hand of destiny bringing things full circle.
To dads, Edu shares this message: "Have as much fun as possible. Enjoy your kids to the hilt! They're not always going to be there... Maybe COVID has brought back and is also giving us a chance to look at our kids from a different point of view, a different perspective."
Knowing that his personal life is a blessing among the tragedies befalling countless Filipinos has given him the strength to keep going.
It hasn't been pleasant, not at all, to hear that friends, acquaintances, and family members have fallen prey to COVID-19 or to the myriad of its consequences. It's alright to grieve, he reminds us all, but when the grieving has been done, what comes next is to dust the dirt off our knees, stand up, and fight again.
"After (grieving), you have to get back up on your feet because a lot of people are depending on you. It's not all about you anymore. That's the kind of advice I would like to give," he says.
Now as Edu's first-ever Zoom photo shoot and interview come to an end, he's happy to say that he'll be fine hanging out at home as he waits for July to roll in along with the final details of his back-to-work schedule. With the week or so in-between now and then, he's even looking to fill the time with fresh activities.
"We get into an abyss of sullenness. You become down and out and feel deprived. When you start opening your eyes and just try to be more of a sponge and start absorbing stuff, you start realizing that there's so much to do! I'm not going to waste my time and lock myself up in my room. I'm going to learn something new as often as I can," he shares.
He's also definitely proud of the fact that he doesn't only join Zoom meetings now, but hosts them from time to time—this, after he spent years avoiding learning new tech.
He lets out a hearty laugh at the ironic turn of events.
"You're put in this world to do your thing, to have your fun. You can have fun! I'm 64 and having so much fun. I can make the silliest things look acceptable all because it's okay with me. I don't have to rely on other people's opinions as long as I don't affect people negatively, then I'm happy," Edu ends
And with a perspective like his, it comes to no surprise that good vibes haven't only come Edu's way, but come from him, too, making their way to others' lives and bringing nothing but smiles, happiness, and positive energy.
Now that's something that deserves a toast. A round of single malt Scotch on us, and a cheers to Edu.
Produced by Grace Libero-Cruz
Photography by Seven Barretto
Creative direction by Kat Cruz-Villanueva
Sittings editor: Geolette Esguerra