JANICE De Belen is turning 54 on November 9 and she just realized that in 5 years, she’ll be celebrating her 50th year in showbiz.
“I was only 9 years old when I started on TV in ‘Newswatch Kids Edition’ and did the play, ‘Himala’, a Tagalog adaptation of ‘The Miracle Worker’ where I played the blind
Helen Keller,” she says. “At ang dami ng nangyari sa buhay ko since then.”
She was a hit child star in the long-running TV series “Flor de Luna” and in films like “Tropang Bulilit” and “Mga Basang Sisiw”. At 13, she was launched to teen stardom in “Puppy Love” opposite Gabby Concepcion that really started a romance between them. She has a love son with Aga Muhlach, Luigi, who’s now 35 years old and has given her four grandkids. She has three daughters and one son with John Estrada.
Recently, Janice won two consecutive awards: the International Filmfest Manhattan best actress award for “Sugat sa Dugo” and the Famas best supporting actress award for “Big Night”.
“They’re both unexpected,” she says. “Kasi maikli lang ang roles ko in both of them. When they informed me I won an award in New York, hindi nga ako makapaniwala, until they gave me the trophy. Siempre, thank you very much. Totoo pala ‘yung sinasabing wala sa haba ng role yan.”
What’s her role in “Sugat sa Dugo”, which is produced by beauty maven Bambi Fuentes and directed by Danni Ugali?
“I play the mother of the kids being introduced in the movie: Khai Flores as Jack, Christa Jocson as May and Shira Tweg as Ana. Absentee mother ako rito. Laging walang sa bahay. Katwiran ko, malalaki na kayo. Then sumasama ako sa boyfriends kong foreigners. Hindi ko alam, HIV positive na pala si Jack.”
So how is it working with newcomers Khai and Shira? “Okay naman sila. They have great potential so hindi naman ako nahirapan. They do their homework and they’re always on their toes kasi laging nandiyan si Bambi para talakan sila.”
Bambi Fuentes butts in at this point. “Hindi lang alam ni Janice, pero lahat ng batang cast members, starstruck sila sa kanya kaya nahihiya. But she was very nice to them and quickly put them at ease.”
“Naku, ewan ko ba, sarili kong mga anak, naiilang na makatrabaho ako,” says Janice. “Ina (Estrada, her eldest daughter) and I did an episode in ‘Dear Uge’ and later, she told me, Ma, I don’t want to work with you again. Nai-intimidate yata e wala naman akong ginagawa. Ako, I really want to work with new actors kasi I want to help them. I give them tips on acting kasi ayokong kapag may scene kayo, paulit-ulit ang take, nakakapagod. In fairness kay Khai Flores dito, puro take one ang scenes namin, kahit na yung heavy dramatic scenes na may iyakan.”
How is it working with new director Dani Ugali? “I’ve known Dani for a long time as he used to be a production assistant sa Regal at marami na kaming movies and shows na pinagsamahan. Nagulat nga ako na full fledged director na pala siya ngayon dito sa ‘Sugat sa Ugat’. I enjoyed working with him as he’s very collaborative and ayan, binigyan pa ako ng international acting award.”
In a vlog interview, she said she’s willing to work again with Aga Muhlach but not with John Estrada. Why so?
“Kasi magkaiba naman sila. Aga and I were never married while John was my husband, so it’s really different. The reason why John and I separated is not a small thing, not just a disagreement. So many hurtful words were exchanged, so although when we see each other now in showbiz events, we’re cordial to each other, pero iba pa rin yung magtatrabaho kayo together. After all that happened between us, we might just inconvenience the people we will be working with, so huwag na lang.”
Janice is very proud to be part of an advocacy film like “Sugat sa Dugo”. “It’s a relevant story to remind parents that they have a responsibility to guide their children para hindi sila magaya sa anak ko rito na naging HIV positive. It also warns young people not to give way to the pleasures of the flesh kasi may consequences ‘yan. Don’t miss the film when it opens in selected theaters on September 28.”