When Jiro Manio received his high school diploma last month, it came with a special award for “Most Inspiring Student.”
His teachers at Rizal Experimental Station and Pilot School of Cottages Inc., a public school in Pasig, thought he deserved it for persevering through his studies and winning his battle with drug addiction.
“Sana po ay may natutunan ang ibang kabataan sa mga pinagdaanan ko. Iwasan nila ang mga nangyari sa akin at ipagpatuloy nila ang mag-aral para makatapos,” he said.
Jiro gave inspiration to many with his unforgettable performance in the 2003 film “Magnifico,” for which he was rewarded with a slew of Best Actor awards when he was only 10 years old.
Sadly, his life proved less than inspirational throughout his teens. He became a drug addict and fathered two children out of wedlock.His acting career ground to a halt as his life spiraled out of control.
The medal he received on his graduation day may not compare with the glitter of his trophies for “Magnifico,” but it is exactly the kind of validation he needs today. At 19, the actor is ready to turn over a new leaf.
“This is a new life for me. Aayusin ko na ang buhay ko,” he vowed.His journey of renewal began last year when he entered a drug rehabilitation facility after realizing that he was throwing his life away.
He recalled that fateful period: “Hindi ko na po kasi nagugustuhan ang mga nangyayari sa akin. Nasisira na ang relasyon ko sa pamilya ko. Binale-wala ko na ang career ko. Hindi ko na po sinisipot ang mga trabaho ko. Gusto ko lang makipagbarkada at magbisyo.”
For the sake of his two children, now aged 4 and 1, he resolved to kick his drug habit.
With the encouragement of his father, Andrew, and his manager, “Magnifico” director Maryo J. Delos Reyes, Jiro committed himself to the Home Care rehabilitation center, where he underwent therapy for almost a year.“Nadisiplina po ako sa Home Care. They really took care of me,” he said.
After the initial phase of his rehabilation, Home Care allowed him to finish his senior year of high school. His wards brought him to school and back.
“Kaya ako nakatapos ng high school kasi determinado ako na maging maayos ang buhay ko. Ginawa ko po ito para sa pamilya ko at sa mga anak ko,” he said.
The discipline inside the rehab center included scheduled house chores and prayer time.
“Doon ako natutong magdasal nang maayos. Mas naging madadasalin na nga ako. Lahat ng nangyayari sa akin ngayon, ipinapasalamat ko ito kay God,” he said.
He is also grateful for the financial support of Manila vice mayor Isko Moreno and Manila councilor Yul Servo. Both Isko and Yul, also managed by Direk Maryo, shouldered Jiro’s monthly expenses at Home Care.
“Malaki ang utang na loob ko sa mga kuya kong ‘yan. Hindi naman daw nila ako sisingilin. Bilang kapalit ng tulong nila, gusto nilang tuparin ko ang promise ko na magbago at maging masipag ulit sa trabaho,” he said.
“Yun naman po ang gagawin ko.
Magsusumikap ulit ako para maayos ang buhay ko at maipagmalaki nila ako,” he added.
No one is happier with Jiro’s dramatic recovery than the man who raised him, Andrew, who is really his uncle.
Jiro never met his biological father, a Japanese. Andrew is the brother of Jiro’s mother, who passed away four years ago.
“Bilang tumatayong magulang niya, nandiyan ako sa tabi niya kahit na ano pa ang pagdaanan niya. Mahal ko ang anak ko, at lahat gagawin ko para maituwid ang buhay niya,” Andrew said.
“I am proud of my son. Alam ko na makakabangon siya. Bigyan lang siya ng isa pang pagkakataon.”Although Jiro is eager to get back into acting, he plans to go to college and take up either Culinary Arts or Aeronautics.
“Marami akong gusto pa, eh. Mamimili pa ako. Sa ngayon, gusto ko munang makabalik sa pag-arte para makapag-ipon sa pang-college ko.”
He also needs to think about the schooling of his 4-year-old daughter, who has graduated from nursery. “Pag-iipunan ko rin ang pag-aaral niya,” he said.
Jiro is set to star in an upcoming episode of “Maalaala Mo Kaya” on ABS-CBN. The story will be about his life as a troubled teenager. Negotiations are also under way for him to join a drama series on TV5.