Janine Gutierrez has done a lot of interesting work—and continues to do so. She even won a Best Actress award from the Gawad Urian last year for her role in the film Babae at Baril.
You’ve probably forgotten this, if you even noticed it at all, because most of the media coverage about her recently has been about her recent transfer from GMA-7, her home network for 10 years, to ABS-CBN.
Of course, that career move deserves the headlines. Janine isn’t the first actor to change home networks during the pandemic. There have been several artists, a few whose names are bigger than Janine’s, who moved from ABS-CBN to either GMA-7 or TV5. But Janine is the first to transfer to ABS-CBN during the pandemic and after the network lost its franchise.
Presumably, behind the showbiz headlines is this question: Why would an actress like Janine leave the comforts of an established, secure organization for a media company that doesn’t have the license to air on free TV?
Some fans and a few showbiz insiders even described the actress’ move as “brave.”
I don’t know if it’s like a full circle moment. Pero ako rin, I have to remind myself na I’ve been doing this for quite a while now. Kasi when I first stepped into ASAP, I got those flashbacks of me starting in a variety show.
Janine, however, does not think it is brave. Or more specifically, she did stop to think if her career choice was “brave” or not.
“I did not feel that because I really wanted to do it. So hindi ko inisip na matapang itong gagawin ko kasi alam ko na merong plano para sa akin,” Janine told PhilSTAR L!fe in a Zoom interview.
The actress added that she knows the network, even without a franchise, has a plan for her. “So I didn’t see it as a brave move but I appreciate everyone who says that and thinks that. Ang inisip ko lang is, I like my work and I want to work there,” she said.
The plan, Janine shared, includes a TV series and a movie, apart from her co-hosting gig on the network’s Sunday variety show ASAP Natin 'To. Before news about her transfer was confirmed, Twitter was abuzz that Janine was the perfect choice to play the villainess Valentina in the upcoming ABS-CBN superhero show Darna. The talk might have started because she was seen in a photo with ABS-CBN executives and actor Paulo Avelino, who is also part of Darna, although they were probably together because they share the same manager. In any case, Janine was non-committal in her answer when asked about this during her ABS-CBN press conference and during her interview with PhilSTAR L!fe, simply reiterating that she is set to star in an ABS-CBN TV series.
“It’s so interesting kasi nagulat din ako dun. It’s not something that was discussed. So the first time I heard about it was on Twitter. Kaya yung answer ko nung presscon was like, Interesting. Because it’s something that I have never thought of. So yun pa rin yung sagot ko. It’s interesting. It’s an iconic role and we’ll see, we’ll see if there are plans for something like that,” she said.
While Janine may dismiss the idea of being called “brave,” this isn’t the first time she’s been described as such.
And this is probably one of the other reasons why you might not notice or have forgotten that she is doing interesting work as an actress: news about the 31-year-old actress often centers on her being vocal about expressing her thoughts about national and political issues.
For instance: She expressed her frustration over the ABS-CBN shutdown last year, being one of the more vocal artists from the rival network to speak out about the issue. (This was before she moved to ABS-CBN)
“It’s your right as a Filipino to speak up, question and be involved. I will repeat that your voice matters,” Janine said in a June 2020 tweet, in response to comments that she shouldn’t comment about national issues. Her tweet, naturally, made the news as well.
But perhaps her most memorable—again, others might say “bravest”—moment of speaking up was in December 2019, when Janine reacted to a news item that actor and senator Bong Revilla would make a TV comeback on GMA-7 by tweeting, “Oh God.” Many saw the tweet as Janine criticizing GMA-7's move to produce a show for Revilla, who was acquitted of plunder over his involvement in the multi-billion pork barrel scam in 2018, but was ordered to return P124.5 million to the National Treasury by the Sandigangbayan (he is out on bail for his pending graft cases)
Before confirmation that Janine signed with ABS-CBN, a few showbiz followers and pundits wondered if Janine moved to the Kapamilya Network because of her comments. Of course—since artists transferring networks are often met with negative comments, as showbiz is seen as an industry that places a high value on loyalty—that is most likely just empty talk.
Nonetheless, Janine maintains the need to be vocal on important issues. “I feel like it’s really, really important. Hindi lang bilang artista, kundi bilang ano pa man ang trabaho mo. It’s important to be involved and informed. Hindi tayo dapat maging passive sa mga pangyayari sa paligid natin.”
As an actor, it is important to speak out. And if you can shed light on anything that needs shedding light on, malaking bagay yun.
Janine added she often gets comments ordering her to stop talking because, as a celebrity, she knows nothing and is not involved in these issues.
“We’re all citizens, di ba? So you are affected and you are involved. And as an actor, it is important to speak out. And if you can shed light on anything that needs shedding light on, malaking bagay yun,” she said.
Is she afraid that her comments would inevitably put her in the spotlight (or, more accurately, the hot seat) because she is a celebrity? No, Janine said, because if it’s an important issue then isn’t that what you would want to happen—to put the discussion about important matters in the spotlight?
“Na marinig siya ng ibang tao, na mapagaralan siya ng ibang tao, mapagdebatihan. If that’s gonna bring forth a constructive discussion, then that’s gonna be a good thing,” Janine added.
On her transfer from GMA-7 to ABS-CBN, she said: "Ang prinioritize ko talaga is my relationship with my former network. So, I’ve always believed na when it comes to relationships, ang pinaka-importante is kayong nasa relationship, di ba. Whether it be a romantic relationship or relationship with your parents, what matters most is what you both know to be true and not what the other people around you will say."
"When I made paalan, nakapagpaalam kami ng maayos, and they all wished me well in my future endeavors. So that’s all that really mattered to me. Hindi ko na inisip kung ano pa iisipin ng ibang tao."
It can be hard to appreciate this kind of stance or career move from an artist working in an industry where every move could be calculated or performative, where every tweet or Instagram post can be used for marketing or self-promotion. But it has to be noted that while being vocal about anything is difficult for anyone affiliated with Philippine showbiz, one can only assume it is a bit more difficult for Janine because she comes from showbiz lineage.
And this is another reason why you probably don’t know why Janine has been doing interesting work: She is a pretty girl from a showbiz family, and some might dismiss her because of this.
Janine is the daughter of former showbiz couple Lotlot de Leon and Ramon “Monching” Gutierrez, both of whom also come from showbiz families. Lotlot is the daughter of Nora Aunor and Christopher de Leon; Monching is the son of Pilita Corrales and Eddie Gutierrez, making him (and Janine) part of the big Gutierrez showbiz family.
I can’t deny na bilang anak ng artista, sobrang may privilege na you have like a foot in the door… But when it comes to staying there and proving yourself, that’s all up to you.
Basically, that means anything Janine says or does will ruffle the feathers of someone she or her family knows or is connected with. (According to a PEP.ph report, Pilita scolded Janine over her Bong Revilla tweet.)
“Ever since I was a kid, tinatanong ako kung gusto ko mag-artista,” Janine said, aware of the kind of expectation the public has on children of celebrities.
Janine was studying European Studies at the Ateneo de Manila University when she decided to give show business a try because, she said quite blunty, “wala akong pera.”
“As in wala na talaga akong panggastos,” she quipped.
So off to showbiz she went, starting as a regular performer in the now-defunct GMA-7 Sunday variety show Party Pilipinas. “I don’t know if it’s like a full-circle moment. Pero ako rin, I have to remind myself na I’ve been doing this for quite a while now,” she said about the coincidence of beginning her journey as an ABS-CBN artist in a Sunday variety show.
Then, as part of the supporting cast in soap operas My Beloved and Makapiling Kang Muli before playing the lead in the 2014 drama Villa Quintana, a remake of the '90s soap opera of the same name.
Janine is aware she got to where she is now because of her privilege—specifically being the daughter of Lotlot and Monching, a popular love team from the '80s, is like having a foot in the door of showbiz the moment she was born.
She admitted, “If you do want to try (showbiz), magagawan ng paraan. And there are offers na parang, ‘Uy, maga-artista ka ba.’ I guess that’s because there are also a lot of showbiz families in the Philippines. So people do assume that that’s where you’re headed. You do have that opportunity.”
That doesn’t mean staying—let alone thriving—in show business is easy because of her showbiz lineage. “Hindi porke’t may mga kamag-anak kang artista, ibig sabihin na magiging successful ka na artista. Lahat yun nakasalalay na sayo,” she said.
Not just a fashion muse
Janine got her groove soon after her first lead role on TV. And because of her looks—which could be described as a cross between a model and a beauty queen—she was a favorite in fashion shows and magazine covers.
GMA Artist Center, her former network’s talent agency, even marketed her a “fashion muse” early in her career—a unique showbiz label that stuck, as her headline-making attendance at the New York Fashion Week and Paris Fashion Week in 2019 could attest.
The tag gave her a unique edge against her showbiz contemporaries as she was seen by the industry and the public as an “It girl”—even though, at that point, she didn’t have the filmography to back up her supposed popularity and reputation.
Janine recalled having a meeting a couple of years ago, just before winning her Gawad Urian Best Actress award for Babae at Baril. Someone said she could only play a limited range of roles on TV and movies—because she’s pretty.
“Somebody told me, ‘Hindi natin maaalis na yung itsura mo, medyo maganda ka, mahirap basagin yung sa itsura mo so bagay ka lang sa ganitong klaseng role. Hindi natin maaalis sa personality mo na ganito yung bagay sayo’,” she shared.
This is why, Janine added, winning the Urian, generally considered as the foremost Philippine movie award-giving body, is a breakthrough for her. As an actress, Janine always thought she could do so much more, that she could play roles your normal showbiz “fashion muse” wouldn’t consider tackling.
But, for the longest time, Janine also thought she was the only one who believed that.
In Babae at Baril, Janine plays a department store saleslady whose life changes after finding a gun on her doorstep one night. The film is gritty, depicting the underbelly of society, far removed from the world of couture and fashion shows red carpets that people thought Janine lived in.
“So when I won the Urian for Babae at Baril na sobrang deglamorized, grabe yung kwento, it’s not something you would usually see me play, I was like, ‘Yes!’ Finally, It’s not just me who thinks I can play a wide array of roles na hinid lang nakakahon sa what some people might think of me as a cover girl, nagfa-Fashion Week. So now I have that as proof na pwede kong gawin yung ganung klaseng role,” she said.
Janine said: “At least now I don’t feel like ako lang yung naniniwala sa sarili ko. Parang, okay, maybe now, I don’t have to try to convince people na gusto kong maging artista o gusto kong umarte or kaya ko yung ganitong role.”
Babae at Baril may be her most critically-acclaimed movie portrayal to date, but her merits as an actress aren’t limited to that.
Besides a couple of mainstream movies, she starred in two independent films: Dagsin, a love story that’s partly set during World War II, and the psychological thriller Lila.
In the same year Babae at Baril was released, Janine also appeared in the romantic-comedy Elise opposite Enchong Dee. The film is easily one of the best Filipino films released that year, with film critic Philbert Dy saying that it “in its own low-key kind of way, is a masterpiece.”
Hers is a young filmography that shows Janine isn’t afraid to experiment and appear in movies that may not exactly be glamorous or even financial successes. But it is also one that shows that Janine is an actress who wants to take acting seriously. Janine wants to be taken seriously.
“There’s just something about making a film that feels so long-lasting, lalo na kung maganda yung nagawa mo and magiging timeless siya,” Janine said.
“Winish ko yan and I’m happy that it’s happening.”
Her upcoming movie Dito at Doon, opposite actor JC Santos, seems to be in the vein of her previous movie projects.
The film—directed by JP Habac and set to premiere in cinemas on March 17—is a romantic film set in the time of the pandemic. It is Janine’s first movie to be released since winning the Urian.
”Ang daming mga emosyon na lumabas na maybe ngayon lang natin naramdaman in our whole lives. The roller coaster of being happy one day and being sad the next. And in this way, na-share ko yung personal experience ko in what I went through during the lockdown and how unexpected things turned out,” Janine said.
She added, stating the importance of doing movies and TV show set in the present day: “Parang to ignore what actually happened and is happening to us is a disservice to all the emoitons that we went through. Parang kailangan mo talaga ipakita sa tao na hindi sila nagiisa sa pinagdaanan nila. That whatever is going on—whether may differences sa kung saan ka nakatira, ilang taon ka na, single ka ba—lahat tayo magkaramay sa kung ano ang pinagdaraanan natin.
“At the same time, para siyang time capsule na, hopefully, in 10 years, we can look back and say this is what happened during this time, this is what we survived, and this is what we went through.”
This isn’t to say Dito at Doon is entirely serious; it is a romantic film, after all, so expect to experience your usual Pinoy romcom kilig here.
As for her own, real-life kilig—Janine is currently in a relationship with GMA-7 actor (and former ABS-CBN artist) Rayver Cruz. She said, “It’s going well, it’s going well. It’s kinda bittersweet because I was really hoping to work with him. I was like really hoping that we would get to do something together there kasi yun na yung pagkakataon. But unfortunately, that didn’t happen. We don’t know naman what can happen in the future, maybe in a film or something. But he’s doing really well there. And I’m super excited to be on ABS-CBN. And he’s very supportive, and he’s doing very well also.”
Janine is happy—because of her personal life, because of her career, because of Dito at Doon—and it shows. “I’m super good. I’m so happy. Ang saya ko lang and I’m so grateful for everything. I feel like things are going well,” she said.
Still, she knows that there is still work to be done.
“Well, I don’t know. Because I’m happy sa mga na-achieve ko,” Janine when asked if she feels that she’s already successful, given her recent achievements. “But there’s still so much more that I want to achieve. Ang dami ko pang gustong gawin.”
Ang dami kong gustong gawin. I want to do a really good TV show on ABS-CBN. That’s something I’m really looking forward to. Gusto ko rin maging part ng international na project... I’m super good. I’m so happy. Ang saya ko lang and I’m so grateful for everything.
“Minsan nga, it’s so funny when I meet younger actresses and they say they like my work or congratulations, gusto ko yung pelikula mo. Parang I feel like dati ako yung ganun sa mga actresses who came before me.”
Janine added, “Some time has passed and some work has been done and I could say I’m in the middle because there’s still so much more I want to do.”
Photos by Stephen Capuchino/TBA Studios
Creative Direction: Justin Besaña/TBA Studios
Special thanks to Daphne Chiu, Paula Bringas, and Rogielou Patapat