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Luis Manzano's 'No B.S.' Attitude Is The Secret To His Success

The outspoken host is not one to shy away from the spotlight—or from calling people out on their crap

by Marla Miniano-Umali | May 11, 2018

“Be the nicest person you can be—be kind, be generous, be respectful—but do not take shit from anyone. If anyone starts shit with you, give it back tenfold.”

T*ngina nito, ah.” Luis Manzano points at someone from our team and shakes his head in indignation, his stage whisper piercing the atmosphere of the otherwise quiet studio on a Friday afternoon.

We all freeze, wondering if the 37-year-old host and actor is about to walk out of the shoot. “Anong black-and-white photos? Black and white kasi pangit ako?” His comedic timing is perfect, his delivery specifically engineered to take his audience on a roller coaster of emotions in 30 seconds or less. His face finally cracks into a wide grin, eyes twinkling with mischief, and everyone breathes a sigh of relief as he positions himself in front of the camera, ready for his close-up. “Gago, joke lang,” he says. “Alam ko namang guwapo ako.

Two things you should know about Luis: One, he swears a lot. A lot. And two, he’s f*cking self-aware, sometimes even shockingly so, and always to the point of self-deprecation.

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“I know what people say about me every time there’s a new tally for FHM’s 100 Sexiest,” he tells us. “Sinong number one? O, baka ‘yan na kasunod na girlfriend ni Luis.” This glorious coincidence—that he’s been in a relationship with not one, not two, but three of the #1 Sexiest Women in the Land—is not lost on anyone. But if you think this is something Luis will engage in boys’ talk with you about with a wink-wink-nudge-nudge, think again. He seems almost embarrassed when we bring it up, the only sign of discomfort he shows in an otherwise candid interview. “It’s not exactly a badge of honor that I carry around,” he finally says, choosing his words carefully. “I can’t expound on that. I have to give these ladies proper respect. They’re not simply statistics. Napaka-pangit naman isipin n’on. Nagkakataon lang.”

Okay, we make a mental note. No ex talk. But at the mention of his current partner, actress Jessy Mendiola (who fielded wedding proposal rumors earlier this week and told reporters, “Naghihintay lang ako,”), Luis’s face lights up and he leans forward, eager to talk about her. “She’s not really a sexy dresser on regular days,” he says when asked if he has restrictions on how much skin his girlfriend shows. “When we go out, she has her moods when she’s very dainty; sometimes she’s boyish. But I’m not the type to mind what she wears, or who she hangs out with.” We point out that a lot of conservative Filipino men still can’t wrap their heads around women hanging out with their guy friends or wearing whatever the hell they want, insisting that one shouldn’t court danger or dangle temptation in front of other men. “Basically, it all boils down to trust,” he says. “Just because a girl dresses sexy or hangs out with men, doesn’t give anyone the right na bastusin siya. Let the women enjoy. If they want to dress a certain way, hayaan niyo. Kayo, subukan niyo, mag-mall kayo nang naka-nipple tape lang. Ang sama naman na kinakahon natin ang mga babae according to what they should wear, how they should act, and whom they should spend time with.”

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What he won’t take in stride, though, are the bashers—both his and Jessy’s. Known for replying to leering comments on Jessy’s Instagram posts, he gets creative with his clapbacks, the burn level ranging from moderate (“Basa-basa, may internet na nga”) to scorching (“’Tay, medyo may edad na po kayo. Itulog niyo na po ‘yan”). The clever way he deals with trolls is compilation-worthy, often making entertainment headlines and sending out a message loud and clear: you can’t mess with Luis without consequences. “I’ve always believed this,” he says, “Be the nicest person you can be—be kind, be generous, be respectful—but do not take shit from anyone. If anyone starts shit with you, give it back tenfold.”

It’s a mindset that dates back to his childhood, when he’d get into fights at school. Coming home with a bruise here or a scratch there, his mother would take one look at him and ask, “Nakaganti ka ba?” He’d say yes, and that would be the end of the conversation. These days, though, his mom is always the first to confront him after an online altercation. “She’d text me, ‘Anak, ano na namang ginawa mo? Sino na namang inaway mo?’ with at least a thousand and one question marks and exclamation points,” he shares. “But it’s not always about taking the higher road. Sometimes people need to learn their lesson the tough way.”

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His mother, of course, Congresswoman and Star for All Seasons Vilma Santos-Recto, needs no introduction. Neither does their ultra-close relationship, with the showbiz legend’s iconic “I love you, Lucky!” sign-off popularized in the ‘80s still ringing through the country’s collective consciousness. With Mother’s Day coming up, Luis reiterates that he doesn’t mind being called a mama’s boy. “There are no negative connotations because it just means my mom takes care of me and checks up on me,” he says. “I do get attracted to women who share my mom’s traits. We can get psychological about it, but maybe it’s just because you already have an example of how a perfect woman should be, right in front of you.”

It doesn’t take a genius to figure out that this is why Luis has been comfortable being around strong, independent (and yes, beautiful) women all his life. “I guess if we’re going to talk about alpha women, no one beats my mom,” he says. “My Momskie has been blessed to be very successful in every facet of her life. We celebrate her as one of the finest actors in the Philippines, and as a politician, napakagaling niya. She’s also an amazing mother and wife. So when I see women who succeed, I look up to them. I don’t get intimidated.”

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The topic of strong, independent women naturally leads to actress and athlete Anne Curtis, who chose him as her Man of Honor when she married long-time sweetheart Erwan Heussaff. The footage of Luis crying at the ceremony in New Zealand has gone viral, but he isn’t self-conscious about it at all. “I got emotional because finally, she found someone who can make her happy, and vice versa,” he says earnestly. “I got to witness so many ups and downs when it came to Anne’s love life. But now finally, I can sleep better at night knowing that my best friend is being loved the way she deserves to be loved.”

"As a host, I have a longer shelf life compared to leading men. If you’re a leading man, once you get a girlfriend or get married, you automatically change your image. Some people say the star value goes down. But as a host, I’m not trapped by those standards"

It’s 2018, but there is still a certain stigma that comes with the territory of male-female friendships. Are they not ticking time bombs? Can they really be purely platonic? Again, Luis refuses to subscribe to lazy, old-fashioned, pre-woke assumptions. “There’s a certain finesse to the dynamics of a male-female friendship,” he says. “Not everyone understands that; some people automatically assume that there has to be romance involved. But there’s something so innocent about a pure friendship between a guy and a girl. Anne and I have such similar personalities, and we’ve been through so much together. That’s something special.”

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Luis and Anne met at a bar in 2002, roughly the same time he was starting out in the industry as a model for local clothing brand Human. Since then, he’s been in a total of 14 movies and more than 30 television shows, both as an actor and a host—and he shows no signs of fading away into the background anytime soon. He credits his career stability to his ability to “swing all ways,” evident in his wide variety of hosting gigs, to his excellent work ethic, and to the fact that he’s a good listener. “People mistake hosting for simply talking, but you have to listen to your staff, listen to the audience, listen to the people around you,” he says. “I’m also fortunate that as a host, I have a longer shelf life compared to leading men. If you’re a leading man, once you get a girlfriend or get married, you automatically change your image. Some people say the star value goes down. But as a host, I’m not trapped by those standards. For most hosts, the older you get, the more credible you become.”

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It is this confidence in his longevity, this sturdy self-assurance in what he has already built, that allows Luis to venture outside of the traditional artista mold. And as it is with stereotypes, it’s best to shatter them in a multitude of ways. There’s his insistence that people don’t deserve to know everything about his personal life—even if they think they do. There’s also the unapologetic manner in which he talks about responding to his bashers. “My social media accounts have no moderators or admins,” he says. “So kung isa kayo sa mga minura ko, ako talaga ‘yon.” And then there’s his social media presence itself, a 9GAG-inspired feed peppered with funny videos and satirical quips. There is no vanity involved, no posing or preening of any kind. “Mukha ba akong ka-selfie selfie?” he asks incredulously. “If you noticed, I don’t even check the pictures when I do shoots. That’s because with this mug, I can’t believe I’m doing what I’m doing. There are so many better-looking people out there. When I say, ‘Condolences sa lahat ng mga patay na patay sa akin,’ I don’t mean it. Obviously.”

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Laughter echoes throughout the studio, but his face turns serious and his tone shifts. “We all go through something every day, so if the videos I post make you happy, then go ahead, ako na bahala sa ‘yo,” he says. “I get so many DMs telling me that they were so close to giving up or committing suicide, but after watching my stories, they felt better.” He smiles, and we wait for a punch line, but just this once, there seems to be none. “I guess I’m doing something good.”

Photography Andrea Beldua Styling Rex Atienza Assisted Dane Barroso Grooming Peps Silvestre

Clothing credits Photo 1: Inner, TM Lewin; suit, G2000; Photo 2: Dress shirt, Van Laack, trousers, mango; Photos 3&4: Checkered inner, cardigan vest & coat from TM Lewin; trousers, American Eagle Outfitters; Photos 5&6: Pullover, marks & spencer; pants, Mango


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