After a career in ABS-CBN that spanned 50 years, star maker Johnny Manahan said his walks down the network's corridors started to bring much nostalgia, as far back as the heydays of Panchito, Dolphy's sparring partner. He felt it was time to leave.
Manahan, Mr. M to his many wards, is now on a self-imposed "hiatus" after seeing ABS-CBN through two closures, one during martial law in the 1970s and the most recent one in May 2020 when its franchise expired.
The single-season run of his show, SNL, ended on TV5. It was produced by Brightlight Productions and starred many of his prized wards, including Piolo Pascual and Maja Salvador.
There was also this "shadow talent center" that clashed with the network's in-house talent management arm, Star Magic, Manahan said in a rare interview with Summit Media Group journalists.
"I thought it was time to go. I found myself walking, like touring the ABS, touring the studios, and feeling nostalgic about the old days," he said.
"Maybe I should just forget about things, do something else... God, I've been here so long," he said. Manahan said he got tired and wanted to just stay home after he quit the network.
The shadow agency "didn't sit well" with his staff, Manahan said. "It makes us irrelevant. They're trying to make us irrelevant."
Manahan said he tried to bring up his concern with management for three years but nothing happened.
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No one left to talk to
Manahan said that when former ABS-CBN boss Freddie Garcia recruited him from Channel 13 in the late 1980s, they agreed that he would only talk to very few people at top management.
Garcia eventually retired and so did his replacement, Charo Santos-Concio. "There was nobody else to talk to except the new guys," Manahan said. These newer staffers "don't understand that it was such a corrosive thing to do, having another talent management center."
"I saw two beginnings and two endings. Of course, ABS has moved on. They're trying to, whatever they have to now to survive and make money. I think they will be back. They have very good people there," he said.
"ABS-CBN has been good to me," he said.
Manahan's first project for ABS-CBN in the late 1980s was "Chika Chika Chicks," a reboot of the same show from Channel 13, "Chicks to Chicks" starring Nova Villa, Freddie Web, and Carmi Martin.
Garcia at that time asked him how long it would take for Channel 2 to reach number 1. It took faster than Manahan's estimate of one to two years.
During pre-martial law ABS-CBN, Manahan worked with Panchito, Pilita Corales, Pilar Pilapil, and Vic Vargas. At that time, Mr. M said he worked behind the scenes.
What made ABS-CBN number one? Manahan said the network had a "sense of what the public wants."
"That's how we started ABS, number one for many, many years," he said.