Armed with a trove of life’s experiences, Jolina Magdangal, the original teen queen of the 90s comes full circle as a modern woman, ready to take on new chapters—quirks and all.
It was just right before the turn of the new millennium when Butuan city in was at the cusp of being a bustling metropolis. Mid-sized grocery stores were expanding into department stores, a bowling alley and a swimming complex was the hippest place to be and near the city’s top university stood a new and wildly spirited commercial import from Manila—Jolina’s Fashion Gallery.
The memory of its opening is a little hazy but what remained vivid was that it certainly sent pleasant shock waves to what was then a relatively sleepy town—that time seemingly stood still as ribbons were cut, confetti rained on the concrete, music blasted and children flocked to the gates near the school all to catch a glimpse of the original teen queen, Jolina Magdangal.
Since then, little and not-so little girls (and boys) would go in droves to the store and leave being Jolina-fied. Yes, with the ubiquitous butterfly clips resting atop and bouncing on their heads and multi-colored beads accentuating their braids and tendrils.
A certified icon at an impressionable 16 years old in 1999, with record-breaking music sales, top-rating TV shows, blockbuster movies (kids of the 90s admitted to cutting classes and trooped to the cinemas just to watch her film with Marvin Agustin, Labs Kita, Okay Ka Lang? Don’t worry mom, this writer didn’t), and a seeming empire to her name, she was at the top of the game. Her success would continue years later, even with a much publicized network transfer that shook the very core of local show business. Yes, Jolina Magdangal was—and still is—powerful.
However, somewhere along the line, the proverbial music mellowed down.
Where Did Jolina Go?
“’Yung before, hindi naman ako totally nagpahinga eh. Siguro dati pinipili ko kung ano ‘yung gusto kong gawin or ‘yung kaya ko at that time. Hanggang sa nagbuntis na ako,” she beamed with that unmistakable glint of wonder in her eye during our conversation sometime in 2015 for her MEGA magazine cover.
It was true; she would sporadically pop up on television with a guesting spot here, a series there, but nothing remotely grand that should is deserving of a Jolina Magdangal. However, she wasn’t one to demand or rush things. A firm believer in things falling into place in its own time and pace, she waited.
In the time she was seemingly slowing things down, she got married to Mark Escueta in 2011 and two years later, celebrated the birth of their son, Pele. “Iba,” she paused to take in a comfortable sigh as we talked about her new role in life, as a mother.
“Lumawak pa ‘yung pag-unawa mo sa buhay. Siyempre pag teenager, may pagka-impatient ka. Dati pagpuyat ka…tulog pa. Ngayon, anong puyat?” Jolina then narrated an instance earlier in the day where she wrapped up shooting for a soap opera she was part of then, Flordeliza at 2 AM “Siyempre maaga ang gising ko kasi maaga nagigising si Pele at kelangan ko siyang i-breastfeed. Wala akong pakialam. Ang sarap ng feeling kasi anak ko ‘to eh,” she reasoned.
Since then, Jolina Magdangal would not only relish being a mother, as she does to this day with Pele and her daughter, Vika, but she really came into her own as a woman celebrating this chapter of her life. From intimate glimpses of her life as a mother with constant and consistent social media posts aptly filed under the hashtags, #PeleSerye and #TeleVika, Jolina Magdangal has become way more than just the teen queen of her time in the 90s and a paragon of local pop culture. Today, she has fully assumed being a Momshie, a term of endearment for a mother that has parlayed from colloquial conversations to an enduring morning talk show, Magandang Buhay, with Karla Estrada and Melai Cantiveros on ABS-CBN.
“Hindi siya madali ha,” she said of being a mother, explaining her and her husband’s decision to be pro-active parents, career and challenges notwithstanding. In what would become a constant topic of conversation on the informative, inspiring, and informative show, she furthered: “Kasi meron at merong nagsasabing: ‘Ano bang klaseng nanay ka, dala-dala mo siya sa lahat.’ Eto akong klaseng mommy, hangga’t kaya ko na dalhin ko siya o makakagawa ako ng paraan na nandiyan lang siya, gagawin ko kasi ‘yun ang unang-una kong sinabi eh—magiging hands-on ako.”
There is an air of contentment that washes over her elfin frame, which was made even brighter with a smile that needed no explanation as she coddled her beautiful baby. Already an image that reduced us to a pool of awwws, it was made even more perfect when a then baby Pele responded with a giggly smile as well. “Kahit anong puyat ko, basta katabi ko siya, iba ‘yung saya ko. Talagang priceless,” she said.
The Way Back
In an exercise of swift yet perfect timing, Jolina Magdangal-Escueta found herself thrust into the welcome but glaring spotlight when the rumors were revealed to be true years back—Jolina Magdangal was coming home to where it all started, ABS-CBN.
“Masarap ang feeling kasi ang warm ng welcome,” she gushed of her homecoming to the network that she started with way back. “Umuwi ako na proud ako na ganito niyo ako pinalaki, ganito rin ako babalik.”
“May mga times na pag natutulog ako, parang iba ‘yung feeling ko eh. Minsan hindi nagsi-sink sa akin na pag-guest ako sa mga show, may mga nakaabang sa labas ng dressing room para magpa-picture at nagsasabi na: ‘Kumpleto na childhood namin,’” Jolina Magdangal detailed. “Ako parang, ‘Talaga?’ Nahihiya ako. Very ano…thankful and grateful na makakabalik ako sa ABS-CBN, kung saan ako parang pinanganak at lumaki.”
The word “throwback” gets thrown around a lot these days, with its currency, nostalgia, being a curious thing. While it is a wonderful memory one looks back to from time to time, it can also be a propelling force forward. “Kung ano ako ngayon, masaya ako na pinagdaanan ko ‘yun lahat. Siguro lahat naman mangyari, may magrerebelde na bata. So ako, kung ano ako ngayon, konektado siya lahat sa kung saan ako pupunta,” she mused.
As understandably overwhelmed as she gets from time to time, Jolina is sure that this is where she is supposed to be at this point of her life. See, perfect timing.
“Ako po si Jolina Magdangal-Escueta,” she said during her first guesting spot for The Buzz, words warm, genuine, and earnest.
One would wonder why someone of her stature would find the need to introduce herself again, to a different audience specifically. “Gusto ko makita nila na sa showbiz, wala kang masyadong maipapagmalaki kung hindi mo mahal ang trabaho mo. Dahil forever ka dapat natututo. Forever ka mago-grow. At kahit ano pa man ang in store for me, gagawin ko ‘yun kasi gusto ko pang ma-excite,” said this icon of her own right in show business. And as things stands, there is a reinstated sense of vigor that is prodding her to tackle new things in entertainment. “Siguro ngayon kahit marami na akong pinagdaanan, gusto ko pa, gusto ko pa! Gusto pang gawin ‘to, gawin ‘yan.”
Still The Same
What does it take then, to be Jolina?
“A good person,” she replied without batting her mascara-coated lashes. “Kahit ano man ang estado mo sa mundo, kung mabuti kang tao ikaw na ang the best. Marami kang napapatawa, matutulungan, mapapasaya at mai-inspire, more pa ‘yun sa pera o katanyagan. Ako, ‘yun talaga.”And you know what, we agree. One doesn’t get to where one is without being even the least bit nice. Jolina Magdangal-Escueta is proof that with the right amount of re-invention, talent, a true love for what she does and an overall nice personality, one can and will go places.
Today, she no longer sports colorful beads, mismatched eyeshadows, and yes, the butterfly clips as she did then. However, that doesn’t mean she isn’t as spirited as she was before. In fact, she still relents to the same sense of charm and chuva-choo-choo that has cemented her in the league of legends that still slays to this very day. (A hilarious parody account on Facebook and Twitter? No one comes close to her power, really.) Whether it be a magnificent pearl headband or festive pair of earrings festooned on her, there will always be that spark of fun as if reminding us that she will always and forever be the Jolina Magdangal that has colored our youth.
An infinite well of life and lessons to her name, there is a whole lot to learn from Jolina Magdangal. While so much has changed, she is far from done. As evidenced by her endearing energy, there is much more flight in her to soar to new heights. Yes, pretty much like the butterfly clips she still fondly talks about.
(Interview from MEGA magazine March 2015)