JANICE de Belen has been in show business for many long years, and she has indeed matured as a self-learned person that has molded her outlook towards life.
At nine years old, she first appeared in a TV drama anthology, Ulila, on BBC2, with the late Mario O’Hara who was her first director.
“He (O’Hara) was scary,” she vividly recalled as she told this writer with enthusiasm.
She continued, “It was my first time then to act on the camera. Hindi ko alam na pag umiyak ka ay talagang dapat totoong (I didn’t know that when you act crying, it must be real) tears. I faked it. Lumabas siya at galit na galit siya. Dahil doon ay napaiyak na ako. Sabi niya sa akin, ‘O, kaya mo naman palang umiyak’ (He approached me and he was very angry. Because of that, I cried. He then told me, ‘Oh, you’re capable of crying’). From then on, I said to myself that I would never be shouted or reprimanded by a director.”
She later became a newscaster on RPN9’s Newswatch Junior Edition. Her biggest break came via RPN9’s Flordeluna that opened doors to her toward fame.
Her first movie was in Mga Basang Sisiw, and the rest is history.
I remember when I interviewed Janice she was doing the movie, Mga Mumunting Lihim (Those Little Secrets), an indie film, directed by Jose Javier Reyes, whom she had first worked with in the film Ikaw ang Lahat sa Akin. “I love director Joey Reyes’ script. I always enjoy working with him.”
At that time she was also included in the cast of Star Cinema’s The Healing, with Vilma Santos in the lead and megged by Chito S. Rono, whom she had worked with in the films Bakit Kay Tagal ng Sandali in 1990 and Kailan Ka Magiging Akin (which gave her first best actress award in the Manila Film Festival in 1991).
“When I first worked with him (Chito), I was afraid. Ang dami niyang (There were lots of) rehearsals. He wanted to know your limits as to how far can you go. It’s actually for your own good. Now, I am no longer shocked working with him. It’s part anyway of the job,” she explained with alacrity.
As far as working with ace actress Vilma Santos in that horror film The Healing, she said it is not the first time she has worked with the Star for All Seasons. She remembers she worked with Ate Vi in a TV drama special when she was 15 years old, but it was her first time to work with the seasoned actress in that suspense movie.
“Ate Vi is the coolest. She’s super-nice, down-to-earth, thoughtful and generous. Hindi niya pinaparamdam sa iyo na siya’y si Vilma Santos. Para kayong magbarkada. We often stayed in her dressing room. She also texted me. Kukumustahin ka niya,” she related. She revealed to this writer that Ate Vi likes her adobo. “I brought adobo to the set one time, and Ate Vi told me to bring some adobo to her,” said she who attended a culinary school in 2008.
It is interesting to note that she took psychology at the Ateneo de Manila University, but she did not finish it because “I have to be a parent first, and you’ve to make choices to prioritize your family.”
Her eldest son, Luigi, a graduate of De La Salle’s College of St. Benilde, is already married and is a successful entrepreneur who owns a restaurant, the Luigi’s. Inah, her eldest daughter, finished a psychology course at Miriam College. She has other daughters, Moira and Kyla.
“My youngest son (Yuan) likes to sing and play the violin,” said Janice.
“Kapag anak ka ng artista, there’s an expectation that your children would enter show business. I’ll allow my children to do whatever they want, provided they have finished their college education,” she pointed out.
Janice knows the value of education. She never fails to self-educate herself by reading books. Life itself, she said, is a learning process.
Born Catherine Janice Yap de Belen on November 9, 1968 to Philip de Belen and former Susan Yap, Janice said she is very close to her maternal grandmother in the US. “Of course, when I was young, I would like to live there, but mahirap ang buhay roon (it’s a hard life there). I still prefer to stay in the Philippines with my children.”
She said she has no regrets in joining the intriguing waters of show business. “In many years of my life doing this, I have enjoyed being in show business. Being in this business, there are many ups and downs, there are tradeoffs, things to compromise. Once you’re into it, kailangan buo ang loob mo. You must do your best and hone your talent. It’s not all about the money.”
She further said, “As a person, it gives me strength and shows you the realities in life. After all, you cannot get everything that you want.”
She likewise believes in the importance of communicating with the Almighty God. “Prayer should come from the heart. It could be a simple thank you. The simplest, the better.”
Life for Janice de Belen, indeed, is not always a bed of roses and lollipops. One has to know pain and hardship that can be a blessing in disguise at times.