The gospel according to Ellen Adarna

Patricia Evangelista

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The gospel according to Ellen Adarna
She's been called slut and flirt, but she doesn't care, because she chose to be free

MANILA, Philippines – She liked taking pictures of herself, and posting them online. She was in high school when she started. Pretty pictures, or what she thought were pretty pictures. The pictures were stolen, again and again, by girls claiming to be her, by boys who liked looking at her.

She wasn’t sure what she wanted to be when she grew up. Maybe a doctor, maybe a businesswoman. When she was a teenager she started working for the family business as her father’s assistant. She was the gofer, the Girl Friday, the dependable all-around, until she had a fight with her father and decided to resign, f___ you all, I’m leaving. 

Her name is Ellen Adarna, the pretty girl whose images continue to be shared and reshared across online platforms since she was a high school student in Cebu posting photos over the social networking site Friendster. That popularity jumpstarted a slew of magazine covers and viral videos, including an endorsement for breast implants for Belo Medical Center. Today she calls herself an aspiring actress, playing Tamara in the ABS-CBN soap opera Moon Desire.  

She was a teenager when she ran away from Cebu, was broke when she went to Manila, but there was a job offer from a television network. And that was how Ellen Adarna’s career began.

Sometimes she believes she’s ugly. When she wakes up. When she feels bloated. When she does, just because. She guesses everyone feels this way too, once in a while.

There is an image you have to live up to, she says, when you join show business. Her old manager told her she can’t do this, she can’t do that. No, she told him, I can’t lie.

She’s willing to strip for pictures, the shirt, the shorts, the bra, the panties. When the camera rolls, it’s a job. Turn, says the photographer, and she turns. Smile, he says, and she smiles. 

She doesn’t care that she’s naked. That’s the thing about me, she says. I really don’t care.

She used to care, when she was 19, that one time when she posed for a magazine cover the first time. She wasn’t planning to go topless, but she had a new tattoo, lines of letters that bled into the side of her rib. They took that photo too, promised her it wouldn’t be published, told her it was for her, her own copy, and then she got a phone call later telling her the magazine was out on the stands, the photo was the cover and there was nothing she could do.

At first, I was really pissed, she says. I was really violated, because it was my fault also, because I allowed them to take photos.

I hated myself, she says. I hated them and hated the world.


Now show business is her life. She is an actress now. The job asks her to cry often, laugh often. She likes the job, and then she doesn’t. Her commitment, she says, is half-hearted. She likes the easy money, but the demands are sometimes too much. She would rather have a job that means working from 8 to 5, but then she also likes the people, the laughing crowd, the new faces every day.

Right now I’m confused, she says.

Someday, she wants to work for her father again. She wants to do what he does. She wants to be exactly like him. They didn’t speak for a year when she left, now they’re fine. They talk business. They talk about his work. She thinks her family has given up on her, but it’s okay, because now they’re on good terms.

DOUBLE FEATURE. Adarna strips for Esquire Magazine. Photo by Jake Verzosa

She knows what people say about her. Some of them think she’s inspiring and independent. The others, the people who don’t know her, say she’s tawdry, a slut, a flirt.

She doesn’t care, because she’s free, because she chooses to be free. The people who attack her don’t know her. She likes thinking she’s a strong woman. 

Her name is Ellen Adarna, and to everyone who calls her a whore, she says f___ you too. –

Video produced by Erwin Romulo. Score “Careless Love” by Ely Buendia. Cinematography by Raymund Amonoy and Patricia Evangelista. Editing by Paolo Villaluna. Writing by Patricia Evangelista. Esquire Philippines Magazine featuring Ellen Adarna is available on stands now.

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