MANILA - When she was arrested for alleged drug peddling in October 2016, cameras and a riveted public followed Krista Miller to jail.
On May 25, a year and a half later, the 27-year-old actress stepped out of jail without fanfare.
“Tinawag na lang ako na ‘Krista, may papel na dumating’,” she recalled.
“Paglabas ko, si Kuya ambagal pa ng baba ng papel. Nung nilapag niya, ‘di pa ako makapaniwala sa resulta. Biglang sinabi ni kuya, ‘Laya na po kayo, ma'am.’ Sobrang gulat, sobrang saya. Mga tears of joy yung nangyari, sobrang saya na, ‘Ito na, lalabas na ako, ito na talaga."
Fetched by her family, they first stopped at the nearest church to pray.
Miller, or Krystalyn Engle in real life, was acquitted in the drug case after the Valenzuela City Regional Trial Court Branch 283 ruled that same day there was not enough evidence to convict her.
Her co-defendant, Aaron Medina, who was arrested with her in a police bust at their neighborhood, was also let off.
In her first one-on-one interview since being released, Miller told ABS-CBN News she is hoping for a fresh start after the lessons she has learned behind bars.
“I feel so vindicated. Nakuha ko na ang justice ko,” she said. “Para kang nabunutan ng tinik. Hindi na mga bakal na rehas yung nakapaligid sa akin, kuwarto na talaga."
Miller declined to discuss the details of her drug charges, saying the court’s decision was proof enough of her innocence.
She admitted, though, that going to prison made her rethink her life - especially her relationship with her family.
‘HINDI SILA BUMITAW’
During her stay at the Valenzuela City Jail, Miller’s 62-year-old father visited her almost daily. Her 59-year-old mother joined him on weekend visits, bringing with her Miller’s two sons.
Miller’s eldest child was 6-months when she went to jail. She was already detained when she gave birth to her youngest in February.
For her, it was a time of loneliness and fear.
“Yun nga yung mahirap dun—gusto mo nang lumaya, wala. Kailangan mong maghintay. Kailangan mong dumaan sa proseso. Kailangan... kapit ka lang talaga sa Kanya.”
She said she held on to her family for strength.
Yet she also began to realize how she treated her parents before.
“Yung pagiging matigas ng ulo ko sa magulang ko. Kasi 'yun ang puno’t dulo rin, hindi ako nakikinig sa kanila. Kaya ako napapasama sa mga maling tao,” she said.
“Kung baka nakinig lang ako sa kanila, hindi sana nangyari ‘to.”
Miller became emotional recalling how her family—including her three older brothers—handled the stress of her much-publicized arrest.
“Sobrang naging big issue siya, hindi mo alam paano ka babangon. Ako nasa loob ako, 'di ko nababasa, 'di ko alam 'yung mga opinyon ng mga tao sa labas. Pero 'yung family ko, 'yung mga kapatid ko, lalong-lalo na 'yung mga parents ko, sila 'yung nakakarinig, sila 'yung nakakabasa, sila 'yung nakakanood. Alam ko mas masakit sa kanila. "
“Lagi nila akong sinasabihan na ‘Wag kang panghihinaan kasi kailangan ka ng anak mo, kasi kapag napanghinaan ka, paano 'yung mga anak mo, 'di ba?’
“Bakit ba nila pinagdadaanan 'yun, kasi kung tutuusin naging mabuting magulang sila sa akin, ako lang ang naging matigas ang ulo, na hindi ako pumipili ng mga kaibigan. So pati sila nahihirapan dahil sa nangyari sa akin. Tapos hindi sila bumitaw.”
The drug arrest was not Miller’s first brush with controversy.
The ‘sexy starlet’, as she is described in a number of showbiz reports, was involved in the separation of celebrity couple Cesar Montano and Sunshine Cruz after Miller co-starred with Montano in a movie.
In 2014, she was also tagged in the illegal drug trade after she visited convicted drug lord and prison gang leader Ricardo “Chacha” Camata in his hospital ward. Miller maintained then that she only met him to sell real estate.
But when she once thought only about herself, her friends, and her enjoyment, Miller said being exposed to spiritual teachings through daily Bible devotions while detained changed her view.
“Nung pumasok ako ng jail, madaming nabago sa akin, lalong-lalo na spiritually. Sobrang lahat doon, talagang Bible, Bible, unti-unting nare-realize ko lahat ng mali ko.
“Nare-realize ko na, ang ganda pala ng buhay. Parang dati, enjoy lang ako, ngayon, yung importance ng family ko, na-realize ko lahat sa loob.
“Siguro kaya nangyari sa akin ito para maisip ko lahat. Maisip ko lahat ng mali ko sa buhay ko before, tapos ngayon, eto na ako, itatama ko ang lahat.”
Among those things she learned was to be careful in choosing friends, coming from her own experience.
“Madikit lang kayo sa mga taong ganun, sa mga bad influence na friends, sa mga ganung tao, kahit hindi niyo ginawa ang isang bagay, pwede kayo madamay.”
Miller’s career was put on hold by her detention, among them performances and projects that had to be cancelled at the last minute after she was arrested.
She is hoping for a comeback, at least for her children’s sake.
“Sana may mag-offer, sana may projects na dumating. Kasi kailangan ko yun. Kailangan kong bumawi, kailangan kong bumangon para sa mga anak ko. Sana mabigyan pa ako ng chance sa showbiz. Kasi, dati pa naman, ito na yung pangarap ko. Sana mapagbigyan ako na maipagpatuloy ang pangarap ko.”
After all, her experience showed there was room for second chances.
“Lahat naman deserve natin ang second chance. Sabi nga nila, si Lord nga nagpapatawad, 'di ba?"
“Yung binibigay sa ating chance, huwag lang nating sasayangin, kasi, oo, laging may second chance, third chance. Pero siyempre lagi nating isipin na tumatakbo ang panahon, tumatakbo ang oras. Huwag nating hayaang dumating sa punto na it’s too late.”
In the meantime, Miller plans to make the most of her lost time with her parents, siblings, and children.