Friday, July 29, 2011

The Wonderful World of Eat Bulaga

My love affair with daytime television started in early 1979. In February of that year, my second child- a son, was born. As most nursing mothers, I had to stay home full time. Busy with a one-year old daughter and a newborn son, coupled with all the household chores I had to do by myself, the television became my best friend.

I first got hooked on watching Student Canteen- its third run, actually, then hosted by Eddie Ilarde, Bobby Ledesma, Coney Reyes and Helen Vela on GMA Ch.7. When a new noontime show was launched on RPN9, I became curious. What does the title Rat Bulaga mean? Where in the world did they get it? Stupid me- I read Eat as Rat. The lettering used (known today as font in computer language) confused me. Overjoyed with my own stupidity, I waited for the new show to be launched. I was disappointed. Tito Sotto, Joey De Leon and Vic Sotto had nothing new, interesting and extraordinary to offer then. But fate had intervened to make Eat (Rat) Bulaga the best and the longest-running noontime variety show to date. A rigodon of hosts, mostly females, made it the most talked about show in town. When Coney Reyes joined the show, after her stint with Student Canteen, everyone tuned in. How can I forget her first day when she sang It's My Turn? That was not the first time her singing was much awaited by the show's captive audience. I was so "kilig" when she and Vic Sotto sang Ocean Deep many years later.

A wide array of both male and female hosts came and went through the years. Tv audiences nationwide were treated to a variety of personalities, including those sweet girls with whom host Vic Sotto reportedly had a romantic relationship.But that did not alter Eat Bulaga's stature as an institution on Philippine tv. The show had its share of many downhill battles but always, it managed to triumph over the adversities it had to face. Something or someone, comes in to pull it up higher and higher, like that time when Aiza Seguerra became a mainstay. Every mother had to finish all the chores before noon; every vendor had to be home at 12:00 to have lunch and watch EB; every student had to go eat lunch somewhere where there is a tv set. Everyone went gaga over Aiza and EB. Even when EB was asked to get out by ABSCBN and moved to a more hospitable ground- GMA7, people still followed the show. It was like sugar to ants. There was no stopping Eat Bulaga. Why, I lost count of the number of noontime shows it had destroyed, especially those produced by ABSCBN which wrongly threw it out unceremoniously in 1995. GMA7 welcomed the show with an ad that said "9-2=7". Since then, a mutually rewarding relationship between the network and the EB producers subsisted, which in the long run benefited tv audiences. The likes of the Sexbomb dancers, particularly Rochelle Panganiban, debuted on EB and henceforth became household names. Today, a former all-around boy of the show-Ariel Manalo, aka Jose, brings in the crowds and the sponsors, too, with the assistance of Wally Bayola and Paolo Ballesteros.

There are three things I love about EB. First, the hosts and the staff are very creative, ingenuous and imaginative. Sure there were hits and misses along the way, but the creative juices of its staff kept on flowing. Even during the times when people from the lowest stratum of society held their hopes in noontime shows, a folly created by a rival show which led to many deaths, EB held its ground. It did not base its offerings on what is "uso"- like the endless "pilahan" that competitors erroneously believed translated to ratings. Instead of imitating the many "pakulo" of its strongest competitor (none at present), EB leveled up, so to speak, by bringing itself and its audience to greater heights. As proof of leveling up, EB meticulously chose 30 scholars from all over the country during their 30th anniversary in 2009. Instead of spending for costumes and production numbers, EB chose to spend money, time and effort for the betterment of 30 young lives and their families. What can be nobler than that? In addition, EB has taken as another mission the building of classrooms and donating chairs in the poorest schools in far-flung communities to help ease the conditions of both the teachers and the students in those areas. These are done with the help of the audience who donate whatever they can for the purpose.

Second, EB's main hosts and co-hosts, past or present, are all very talented. Tito Sotto, an actor-politician has played his roles on and off screen to his very best; Vic Sotto, amidst all the romances that blossomed in the show, has always exhibited his gentle ways; Joey de Leon, often misunderstood because of his multi-colored jokes, is good not only on tv but in other fields of art as well, like painting (how I wish I could hang a Joey De Leon on my wall). Aside from that, I hold him in high esteem because, from what I've read, he is one hell of a good husband and father. Even those who tried to hide their talents had their chance to bring them out in the open. They excel not only in one field, but in so many others as well. Take Julia Clarete, for example. She can do drama and comedy; she can dance and sing different musical genres as well. Allan K can do a show all by himself but he is at his best when he works with the EB team. Pauleen Luna is a revelation ( even if she doesn't reply to my tweets). Michael V, oh my God!, is oozing with talent. He must have been reared by saints to be so gifted as he is. Ruby Rodriguez is also a wonder. Who can imagine that she, a horizontally gifted lady, can do a sexy dance which could have been assigned only to an Isa Calzado before? Toni Rose Gayda is a natural comedienne. Pia Guanio is a top caliber host, with a very good command of the English language. Kempee De Leon is his father's son, and that says a lot. The addition of Ryan Agoncillo who is one of the very few with "clean" images in showbiz added much credibility to the already very credible show. Likewise, Anjo Yllana and Jimmy Santos both lend a hand to their co-hosts whenever necessary. The younger triumvirate- Jose, Wally and Paolo- makes people wake up each morning hoping to have a grand time as the trio visits a barangay each day- bringing goodies, fun and laughter to all the households in the country today. Along this line, however, I mourn for the loss of a real genius in the person of Francis Magalona.

Third and last, I love EB because it teaches the value of LOYALTY, not in words but in action. EB's producer, Mr. Antonio Tuviera, Malou-Choa-Fagar and the trio of TVJ have all been together for so long, maybe even before the concept of the show was hatched. Most of its co-hosts have been with the show for many years. In all of its 32 years in existence, I have only heard of one, Toni Gonzaga, who left the show for the so-called greener pasture. Good for her, because doors opened since she left EB, but for others, like Dennis Padilla who boasted that he was offered 15 years by the competitor, they quickly faded into oblivion. The TVJ/Tuviera/Fagar team is one that I idolize. I have never heard a single bad or sad news about how they get along. Their vacations outside the country with all the staff and hosts prove that they are one, happy family. It's no wonder why all other families watching them are always happy.

I have just become a LoLa twelve days ago. When my grandson Jacob is able to watch tv in a few years, I will be there to guide him. Of course tv will not be a priority for a growing up kid, but for him to experience the fun I have been enjoying the past 32 years, I will surely include Eat Bulaga in the list of must-watch shows.
Eat Bulaga. Sweet days ahead!

Photo credit- many thanks...

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