Isang Libo’t Isang Tuwa: The phenomenon that is ‘Eat Bulaga!’

by Nickee V. De Leon/AJPress

Now celebrating its 29th year, Eat Bulaga! (EB) is the longest-running noon-time show on Philippine television. It is, without a shadow of doubt, the epitome of Pinoy pop culture.

The name Eat Bulaga! (bulaga is the equivalent of peek-a-boo in Tagalog) was coined by Joey de Leon himself. In a Q&A session with iGMA.tv, Joey shared that he considers this as a monumental achievement.

EB does live up to its name — it’s a crock-full of surprises with an ever-evolving collection of games, jokes and formula song and dance numbers that more than satisfy every giddy Pinoy’s fix for showbiz personalities.

The Bulaga factor

The concept behind EB is the brainchild of Malou Fagar and Tony Tuviera and a production of Television And Production Exponents Inc.(TAPE). The noon time show aired in different networks before it finally settled in GMA-7 in 1995.

The show premiered on July 30, 1979 in Radio Philippines Network (RPN-9). At that time, the comic troika of siblings Tito and Vic Sotto and Joey de Leon was getting rave attention. Together with Chiqui Hollman and Richie Reyes (aka Richie d’ Horsie), the threesome were hired as hosts for the show.

Their co-hosts may have come and gone, but the formidable trio of Tito,Vic and Joey is still going strong. Tito left the show when he was elected to the Senate in 1992 to fulfill his obligations as senator. He did manage to appear on the show in special occasions. Tito served two terms in the senate, from 1992-1998 and 1998-2004. After the last year of his term, he began to stage a comeback on the show on a weekly basis. He has since reverted back to more regular appearances on the show.

The late Helen Vela and Rio Diaz, Tessie Tomas,Coney Reyes, Sharon Cuneta, Pops Fernandez, Plinky Recto, Christine Jacob and Aiza Seguerra were some of EB’s mainstays in the past.

Currently, veterans Jimmy Santos and Ruby Rodriguez; Pia Guanio, Toni Rose Gayda, Anjo Yllana, Michael V, Francis Magalona, Keempee de Leon, Paolo Ballesteros, Allan K, BJ Forbes, Julia Clarete, Pauleen Luna, Jose Manalo, Lougee Basabas and Wally Bayola make up EB’s brady bunch of ‘Dabarkads.’

Because of its out-of-the-box innovations in noon-time show programming, EB has become a template for rival shows. EB earned its share of accolades from both local and international press and other organizations.

Fond memories

EB was an integral part of my childhood years — a fixture on our TV set during the lunch hour. It was an after-school delight that paired well with my dad’s very Pinoy home-cooking.

When I heard that Eat Bulaga! was coming to Los Angeles, the first thing that came to mind was Little Miss Philippines.

I was swept by a rather vivid memory. I remember sitting beside my aunt as she furiously and relentlessly dialed (I think it was) TAPE’s number on the rotary phone at my cousin’s house. She was going to make an inquiry so that my little cousins could join the pageant. All she got was an annoying and resounding toot-toot of a busy line. Apparently, thousands of other callers had the same mindset.

I also remember how EB launched Aiza Seguerra’s lucrative career in showbiz. She was one of the contestants for Little Miss Philippines in 1987. Because of her innate wit and charm, Aiza won the hearts of EB’s viewers and soon became one of the most sought-after child actors of her time. She also became a regular on the show.

Now in her twenties, Aiza has since found a new passion as a recording artist.

Another flagship feature of EB is their game segments. Hands down, I think one of EB’s funniest and most memorable game segments was the Hybrid 5 Cooking Chicken contest. Here, contestants were asked to recite Hybrid 5’s lengthy tagline (it’s funny that it remained stuck in my head all these years) — “Hybrid 5, the cooking chicken, malasa, malaman, makatas, malambot, malusog,“– without faltering, for as many times as they can within a certain time frame . The winner gets a cash prize and moves on to earn even bigger bucks from the final round where, blindfolded, the contestant is placed inside a chicken coop to catch as many live chickens as possible. Each chicken had a monetary value. The amount of winnings was dependent on the total cash value that they obtained from all the chickens that they caught.

Bulagaan

is, perhaps, the most enduring segment in the show. Here, Tito, Vic and Joey and their other co-hosts do slapstick comedy sketches. A young and playful Aiza used to do her famous “duck walk” as an intermission between every skit.

EB is also well-known for its dance contests. Not one popular dance tune escaped them, possibly because Joey de Leon began his career as a radio disc jockey and was also a co-host in the now-defunct show, Discorama. He is also a noted composer of songs which are now considered as OPM classics — Ipagpatawad Mo, Awitin Mo, Isasayaw Ko, Boyfriend Kong Baduy and Iskul Bukol.

An archive video from EatBulaga.tv (EB’s official website) features a special presentation from past dance contest winners during EB’s 10th anniversary in 1989. Dance hits as Xanadu (1981), Macho (1980), Breakdance (1984), Rico Mambo (1986) and Supersonic (1988) were all part of the spectacle.

Pageants that cut across genders were another main fare in this ninth wonder of a TV show. Beautiful Girl, Maid in the Philippines Mr. Pogi and Super Si Reyna gave the masses a chance to live their dreams.

Dance and sing-alike contests like Lola Madonna and Doble-Kara opened doors for celebrity fanatics to emulate their idols. EB was (and still is) on a roll in coming up with fresh and crowd-drawing concepts for the show.

In his November 23, 2004 column in Star Bytes, Butch Francisco shared a bit of trivia about EB.

“In the early ’70s, the only performers on TV who wore undershirts colored sandos, actually – were dancers like Lito Calzado (father of the great beauty Iza Calzado). The gentlemen who came out on TV that time wore mostly suits – especially the hosts of talk and variety shows. (Imagine Eddie Ilarde on Student Canteen or Archie Lacson on Penthouse 7). But if they were feeling a bit informal, they donned long-sleeved shirts with or without a tie. Tito, Vic and Joey changed all that.”

“On Eat Bulaga!, they freely wore the very casual collarless T-shirts and jeans. If I picture a scene on Eat Bulaga therefore, the images that come to mind are of T-shirts and jeans – very, very relaxed. Obviously, it took Tito, Vic and Joey to revolutionize the getup on TV,” he added.

Butch also recounted the “endless trailers of movies from Regal Films. Back then, we still enjoyed watching sneak preview of forthcoming films (something we find intolerable now that there are so many of them during intermission in mall theaters). In the early days of Eat Bulaga!, there were hardly any commercials coming in and the show had to accommodate instead films trailers that paid much, much lower than the regular 30-second TV advertisements. The show, however, is eternally grateful to Lily Monteverde for supporting a small program like Eat Bulaga! back then.”

TVJ – TV’s Jokers

Perhaps as equally institutional as EB would be the formidable comic triumvirate of Tito, Vic and Joey (TVJ). Siblings Tito and Vic Sotto went through humble beginnings before striking it big in showbiz. Vic began his career as a folk singer and guitarist. Tito also began with musical roots. Joey started out as a radio disc jockey in the 60’s for top FM stations. He worked for a couple of radio stations and was writing songs and scripts for gag shows on the side.

TVJ’s collaboration officially began in a gag show called OK Lang in IBC-13. Other mainstays of the show included the APO Hiking Society, Val Sotto and Ricky Manalo, Jr.

In 1975, Joey was invited to become a co-host in Discorama, alongside Bobby Ledesma. At that time, the show was getting poor ratings and was on the verge of being axed. Bobby Ledesma went on vacation and asked Joey to take charge of the show. Joey then asked the Sotto brothers (Val, Vic and Tito) to join him, but only Tito and Vic took the offer. The chemistry between the three was undeniable. Comedy newscast segments combined with Joey’s Top 40 hit song parodies gained Discorama new attention from televiewers.

TVJ also became regulars in Student Canteen, a noon-time show hosted by Bobby Ledesma. However, it was their antics in the sitcom Iskul Bukol that fully launched the trio’s career in showbiz and brought them to EB’S door. The rest, they say, is history.

In 1989, TVJ had their first show at the Shrine in Los Angeles entitled The Three Kings of Comedy. Together with their EB crew, Tito, Vic and Joey brought fun and laughter to Pinoys in the city of Angels. The show was produced by Sam Adelan, Lito Ocampo Cruz and Pat Reyes.

Angeleños will have another chance to see the comic trio when Eat Bulaga goes live on July 19, Saturday at the Los Angeles Sports Arena. Famous Pinoy celebrities like Judy Ann Santos, Ryan Agoncillo, Marian Rivera, Dingdong Dantes, Pia Guanio, Allan K, Francis Magalona, Julia Clarete, Anjo Yllana, Pauleen Luna, Wally Bayola, Jimmy Santos and Jose Manalo will grace the event. (Sources: Wikipedia.com, Philstar, Eatbulaga.tv and iGMA.tv)

(www.asianjournal.com)

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