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Monday, July 23, 2007

Eat, Bulaga's staying power

It’s still the same mix of glitzy sets, catchy jingles, production numbers, games and talent searches; it has moved from one station to another without losing its audience — what’s their secret?

“The loyalty and relationship of the Eat, Bulaga! family,” was executive producer Malou Choa-Fagar’s quick reply. And if you think it’s just the default “we-love-our-show” answer, think again. In an industry where ratings rule and celebrities switch camps as a “career move,” the bond among Eat, Bulaga!’s hosts and staff is quite rare.

The year 1979 was not exactly a good time to start a noontime show, not when Student Canteen was rating as high as 50 percent. There even came a point when the staff’s salary payment was delayed and the producers mulled on axing the program. “But these tough times only made us love our show even more,” says the lady boss.

With the talents’ commitment, success replaced this rocky start in a few months’ time. They introduced a slew of talent contests — Macho Men, Palengke Queen, Maid in the Philippines, Super Sireyna, Little Miss Philippines, Mister Pogi — which became a hit, and the rest, they say, is history.

Now, 28 years and some juicy counter-offers later, Tito, Vic and Joey, plus some key on/off-cam talents, remain fiercely loyal to Eat, Bulaga!, working non-stop for each episode. Fagar, for instance, is “married” to the program, spending more than half of her life handling the show.

No wonder the whole gang is like a family. They share problems, hang out and have lunch together, and yes, pray together. And they laugh a lot on the set. “That’s another strength of our program. It’s fun, it’s laughter, it makes you look young,” says Fagar, who is just as popular as the show, having been on top of operations for all 28 years.

Of course, an obvious forte of the show is TVJ’s unmatched hosting talent. Who hasn’t laughed at these comic icons’ antics? They have the rapport, they don’t upstage their co-hosts, and they know who should shine in a segment.

Fagar adds, “Fame never got to their heads. They are open to change and they welcome newcomers — singers, dancers, actor-wannabes, whoever you are, you have a place in the show.”

True enough, TAPE’s noontime offering served as a launching pad for discoveries like Aiza Seguerra, Sexbomb Girls, Jericho Rosales and many others. Almost all showbiz bigwigs have also graced the program at least once, either as guests or as co-hosts (Sharon Cuneta, Kris Aquino, Coney Reyes, Donita Rose, Lani Mercado and Mikee Cojuangco were among Eat, Bulaga!’s former hosts).

The noontime show also takes pride in its content, which became a template for other noontime shows and has consistently reaped honors from award-giving bodies. The most notable one was when its 25th anniversary special bagged the Best Entertainment (One-Off/Annual) Special Award in the 10th Asian TV Awards held in Singapore, beating big entries like MTV’s Tsunami aid special.

The silver special was also hailed the most successful television event on Philippine TV, enjoying the highest daytime TV rating in the country.When asked what the well-loved show’s greatest achievement is, Fagar replies, “being able to bring cheers to the people, being able to help them.”

Eat, Bulaga!’s twin tasks of entertaining and helping people are indeed at work all 28 years. Recently, the program chose persons with missing relatives to play in On the Spot segment, giving them a chance to win prizes, plus the airtime to announce and seek help in their search for their loved ones. Two contestants were reunited with their long-lost sons that day.

In the ’80s, a cancer patient named Adelina Pablo wrote to Send in Your Dreams portion, requesting Rico J. Puno to sing her composition. Eat, Bulaga! gave more than that: Rico performed with an orchestra, and included the cherished song in his album. Over the years, the show has touched countless lives in ways like these.

There’s also the daily giving away of cash and special prizes, from cars to showcase to trips abroad. “Even the consolation prizes are enough for us to get through the week,” says one Taktak Mo participant. The show gave away as much as P2-M in the past (Lottong Bahay).

At times, the hosts would shell out their own money to give contestants transportation aid, or to help them pay hospital bills. To all these, the team’s priceless rewards are the endless “thank you’s” from the people.

On its 28th anniversary on July 30, Pinoy’s favorite lunchtime treat will give away P100,000 and a special showcase in On the Spot; and a Toyota Innova and over P250,000 in Taktak Mo? O Tatakbo?

The whole nation is invited to party with the gang: Michael V, Anjo Yllana, Francis Magalona, Keempee de Leon, Pia Guanio, Cindy Kurleto, Allan K, Jimmy Santos, Ruby Rodriguez, Toni Rose Gayda, Paolo Ballesteros, Julia Clarete, Pauleen Luna, Jose Manalo, Wally Bayola, BJ “Tolits” Forbes and the EB Babes.

Eat, Bulaga! is now an institution in the industry, having appealed to the audience as no other noontime show had. Of the 18 lunchtime entries that tried to beat it, 16 are now defunct, most of which didn’t even last for half a decade.

It seems to have it all: Its rating, its loyal advertisers, its winning awards, its committed team, and Pinoys love it. People behind the show could not ask for more, save for more years of bringing isang libo’t, isang tuwa to its viewers.

Eat, Bulaga! has been thriving in the people’s hearts for so long now it might as well be immortalized in Philippine history books.

Next stop: The Guinness Book of World Records. [source]



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