They set the standards that other noontime variety shows attempted to meet (or surpass) but failed. They do not largely rely on celebrities, big stars in order to be successful. Aside from the prizes at stake, they provide comic relief to uplift the lives of its studio and television audience. Looking at all the hosts making a fool of themselves (or maybe, simply being who they are: eccentric), one would think they have the easiest job in the world. While some regard them as saviors for helping them improve their lives financially, materially, or emotionally, there are others who look down on them, labeling them as “bakya,” “baduy,” “pang-jologs,” so on and so forth.
It is a game show which has a heart to make people happy but to make it work, to endlessly think of different ways to satisfy the fickle-minded audience can be a really tough and demanding job. Not to mention, routinary (like an office job) for they have to do it from Monday to Saturday and there is also the challenge of working with different personalities or co-hosts who could be as competitive or difficult to work with, or dealing with bosses who expect highly from them. Even hosting itself can be a chore. One of the hosts thought he would leave it after 15 years so he could do other things. I don’t know what happened but he remains very much a part of it after 31 years and still counting, and everyone loves him. They call him “Bossing,” also known as Vic Sotto. Now that I mentioned this, of course, I am talking about Eat Bulaga!
Eat Bulaga is a show that I literally grew up with. I felt like I grew up together with Tito, Vic, and Joey’s children: Ciara Sotto, Danica and Oyo Boy Sotto, Jocas and Jaco de Leon, Cheenee and Keempee de Leon. I think it is only right to include Aiza Seguerra here who was a contestant of Little Miss Philippines when she was 4 years old and was later adopted by the show. She was a witty, cute, charming little girl hosting a special segment daily with Coney Reyes. She also popularized a unique dance move during the Bulagaan portion. I don’t think there is nothing to deny that Aiza, during those days, made a big contribution to Eat Bulaga‘s long-standing success. Then she grew up, and pursued the next thing that she does best: singing. Even if she already left and occasionally guesting on the show, it is no wonder how Eat Bulaga still treats her as part of the family.
There was a time Aiza’s career was in a limbo, she lost her popularity just because she grew up, because she wasn’t pretty when she grew up, but Eat Bulaga has never left her side, welcoming her anytime to the show. I also haven’t forgotten that day when teary-eyed Coney Reyes said goodbye to the show (and showbiz) and got to sing Diana Ross’ It’s my turn (it was actually a theme song of Coney’s drama anthology, Coney Reyes on Camera, shown every Saturday after Eat Bulaga). She was pregnant that time and the father of her child is Vic Sotto. Until that day, I didn’t know they had a love affair. They didn’t marry but they are both okay now, everyone involved is okay now. In fact, Vic’s children with former wife Dina Bonnevie, with former co-star Angela Luz, and with former co-host Coney Reyes all appeared on the show (by VTR) during his birthday last April.
Eat Bulaga made me a witness to see the then newbie host Toni Gonzaga looking nervous and hesitant to eat shrimps, a seafood, during a challenge. Yes, shrimps. A very much alive shrimps which were twisting and turning as Toni held it nervously with her two fingers. It took her awhile, looking like she was gonna back out, that I remember Joey shouting at her, prodding her to eat it. So for the first time, Toni swallowed – if my memory serves me right – not just one but three live shrimps! She even tried to remove the head. Looking at Toni now, a popular TV host and actress and talent of ABS-CBN, I think her being able to swallow those live shrimps on national television taught her a tough lesson about what it takes to be a host, or how far a person can go just to provide joy and entertainment to the audience.
When asked by YES! Magazine how it was to be part of the longest-running noontime variety show on Philippine television, Toni gave a lively answer: “The best experience! Kung gusto mong mag-host, napakasuwerte mo na makapasok ka sa Eat Bulaga. Because of the discipline, the camaraderie, the professionalism. Akala mo, parang bale-wala lang. Akala ko no’ng una, parang fun-fun lang. Pero hindi. Mahihiya ka sa sarili mo kung papasok kang hindi ka prepared. Hindi pwedeng napag-iiwanan ka.”
The parang-bale-wala-lang that Toni could be referring to is the very natural na-parang-nasa-bahay-lang kind of hosting by the main hosts, Tito, Vic, and Joey. Sometimes, you would see Joey de Leon sipping a cup of coffee while hosting. Vic Sotto, at times, would appear and work in the show looking like he just gone out of his bed. The co-hosts could not escape imbibing this for you will see Anjo Yllana one time eating his lunch on the show. Definitely, this is not your typical noontime variety show.
Despite these seemingly relaxed and unconventional ways of the hosts (which I like, nonetheless), they still give their best to make the show productive and enjoyable to the audience. The funny banterings, the practical jokes, the bloopers, the side comments, they are all unscripted, natural na natural. Not a day is the same as the other but expect a wacky, crazy, funny moments as time goes by as a result of putting these crazy, creative people together on the show: Terri Onor, Allan K., Gladys Guevarra, K Brosas, Janno Gibbs (or the late Janno Gibbs kasi daw palaging late dumating sa show), Jimmy Santos (the longest-staying co-host), Pauline Luna (yes, she can do comedy, too!), Ruby Rodriguez (the fattest host but can dance really, really well like the Sex Bomb dancers), Michael V., Francis Magalona, Anjo Yllana, Toni Rose Gayda (yes, she is always a part of Eat Bulaga even if she is the “now-you-see-her-now-you-don’t” kind of co-host. She can be really funny, too, believe it or not), Julia Clarete, Pia Guanio (who has this image of being “sosyal” or classy but after seven years of being on the show, she imbibed the “craziness” of the people around her, becoming a joker at times), Paolo Ballesteros, Jose Manalo, Wally Bayola, Ryan Agoncillo (a typical serious host but since he joined Eat Bulaga became a funnyman himself, I won’t ever forget his “shembot” dance together with other co-hosts), Iza Calzado, and so many others that I now forgot due to the show’s long history. Oh wait, how could I forget: the Brazilian beauties Ariana Barouk and Daiana Meneses, they added color and light moments to the show, too! Let me not forget, the Sex Bomb Dancers, the EB Babes, and the Boom Boom Pow Boys. Did you know that Lani Mercado used to be part of the show, too? Though some of them are gone, I guess it is only nice to say that once an Eat Bulaga is always an Eat Bulaga.
From the time it was aired on RPN 9, until it transferred to ABS-CBN Channel 2, and at present, in GMA 7, I’d like to believe that where Eat Bulaga is, it brings with it good luck to its home station. I think ABS-CBN became the biggest network that it is today because of Eat Bulaga which is exactly what is happening to GMA 7 right now. Since GMA 7 extended for another five years their contract with TAPE Inc., the producer of Eat Bulaga, Kapatid network TV5 just had to content themselves hiring Vic Sotto and Joey de Leon to host separately its game shows to easily gain audience.
If there is one message that watching Eat Bulaga always reminds me, it is this: MGA MALALAKAS LANG ANG LOOB ANG YUMAYAMAN.
There is another word for this: “kapal ng mukha” or thick-faced. There are so many talented people in hiding out there and for some of them to come out for the first time to join the dance and singing competitions in Eat Bulaga, and as a result of their courage to do so, they became a hundred thousand pesos richer or more! Millionaires, some of them became millionaires by simply joining the fun games and stuff. A contestant does not need to be a graduate from one of the top reputable schools. Kailangan lang lakas ng loob o kapal ng mukha. Because of their bravery to face the cameras where anything could happen, because of their willingness to take risks by joining the contests, they became blessed financially, also rich in experience which could help them in their future careers. Like Alice Dixson, Camille Pratts, Jessa Zaragoza, Rachelle Ann Go, Gladys Reyes, Michael V., Precious Lara Quigaman, and Jericho Rosales, just to name a few, who are now well-known showbiz personalities today. Yes, they were once contestants of Eat Bulaga.
While some people are there for the money, others watch it to simply enjoy the show. Believing that laughter is the best medicine, watching Eat Bulaga is one of my remedies when I am feeling sick before I take any drug or medicine. It works most of the time. All the current games in the show are fun to watch, like the PNV or Pambato ng Videoke, like the ‘Kaw na, the best ka! but my favorite of them all is that portion of Paolo, Jose, and Wally called “All for Juan, Juan for All, Bayanihan of the Pipol” where they get to visit the house of the selected lucky individual of the day who will get cash prize and gift packs (at times, appliances) from sponsors. They do this per barangay, they even went all the way to Ilocos!
It’s crazy watching it, seeing them interviewing the owner of the house, including his/her family, about their background, about their current condition, about the house, about the food they had for lunch, etc. and because those guys are really funny, you will laugh so hard as if you’re the happiest person in the world. If you’re not the type who easily laughs, it is impossible not to see yourself smiling silly as you watch them. There were touching moments, too, so from laughing out loud, there is this sudden falling of tears making my eyes red. If you’re not the type who easily gets emotional, it is impossible that you wouldn’t be affected with some feeling, like, as if, somebody pulled your heartstrings.
Most of the time, when things get too dramatic (and to prevent that “paawa” effect of that certain individual which can be annoying), Jose, Wally, & Paolo lighten it up with their funny antics and gimmickry to distract the individual’s “acting”, or what I mean to say is, to balance the scenario. It is good that Bossing Vic is there to send feedback and instructions to the three co-hosts through their earphones, to generally manage the scene and couldn’t be heard by the chosen individual. Anyway, Jose, Wally, & Paolo are such gifted artists, so spontaneous, so witty, so funny, at times, very naughty! Even Vic himself couldn’t contain his laughter.
One of my favorite episodes in All for Juan, Juan for All was about this one lucky individual, a male, wearing this sando that showed off his muscles, living with his only son (his wife is working abroad), working as a cook in a carinderia, who was just poker face and smiling only every once in a while as he gets to receive his money by installment (in-between the talk) from EB Dabarkads inside his one-room house located at the rooftop of another house. The man even got to talk with his wife over the phone courtesy of Eat Bulaga. His total cash prize, if I remember it correctly, was P40,000. Jose, not seeing it coming, was surprised to see the macho guy being moved to tears upon receiving the last installment of the total cash prize, even trying to suppress it by covering his face with his one arm. It’s not a million pesos, but the guy was simply overwhelmed with his surprise blessing. That’s how hard life is. On the other hand, there were also some lucky individuals that were just as funny and as crazy as the three co-hosts. Oh, it’s a long story!
Eat Bulaga started on July 30, 1979 and is turning 32 years old a few days from now. Though their opening numbers these days have become less impressive unlike before (I don’t know if it’s caused by the hard times, a different creative head, or because there is lacking in great talents in GMA 7), I will never forget that long tradition when they had these well-conceptualized opening numbers (what I always looked forward to every Saturday) which I guarantee were as great as the opening numbers I saw in ASAP (the number one musical variety show in local TV). I’d like to believe that even before ASAP first premiered on TV, Eat Bulaga is the pioneer in showcasing exceptional talents and enthralling theatrical performances, where dance groups and artists like Ogie Alcasid, Dingdong Avanzado, Carmina Villaroel, and so many others started their careers.
Like one of the winners, I would like to thank Eat Bulaga for brightening up my day.
Written on July 10, 2011- The Best of “Living well is the best revenge” (theuntouchableone.multiply.com)