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Monday, March 14, 2005

Growin' up with the "...Bulaga!" fever

Maria Eleanor Elape Valeros
December 2, 2004

Had to stick to the boob tube last Saturday for the silver anniversary of the longest running noon-time variety show on Philippine television – “Eat…Bulaga!” – even if it was heavily laced with commercials (less than ten minutes for a segment and 25 minutes devoted for “words from the sponsors”).

It was an ordeal, but I decided to hang on there in anticipation of any melodramatic scenes to transpire if ever Constancia Angeline Nubla aka Coney Reyes would join Tito Sen, Vic and Joey in a production number for the remote telecast at the Expo Filipino in Clark Field, Pampanga.

Coney, one of few bankable hosts to have joined the program, was out of the show for sometime already, but because Coney is a Bulaga family and will always be, I was really hoping to catch her back rendering her all-time favorite song “It’s My Turn” which was also scored for her Saturday drama anthology “Coney Reyes-Mumar on the Set” which eventually became “Coney Reyes on Camera”.

Last time I saw her was after the little bubbly Cariza “Aiza” Seguerra (bow!) squealed on national teevee that she saw Coney and Vic lovey-dovey in a whirlpool. (Ba’t naman kasi sinama pa ang bata! Buking tuloy mula Aparri hanggang Jolo!) Vic was too quick to have placed a hand over the babe’s mouth so as to save some proverbial beans or milk but (whew!) months after that, Coney had to pull herself out of the controversy because she was indeed having a date with the stork.

And I was right to have allowed myself to play couch potato last Saturday. Coney graced the show, obviously just being professional in granting an invitation from Television and Production Exponents, the “Eat…Bulaga!” producer. She shed tears indeed, standing beside Joey. She exchanged glances with former beau Vic, father of her other son Vicko, while Vic acknowledged her with a warm smile, enough to tell me how beautiful time patches pieces of shattered hearts and how amazing space allows for healing.

It took me sometime to recognize a chubby woman who joined the “institutional trio” in a song number. My mother asked, “Was it Chiqui Holmes?” And I blurted out: “Oh, dear! Chiqui Hollman-Yulo indeed!” The charming mestiza who used to have this Barbie waistline to envy for was back for the Bulaga reunion (She has a strong semblance now to Helen Gamboa-Sotto. Grin!)

At a monitor cum backdrop, there flashed the late Miss Helen Vela-Punzalan and Miss Rio Diaz-Cojuangco, two equally talented women with the gift of gab, who were Bulaga family too. I was a big Helen Vela fan through her “Lovingly Yours, Helen” program and I could recall it was from there Rio Diaz got the chance to display some acting prowess in one of its episodes entitled “Soltera”. Helen Vela was Tito Sen’s co-host for the “Kilometrico Quiz Bee” segment. If am not mistaken, Bulaga pioneered the inter-school quiz bees on television featuring the crémé de la crémé of Mapua, PUP, Adamson, UST, Ateneo, UP, La Salle, and a host of other colleges and universities.

On Bulaga’s 25th year special, the segment “Una Kang Naging Bongga sa Eat…Bulaga!” showed Samantha “Gracia” Lopez dancing on a street in Manhattan in New York. Gracia shone on Eat…Bulaga’s dance hall shortly after there was an Anna Feliciano of the show’s back-up dancers, Solid Gold, and shortly before there was a Rochelle Pangilinan of Sex Bomb.

Speaking of dance, this is something I looked forward to in every “Bulaga!” episode back in the ‘80s. I don’t have the chance to come home from school every noon break, so that I had to hang out at this nearby eatery to catch “Search for Caribbean Queen” where contestants wore the most revealing costume considered that time – that of belly dancers.

Joe and the Boxers’ “Just Got Lucky” found life in the choreography of Vicor Dancers where Sex Bomb manager-choreographer Joy Cancio was star dancer. Anybody passionate about dance that time would just want to pull their right arm high into the air, the other hand over the left ear simulating a headphone and sweat it out to the anthem of the Aga Muhlach-led Bagets generation.

Bulaga gave the Beat Culture dancers the opportunity to shine and mandate that dance contestants don a bunch of blue bow ties, attuned to the mood of the new wave – the music of my passionate generation (smile!) via “Pop Goes The World”.

And of course, there was the “Curly Shuffle” craze created by the “nyak-nyak-nyak-nyaking” Wea Dancers sporting on clown costumes. Then, Geleen Eugenio of Wea choreographed for Wowie de Guzman and the rest of the Universal Motion Dancers how to pump away with “Howie Gee”. With the unfolding of the years, the list for dance steps that led a fad, a craze, a dance revolution goes endless.

Pre-taped wishes were sent by former hosts Ces Quesada who’s such a “suplada” during the Bulagaan portion (I find her really cute) and Christine Jacob who used to buckle 777 times on national teevee despite idiot boards.

The “Una Kang Naging Bongga sa Eat…Bulaga!” portion also mentioned of the rise of Jericho Rosales from the Mr. Pogi search, danceboy Danilo Barrios also from same contest, young diva Dindin Llarena, Little Miss Philippines finalists Gladys “Chic-chic” Paras Reyes and Jessa Zaragoza, dancing queen Lady Lee, and acoustic superstar Aiza Seguerra. I was expecting the mention of Alice Dixson. She was Bb. Santacruzan and That’s My Boy titleholder Atong Redillas.

When the show’s first part folded up, boy I’m just so glad they did feature those people behind the show. It’s about time televiewers see TAPE bigman himself, Tony Tuviera; the mad writers, the editors, production assistants, researchers, cameramen, makeup artists, and production designers down to the utilitymen. Everybody chipped in to make “…Bulaga” a household name – a fever I come to grow up with along with millions of televiewers. I couldn’t imagine the magnitude of the jolt it has given to so many lives in its 8,000 episodes since it had its pilot telecast in 1979.

To those of my friends asking what in the world does “Eat…Bulaga!” really stand for – Ay! I could very well relate because the Sugbuano version for this child’s play is “tago-tago”. You call that somebody charged to hunt down his hiding playmates the “eat”. And when the “eat” finds the hunted, he would say “bulaga”! and would go back to the “eat’s post” to declare that playmate found. It was child’s play that found a niche in every home, every lunch break. And that until now, the “eat” still continues to locate the “kiliti” of its televiewers.

“Eat…Bulaga!” has successfully been accepted by people through the unfolding of generations as it is constantly reinventing itself. It has entertained people, and then provoked, has given light and joy, and raised something to protest on. But it just refuses to die. So it has gracefully moved in time to cater to the taste and move with the tune of different generations with its persistent, consistent, and insistent offering of “’sanlibo’t ‘sang tuwa” from Aparri to Jolo.(/30)