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Detonating Atom’s bomb

Isang ‘mahiwagang’ hapon sa buhay ni Atom Araullo, ang‘spice boy’ ng ABS-CBN News    

Is Atom so nicknamed because he graduated with a B.S. Applied Physics degree (at UP, 2000-2005)?

Not really, although as per Webster’s definition of an atom (…considered as a source of vast potential energy), he might as well be described as “atomic” (like the bomb).

The sobriquet is actually a combination of his grandfathers’ names, Alfonso Araullo and Tomas Pagaduan.

Alfonso Tomas Araullo was born on Oct. 19, 1982 (Libra), a well-packaged TV host (Hiwaga on ABS-CBN) and field reporter (for Umagang Kay Ganda on same channel) who stands 5’10”, weighs 155 lbs. and wears medium-size shirt, medium-size  briefs and size-9 shoes. He’s hands-down the best-looking guy, the Spice Boy of the Kapamilya News Department.

As a kid, Atom was a science freak who watched shows on the Discovery Channel, that’s why he studied as a scholar at the Philippine Science High School (1996-2000) which is famous for being the alma mater of exceptionally-talented students. Before PSci (pronounced “Pisay”), Atom was at Ateneo where he was a member of the Children’s Theater which cast him at age 10 in the title role in Oliver.

“I pursued theater only until my first year in college,” said Atom who did a stint as a co-host of tween show 5 & Up (produced by Probe Team for GMA) together with the likes of Chynna Ortaleza, Maxene Magalona and Cruz brothers Rayver and Rodjun. Later, after graduation, Atom also co-hosted the Studio 23 show Breakfast with Bianca Gonzalez, Ryan Agoncillo, Mariton Pacheco and Bam Aquino (newly-elected senator).

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True to the title of his weekly ABS-CBN show, Atom (who has won awards too many to enumerate here) is partly shrouded in “mystery” (mahiwaga) so one afternoon Conversations tried to uncover him and, in a sense, “detonating” the Atom Bomb. He showed up at the pool bar of the Imperial Palace Suites (IPS) looking more like a fashion plate than a field reporter.

Are you aware that you are the best-looking guy in the ABS-CBN News Department, bar none (any objections?)?

(Blushes) “According to who…my mother?” (Laughs) “I really don’t think so. I’m happy…how should I say it?...to be recognized for my looks but in reporting kasi that’s not the most important thing; it’s only secondary, uhm, not even secondary, siguro pangatlong bagay na lang.”

Your field is very competitive, isn’t it?

“Oh yes, it is. Very competitive.”

And looking good is a plus factor, of course!

“You think so?”

Doesn’t being good-looking distract people from the stories you are reporting?

“Hopefully not.”

Are you vain like most good-looking guys?

“Uhm, I think all of us are vain to a certain degree. It would be hypocritical of me to say that I don’t care the least bit about my looks. But wala kaming masyadong luxury sa News because when you are in the field, mauusukan ka, papawisan ka, madudumihan ka, you have to go to places na hindi maayos ang sitwasyon so hindi puedeng ayos palagi ang buhok mo, hindi puedeng lagi kang mabango, hindi puedeng magbihis ng maayos palagi…you should always be on the go.”

Some people find you somewhat suplado (snob). What is Atom Araullo really like?

“Suplado? Hindi naman. I’m just shy by nature, not the palabati type. When I am at a party, nahihiya ako maki-mix sa guests. I guess it’s part of my personality.”

But you are not anti-social, are you?

“I don’t think so, hindi naman. I think I’m more of an introvert than an extrovert.”

Aren’t you a partygoer?

“No, I’m not. I don’t even hang out in bars. I’m not into that kind of lifestyle. But sometimes, when friends invite me to an occasion, like a birthday, I do go…once in a blue moon! I’d rather stay at home. Or have a few drinks at some friend’s house. Nag-i-enjoy, kuwentuhan!”

Who are the TV guys that you look up to as role models?

“There’s Tony Velasquez. He’s a great interviewer, he has a great voice and a good command of the language whether it’s English or Filipino. Si Ces Drilon who I admire for her passion for the craft, and Ted Failon for his attempts to popularize issues that aren’t really close to the heart of people, pero importanteng national issues pa rin.”

Oops! You’re very partisan. They are all your fellow Kapamilya!

“Siempre!” (And quickly correcting himself) “But I also admire journalists from other networks but I don’t have a chance to observe them closely. There’s (Kapuso) Howie Severino who is a great documentarist. Sa totoo lang, halos lahat ng seniors got to where they are now because they have amply proven themselves, marami na silang napatunayan.”

I understand that you were politically active in UP, as a councilor.

“Well, UP has always been known as ‘a hotbed of activism.’ I also joined protest marches. I’m proud of that. That’s what you do when you are young. I learned a lot at UP na ina-apply ko pa rin sa buhay.

Like what?

“For one, I’m acutely aware of the prevailing injustice in society, the great divide between the rich and the poor, the elitism in government and many other things that need to be changed. I learned about those issues as a student leader. That’s the advantage of being a student leader; you reach  out to people not only in urban areas but also, especially, in rural areas.”

Which side of the “great divide” do you belong?

“I come from a middle-class family. My mom, Carol Araullo, is an activist. She’s a member of Bayan. But she’s not as active as she used to be, especially when she was a student, because she’s taking care of her health. I look at my mom’s activism as an inspiration. I have only one sibling, an older sister who is married and working at the stock exchange. We grew up in comfort naman, although we didn’t have a lot of luxuries, unlike other families who travel abroad, who have their own cars for their children. I had to look for scholarships so I could have a good education. I took public transport to and from school.”

Describe your typical working day.

“Monday through Friday, I wake up at 3 a.m. and head for ABS-CBN for the morning show Umagang Kay Ganda (UKG), from 5 a.m. to 8 a.m., where I do mostly field reporting. If I have free time, I do other things like take a quick run, swim a bit or play football. I have to be in bed by 10 p.m. On weekends, shoot for my weekly show Hiwaga (about mysterious true stories).”

You don’t have time for yourself, do you?

“I do, every now and then. If I have free time, I sleep. ‘Yon lang ang bisyo ko. Tulog nang tulog.”

It’s good that you’re fit for such a punishing schedule.

“I take care of my health. Keeping fit is natural with me because I’ve been an athlete for a long, long time.”

Don’t you have time for your love life (if any)?

“No love life. Now? Wala akong girlfriend.”

How many girlfriends have you had so far?

“Just one. We went steady for four years, and then we broke up.”

What’s your type ba?

“Somebody who’s comfortable and confident with herself. Independent.”

Pretty and sexy?

“Oo naman, siempre! Those are the things that catch your attention. There are a lot of pretty and sexy girls but not all of them stand out. Importante ‘yung nag-iisip, critical thinker ganoon.”

Do you live alone?

“No. I’m staying with my parents. Medyo spoiled ako sa bahay. Hehehehe!”

With your hectic schedule, do you manage to take three square meals a day?

“Actually, nakaka-apat nga ako, kasi ang haba ng araw ko, eh.”

You had a good start in theater. What would make you go back to acting?

“At this point, I cannot because we are forbidden to. News people are not allowed to cross over to entertainment because the underlying wisdom is that we might lose our credibility. I think in most countries, journalists don’t usually cross  over to entertainment. Acting is something that I enjoyed when I was a kid and I don’t really mind going back to it. Medyo sayang din because I know a lot of theater people…actors and directors…and they sometimes want to include me in their production but unfortunately, too, I have no more time to spare from my work in television.”

Okay, distill your life into three words.

“Adventurous. Curious. Insatiable.”

Atom plays favorites

= Author: Ernest Hemingway (Fiesta, The Sun Also Rises, etc.)

= Filmmaker(s): Akira Kurosawa and Lino Brocka (“I just watched the restored version of Maynila Sa Mga Kuko ng Liwanag and it’s mind-blowing!”)

= Hobby: Photography

= Pastime: Reading books and watching movies

= Part of my body: My eyes. (“When I smile, they disappear. I’m chinky-eyed, tumawa lang ako ng konti nagiging slits na lang ang mga mata ko.”)

= Part of a girl’s body: The hita (“Not the butt, but the part above it”)

= Hideaway: The bathroom. (“When I get suffocated by people, I retreat to the bathroom. It happens during a party. I stay in the bathroom and breathe easily to relax”)zz

= Sport: Football (“When I was younger”), swimming and mountaineering

= Possession: My old photographs

= What I like most about myself: “I don’t take things too seriously.”

= What I don’t like about myself: “My being indecisive. When I shop for shoes, it takes time before I can decide what pairs to buy. I would go back to the store up to three times to make sure I’m choosing the right pair. Maybe I just balance the options before making a decision. I’m a Libran, you know.” 

(E-mail reactions at entphilstar@yahoo.com. You may also send your questions to askrickylo@gmail.com. For more updates, photos and videos visit www.philstar.com/funfare or follow me on www.twitter/therealrickylo.)

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