Noontime shows through the years

STAR BYTES - Butch Francisco -
Coney Reyes’ formal entry as Eat Bulaga’s new female co-host in May 1982 coincided with RPN-9’s launching of its domestic satellite. It was a big affair held at the Celebrity Sports Club, which is next-door to Broadcast City.

That was the turning point in the history of Eat Bulaga. Benefiting from Channel 9’s domestic satellite, the show was beamed live all throughout the archipelago and – under this arrangement – was able to command higher rates from advertisers.

Coney’s joining the program also boosted the show’s ratings because she was the season’s underdog and had a lot of sympathizers behind her. (She also became a bigger star thereafter – not only on TV, but also in the movies.)

But money didn’t come in yet into the Eat Bulaga coffers at this point. (Payments from advertisers don’t usually come in until many months later). Mainstay Debraliz Valasote, in fact, quit the show in mid-1982 because of delays in her salary.

However, when Eat Bulaga eventually came into money, its producers really pampered the show’s hosts and gave them princely salaries. And just to illustrate how generous its producers are, Eat Bulaga continued putting Aiza Seguerra under its payroll even long after the former child star had left the program to concentrate on her high school studies. In fact, Eat Bulaga even got Aiza a college plan early on and she’s presently availing of this now that she’s enrolled at the UST’s College of Music.

Months after Coney joined the program, a misunderstanding within the trio of Tito, Vic & Joey erupted and this almost led to Joey de Leon’s departure from the show. When the producers of Student Canteen got wind of the trouble brewing within the Eat Bulaga fold, they lost no time negotiating with Joey. During the final talks with the Student Canteen people, he got so drunk that he almost agreed to the offer. But after a good rest right at the corner of East Avenue and Matalino Street in Teachers’ Village (in front of where the PLDT office stands), Joey came to his senses and realized the gravity of that decision. He eventually said no to the Student Canteen offer, patched things up with his Eat Bulaga friends and stayed on with the show.

By this time, Eat Bulaga had already wrested the noontime supremacy away from Student Canteen which – for the longest time until then – was the undisputed king of lunchtime programs.

In the first half of the ’80s, Eat Bulaga introduced a lot of contests that proved to be very popular among the viewers: Little Miss Philippines, Miss Gay Philippines, Maid in the Philippines, Palengke Queen, etc.

By 1986, Student Canteen had already bowed out of the noontime race, but – in its place – came formidable competition: Lunch Date on Channel 7.

Lunch Date
’s original hosts were Orly Mercado, Rico J. Puno, Chiqui Hollmann-Yulo and Toni Rose Gayda. However, it was the inclusion of Randy Santiago and his mysterious pair of shades in Lunch Date that threatened Eat Bulaga from its position in the No. 1 noontime slot. For a while, in fact, the ratings tilted in favor of Lunch Date and this sent chills down the spine of the Eat Bulaga people.

But luck was still on Eat Bulaga’s side. In 1987, Eat Bulaga had a pre-programmer called Kumpletos Recados – a game show with Richard Merck and Malu Maglutac (later replaced by Bessie Badilla) as hosts. One day, Kumpletos Recados toyed around with the idea of putting in the show a Little Miss Philippines runner-up named Aiza Seguerra.

Aiza hit it instantly with the audience. She was eventually absorbed by Eat Bulaga and the show was again back in its position as the No. 1 noontime program.

In 1989, Eat Bulaga moved out of Channel 9 and transferred to ABS-CBN. On the day it was launched on Channel 2, Lani Mercado came in as a replacement for Coney Reyes who had to take a maternity leave. She returned to the show later that year after she gave birth to her son by co-host, Vic Sotto.

Coney eventually left Eat Bulaga for good in 1991. The show’s producers, however, didn’t immediately hire a permanent replacement for her. The program first tried out two aspirants instead: Swimming champion Christine Jacob and Millet Advincula who became a familiar face to the viewing public because of her Duty Free commercial (the one where she calls out "Tonio" to her OFW husband). In the end, Eat Bulaga chose Christine Jacob as Coney’s replacement. Later, Rio Diaz (upon the recommendations of Coney) also joined the program right after she returned from the US.

Rio was really no stranger to television when she joined Eat Bulaga. In 1977, after she was crowned Mutya ng Pilipinas-Asia, she already did hosting jobs for some BBC-2 variety programs. But it was Eat Bulaga that made her more accessible to the masses.

Eat Bulaga
actually gave a lot of celebrities their big breaks. Plinky Recto, for instance, was a Palmolive commercial model functioning as an Urian Awards trophy girl at the Manila Film Center on the night she was spotted by the Eat Bulaga producers. She stayed with the noontime show for a couple of years.

Then, there was former theater actress Ces Quesada who gained fame when she joined Eat Bulaga in 1989.

Ruby Rodriguez, who started out as a mainstay of Okay Ka, Fairy Ko, became even more popular after she was taken in as a regular in this program.

In the case of Jimmy Santos, his daily exposure in Eat Bulaga sustained his popularity long after his career as a top movie comedian had waned.

There were also other celebrities who were already big names when they joined the Eat Bulaga scene. The late Helen Vela, for example, was already a major TV star when she was made to host the Kilometrico quiz segment in Eat Bulaga in the early ’80s. (She was also Coney Reyes’ eternal pinch-hitter.)

Then, there was Nova Villa who was also recruited by the show in the early ’90s to play "teacher" in the show’s Bulagaan portion. (For a while, Nova also did the Kitchenomics segment). Too bad, Nova Villa, a bona fide ABS-CBN contract star – wasn’t allowed by Channel 2 to join Eat Bulaga when the show moved to GMA-7 in 1995.

Today, Eat Bulaga is comprised by a rather large cast composed of Toni Rose Gayda, Sherilyn Reyes, Anjo Yllana, Janno Gibbs, Allan K. and Gladys (of Gladys and the Boxers).

The show is still doing extremely well in the ratings game, but, of course, faces tough competition in Channel 2’s Magandang Tanghali, Bayan.

But even if it gets cancelled tomorrow (and it won’t), Eat Bulaga has already made its mark as the longest running noontime show (22 years-going-on-23) in the history of Philippine television.












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