Aljo Bendijo: A promdi in the big city
- Ricky Lo () - March 3, 2002 - 12:00am

It’s now a commonly-used word, all right, but you can’t find it – yet – in any dictionary, unlike the word Filipina which found its way to the Oxford Dictionary, said to mean domestic, until the Philippine Government filed a protest. Goodbye, Filipina!

simply means promdi probinsya – you know, from the province.

Once a promdi, always a promdi. What they’ve been saying is true: You can take a boy out of the country but you can’t take the country out of a boy.

A good example is Aljo Bendijo, anchor (with Korina Sanchez and Henry Omaga-Diaz) of TV Patrol and host of Sapul Kayo Diyan (Saturdays, starting at 10:30 p.m.), both on ABS-CBN. Since he burst onto national television more than a year ago, Aljo has been hailed as a Hunk in his own right, oozing with machismo and sex appeal with his drop-dead not really very good but manly looks and his bedroom voice which he sometimes (deliberately, perhaps?) modulates to the extreme.

Check out the e-mail at ABS-CBN and the comments from all corners of the country, mostly from girls, confirm Aljo’s new status as – that’s it – TV Newscast’s Hunk, the likes of whom were last seen many years back during the time of Apa Ongpin and other bright boys (Manny Ayala, etc.) of ABS-CBN. Today, Aljo Bendijo is in a class of his own, uneasily learning to enjoy his status as, observed an entertainment editor, "way above that of a newscaster and a little below that of a movie actor."

The e-mails are bubbling with excitement. One reads: "Aljo, you’re cute!" Another reads: "Aljo, guwapo!" Still another one gushes: "Aljo, ang lakas ng appeal mo!"

Mr. Hunk is Alexis Joseph Rubia Bendijo, who turned 28 last Feb. 6. He’s an Aquarian, standing 5’10" and weighing 160 lbs. His waist line is a trim 32 inches.

As per the request of STAR readers, mostly girls, Conversations pinned down Aljo the other day for a small talk that has nothing at all to do with the crime stories that he reports on TV Patrol but exclusively about his background and his promdi-ness which definitely adds to his appeal. On second thought, Aljo is not really a promdi in the true sense of the word, having been born and grown up in Davao City which, come to think of it, is somewhat "country" compared to the frenetic lifestyle of Manila, Aljo’s second home.

What have been the changes in your life since you got into TV Patrol?

"Marami; malaki. More pressures, less social life. First time I’ve been away from my family this long. Nami-miss ko sila. It has been all work, with hardly any play."

By family, you mean your immediate family...

" parents and my two younger sisters. They are all in Davao."

Somebody told me that you came from a closely-knit, well-to-do family in Davao.

"Closely-knit, but not well-to-do. Maybe that somebody was referring to the Bendijos in Davao, not the Bendijos. Mahirap ang mga Bendijos."

Aside from lack of social life, which part of your lifestyle has been affected by the "big city"?

"My sleeping habit. I hardly sleep at all. The scope of my job now is wider and bigger than the scope of my job in Davao."

Besides TV Patrol and Sapul Ka Diyan, what else are you doing?

"I’m also a field reporter, assigned at night (8 p.m. to 5 a.m.). I cover the police beat."

What was your job at ABS-CBN Davao?

"Senior Desk Officer. At the same time I anchored a public-service program on DXAB. I started working at ABS-CBN Davao in 1994; I was still studying then at Ateneo de Davao."

I thought the Bendijos are poor. Isn’t Ateneo a school for the rich and the elite?

"I was a scholar. I studied for two years in Ateneo, taking up AB Communication Arts (1990 to 1992) and then I moved to Holy Cross of Davao College and shifted to AB Mass Communication (1992 to 1996)."

Were you a self-supporting student?

"I was. I was only in high school at Southeastern University (also in Davao) when I started working. I worked as a waiter and even as a janitor."

Did you experience "culture shock" when you moved from Davao to Manila?

"It took a while before I got adjusted. In Davao kasi, life is laid-back, very relaxed, compared to the hectic life and pace in Manila. In Davao, if your appointment is at 12 noon, you can leave your house at quarter to 12 and arrive at the appointed place right on time. Here, if your appointment is at 12 noon, you must leave your house at least one hour in advance, especially if you live in Quezon City and your appointment is in Makati. In Davao, I can relax, nakakapamasyal ako, something I can’t do here. In Davao, I have friends. Dito, I have only a few."

How would you describe your one year with ABS-CBN Manila?

"Tragedy!" (Breaking into laughter) "You’ve heard about what happened, didn’t you?"

Oh, your suspension... What really happened? Were you sleeping on the job, according to reports? Maybe you do lack sleep that’s why it happened.

"Natutulog ba ’yung uuwi ka lang sa bahay sandali?"

Once and for all, ano ba ang nangyari? This is your chance to clear yourself.

"I was accused of using the company car for personal purposes. Ginamit ko daw for ‘personal use.’ What really happened was that I did use the company car to get my jacket which I left at home. Malapit lang ang bahay ko, located only three blocks from ABS-CBN."

Oh, maybe it was a simple case of inggit (envy). According to rumors, some people are insecure because of you. Is it true that you have a padrino (a powerful backer) at ABS-CBN?

. I don’t have any padrino. Siguro nakita ng company ang potential ko. What I do is just work. That’s what I’m here in Manila for – to work. Kaya nga tinitiis kong malayo sa family ko because of work."

First time you’re living by yourself?

"I have a cousin who keeps me company. He drives for me. He does the laundry. We alternate in cooking our meals and in cleaning the house. I go to the market myself. We don’t have any maid. We live in an apartment, small but comfortable."

Talaga bang
you don’t have any social life here, even in-between tapings and your TV Patrol/Sapul Ka Diyan work?

"During my free time, mas gusto ko pa ang maglinis ng kotse."

You really are a promdi at heart. How would you describe a typical day in your life?

"I usually wake up at 3 a.m. By 4 o’clock, I should be at the studio to prepare for the Magandang Umaga Bayan segment of Alas Singko y Medya. And then, I monitor the news, read the papers. I do it at home. I sleep at 11 a.m. I get only about four or five hours of sleep everyday. Kapag may krimen, I rush to the crime scene to cover it. Then, I get ready for TV Patrol. If there’s nothing else to do in the studio, I go home and again monitor the news. I sleep at around 11 p.m. or 12 midnight. On Saturdays, I work on Sapul Ka Diyan. My routine is bahay-trabaho-bahay-trabaho. How can I still have a social life?"

Of course, you are now a star in your own right. Ano ang effect sa’yo ng pagiging star mo?

"It’s embarrassing! Nakakahiya. Actually, hindi ko feel ‘yung sinasabi mong pagiging ‘star’ ko. I don’t look at myself that way; I never have any illusion that I am a ‘star’. Basta sa akin, trabaho lang."

But you are, whether you like it or not. How do you feel when people ask for your autograph?

"‘Yung mga taga-squatter area, kilala ko talaga."

For the information of female readers... Do you have a girlfriend?

(Without hesitation)
"Yes, I have. She’s in Davao."

How long have you been going steady?

"Four years."

There’s a rumor that a pretty lady at ABS-CBN is, well, "keeping" you.

(Looking surprised)
"Who said so?"

Doesn’t distance affect your relationship with your (Davao) girlfriend?

(Clearing throat)
"Sort of. She’s there; I’m here. Malayo."

How often you do go home to Davao?

"At least once every month."

But your family does come to visit you...

"...not often. Malayo, e. They were here recently, though."

According to rumors (from his detractors, presumably), kaya ka raw nagkapuyat-puyat is because you acted as their "tourist" guide.

"It’s not true! Intriga lang ’yon."

Well, siguro those rumors came from those na naiinggit sa’yo. Anyway, for the curiosity of male readers... Are you a hard (as in heavy) drinker?

(A serious look in his face)
"I used to be. Malakas na malakas. Dati, isang kaha ng beer kaya ko."

As in one whole case of beer!?!

(Breaking into smile) "Hindi. Kalahati lang."

Bluntly now, do you have a love child? Tell us now or remain silent forever.

(Serious look back in his face)
"None. Wala."

A, wala... pa!

"I come from a poor, conservative and religious family. I believe in the sanctity of marriage. I’ll have a child only after I get married, not out of wedlock."

Famous last words. Let me see... You said it at exactly 12:45 p.m., Friday, March 1, at the ground floor of the Taste of L.A. Restaurant, Roces Avenue corner Morato Avenue, Quezon City. There... marked! Ano naman ang tipo mong babae?

"‘Yung simple lang, ’yung tunay magmahal. Hindi kaliwete. ‘Yung promdi at heart like me."

What’s the first thing that you notice in a woman?

"The total personality. Even if she’s not beautiful she can be attractive if her total personality is pleasing, pleasant."

What turns you off naman?

"’Yung plastic ang dating, ’yung mukhang mayabang, ‘yung mukhang suplada. ‘Yung makapal ang

What do you find sexy in a woman?

"It’s not physical. I find intelligent women sexy. ‘Yung matalino at good conversationalist."

Name three women whom you find sexy.

(Thinks awhile)
"Only three? Ang dami diyan!"

Only three for the time being.

(Thinks long and hard)
"Si Connie Sison... maganda ’yon. There’s also Cheryl Cosim. Another one is Cherrie Mercado."

But who’s the one object of your fantasy, if any?


, newscaster, TV host, singer, senadora...

(Thinks some more)

How do you spend the rare, rare times that you have to spare? Do you read? Do you watch movies? What do you do?

"I sleep!"

Oh, I see! Puyat ka nga pala palagi. Sleep is a luxury to you.

"I watch a little TV – ANC, Cinema One, etc. – and then I fall asleep. I want to but I have no time to read books. But I do read as many papers as I can every day – tabloids, broadsheets, lahat!"

In the rare, rare times that you socialize, or go out, how do you react to aggressive women attracted to? You know, those who give away calling cards or some such not-so-subtle invitation to, well, ecstasy (not the prohibited drug, although just as addicting).

"I talk to them; I’m nice to them."

What if they want something more exciting than just... talking?

"I continue to be nice to them without leading them on to something more than that."

What do you find sexy in your body?

(Thinks awhile again)
"None. Wala!" (Thinks again) "I guess it’s my voice. It’s not part of but it comes from my body, doesn’t it?"

Final question: If you were trapped in an ABS-CBN booth during a brownout, who would you like to be with you?

"I can’t think of any."

Maybe the girl of your fantasy...

"Before, ang dami kong ganoon. But when I began working at ABS-CBN, wala na."

Who were among your previous girls of fantasy?

"Sina Dawn Zulueta, Gretchen Barretto..."

So you would rather be stranded alone in an ABS-CBN booth during a brownout?

"I guess so."

How boring! What would you do?

(Breaking into a wide
, promdi smile) "Sleep!"

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