Mahal na, Mura pa!

- Leah Salterio -
Who would have thought that the likes of Mahal and Mura, two of the most recognizable talents on local showbiz today, would become staples of noontime TV entertainment fare?

There are cruel viewers who maintain that the two are better off in carnival sideshows or in town fiestas. But ABS-CBN has deemed it wise for Mahal and Mura to be seen on TV as mainstays of the daily noontime show, Masayang Tanghali Bayan, where they have become virtual scene-stealers.

Since April, when the two new talents joined the roster of MTB hosts, the program has become strongly identified with them and vice-versa. The two have gotten their share of followers and supporters by appearing daily on the noontime show. Recently, a Mahal and Mura game portion was even added to the show.

Both 29, Mahal and Mura shared a common dream of being seen on TV and becoming showbiz stars when they were younger. Both also have their respective idols up to this day.

Mahal is a big fan of former Miss Saigon star Lea Salonga and Fernando Poe Jr., whom she dreams of working with in a movie one day. Mura, meanwhile, idolizes former President Joseph Estrada and Ronnie Ricketts.

Mahal is not totally a stranger to viewers. She first became known on the now-defunct noontime show, Lunch Date, where she was discovered by host Randy Santiago in 1989.

"I used to frequent Lunch Date with my younger sister," Mahal fondly recalls in Tagalog. "Seiko Films spotted me and asked me to join the promo of Pardina, which was about dwarfs. Then Kuya Randy saw me and offered me to become a regular talent in their program."

When she became a mainstay of Lunch Date, Mahal subsequently received film offers. She was cast in a number of Regal movies like Last Two Minutes with basketball cagers Alvin Patrimonio, Benjie Paras, Jerry Codiñera and Paul Alvarez, Anak ni Janice with Janice de Belen and Small But Terrible with Manilyn Reynes.

When Lunch Date stopped airing, Mahal did provincial shows where she was often featured in song and dance numbers. Occasionally, she also found time to visit Kuya Randy on the set of MTB.

"Whenever I had the chance, I would ask my sister to accompany me to ABS-CBN so I could see Kuya Randy," says Mahal, the eldest of four kids. "Early this year, some people in the studio told me there’s another person daw who looks like me and they thought she was my sister."

The other talent happens to be Mura, who joined the Flying Sexy contest on MTB. Mura was spotted by MTB host Willie Revillame, who came up with the brilliant idea of packaging the two talents as "sisters" or "twins." But sisters or not, Mahal and Mura have undoubtedly emerged as a popular and amusing TV duo, recognized by fans from as far as Australia and San Francisco (where ABS-CBN’s The Filipino Channel is seen).

Mahal, now being managed by Ramon Yuzon, attests that when she goes out of the ABS-CBN studios, there are fans who request for her autograph or ask for a souvenir shot. "What I don’t like sometimes is when they pinch me on the cheeks or arms, kasi minsan masakit," Mahal says ruefully.

Mura, the sixth in a brood of eight, has also learned how to deal with her new-found fame. She says even her father, who lives in Bicol with her siblings, was stunned when he learned she would be a regular talent on MTB.

"But my father was very happy when he saw me on TV," says Mura, whose mom died when she was only five. After she finished elementary in Bicol, she came to Manila with her family. Mura now lives in Tondo, Manila with her manager who also acts as her guardian.

During her birthday last July 5, Mura was surprised by the MTB production staff when five of her siblings showed up live in the studio to greet her. She cannot be happier now that she can send part of her showbiz earnings to her family in Bicol.

Mahal, meanwhile, is also proud of sending her younger brother to school, as well as giving daily allowance to her nephews and nieces. Every month, she sets aside P9,000 from her income for her family’s expenses. The rest of her money goes to the bank and not to erstwhile boyfriend Jimboy, contrary to what has been written.

"It’s over now between me and Jimboy," Mahal says. "My stepsister and my manager help me manage my money so I don’t spend it on unnecessary things."

Mahal and Mura have endeared themselves to their MTB co-hosts and even to other ABS-CBN talents. When Willie Revillame recently went on a trip to Las Vegas, he brought home pasalubongs for his two small friends. Each got a pair of rubber shoes, while Mahal got a Barbie Doll and Mura got another toy.

The Buzz
hosts Boy Abunda and Kris Aquino shelled out a few thousands from their earnings to give Mahal and Mura additional budget for clothes.

"They know that we need clothes to appear on TV everyday, that’s why they gave us money," Mura says.

Aside from MTB, Mahal and Mura have also guested on other ABS-CBN shows. They recently traded laughs with the wacky cast of Okay Fine Whatever, led by Aga Muhlach, Edu Manzano and Bayani Agbayani. They also tried their luck in winning millions on Game Ka Na Ba?, hosted by Kris Aquino.

For her part, Mahal returned to the big screen in Utang ng Ama starring Joey Marquez and Jinggoy Estrada for Maverick Films. The movie is a possible entry to this year’s Metro Manila Film Festival in December.

Off camera, Mahal and Mura have inevitably become friends. They bought their cute Panasonic cell phones together at SM Manila. They also bond in some gimmicks after work, like videoke in Mura’s house in or to the comedy bar Punchline in Quezon City.

Small people that they are, Mahal and Mura have big dreams. Mahal wants a bright future for her siblings and dreams of buying a van, while Mura wants to build a house for her family.

With their talent, coupled with patience and hard work, Mahal and Mura can never go wrong.

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