TV shows today’s generation failed to see
STARBYTES - Butch Francisco () - September 1, 2005 - 12:00am
(First of two parts)
In late July, I came out with a three-part series on the state of national television. In the concluding portion, I lamented the fact that we no longer have drama anthologies – especially those that feature adaptations from literary classics or Hollywood movie greats. I cited as an example the drama anthology Salaghati in the old ABS-CBN Channel 4 that featured local adaptations of Glass Menagerie, A Streetcar Named Desire and even Wait Until Dark.

A week after that series of articles came out, I got a message from director Nick Lizaso, who asked me to return his call. I did and when we talked on the phone, he told me he did all those local adaptations I mentioned in my column and could add some more to the list. Since that was going to take long, I suggested we meet up and put down everything he remembers because I presume there are no existing records of those great shows of the past.

Over coffee at my house the other week, we tried catching up on old times. (Nick was one of the people I met early in my career and we maintain common friends.) I’m glad he is still active on television and is, in fact, directing a new public affairs program on Channel 5 called MMDA on the Road... Getting Things Done.

From the present time, however, we decided to eventually go to the past and tried to recall his television experiences so that I could put them down on record for whatever they’re worth.

According to Nick, a Speech and Drama major from the University of the East, his passport to television was Cecile Guidote-Alvarez. He met her in 1965 at Dallas University where Cecile was training as an actress.

When they returned to Manila, Cecile, who had earlier put up PETA, decided to go into television and produced Balintataw for the old Channel 5. She got Lupita Concio (now Kashiwahara) to be the camera director (camera shots and all the technical aspects) and tapped Nick to be the stage director (basically the interpretation of the play). One of the early works they presented in Balintataw was The World is an Apple – with Robert Arevalo in the lead.

Nick Lizaso, however, didn’t stay long in Balintataw because he was asked by Channel 5 to take over Carmen on Camera, a musical that topbilled Carmen Soriano – with the Tiongco Brothers as the other mainstays.

Carmen on Camera
had been on the air for quite some time, but the show kept losing in the CAT Awards to An Evening With Pilita on ABS-CBN.

When Nick started directing the musical (with Al Quinn as choreographer and Emil Mijares as musical director), he introduced the concept of having themes every week. Sometimes, it was an all-Gershwin evening. On some nights, it was Cole Porter. His innovation was well-received by the viewing public and the show finally won the much-coveted CAT trophy for Best Musical Program.

For the old Channel 5, he also directed Tisoy, a comedy based on the comic strip of Nonoy Marcelo. Then matinee idol Jimmy Morato, after being introduced in the Larry Santiago Productions movie Cleopakwak, was cast in the lead role of Tisoy. The late Bert Marcelo was Cliff, while Moody Diaz was Aling Otik.

For the role of the lovely Maribubut (Tisoy’s love interest), two girls were initially considered: One was Eileen Samson, a former Miss UST and the other was Nova Villa, considered one of the loveliest faces in the movies in the ’60s. Nova actually auditioned for the part and had impressed everyone with her fresh beauty and acting talent.

One evening, however, Nick Lizaso was asked to direct a University of the East affair at the Philamlife Auditorium and saw a lovely woman being escorted by Butz Aquino. She turned out to be 1967 Miss Philippines Pilar Pilapil. In Nick’s mind, this was Maribubut and promptly recommended the beauty queen to the show’s producers. While they agreed that she was indeed perfect for the part, Pilar had one problem: She had a thick Cebuana accent and had difficulty speaking Tagalog. But Nick fought hard for Pilar and she went on to do the part at a weekly salary of P150, which was a reasonably good enough salary for a newcomer in 1968 – the year Tisoy went on the air.

Unfortunately, Tisoy didn’t last long on television. It was canceled after only a year and Nick Lizaso found himself jobless for sometime.

(To be concluded)

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