Eat, Bulaga!’s road to victory

STARBYTES - Butch Francisco -
Through the years, Eat, Bulaga! has collected a total of 14 trophies for Best Variety Show from the two local award-giving bodies for television (the Philippine Movie Press Club and the Entertainment Press Society) – plus about a dozen more honors for Best Variety Show Hosts for Joey de Leon, Vic Sotto and recently, Pia Guanio.

At the center of its crown of laurels, however, is the daily noontime show’s most treasured recognition – a precious nod from the very prestigious Asian Television Awards, which, only two weeks ago enthroned the program’s 25th anniversary celebration as the Best Entertainment Special of the year.

Billed as Eat, Bulaga! Silver Special, the grand extravaganza held at the Clark Expo in Pampanga and aired over GMA 7 last month was staged by its production company, TAPE Inc., primarily to mark the show’s 25th year, but not necessarily to field as an entry in any awards competition either here or abroad.

Middle of this year, however, GMA 7 management, a consistent winner of local and international awards, encouraged the independent production TAPE Inc. to submit Eat, Bulaga!’s 25th anniversary show in one of the Asian Television Awards’ entertainment categories.

GMA 7 brought home several trophies in the past from the Asian Television Awards and was hoping to win some more this year. (The network eventually snagged about half a dozen awards, including Terrestrial Channel of the Year, which is the top plum.) Maybe TAPE would want to do the same and enter the Eat, Bulaga! Silver Special in this international awards competition?

TAPE Inc. followed the network’s suggestion and sent a DVD PAL copy to the Asian Television Awards on the last day of submission, July 29, 2005. While hoping to win in its category, the TAPE people didn’t exactly set their expectations too high because they knew the Asian Television Awards – now on its 10th year – had always been a tough contest among the very best in this continent. This year alone, there were more than 1,400 entries from the different TV stations all over Asia. Participating nations included Japan, China, Hong Kong, Bangladesh, Malaysia, Pakistan, Indonesia, Sri Lanka, India, South Korea, Singapore, Taiwan, Thailand, Vietnam and, of course, the Philippines.

Tasked to trim down the entries and select the final winners via secret balloting was a panel of judges – actually TV industry professionals numbering 57 in all – from various Asian nations. From the Philippines, there were only two jurors: Evelyn Raymundo, ABS-CBN vice president for Programs Acquisition and Ma. Regina A. Magno, program manager of GMA 7.

Hopes were raised for the TAPE people in September when they got word that the number of entries had already been trimmed down and that the Eat, Bulaga! Silver Special had entered what the awards organization calls the Short List. (One of the Philippine entries from the long list that was eventually dropped was a Ryan Cayabyab musical aired over ABS-CBN.)

A month later, it became official: Eat, Bulaga! Silver Special was named finalist in its category and along with the announcement came an invitation for TAPE officials and Eat, Bulaga! stars to attend the 10th Asian Television Awards in Singapore last Dec. 1.

TAPE Inc. organized a delegation of 30 people – probably the biggest after the host country – who were flown to Singapore in different batches last week of November.

Upon reaching their foreign destination, anxiety attacks brought about by the Asian Television Awards competition were temporarily set aside as emotions were lost in the frenzy of Singaporean shopping. The contest at that point was focused on who got the best bargain.

The Eat, Bulaga! cast and crew were actually entitled to that moment of fun because that trip to Singapore was also a treat from Mr. Tony Tuviera, TAPE president and CEO, who wanted to reward everyone with a few days of rest and relaxation abroad after working so hard to maintain the show’s position in the No. 1 slot.

In time, however, reality set in and everyone was on pins and needles once again – unsure of their fate in that award race.

Oh, it was emotional purgatory for the people of Eat, Bulaga! A part of them tells them they were going to win because why would the organizers bother to invite them and make them travel that distance if they will only go home empty-handed?

At the same time, the triumvirate of Tito, Vic and Joey were also given a much-coveted spot as presenters in the awards presentation. Maybe that was going to be their consolation for having made the effort to come to Singapore. Filipinos have a Tagalog term for it: Pampalubag-loob.

They would have been more confident about winning had it not been for another nominee in their category: The 2005 MTV Asia Aid. How in heaven’s name could they win over a show chronicling and even raising funds for the global disaster that was the great tsunami last year? But they went to the awards show in high spirits anyway and hoped for the best.

On the day of the Asian TV Awards, the organizers dispatched a car to ferry Tito, Vic and Joey to the show venue – The National Cultural Center Hall of the National University of Singapore. The rest took an air-conditioned bus TAPE hired for the occasion.

At 6:15 p.m., cocktails were served and by 7:30, the show was already rolling. One of the hosts was Jay-R and among the performers was Rachelle Ann Go.

Thirty-three awards were to be presented that evening and the winner in the category for Best Entertainment Special was going to be announced in the middle of the program.

When the moment finally came, the presenter – a comedian from Singapore who was assigned to read the result prolonged the agony of the Eat, Bulaga! delegation even further by going on and on with his spiels. Tension was building up. And then, the moment of truth: The Best Entertainment Special – Eat, Bulaga! Silver Special, TAPE Inc. for GMA Network, Channel 7, Philippines.

The Eat, Bulaga! gang went wild. Tito, Vic and Joey, Mr. Tony Tuviera and Ms. Malou Choa-Fagar, TAPE senior vice president, all went on stage to accept the trophy. Everyone got the chance to acknowledge the award, but it was Mr. Tuviera’s speech that thanked everyone "for sharing your lunch and noontime viewing with us for the past 25 years" which got the most thunderous applause.

After the show, the Eat, Bulaga! delegation skipped the official post-awards dinner given by the organizers because Mr. Tuviera had earlier reserved a function room at the Meritus Mandarin Hotel (where they were billeted) for their private celebration – win or lose.

Everyone flew back to Manila the following day feeling victorious. Their award – a handsome trophy of glass and metal – now sits proudly at the TAPE office in Xavierville Avenue, Quezon City. It is a beautiful work of art. But more than that, it has come to symbolize what Eat, Bulaga! has achieved through the years.

What was once dismissed as just some mindless and senseless noontime program is now one of Asia’s best.












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