The rich rewards of loyalty

STAR BYTES - Butch Francisco -
GMA 7 marks its 56th anniversary tomorrow with a grand show to be held at the World Trade Center in Roxas Blvd. As of this writing, however, I haven’t been told what I’m doing exactly and I have no idea about the contents of the program. But I do hope that in one portion, they give credit to the men and women of the station who have shown them loyalty through the years. Unfortunately, I don’t qualify yet for a loyalty award because I’ve been with the network for only a few years. But I do have two on-cam talents in mind who were extremely loyal to Channel 7: German Moreno and the late Helen Vela.

In the early ’90s, when it was Channel 2 that was clearly ahead in the network race, ABS-CBN tried to lure German and Helen into joining the Lopez-owned station.

These two talents – pillars in the industry actually – surely had worked for other TV stations in the past and were not with Channel 7 all their lives. Helen, in fact, was an announcer in an ABS-CBN radio station before martial law – if I’m not mistaken. (I’m going to confirm this with Joey de Leon when I see him today in Startalk).

Toward the mid-’80s, she also brought her Lovingly Yours, Helen show to the now-defunct BBC-2 (then owned by the Benedictos) as a business move. It was also there that she began her career as a newscaster in Pilipino.

After EDSA, however, she moved back to GMA 7 and became an even bigger star – doing both news and Lovingly Yours, Helen – until she got ill and had to be hospitalized here and, later, abroad where she died on February 14, 1992.

Aside from the news and Lovingly Yours (which she herself produced), she earlier hosted the daily pre-noontime show Suerte sa Siete and was a Saturday regular on Student Canteen until February 1982. In the late ’80s up to the time of her death, she also produced and starred in the sitcom Family 3 + 1, a show that will always be remembered for espousing positive values on television.

In the case of German Moreno, the Master Showman practically has known only two TV stations in his very long (and I mean long) career in show business: GMA 7 and RPN-9.

German probably only continued working for RPN-9 to throw his loyalty and support to Nora Aunor in the Sunday variety show Superstar. His heart, however, surely belongs to Channel 7 where he was given solo shows as early as the ’70s.

Although most of his early programs were independent productions (Gil Balaguer’s – if I’m not mistaken), his face will always be identified with Channel 7.

Two shows he handled for GMA 7 became institutions on television: the Sunday noontime extravaganza GMA Supershow and the late afternoon teen program That’s Entertainment.

It was at the peak of the popularity of these two programs when he was invited to join ABS-CBN, an offer he politely refused. His reason: He wanted to be loyal to GMA 7. This actually earned for him the ABS-CBN people’s respect even more. I don’t know if he knows that, but I heard the ABS-CBN executives say that.

Actually, German Moreno’s brand of loyalty is legendary. In fact, I don’t know of any other Sampaguita Pictures talent who can match his loyalty to the Vera-Perezes, who got him started in the movies.

His loyalty to GMA 7, of course, did not go without its reward. To this day, he still has his own program – the late, late night (or early, early morning) weekend variety show, Master Showman on Channel 7. It may be airing at an unholy hour, but surely it has its own following.

As for Helen Vela, the offer of ABS-CBN back then was for her to have her own show – on primetime. But Helen was more practical. In her own words: "Why would I risk going on primetime and compete with the rest when I’m already established as the queen of daytime?" The ABS-CBN executives could only agree with her. Up to her death Helen Vela was a GMA 7 talent.

Unfortunately, she – along with Uncle Bob Stewart (who started it all), Chito Feliciano, Julie Vega, Elvira Manahan, Bobby Ledesma, Bert Marcelo, Inday Badiday, Louie Beltran, Jose Mari Velez, Teddy Benigno, Chat Silayan and even Fernando Poe Jr. – are no longer around to celebrate and experience GMA 7’s success as the country’s No. 1 television station.

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