Ali & Arnold: Double serving, Listeners of their program Dobol A sa Dobol B get two sides of every issue with a punch

Patricia Esteves - The Philippine Star

MANILA, Philippines - Broadcast journalist Arnold Clavio says singer Ali Sotto at first struck him as someone who’s very prim and proper.

 â€œI’ve been Ali’s fan since I was in college as we’re both from UST. Her screen name was still Aloha and she sings so well. In the mid-’90s, I would already see her in the halls of GMA network and even guest in some of the shows she was in but it was just ‘hi and hello,’” Arnold told The STAR during a recent interview, along with Ali, for the promotion of their recently-resumed radio show Dobol A sa Dobol B.

 â€œFrom a distance, she was always so formal but friendly,” he says.

 His impression of her changed when GMA decided to put them together on Dobol A in the late ’90s, and on their first meeting, he was jolted by Ali’s booming voice.

 â€œI remembered it was in a restaurant somewhere in Libis. We had our meeting for the new radio show and I was lost in my thoughts because I would be leaving the Senate beat, which I covered for so many years, and go full time on radio. Then Ali came to the restaurant and talked to Mike Enriquez, who was in charge of the show,” recounts Arnold.

 He was snapped out of his thoughts when Ali’s voice rang out, saying: “Bakit mo tinitigan ang kuko sa paa? Malinis yan (Why were you staring at my toenails? They’re clean).”

 â€œSabi ko, ano ba ito? Tapos sabi naman ni Mike, ‘Yan ang gusto kong marinig sa radyo.’ I never knew there was a quirky and humorous side to Ali, which I really like,” Arnold says.

 Their initial meeting, which was all light banter and laughter, set the tone for Dobol A. Arnold also knew that they would click together and become life-long friends.

Ali and Arnold attest that their friendship was why Dobol A became one of the longest-running radio shows on air (having run from 1998 to 2008). On air, they’re both natural and spontaneous.

The show went off the air in 2008 when Ali had to go to Madrid to be with her husband Omar, a diplomat. Meanwhile, Arnold had another radio show with GMA reporter Lala Roque.

When Ali came back last year, GMA lost no time to get her and revive the show.

 After six years, Dobol A has just resumed last January, airing from 10 to 11 a.m. Mondays to Fridays. The tandem believes that what makes Dobol A different from other radio shows is that it is the only political satire program that is light but substantive.

In its heyday, Dobol A scored high listenership and a Golden Dove award.

Credit should also go to their chemistry. Ali says, “I think what makes us click together is our chemistry, we’re on the same wavelength. After more than 10 years of friendship, basang-basa na namin ng isa’t isa.”

The hosts do not follow a script and are not restricted by anyone.

 â€œAlam mo yun parang kwentuhan lang kayo sa kanto, tapos tawanan lang ng tawanan. Wala kami pa-know it all,” Arnold says.

 To which Ali agrees: “I think it also helps that we don’t always agree on some matters. We have different points of view.”

 Ali says a lot of people do not know that Arnold is very good at throwing punchlines.

 â€œArnold is really witty but you have to set him up so he can make his punchlines. In the same breath, he allows me to air my commentaries, he gives me that chance. It’s a give-and-take relationship,” she says.

 Arnold, for his part, has also good words for Ali. “I learn a lot from Ali. Sometimes, I’ve already studied my commentaries but still I don’t see the whole picture, but Ali sees it, so I learn from her and she’s a very good friend, tried and tested.”

 Their chemistry works so well, especially during the Jengjeng segment, a political satire in the form of musical commentary, with lyrics to suit the current topic, as composed and sung by Ali and Arnold to the tune of pop songs.

Just last month, the duo sang an ode to Ruby Tuason, the latest whistleblower to come out of the alleged Janet Napoles pork barrel scam, to the tune of ’70s pop singer Hajji Alejandro’s Panakip Butas.

 â€œIt’s one of my favorite Jengjeng for this year, it goes like ‘Girl, dadaldal ka nga ba, sige dumaldal ka na… Oh Ruby, kakanta ka nga ba, sige kumanta ka na...” sings Ali, laughing.

 Arnold, on the other hand, likes Mr. TG, a Jengjeng for both Senators TG Guingona and Jinggoy Estrada to the tune of Sharon Cuneta’s famous song Mr. DJ. A few days back, the two senators traded barbs in relation to the PDAF scam.

“It’s actually a song of Jinggoy for Guingona, and it goes like this, ‘Mr. TG, can I make a request? Bakit laging ako?’ Another Jengjeng is Maalaala Mo Kaya, a song dedicated to all those who got a share of the pork barrel scam. The song goes like this, ‘Maalaala mo aya ang binigay mo sa akin,’” guffaws Arnold.

Even though the politicians feel alluded to, they don’t get mad or take offense because the songs are funny, Ali and Arnold say.

Jengjeng, which was coined from the word jengjereng (a drum roll used to introduce a person), is actually an offshoot from Arnold’s segment Balitawit in his previous radio show.

He decided to revive it on Dobol A and and let Ali sing the songs.

Coincidentally, at that time, Ali was being accused of singing Tigidong, a parody of Rosas Pandan, a Visayan folk ditty which was bastardized and turned into a kinky song.

Ali denies she was the voice behind Tigidong. “I never sang that song ever.”

But at that time, Arnold thought, they could use a song and put another set of lyrics, one that would highlight the political issues against former president Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.

“We changed Tigidong to Anak ni Dadong since the nickname of GMA’s father Diosdado Mapacapagal is Dadong. When we have issues on Pres. Arroyo, we would sing that song,” Arnold says.

But an important milestone for Dobol A is when it scored a scoop on the NBN-ZTE controversy involving the $329M construction contract to Chinese telecommunications firm ZTE for the proposed government-managed National Broadband network (NBN).

It was at Dobol A that former NEDA secretary Romulo Neri talked about the alleged P200M bribe offer from former Comelec Commissioner Ben Abalos to close the deal with the Chinese executives.

“We thought of calling up Neri and then when he was on air, we asked him, ‘Sir, can you confirm or deny about the bribe?’ And then he said, ‘I can neither confirm nor deny,’ that was his exact words,” Ali says.

Arnold then asked Neri, who used to be his golf buddy, “Sir, isn’t it you’ve always wanted to take your mom to Paris, so why didn’t you get the bribe, this is your chance.”

“Then, he told me, ‘No, I believe in karma,’” Arnold recalls.

The next day, Neri’s statement on Dobol A became the headlines of major dailies including The STAR.

But if they have scoops, they also have bloopers.

 One time, Arnold accommodated a “whistleblower” who said he will expose an anomaly on the Jai Alai game.

“He was carrying a thick folder and I thought his claims were valid, so we put him on air,” he says.

 But while he was explaining, they noticed something wrong with him when he put out a big rock inside his bag and showed Ali a map of the galaxy; that’s when they realized he was a loony.

 â€œAfter putting him off air, we were laughing so hard about our booboo. It’s good thing that it’s radio and there’s no camera, napahiya kami dun,” says Ali.

To keep their listeners interested, Ali says they make an effort to pulse what the masses want and to know what topics the listeners would like to hear.

“Our market spans from A-D. We’re very honest on air, we try to verbalize what our listeners want to express. For instance on the issue of the truck ban, I told our guest, ‘Mang Teddy, huwag kayo magagalit pero mas masaya ho ang mga tao kapag walang mga truck sa daan.’ We say that because we know that’s what our listeners want to tell the authorities. I personally know that because I drive, I go to the market,” Ali says.

 One thing they’ve also noticed is that they’re good at off-subjects.

“If the subject is serious, no one is texting us, but when we talk about a trivia, about who’s the first Darna, our inbox are instantly filled,” Arnold says.

For the record, Dobol A popularized terms like “pangmayaman, walang iwanan, talentado and happy Tuesday, happy Monday,” which are now a part of every Pinoy’s conversation.

“Doble A is so much fun, it’s not work for us. We realized that when we’re having fun on air, our listeners are also having fun,” Arnold enthuses.

Asked what changes they will bring to the show for this year, Ali says, “We’ll be more sensitive but natural. We will utilize social media a lot, read Twitter and all the comments of people from all over the world, since we’re heard abroad, no matter how different the time zone is. We’re open to anything, we will continue to feel the pulse of the masses.”


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