Michael V is funnyman on screen and at home
Michael V on being a father to his four children: ‘Proud ako kung ano ang maging pangarap nila sa buhay as long as it’s right and as long as it’s good. But if they want to follow in my footsteps, my advice would be to find their own path. And have fun exploring because you really have to enjoy yung travel, especially in the showbiz industry.’
Photos from Michael V’s Instagram

Michael V is funnyman on screen and at home

Nathalie Tomada (The Philippine Star) - June 20, 2021 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines — Michael V is not just a funnyman on screen but also at home.

For GMA-7’s resident comedic genius (born Beethoven Michael Del Valle Bunagan), it’s important to be a father who’s fun to be around for his four children — Milo, Yanni, Migo and Maypaul — with Carol, his wife of 27 years. But he’s not the original fun-loving man in the family as he just inherited this trait from his late father, Cesar Bunagan.

“Yung pagiging fun-loving (I got it from my father). Kami ng tatay ko, we both loved having fun. He was a man of pleasure, kumbaga, sa pagkain, sa shopping, sa chikahan,” Michael V, a.k.a. Bitoy, recently told The STAR in an exclusive virtual interview.

“Ako, ganun din ako. I love having fun with my kids and I feel that they’re having fun spending time with me as well. I hope I’m right (laughs)! Pero ganun kami. Basta masaya lang. Good vibes lang.”

The flair for comedy and entertaining people, Bitoy also largely got it from his father. According to him, the elder Bunagan loved telling stories and passing on jokes he heard from drinking buddies or neighbors in Pandacan to his family.

Michael V and wife Carol with his parents Cesar and Melba Bunagan.

Bitoy, the second child, was the “audience member” who took down notes as his father held court. Years later, the actor-comic would be touted as the master of disguises, and one of the most memorable characters he created was based on his father, Bubble Gang’s Mang Tañong.

“Si Mang Tañong, may ganung attitude yung tatay ko, na parang di nagkakamali (laughs). Tapos nakakatawa minsan kung ano-ano na ang iniimbento niya… He does know a lot of things about what he’s doing especially. ‘Pagka-politika na, ayan na. Alam mo naman mga Pilipino, lalo ngayon with the advent of social media, parang everyone is a historian, commentator (laughs), ang dami ng mga hats ang sinuot ng mga netizens natin. And he was like that even before the Internet was invented,” Bitoy mused.

His father never found out he became a source of inspiration for the character though. “Hindi naman (niya alam) pero ang Nanay ko, nahahalata, ‘Parang Tatay mo.’ Sabi ko, ‘Wag ka nalang maingay (laughs).’”

Full support

Bitoy’s favorite memory of his father, whom he described as a handyman who did different jobs, including painting houses, was “every time I would see him drawing, which was very influential to me. He had very good skills.”

The visual artist, whose sketches he occasionally shares on his digital platforms, added, “And he taught me how to ride a bike. Both things, although very different, provide you with a sense of freedom, yung isa literally, physical freedom and the other one is freedom of the imagination.”

His favorite words of wisdom from him were:

“Palagi niyang sinasabi na dalawa lang daw klase ng tao sa mundo — isang nanloloko at isang nagpapaloko. Of course, growing up ayoko yung nagpapaloko, ayoko rin manloko, so nag-artista na ako (laughs),” Bitoy said.

When he did enter show business in the early ‘90s, first as a rapper, Bitoy said he never experienced opposition from his father.

“Grabe na-excite siya. Showbiz kasi yun eh. Though he never admitted it, I believe he loved the spotlight talaga. Later on, nung gumaganda na ang takbo ng career ko, he was even called Tatay V by his friends and his neighbors (laughs).”

In fact, Bitoy could not recall a time when his father was not supportive of his plans in life.

“He was supportive with everything that I did, even when I was child when my dream was to become a waiter because gustong-gusto ko yung bowtie and paghawak nila ng tray (laughs), supportive naman siya.

“Eventually, my dream was to become a boxer and kahit ang payat-payat ko nuon, he was, ‘Sige, kumain ka ng marami para maging boxer ka paglaki mo.’ He was really supportive, most especially when I was already in showbiz because he was showbiz himself (laughs).”

He would become the biggest fan of Bitoy’s Bubble Gang, the country’s longest-running gag show, ever present during tapings and premiere nights.

He said, “Nakaka-miss yung enthusiasm niya, especially for my showbiz career. Kulang nalang siya mag-manage. Palagi akong napapasubo sa kanya.

‘O, puntahan mo nga si ganito kasi yung anak niya daw magbi-birthday. Ah OK, sige, akin na ang cellphone, i-video greet natin.’ Mahilig siya sa ganun.

“And just hanging out with him, his stories about the old days, time na growing up in Pandacan in Manila… the food and even the lifestyle before. Nai-imagine ko eh. That’s why when I got to watch (the film) Back To The Future, I remembered my father.”

Cesar Bunagan would pass away in late 2019 in Bacolod. “Nung time na gusto niya totally magpahinga, away from busy streets of Metro Manila, sabi niya dun na daw sila titira sa Bacolod (near my sister). So we built a house for them. Sila yung naghanap ng prospective na lugar, yun na.

“Tapos, after nagawa yun, na-excite siya sobra kasi siya ang nakialam sa lahat, including the design, even the plants. So when he was sent to the hospital, nung na-confine siya, towards the end, ang objective nalang niya ay makauwi dun sa bahay na he literally built himself.”

The comedian with his wife of 27 years, Carol.

Bitoy believes that his father died with happiness in his heart. “Binigay namin whatever that we could give him, the comforts na inaasahan niya na mararanasan niya sa bahay niya. So yun, I believe he passed away happy because you could see it in his face — no stress, no burden — and he was happy to have stayed there and died there in his own home.”

Happy father

With his father as his greatest example, Bitoy has shown the same support and enthusiasm for his own children’s pursuits and interests.

His children have been assisting him as he continues to work from home. Bitoy, who has just wrapped the latest season of his 11-year-old sitcom Pepito Manaloto and is currently preparing its prequel series, has enlisted the help of his three older children, from being body double, production assistant to technical director.

His daughter Yanni or Brianna, who has a Theater Arts degree from Ateneo De Manila University, is the one who has officially joined showbiz and like his father, is now part of the Kapuso family.

Bitoy said, “Proud ako kung ano ang maging pangarap nila sa buhay as long as it’s right and as long as it’s good. But if they want to follow in my footsteps, my advice would be to find their own path. And have fun exploring because you really have to enjoy yung travel, especially in the showbiz industry.

“Medyong masayang mundo to, maraming trials and pitfalls, but all in all, the journey is beautiful. And when they get lost along the way, they can always follow those footsteps back. Anduduon lang ako, maghihintay lang ako for them.”

Fatherhood is no laughing matter with its own set of challenges. When The STAR asked Bitoy to recall the first time he became a dad, he said: “It wasn’t the best experience but it prepared me for a lot of things. My eldest kasi nagkaroon ng water sa lungs when he was born. He had to be left in the hospital for more than a week,” he shared.

“So for us, kaming mag-asawa, it was difficult for us entering the hospital that, ‘Oh, you’re a family of three, you have a baby inside (the mom’s womb),’ and then when you left it, you’re only a family of two.

“So, when our second child was born, she had to be placed in the hospital’s incubator also, but we decided to stay in the hospital until she was okay. That’s what we learned.

“(It was) not necessarily a difficult pregnancy but may mga parang symptoms na develop sa mga anak namin before or when they were born. We have four kids now but we had two miscarriages after the third child. They were supposed to be twins, yes, sayang.”

How were his views on fatherhood changed by those events?

“Siempre, I had to hold on to what I have. Eto, tatlo na to, OK na to, OK na yan, baka talaga hindi meant to be. So, after that, we no longer focused on having a baby, we focused on fitness which was actually a good move because parang na-cleanse yung system namin because of being health-conscious. So we had a fourth baby after that.”

Family life amid pandemic

The arrival of each child had a profound impact on Bitoy, but every single day spent with his family after surviving COVID-19 mid of last year has become a highlight of his life.

Bitoy said he’s still having lingering effects of his health scare. “Medyo nasal ako, I think that’s an aftereffect of COVID. Even my breathing di na ata na-restore ng 100-percent...and it serves as a lesson na mas mag-ingat ka.”

He shared, “I really am enjoying every moment of my life. Nag-doble yung ingat ko and preparedness na rin spiritually. Mahirap yung may pinaniniwalaan ka pero di mo pinaninindigan. So kami, that’s what got us through nung nagpapagaling ako.”

He pointed out that their communication lines are open more than ever as they get to spend more time together.

“You also get to explore everyone’s weaknesses and when you talk to them on a day-to-day basis, ang dami mong nadi-discover that you didn’t know before. Even during the time they reported for school, we had time to talk but you wouldn’t get the big picture. But nowadays, because of the pandemic, this is something good that came out of it — communication. It has become more open.”

Bitoy with his four children — Milo, Yanni, Migo and Maypaul.

The family has also intensified the prayer life.

Bitoy shared, “Nag-ro-Rosary kami every day. I learned to pray the Rosary, di naman ako nagro-Rosary growing up...Itong time lang talaga, during COVID.

“Tapos pinagdadasal namin yung mga ibang friends and friends of friends who need prayers. During that time, that was the only thing we could do — and actually until now.”

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