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Entertainment

New children’s show Mang Lalakbay is this generation’s Batibot

Leah Salterio - The Philippine Star
New childrenâs show Mang Lalakbay is this generationâs Batibot
Playing a vital part in bringing the program together is host Vic Robinson. He is Kuya Bay in Mang Lalakbay, which is a travel show and children’s show merged into one.

MANILA, Philippines — The last time kids saw puppets on local TV was perhaps more than a decade ago, when the popular children’s educational program, Batibot, wrapped up airing. The show, which started back in 1984, was undoubtedly enjoyed by a generation of audience and best remembered for its well-loved puppets, well-adored characters and its popular theme.

A new children’s show, Mang Lalakbay, brings the tradition of introducing puppets to a new generation of young viewers. In fact, the program has puppeteers who gave life to some iconic Filipino characters like Manang Bola, Ate Ging Ging and Kapitan Basa.

Puppetry apparently plays a big role in Mang Lalakbay, making it similar to children’s programs of the past. Puppetry is a device that has been tested and proven ever since.

Aside from the two adorable puppets — Bespren Tuts (Manny Urbano for the young and techy) and Manang Agi (Priscilla Nalundasan for the elderly) — the main “Kuya” host in Mang Lalakbay also plays a vital part in bringing the show together.

Essaying the part of Kuya Bay (short for Mang Lalakbay) did not just land on the lap of host Vic Robinson. After seeing an announcement online, he submitted his audition video. “They gave me directions and made me send another version until there were only two of us left, ” Vic shared.

“After their deliberation, the producer told me the good news. I accepted it because it has been my dream to actually host a travel show. This is a dream come true for me. And I’m honored to be playing that part of Kuya Bay.”

Mang Lalakbay brings the tradition of introducing puppets to a new generation of young viewers. The show has two puppets — Bespren Tuts (Manny Urbano for the young and techy) and Manang Agi (Priscilla Nalundasan for the elderly).

Hosting a children’s show, however, was nothing new to Vic. He previously hosted MathDali that aired on the Knowledge Channel and ABS-CBN. “But what differentiates Mang Lalakbay from the shows I did in the past is that I get to go out of the studio setting and travel outdoors, while I do my job,” he explained. “That is why I am so excited.”

The program is in full HD (high definition) and shot using BlackMagic 6K pro-cameras. Video and audio output are superior and that makes Mang Lalakbay really the Batibot of the video-loving new generation of children viewers.

“So, it’s more realistic, colorful and enticing,” Vic beamed. “And it’s a travel show and a children’s show merged into one, which I think wasn’t normal for children’s shows before, because most of them focused on studio or one location setting.”

It helped that Vic also genuinely loves kids — the Filipino children in general. “Even if it entails a lot of energy performing for them, their smiles are priceless,” he said. “I also believe the Filipino kids deserve the best form of edutainment, for them to learn and grow up, to be great and fun-loving shapers of tomorrow for the Philippines and for generations of Filipinos to come.”

Preparing for the character of Kuya Bay was a dauntless challenge for Vic. He started by building the world along with his co-actors (puppeteers), writer and directors. “I also spent time building the character of Kuya Bay, with the help of direk Rico del Rosario, our assistant director,” Vic granted. “We did some workshops and brainstorming sessions until we came up with the character sketch for Kuya Bay.”

Another challenge was filming the first few episodes in the middle of surges in COVID-19 cases. “The uncertainty of shooting days because of health risks and infections brought by COVID have been really crucial in productions like this. A lot of postponements, backup plans, revisions, etc., have happened which made it kind of challenging for us to put out the best output for the audiences to see,” he recalled.

“But still we’re here and we’ve learned a lot from those experiences that would solidify the systems in place and the working relationships among members of the team. Now that the protocols are easing down, all we can say is ‘we’ve gone through worse.’”

The production house The Jumpcat Experiment, led by its award-winning producer and director, Joan Lopez-Flores, is at the helm of the new, half-hour, 12-episode Mang Lalakbay, that premieres on the Kapamilya Network and A2Z Channel 11 starting on Sunday, Sept. 25. Co-director is Froi Fabella.

“The combined elements of traveling while teaching makes Mang Lalakbay very unique,” informed Joan. “Traveling and learning become more fun and engaging for children in the post-pandemic world.”

Interestingly, Mang Lalakbay takes children to places they have never been to. “The age of social media has trained kids to glue their eyes on screens,” Vic pointed out. “But for me, true learning happens outdoors. You have to experience and touch things for you to be able to appreciate them more.

“Travel is experiential and it’s always the travels that comprise our core memories as people. I believe this show has the power to guide and inspire kids and their parents to go out and experience the world outside, most especially the wonders that the Philippines has to offer, because we have such a beautiful country.”

Apart from “showing” and “telling,” Mang Lalakbay obliges the viewers to actually “experience,” because they can go to the places where Kuya Bay and the gang went to and experience the adventure for them.

“Kids should watch it to appreciate life more,” asserted Vic. “That there are more fun things to do than simply staring at a screen the whole day. That it’s more fun to actually experience something than just watching it. If they want a guide and a preview as to where their next destination should be, Mang Lalakbay will do the job for them with flying colors.”

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