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Sunday Lifestyle

On the air with the fearless Anthony Taberna

10 THINGS - Bianca Gonzalez - The Philippine Star

Known for breaking down the biggest national issues on morning TV and for his hilarious, hard-hitting commentary on AM radio, “Ka Tunying” has an undeniable, unconventional charm. Making the most serious issues easy (and fun) for all of us to understand, what makes him the new generation’s news idol? Here are 10 things you should know about Anthony Taberna.

1. His teacher had to pick him up from the rice fields just so he could enroll for his senior year in high school.

“Hindi na po ako mag-aaral kasi wala naman po akong pambayad,” he answered when his teacher Mrs. Castillo asked him why he hadn’t enrolled, with the school year having already started. “Nagbibilad ako ng palay sa tapat ng bahay nun! During that time kasi, na-stroke na yung tatay ko. Yung nanay ko wala namang hanapbuhay, at wala namang grumaduate sa aming magkakapatid (he is the fourth of seven siblings). At least ako nakatapos ng third year,” he says. The next day, his teacher came back and told him that the principal of General Jesus Academy, Noemi Villanueva, decided to pay for all of Anthony’s tuition and miscellaneous fees just to ensure he would finish school. “Naka-graduate ako with honors. Sa high school, nasa top 10 ako lagi. Yabang ko nun eh, nasa elementary public school ako, valedictorian,” he says with a laugh. 

He went on to take up mass communications in New Era College, with his sister paying for his first semester, and a scholarship (“May nadiskubre ako, may Presidential decree pala si Marcos, for every 500 students, may iilan na dapat ma-libre sa isang private institution kung qualified, nag-qualify ako”) for the remaining semesters. He was accepted to take on a part-time job in both Jollibee and DZEC radio, and he decided to choose radio (“Related naman sa kurso ko”) in 1992.

 

2. He did not believe that the offer for him to be on TV was real.

“Hindi ako naniwala na matatanggap ako. Pinag-audition kami ni Gerry (Baja, his radio partner for 13 years and still going strong), pareho kaming nasisilaw-silaw sa mga ilaw, patingin-tingin lang sa camera. Eh siguro mas pogi ako kay Gerry kaya ako kinuha,” he laughs. It was 2005 when he took his first on-cam job for the morning show of ABS-CBN, and has consistently been the main anchor since 2006. “Nalungkot ako kasi gusto ko sana magkasama kami, dahil malaking parte ng success ko sa radyo ay dahil kay Gerry.”

“Alam mo ba hanggang ngayon nai-intimidate ako sa artista? Pag nakasalubong ko, nahihiya akong batiin. Nung bagong salta ako, nanibago ako kasi napapanood ko lang kayo sa TV eh! Natakot ako baka iba yung treatment sakin. Pero okay naman pala, mabait naman pala!”

3. Contrary to what some people think, Anthony is not a lawyer. At 38, however, it is still his dream to become one.

“Nag-cover kasi ako ng Supreme Court for radio. SC, DOJ, Ombudsman, Sandiganbayan, Manila courts, araw-araw walang paltos nagbabasa ako ng desisyon ng Supreme Court. Mahilig pa ako magbasa ng John Grisham books, lahat ng libro niya nabasa ko. Actually hindi ko napapansin, unconsciously, nagpo-programa ako sa radyo biglang may binabanggit ako na provision sa batas,” he explains about his “lawyer” persona. He wanted to take up law way back in 1998, but discovered he still had unfinished units in college. “Hahanapan ko ng oras ’to, gusto ko maging lawyer someday.”

4. The worst death threat he received was a bomb (that exploded in the wrong house). “Palagay ko sa dami ng galit sa akin, hindi ko mahuhulaan kung sino,” he says with a laugh.

Death threats to him usually come through letters, e-mail or text messages, but there haven’t been that many recently. “Nung April 2010, may nag-invite sa akin sa Tacloban so sinama ko si misis. Sabado yun. Pagbalik namin ng Linggo, meron daw akong kapitbahay na nilagyan ng improvised explosive device yung gate. Nasira yung gate, dalawang kotse, natamaan pati taxi sa labas. Kinahapunan bumalik yung pulis at sabi, ‘Sir, kayo ho target nung bomba. Pareho yung description ng bahay ninyo at nung target,’” he reveals for the first time. Anthony says that the bomb exploded around 4:30 on a Sunday morning and it is at that time, every Sunday, that his wife Rossel leave for church. “It’s either tanga lang talaga yung nautusan o isinalba talaga ako ng langit,” he says.

On coming face to face with personalities he has bashed on radio: “Ako kasi malinis naman lagi ang konsensya ko pag may tinira ako. Babatiin ko pa din sila. May isang incident na yung tinira ko, babatiin ko, tinabig pa yung kamay ko. Sabi, ‘Ikaw naman, napaka-unfair mo.’ Isang incident lang naman yun, pulitiko. Yung iba, civil naman.”

5. His most memorable radio moment was being the first to break the news of the “Garci tape.”

“Tandang-tanda ko. June 6, 2005. One ng hapon nung inere namin; nilabas ni (then President Gloria Arroyo’s Press Secretary Ignacio) Bunye yung dalawang tape,” he says of the audio evidence of alleged cheating in the 2004 presidential election. “Alam kong may iba pang may hawak ng kopya nun, pero walang nangahas mag-ere nun kundi ako. Pinagpaalam ko yun sa station manager namin, si Angelo Palmones.” When he asked why he trusted the source of the tape, he says, “Mahabang proseso eh, matagal ko nang source yun. Marami na siyang binigay na storya sa akin na hindi pumalpak.” He shares that it was actually a government official who triggered his urge to air the controversial tape. “Earlier that day, nung 7:30 a.m. na Dos Por Dos, in-interview namin si National Security Adviser Bert Gonzales. Alam ko nang may tape nun, at alam ko na ang laman ng tape. Sabi niya, ‘kung meron kayong tape eh di ilabas ninyo.’ Inisip ko parang ang yabang naman ng taong ito kung makapag-dare. Nilabas ko nga.”

The story takes a comedic turn: Anthony shares how he traced the story to “the mother of all tapes” that everyone was following on the news. “Nung nag-presscon si Samuel Ong ng hapon, alam ko dinala siya sa San Carlos Seminary. Lahat ng media bawal pumasok. Ako lang ang nasa loob nun. Dumaan ako sa guwardiya, naka-polo na blue, may salamin, may hawak akong maliit na clutch bag. Naglalakad ako, binati ako, ‘Brother!’ ‘O, brother,” binati ko din at dere-derecho ako sa loob. Tapos yung mga nakakasalubong ko na seminarista, binabati din ako ng ‘brother!’ he says with his trademark naughty laugh. 

Another memorable story was the 2005 Morales vs. Pacquiao fight. “Di pa uso pay-per-view nun. Hindi ako pinayagan ng opisina maging official reporter, hindi daw masasagot eroplano ko, so dumiskarte ako. Ringside ako, at ang usapan namin ni boss Angelo, per round magre-report lang ako ng summary. Pero ang ending, tinapos ko all 12 rounds daldal lang ako ng daldal! May mga nagsabi naiyak sila sa coverage ko, talo si Pacquiao nun, dumugo ang mukha niya. Nung pinakinggan ko yung recording, naiyak nga ako! Grabe pala yung passion ko sa coverage ko, parang pinsang buo ko si Quinito Henson sa pinagsasasabi ko,” he says laughing. 

6. As a journalist, he is extremely opinionated about political personalities, but during election time, he is part of a bloc vote as an Iglesia ni Cristo faithful.

How does he reconcile being passionate about whom he likes and dislikes, while at the same time being told who to vote for? “In fairness sa Iglesia, sa leadership, hindi nila ako inaawat sa komentaryo ko, pabor man o kontra sa sinumang sinusuportahan nila. Klaro kasi sa isip ko at sa kanila din, na yung pagboto ng Iglesia as one, doctrinal yun para sa amin. Bago pa ka pumasok at ma-baptize, tinuturo na yung 25 lessons ng Iglesia. Ang pinaka-papel ko lang sa pagboto ko tuwing araw ng eleksyon, ang paniniwala ko, sundin kung ano ang desisyon ng church leadership,” he explains. “Ang totoo, maraming sinusuportahan ang Iglesia na personally hindi ko gusto. Hindi ko talaga gusto pero binoboto ko. Halibawa si Gloria, nung nagpasya ang Iglesia na iboto si Gloria nung 2004, napakahirap sundin para sa akin. Sa loob loob ko, bakit ko iboboto tong tao na to eh alam ko naman maraming atraso sa bayan to, at personally, tingin ko, mali yung paraan ng pagkakaupo niya sa pwesto. Si P-Noy, binoto ko, kahit na naniniwala ako na hindi siya handa nung umpisa, may mga senador din akong binoboto na hindi ko din gusto. Pero lagi at lagi nananaig sa akin, bakit pa ako nag-relihiyon kung hindi ko din rerespetuhin yung pasya ng namamahala ng Iglesia, niloloko ko lang sarili ko kung kunyari sumusunod ako pero hindi naman.” Both he and his wife have been Iglesia ni Cristo since birth.

 

7. As tough as Anthony may seem, there are three people who never fail to make his heart soften: his daughters Zoey and Helga, and wife Rossel.

“Kapag tumatawag sa akin, ‘Daddy, umuwi ka na,’ tapos sasabihin ko may work pa ako, magkwe-kwento sila ng, ‘Yung classmate ko nga eh, ang nag-fetch sa kanya yung daddy niya,’ Naku po,” he says with his voice starting to crack. “Pagka narinig ko yung mga ganung klaseng pasakalye, minsan nagpapaalam ako sa boss ko, tatakas lang ako susunduin ko yung mga bata. Di ba tayo pagod na pagod lagi madaling araw hanggang gabi nagta-trabaho? Akala ko dati lokohan lang yung sinasabing nakakapagpaalis ng pagod ang mga bata. Totoo pala.” 

Weekends are sacred to the Taberna family, doing their kids’ projects together (“Hindi nila tinatapos lahat, gusto nila may participation ako lagi”), going to the mall, watching movies (“Nagsi-sine, kasi may atraso din ako sa oras sa misis ko”), going to Church (“Nagtuturo ako sa mga bata sa church every Sunday”), and when possible, taking the kids to go swimming. 

8. Three people he has not interviewed that he would like to interview, and the one question he would ask them.

1. President Noynoy Aquino: “Hindi ko pa siya nai-interview since naging Presidente siya. Itatanong ko kung galit ba siya sa akin.”

2. Celebrity Kris Aquino: “Kung tototohanin ba niya yung ayaw na niya magtrabaho, na magre-resign na siya? At tungkol sa pulitika, kung magpre-Presidente din ba siya. Palagay ko, ako ha, ang opinyon ko, mas magiging magaling na Presidente si Kris kay P-Noy.”

3. Senatorial candidate Nancy Binay: “Hindi kaya napapasubo lang siya sa pinasukan niya? Tingin ko hindi niya gusto eh, ramdam ko.”

He believes the country’s biggest problem is corruption. And how to solve the problem? “Cultural revolution na ang kailangan dito. Kapag sinimulan ng Presidente, at totoong gusto niya, magagawa niya. Leadership by example andiyan na eh, kailangan pa niya hatawin ng todo. Imagine nakaka-three years na si P-Noy, meron siyang 60 percent approval rating? Saan ka naman kukuha pa ng ganun? Kung baga ito nang pinakamagandang pagkakataon para hatawin niya lahat.”

 

9. Anthony Taberna in numbers:

21: Number of years in the industry. He started out as a news writer in 1992 for DZEC, became a reporter, then a producer, before he became a news anchor.

5: Number of years he and wife Rossel (who is 10 years younger than him) have been married.

6: Number of major awards he has won for TV and radio broadcasting, including Best Newscaster at the PMPC Star Awards in 2011.

30: Units of insulin he injects himself with daily, with a diabetes level of 170 (the highest normal level is 110).

2: Number of libel cases filed against him. “Na-abswelto at na-dismiss na yung mga kaso.”

10. On where he gets his fearlessness: “Kapag nakikita ko yung mali, o mga bagay na sa tingin ko ay mali, hindi ko yata kayang magsawalang kibo.”

“Takot ako lagi, especially nung nagka-asawa at mga anak na ako. Paano na sila kung madidisgrasya ako? Pero ang bilin kasi ng magulang ko, lalo na ng tatay ko, ang mali ay mali. Ang tama ay tama. Ipinapaliwanag ko lagi yan sa misis ko, lalo na pag sobrang natatakot siya. Naniniwala pa rin kasi ako na sa pamamagitan ng maliliit na tinig ng mga taong nabibigyan ng tsansang magsalita, gaya ko, may pag-asa pa rin ang bansang ito. Kapag naging maayos, mga anak ko rin at ang henerasyon nila ang makikinabang sa mas maayos na lipunan at mas malinis na gobyerno.”

* * *

I personally look up to Tunying and in fact, so many people who found out I would be interviewing him told me to tell him na “idol” nila siya. Even actor John Lloyd Cruz (who is idolized by millions) once revealed that his idol among news personalities is Tunying. What is it about him, despite being naughty, green-minded at times, and seemingly happy-go-lucky, that makes him admirable? In the words of his wife Rossel, when asked what trait she loves most about him, she says: “God-fearing. And you know pag God-fearing ang isang tao everything follows. Kampante ako that he will be a good boy all the time!”

* * *

E-mail me at [email protected] or message me on Twitter @iamsuperbianca.

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