For the most part of its four-decade history, “Eat Bulaga,” the Philippines’ longest-running noontime television show, delivered joy and entertainment to millions of viewers from an old movie theater-turned-TV studio at the Broadway Centrum in Quezon City — its “rented apartment” for 23 years. But on Saturday, December 8, the show finally moved to its very own home: a brand new studio in Cainta, Rizal.
Named APT Studios, it sits on a 9,200 sq.m. lot along the Marikina-Infanta Highway, a mere 10-minute drive from the border of Marikina and Rizal.
It is hard to miss from the outside with its facade cloaked in a bright red metal structure symbolic of a theater curtain that is about to open as if to signal the start of a spectacular presentation full of surprises — and that’s exactly what “Eat Bulaga” is.
A number of noontime contenders have tried to outlast “Eat Bulaga” but they all ran out of time before they could outdo its tried and tested formula. In the good times and in the bad, the show continued to keep a tight grip on the so-called prime real estate of Philippine television: the mass audience.
“Iyon siguro ang susi rin at bukas na lihim ng ‘Eat Bulaga.’ Simula noon ay hindi kami bumibitiw sa nakararami naming tagapanood na hanggang ngayon ay patuloy pa ring tumatangkilik sa amin,” said host Joey de Leon whose triumvirate with Sen. Tito Sotto and Vic Sotto has been the show’s main pillar through the years.
De Leon, who coined the title “Eat Bulaga” when the show was conceptualized in 1979, explained that he deliberately combined an English and a Filipino word because he envisioned the show to appeal to Filipinos from all walks of life.
“Kung mapapansin mo, English iyon at Tagalog. ‘Eat’ ay Ingles at ‘Bulaga’ naman ay Tagalog. Kasi inisip ko talaga noon na dapat kasama lahat. Ito ay show na bukas sa lahat ng Pilipino mula sa kahit anumang antas ng pamumuhay: A, B, C, D, hanggang F, G,” explained the host.
Thanks to the ingenuity of its producers and the loyalty of its fans (whom they refer to as “dabarkads”), “Eat Bulaga” has become one of the most profitable properties on television today. But as De Leon recalled in an interview, the first few years was a different story.
“Halos umabot muna ng isang taon bago kami nakatikim ng una naming suweldo noon,” he revealed. “Pero ang catch: naiwan pa sa taxi,” referring to an unfortunate incident in the early days of the show when the entire production team’s half month worth of salaries was unwittingly left in a cab by a payroll staff.
“At saka iyong unang 10 taon namin, kanya-kanya kaming tanghalian. Kami nila Vic at Tito, talagang nabuhay kami sa siopao at mami. Nalibre lang kami ng pagkain noong lumipat kami sa Celebrity Sports Plaza. Kasi may word na ‘celebrity’ na, siguro nahihiya sila, pinakain na iyong mga celebrity,” he added.
All that is history now. After hopping from studio to studio, “Eat Bulaga” has finally built itself a home, which it says is dedicated to the future generations of dabarkads.
“Ang feeling namin is it’s a blessing,” said Antonio P. Tuviera, President and Chief Executive Officer of Television and Production Exponents (T.A.P.E.), Inc. which is the company behind “Eat Bulaga.” He is the A-P-T in the studio’s name and in APT Entertainment, T.A.P.E.’s film production unit.
According to Mr. T, as he is called in the industry, the new studio was designed with the comfort and convenience of both the hosts and the audience in mind. In fact, entering the studio is like entering a premier theater: carpeted floors, superb acoustics, clean and air conditioned restrooms, spacious dressing rooms, among others.
“That’s why we would like to give it back to the audience, to everybody, because we owe it to them. Hindi naman maitatayo itong mga ganito without them,” he explained.
Hosts Alden Richards and Maine Mendoza were among those who were very excited to move to the new studio. However, they admit to also feeling nostalgic as they bade farewell to the Broadway Centrum where their on-screen team-up began.
“Maraming memories din namin ni Maine ang nabuo noong mga panahong nasa Broadway Centrum pa kami, kasi doon naman talaga nag-umpisa ang lahat. In fact, doon sobrang nabago ang buhay namin pareho,” the actor reminisced.
Alden and Maine’s love team called “AlDub,” a portmanteau of “Alden” and “Yaya Dub” (Maine’s character in a segment called Kalyeserye), was an accidental discovery of “Eat Bulaga.” It became such a huge hit that a special episode dedicated to their elusive meet-up was staged at the Philippine Arena. It was attended by more than 50,000 fans, breaking all previous records of the gigantic venue.
“Ngayon po na ‘eto meron na kaming sariling tahanan, siguradong ito ay umpisa ng panibagong memories na naman; marami na naman kaming pagsasamahan dito. So ako very excited ako sa mga susunod na mangyayari dito simula ngayong araw,” said Maine.
In “Eat Bulaga,” a celebration is incomplete without giving back. As its housewarming treat, it gave away a brand new house and lot complete with furniture to a dabarkads from Tanza, Cavite and grocery packs to all of its studio audience who were lucky enough to book a seat for the special “Lipat Bahay” episode (the studio was fully booked days before its launch).
“Ito na ang umpisa ng ‘EB version 4.0.’ Ang studio na ito ay para sa mga susunod na henerasyon ng mga dabarkads,” declared Vic at the start of the episode, a warm gesture of welcoming a new beginning for Eat Bulaga.
“More than just a house, it is a home — a home that is not just for our dabarkads in the past or at present but more importantly for the dabarkads in the future,” said Tuviera. “Sabi nga ni Joey, maski grumadweyt na kami, nandito pa rin ang ‘Eat Bulaga.”
“Ang aming studio ay bukas para sa bawat Pilipino na gustong makatikim ng ‘isang libo’t isang tuwa’ na hatid ng ‘Eat Bulaga.’ Kami’y nagpapasalamat sa inyong walang-sawang pagsuporta sa amin sa loob ng halos 40 taon. At hangga’t naririyan kayo, magpapatuloy ang ‘Eat Bulaga,’” De Leon assured.