Back in 1979, the popular trio of what was then Philippine TV’s top sitcom, Iskul Bukol, received an offer to take on a daily noontime show, which had yet to be given a title. The trio was comprised of Tito Sotto, his brother Vic and Joey de Leon, and the show was eventually named Eat Bulaga.
“We thought we’d just go on for a year,” recalled now Senator Tito Sotto of the iconic Tito, Vic and Joey at an interview in Broadway Centrum’s studios on Thursday. “We each had a contract for a year as well, but close to four decades later, we’re still here, and we’ve never renewed that contract since. We exist and work together because of friendship and trust.”
Today marks the 37th anniversary of Philippine TV’s longest running program, Eat Bulaga, and its pioneers are both amazed and overwhelmed at the show’s success and longevity at every passing year.
More than just a noontime habit for millions of Filipinos from Monday through Saturday each week, Eat Bulaga is as much a permanent part of their lives as it is for the show’s main hosts and the rest of the “Dabarkads.”
“Vic, Joey and I, even on the 10th year of the show would tease each other how old were getting. But never in our wildest dreams did we think we’d still be celebrating Bulaga’s 25th anniversary, much less its 37th,” Sotto told The Manila Times. “With Bulaga’s evolution over the years though—especially now that a big chunk of the program is geared toward public service—we cannot ask for more. We simply want to keep giving back to the generations of Filipinos who have supported us through these many, many years.”
Asked what he believes has kept Bulaga going for decades now, the comedian-turned-politician replied, “It’s this knack we’ve always had in getting the pulse of the people and finding fun in the people and situations we see. You know when we were much younger, Vic, Joey and I would often watch movies but we’d never stay in the cinema for the trailers. We’d hang around outside and people watch. We’d say to one another, ‘This guy’s got a big problem,’ or ‘That person just had fight with his wife!’,” Sotto laughed.
“We took that to the show when he started interviewing contestants and it clicked. Ever since then, under the tutelage of our producer and good friend Tony Tuviera, the staff of Eat Bulaga will always make sure to take surveys on whether the viewers like the different segments we introduce in the show. If they like it—let’s say ‘Kalyeserye’—the portion stays on, but when they don’t feel a connection with it, we cancel it even two weeks into the program.”
According to the veteran host, in every facet of life, continued success requires open-mindedness and the humility to admit mistakes.
Of course, another palpable reason behind Eat Bulaga’s success is the strong bond created among the show’s circle of hosts that make every day a joy for them to work.
From Jose Manalo and Wally Bayola, to Jimmy Santos, Pia Guanio and Pauleen Luna, and of course, Bulaga’s gems Alden Richards and Maine Mendoza—not to mention the production team who make it possible for the show to air everyday—the kind of friendship that is often elusive in show business is a huge draw for audiences in the Philippines and beyond.
“At this point in the history of Eat Bulaga, all we can guarantee our loyal viewers is that we will continue to bring them happiness, and strive to help them as best we can,” Sotto pledged.
Whether for entertainment or public service, it is clear that Eat Bulaga has perfected the formula for longevity, and has strummed the right strings in the hearts of Filipino viewers for over three and a half decades. To this day, they fulfill their promise of brining “isang libo’t isang tuwa” from “Batanes to Tawi-Tawi,” and vow to do so for as long as they can.
“It’s the least we can do when we’ve been blessed with the best job in the world all these years,” Sotto ended. “All we have today is gratitude, and we want to keep giving it back.”
Eat Bulaga’s 37th anniversary episode airs today at noon on GMA Network.