Sunday, October 25, 2009

*167. PILOTS OF THE AIRWAVES

RAFAEL "PAENG" YABUT. Kapampangan radio announcer who made a name for himself in the 50s and 60s with his program "Tayo'y Mag-Aliw". He turned his entertainment
program into a fiery social commentary, earning him raves and rants.

The Radio as a new communication medium officially came to the Philippines in 1922 when a test broadcast was made by a Mrs. Redgrave from Nichols Air Field using a 5-watt transmitter. Early broadcasting was a strictly an American affair until the 1930s when local songs and program, started to be heard from KZIB, KZRH and KZRG Stations. In this new medium, the Kapampangan voice found its place, and our kabalens who animated the airwaves became welcome presences in every home with a transistor-- disseminating news, dispensing advice, making commentaries or simply spinning music to the avid listener.

The first organized commercial radio station was founded by a former war correspondent of Mutual Broadcasting Company named Robert Stewart. Together with his Kapampangan wife, Loreto Feliciano, Robert started the Republic Brodcasting Republic Broadcasting System (RBS), DZBB, DZFF and DZXX. Loreto did the marketing for the stations, and eventually, they would also establish Channel 7 in the 1960s. Robert would become “Uncle Bob” to many Filipino kids growing up in those years, the host of the popular children’s show, “Uncle Bob’s Lucky 7 Club”.

One of the earliest to join the radio bandwagon was Angelo Castro of Tarlac. A brother of former chief justice Fred Ruiz Castro, Angelo joined Manila Broadcasting Company at Insular Life Bldg. and was known as the “Good Time King”. In 1946, he became the chief announcer of Station KZOK. Under Pres. Carlos P. Garcia, he headed the Radio Department of the Office of the Press Secretary. Angelo’s sons, Angelo Castro Jr. (husband of June Keithley) and Naldie also became announcers.

The new broadcast medium was soon being discovered by advertisers as a channel to reach the masses efficiently, quickly. Philippine Manufacturing Company (PMC) was one of the first to sponsor Tagalog variety shows like "Ilaw ng Tahanan", "Gulong ng Palad", Dr. Ramon Selga and "Aklat ng Pag-ibig". But it was Tawag ng Tanghalan (Call of the Stage) that proved to be its longest-running hit. With Kapampangan Ben Pangan as its producer, the talent show started on DZBB with Dolphy and Panchito as hosts, but when PMC decided to bring the show on the road, Dolphy begged off due to his movie commitments. Lopito and Patsy—another Kapampangan-- took over and the rest is history.

Movie stars gravitated towards the radio as the broadcast industry boomed in the 50s. Rogelio de la Rosa, already an established star, hosted the early evening program, “Kasaysayang Panghapunan”. His brother Jaime, was on Camay Theater of the Air and Pista ng Caltex at DZBB. To complete the family act, 17 year old Mike Mallari, the 17 year-old son of Africa de la Rosa became the teen DJ for “Mailbag Jukebox”. Mike went on to bigger things and was eventually appointed as information officer for Gerry Roxas, Teofisto Guingona and a secretary of Pres. Fidel V. Ramos.

Other known Kapampangan personalities with radio experience include Artemio “Temyong” Marquez who wrote radio soaps for DZBC, his most popular being “Panata ng Puso”. Minda Feliciano of San Fernando also joined Eddie Mercado and Johnny Wilson at DZFM, only to resign and travel to Europe where she would meet and marry the actor Michael Caine. In 1953, Armando Datuin was hired at DZAQ and his voice would become associated with live shows, stars and prizes. Nick David, with his “basso profundo”, rose to become a popular narrator of dramas at DZXL. Meanwhile, Mila Balatbat from Sta. Ana, who started her radio career at age 15, found great success by becoming a successful independent producer of programs (a ‘blocktimer’) heard on DZRH, DZBB, DZAQ, DZMY.

But perhaps, the most influential and bombastic radio personality ever to emerge from radio’s golden years would undoubtedly be Rafael Yabut of Candaba. Fearless “Paeng” grew up in Tondo and started as a commercial reader for blocktimer Luz Mat Castro. During the Japanese occupation, he accepted an announcing job at Star Theater along Azcarraga. After Liberation, he became a barker for “Atomic Bomb”, a seedy, honky tonk place along Rizal Avenue.

In the late 1940s, he was offered by Hal Bowie, General Manager of MBC to do a daily Tagalog program called “Tayo’y Mag-aliw” (Let’s Have Fun). But instead of just providing pure entertainment, he made stinging news commentaries and impassioned attacks against certain elements and characters in the government. As a sort of ombudsman on air, he started attacking Pres. Qurino and praising Magsaysay. His program drew not only high listenership but also friends and foes alike. Soon, many Yabut wannabes like Benny Rebueno, Ernie Kimuyog and Abraham Cruz were imitating his fiery style.

By 1957, Yabut had accumulated so much pulling power as news commentator for DZRH that he was urged to run for president in 1957 against Carlos P. Garcia. Instead, he endorsed Manuel Manahan, then shifted to Jose Yulo. Both lost. For his political meddling and editorializing, Yabut was suspended from his broadcast work, leaving behind his high-rating programs like "Ruleta Musikal", "Tatlo Lamang", "Gumising sa Pagsikat ng Araw".

To complicate matters, Yabut’s second wife filed a bigamy case against him. But his most serious brush with death was when he was ambushed by a gunman along San Marcelino St., after his tirades against Philippine Charity Sweepstakes. He recuperated, joined DZFM, a government station, but by then his credibility was in tatters. After the People Power revolution, he joined DZBB, only to be assigned the graveyard shift. Not long after that, Paeng Yabut died.

The 1960s also saw the rise of a former seminarian from Minalin as the quintessential voice of news and current events. Orly Punzalan took the bus to Manila and auditioned for DZFM as a newscaster for the Department of National Defense. He passed the auditions and got a starting salary of 30 pesos a week, working with the likes of Jose Mari Avellana, Joonee Gamboa and Tita Muñoz. Making the transition to TV, he became a booth announcer for Channel 3 where he met and married Helen Vela.

Deep-voiced Bienvenido Parungao made his presence felt with his overly dramatic signature quips: “Oh, hindeeee!” and “Hangaaal!”. He became an announcer for DZAQ in 1966, an apt host for the program,”Ginoong Mananakot”. Taking on “Ben David” as a screen name, he was cast in “Da Best Show”, “Tang-Tarang-Tang” and “Buhay Artista”. His most famous character role is playing Hudas Iscariote to the hilt.

In 1961, Cesar Nocum auditioned for DZRM and got the job, only to be pirated by ABS-CBN. For his narrative program “Mga Kasaysayan sa Likod ng Langit”, he evolved the style of Eddie Ilarde, developing it into his signature snail-paced, monotonous delivery. Thus, “Kuya Cesar” was born. Rounding up our list of Kapampangan announcers with unforgettable voices is the broadcast dean of knowledge and trivia, Ernie Baron. He differentiated himself by developing an encyclopedic knowledge of every conceivable topic under the sun. His “Knowledge Power” ruled the airwaves until his passing in 2005.

Today, Pampanga has its own regional and community stations with some programs conducted in the Kapampangan language. This bodes well for the future of Kapampangan broadcasters, whose existence have been threatened by the coming of television, MTV and now, the internet. Contemporary Kapampangan radio personalities like Perry Pangan, Rox Peña, Max Sangil and Cecile Yumul continue to inform, delight, educate and keep me company as I drive through traffic or relax at home. Now who says video killed the radio stars?

4 comments:

Pungsu said...

"The first organized commercial radio station was founded by a former war correspondent of Mutual Broadcasting Company named Robert Stevens."

I do not know where you got your info but there is so much that needs rechecking. Here is one, the owner of DZBB and Channel 7 was Robert Stewart not Robert Stevens...

alex r. castro said...

What was I thinking? It is Robert "Uncle Bob" Stewart, not Stevens. And I was a member of his Uncle Bob's Lucky 7 Club.

Irish Talusan said...

Hello Mr. Alex Castro. Do you happen to know someone who knows about "Kasaysayang Panghapunan" that I can interview? :)

Irish Talusan said...

Hello Mr. Alex Castro. Do you happen to know someone who knows about "Kasaysayang Panghapunan" that I can interview? :)