Tuesday, October 15, 2013


TAWAG'S HOSTS WITH THE MOST.  The iconic tandem of Lubao-born Patsy and Lopito will forever be inextricably associated with the most successful talent show ever to air on radio and TV. Tawag ng Tanghalan produced a bumper crop of singing superstars like Nora Aunor, Novo Bono Jr., Diomedes Maturan, Edgar Mortiz--including Kapampangans Cenon Lagman and June Pena.

Before the Filipinization of ”American Idol”, “America’s Got Talent”, “The Voice” , “X-Factor” and all those stateside talent searches, there was the one and only “Tawag ng Tanghalan”, the first true national talent search conducted by the local manufacturing and marketing giant, Philippine Marketing Company or PMC. PMC had been producing staple products for Filipino families for years, such as Luto, Perla Soap, Dari Crème, Star Margarine and its banner brand, Purico.

When it was bought by the global company, Procter and Gamble, its new product offerings expanded even more to include icon brands such as Tide, Vicks, Camay, Safeguard and Mr. Clean Camay (Crest, Zest, Oil of Olay and Ariel would follow many years later).

 To promote its products to the mass market, PMC sponsored a nationwide singing talent search in 1955, with the intent of discovering a young amateur champion from the contests conducted through 7 radio stations and open auditions using 13 roving advertising trucks. Regional finalists, judged by a panel, were then transported to Manila for the national finals held at the capacious Manila Jockey Club to perform before a huge crowd.

In the end, a Spanish mestizo, Jose Gonzalez was adjudged as the first-ever Tawag ng Tanghalan champion with his song “Angelitos Negros”, followed by Angelita Espinosa, and the Montecillo sisters. Jose Gonzalez – who would later be known as Pepe Pimentel—received a cash prize, PMC products and a surrealistic trophy designed by artist Cesar Legaspi.

This marketing ploy proved to be effective for PMC that, when television became the next big thing in media, the company bought air time on Channel 3 and produced TV version of the same contest, which proved to be a long-running success, broadcasted from the radio and TV media from 1955 to 1972. There were to be 3 years (1966-69), that “Tawag” ceased airing, but the contest resumed in 1970, spawning artists like Novo Bono, Edgar Mortiz, Jonathan Potenciano and Nora Aunor.

Closely associated with its success where the hosts, Patsy and Lopito. Patsy Mateo of Lubao, spent her growing up years in Hawaii, but came back to pursue a career in stage (‘bodabil’) and film, during the Commonwealth years and after the war. “Tawag ng Tanghalan” would giver the opportunity to flaunt her Kapampangan-ness by breaking into the language at every opportunity—to tickle the audience, calm down contestants’ nerves, or even console losing singers who were dispatched home at the sound of a gong.

Patsy was not the only Kapampangan personality in “Tawag ng Tanghalan” as conetestants from Pampang regularly joined the weekly auditions. In 17 years of “Tawag”, at least two Kapampangans have brought home the Grand Championship trophy.

 Cenon Punla Lagman of Masantol, Pampanga was a fisherman-turned singer who wowed judges with his inimitable renditions of kundiman songs. At the age of 24, he won the “1960 Tawag ng Tanghalan Grand Finals” with his performance of “Ikaw Lamang ang Iibigin”, succeeding the very popular Diomedes Maturan.

The two ”Tawag” stars went on to co-star in the movie “Maturan and Lagman”, under VIN productions. Lagman, known as the “Prinsipe ng Kundiman” went to on to record under Mayon Records, popularizing songs like, “Pandora”, “Bakas ng Lumipas”, ”Bakit Di Kita Malimot” and “Salamat sa Ala-ala”. Later, he joined Alpha Records while raising his family in Las Piñas. He died on 25 May 2013.

 June Peña, the 1965 Grand Champion, is listed in the “Tawag” record books as having represented Dagupan, Pangasinan at the national finals. In truth, Peña comes from Barangay Batang 2nd, in Sasmuan, Pampanga. It so happened that while he was paying a visit to his girlfriend Helen in Dagupan, the “Tawag” auditions were also being held there. He signed up, won the Dagupan regionals and was whisked off to Manila where he bagged the major prize with the song "Autumn Leaves", succeeding Eva Adona. Peña still resides in Pangasinan today.

 Attempts at reviving “Tawag ng Tanghalan” began in the mid 1980s with a special “Reunion of Champions” telecast that gathered past “Tawag” champions. Abroad, especially in the U.S., the spirit of “Tawag” lives on in several singing competitions that have adapted the same contest title. It is almost certain that a Kapampangan Come audtion time, it is almost certain that a Kapampangan will join, make the cut and give the performance of his life. With music in his blood, he will find it hard not to respond to the roar of the crowd and answer the call of the stage—ang “Tawag ng Tanghalan”!.

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