“AlDub” and Eat Bulaga’s “KalyeSerye”: Reel Love In The Time Of Social Media

It’s been on many TV screens back home in the Philippines during lunch time. And on even more TV screens of fellow Filipinos living elsewhere around the world. And on YouTube, Twitter, Facebook and whatever other social media outlet you can think of. And boy, you’ve been probably hiding under a rock if you don’t know who the heck the “AlDub”/”MaiDen” love team is.

Enter Richard Faulkerson Jr., a.k.a. Alden Richards. He has been around for a while, and GMA, his home network, had been grooming him to become one of their resident “leading men” by honing his acting chops in soap opera after soap opera. He was also given a shot at hosting and performing live on the network’s now-defunct Sunday variety show, “Sunday All Stars.” Then, this year, the noontime TV institution that is “Eat Bulaga” also came calling, with what was initially just supposed to be a “guest host” stint.

Then, there’s Maine Mendoza. Her initial claim to fame? Those viral Dubsmash videos of her “lip-syncing” and doing impressions of TV host/actress/presidential sister/home network-proclaimed “Queen of All Media” Kris Aquino. But next thing we knew, there she was, also taken in by “Eat Bulaga” to play the role of Yaya Dub (full name: Divina Ursula Bokbokova Smash…get it?), “girl Friday” to the haughty Lola Nidora, played by mainstay Wally Bayola in the show’s popular remote segment “Juan For All, All For Juan.”

What started out as a normal split-screen between “Eat Bulaga’s” Broadway Centrum studio and the “Juan For All” location became yet another segment-within-a-segment that had a life of its own. A few on-air jokes and teases from the EB hosts when both Alden and Yaya Dub were shown in that split-screen suddenly resulted into what is currently the most popular love team on Philippine television. But, if everything that has been happening until now on “Bulaga” is to be believed, Alden and Maine/Yaya Dub have not met each other face-to-face. Yet. And it has been only through the magic and technology of live TV that the two “get together.”

To put it simply, an on-screen romance and a storyline has developed–what the show has dubbed “KalyeSerye.” There’s Lola Nidora, her three bodyguards and all (“Rogelio, Rogelio, Rogelio!”), as the antagonist who seems to be pulling out all the stops to prevent Alden and Yaya Dub from ever seeing each other in person. But in truth, s/he actually believes that love is something that is worth earning and striving for, something that will indeed come “sa tamang panahon.” Which is why she has issued some actual challenges to Alden on-air (and yes, still part of the storyline). And which still leaves viewers (especially the growing throngs of “AlDub” fans) wondering: “Kailan ba ang ‘tamang panahon’ na ‘yan?

Needless to say–and let’s face it–it has become yet another ratings windfall for Philippine television’s longest-running daily show. Also, using the “metrics” of this generation, the segment and the love team born out of it has become a regular trending topic on social media. On top of that, it has made fans even out of other celebs, TV news people, even politicians. But even more interesting is that, the focus of “KalyeSerye” is not even on the “Three Kings” of “Bulaga” (Tito, Vic and Joey) anymore. Which, I think, should be a bit refreshing especially for long-time viewers of the show.

Also, consider these: First, this became an even bigger “proving ground” for Alden. And he showed that he can roll with the rest of the “Dabarkads.” As for Maine/Yaya Dub, it’s this simple: A new star is born. The young girl who secretly dreamed of becoming an artista suddenly got tons and tons of fans–thus, a dream fulfilled. Oh, and let’s not forget Wally–the erstwhile “prodigal son” who was sidelined from “Bulaga” (and TV as a whole) for quite a while, because of a scandalous incident a couple of years ago. He got his second chance upon his return to the show, and did not just make the most out of it, but redeemed himself big time–especially now with his Lola Nidora character. Yes, there are second chances, but only for those who are willing to pick themselves up, try again, and make things right.

More importantly, it’s more than likely a testament to the amount of creativity and ideas the “Bulaga” people behind the scenes have. I mean, imagine being able to make something bigger out of something that began with just your usual “asaran” between talents–and being able to sustain that from Monday to Saturday, week in and week out. That must be one of the many reasons why the show is still on the air after 36 years.

I still couldn’t put a finger completely on how and why the love team became an almost-instant, huge hit for “Bulaga.” Must be, among other things, the Pinoy’s penchant for romance. At ‘yung pagiging senti natin. It has made tons of rom-com and romance-drama movies (especially the locally-made ones) click through the years, right? Maybe, a lot of us could relate to how circumstances often beyond our control keep us away from someone we love, as in the basic premise of the “KalyeSerye.” Or how about the many fans who, deep in their hearts, wish that the reel romance becomes real? By the way, such is the question lately, with Alden sometimes referring to his love interest by her real name, Maine–not in character as Yaya Dub–in those “fan signs” he would show to the cameras.

Perhaps, ultimately, it is a reminder for all of us–especially the hopeless romantics–that real love is always worth fighting and braving the challenges for. Tama rin pala si Lola, after all, in spite of his/her seeming cruelty towards Alden. True love wins, as I’ve always loved to say lately. And whether or not that would also hold true for the two lunchtime lovebirds…well…of course, we will, and should find out.

Sa tamang panahon, siyempre.

Late-Night Musings: “My 5”

In case you don’t know (or have forgotten), I am–unfortunately or otherwise–the eldest of six.

I’m just kidding about the “unfortunately or otherwise” part, of course. All cheese and sentimentality aside, I am fortunate to be the eldest of six. And to have the siblings I already have (plus two sibs-in-law).

And after all the milestones and changes that have happened over the past couple of years–two of my siblings getting married and starting out on their own, everyone finding a job (and for some, juggling that with school), everyone having his/her own activities outside of work and/or school, and all that…it has come to a point where, sometimes, I feel like taking a step back to realize that we’re really growing up. Or growing old. Whichever way you want to put it.

It does make me realize how far we’ve come–or seem to have. From arguing over toys, sharing snacks, the bed, or the TV remote control, or chirping on each other (and oftentimes, it would be “me vs. them”–typical “away-bata,” as we called it back home)…we’ve, at the odd moment, started to seek each other’s advice about a lot of “grown-up things” from career to relationships. We talk about who’s paying for what at home, or, for those of us who drive, how the car insurance payment is split. We plan the next road trip–still with our parents’ input, too, at this point in our lives. Or talk about who’s cooking/baking/making what for the next family/extended-family celebration. And who’s riding with whom to get there.

For those of us unmarried ones still living with Mom and Dad, there would be those days or nights–or even weekends–when we’d be all out on our own activities, so much that we don’t end up seeing each other until the next day or two. And some nights wherein I’m the only other person besides our parents staying in while everyone else is out and about–then, suddenly, you get that feeling that the house seems too quiet.

And that’s when the opportunities you get to be together start to matter even more. Even just through the simplest things like picking up one sibling from work, or the quick text invite for some late-night bowling. Or having dinner together, whether it’s at home, or, say, everyone’s favourite all-you-can-eat sushi place.

Then, you realize that what matters most, perhaps, is how you spend your time together. And that, often, the best part of it all is that a lot of things don’t change at all–and probably won’t ever, no matter what point in your respective lives you and your siblings are.

That, I think, should be a reassuring thought as each of us continue through our own journeys through life.


Hello, everyone!

It’s been two and a half years since I last wrote something on this blog. While I’ve been very active on Twitter (as you would see on the right side of this page) and other social media, I’ve kept this baby at bay. But, perhaps, thanks to a few exchanges with some friends, and a lot of things happening in my life and within my circle of loved ones, I thought of continuing with this blog to also serve as an avenue for my thoughts–especially whenever 150 characters wouldn’t suffice.

Anyway, moving on…

So, it was pretty much all over my Facebook timeline today, thanks to a few friends of mine from back in college: today being 10 years since our graduation. TEN YEARS. Wow. Cue almost every cliche and expression imaginable–from, “Where has the time gone?” to “Gano’n na pala katagal ‘yun? (So it’s been that long already?)”, to, “Holy s***! Ang tatanda na natin! (We’re so old!)” But it’s true.

As I type this blog entry, a lot of the memories of those four years in the Ateneo are starting to come in one after the other. There was, of course, our ORSEM–equivalent to what college kids over here in my neck of the woods would call “frosh week.” And how the A1 Block seemed to bond so easily from the get-go–something I was really so thankful for, because otherwise, I don’t know how else I’d have been able to adjust to my new surroundings, and to the next level of my academic life.

Then, there was the SEC-C foyer–the hangout our huge group would eventually share with other barkadas. That was where we spent those moments before, between and after classes…all the tsismis, love stories, rants and raves about our classes…study sessions, jam sessions, and yes, the always-enjoyable tong-its/pusoy dos card game sessions (and you knew it was getting intense when all the cuss words get thrown left and right–in jest, of course)…our group’s annual “White and Khaki Day,” when everyone was dressed in, well, you guessed it…

There was the fun of moving from classroom to classroom and building to building–oh, the horror (for some of us) of going the distance from the old Comm Department building or the covered courts to the Bellarmine building at least one point in your four-year term. Or running into almost everybody from your friends to your English class crush to the odd celebrity/artista who’s also an Atenista along that “major thoroughfare” so fittingly called the EDSA Walk. Oh, and don’t forget lining up to make sure that you’ve paid your dues (i.e., tuition) and, ergo, get your exam permit on time. There was also the good ol’ Rizal Library, where, among other things, the nostalgia/history “geek” in me was always in full effect, browsing through the many old magazines and newspapers-on-microfilm at the Filipiniana section–often for fun than for research purposes (although, yes, I spent a good amount of time researching there, too).

Oh, and how about…helping out some of my friends who produced and shot short film after short film after short film (I portrayed a balut vendor-turned-reluctant witness to a crime scene in one of them)…taking a crash course in editing using Adobe Premiere (from no less than our favourite Comm Dep technical guys, Mang Tony “MT”  Gallano and Kuya Al Adolfo), and spending hours in the old Comm studio edit room to produce my first video whose tape I still have with me–a PR video about the Manila Zoo as a final project for my Public Relations class under Sir Sev Sarmenta (of course, more popularly known as a sports media personality)…somehow living the dream in that same Comm studio, putting together projects for the TV Production and Radio Production classes I took there…dancing on stage at the Irwin Theater–and for the first time since my elementary years–when our Comm org put together a group and entered an inter-org dance contest…the “pocket gardens” all over campus for smokers–“smockets,” as some of us called them (yes, I was a smoker once upon a time)…Manang’s, Caf Up, the main Caf, and of course–Katipunan Avenue being Katipunan Avenue, the gazillion restaurants that lined up the entire street across from Ateneo…which also leads us to the Starbucks between Shakey’s and Jollibee/National Book Store, where, chances are, you’ll spot a fellow student pretty much all the time…ROTC training on Saturdays under the heat of the afternoon sun on Bel Field (although there was one day when we ended up watching a Blue Eagles game), and being the last batch of students to undergo the mandatory ROTC classes, if I remember correctly, with a new law being passed sometime during our freshman year…and yes, there were the many late nights/early mornings and sleepovers working on school projects and theses.

Oh, and let’s not forget the school spirit that was best seen during EVERY UAAP basketball game–especially if it’s against La Salle. Although…believe it or not, I NEVER got to watch ANY ADMU-DLSU game at the Araneta. Ever. It kinda broke my heart back in ’02 that the only place I could celebrate the Blue Eagles winning the UAAP basketball championship back then was in front of my TV–where, incidentally, I was the only Atenean among a brood of La Sallians (my siblings were all studying at De La Salle Lipa that time).

And speaking of things I never experienced during my college years, there was one that still leaves me with some regret until now, and probably for the rest of my life: I never got to attend my graduation. Long story short, I made the bad decision of being lazy for one of my classes during my final semester and, obviously, ended up failing. Thus, I did not end up marching with all my friends. I was lucky enough to have been given the chance, though, to make up for that failed class during the summer (instead of during the regular school year). But that, of course, was not without a few long talks from my parents, sleepless nights, and yes, a few tears. Then, unfortunately, since I was already working full-time in March 2006, I never had the chance to go back to Ateneo and check what I needed to attend the graduation ceremony that year. Yes, I–by God’s grace–did finish college, but never took the opportunity to formally celebrate it.

Fortunately, I still had a few more opportunities to catch up with my college buddies throughout the next little bit after we all went our separate ways. It helped, perhaps, that social media was in its “infancy” that time–the most popular site back then being the now-defunct Friendster. Oh, and our Yahoo! Group was also still active for a while. But yes, time and work life took their respective courses, and as fate would have it, my family and I would migrate to Canada. I never got to formally say goodbye to the “A1 Bench”, unfortunately, and gradually lost touch with a lot of them especially through the many changes in the social media platforms we used (Facebook became THE popular one…then of course, Twitter later on, then Instagram much later). I’m grateful, though, for the ones I am still in contact with from time-to-time.

Looking back, I’m still thankful for the opportunity to have spent a good 4 years or so of my life in the Ateneo campus–and for the sacrifices that my parents made to make it happen (something I know can’t EVER repay). I’m thankful, most especially, for the many things I’ve learned–on top of the school’s values, of course–and the people I’ve met through my entire stay there. I hope that, the next chance I get to fly home to the Philippines, I could visit my old stomping grounds again, see for myself how things have changed, and remember all the good times.

And to the Class of 2005, cheers to all of us. Wherever we may be in the world and in our lives. Thanks for all the memories.

“Everywhere!” (Musings From A Viewer)

Last Friday, September 28, marked the 40th anniversary of Citytv Toronto (call sign: CITY-TV). Contrary to expectations (my own, at least), the on-air celebration was quite modest, to say the least. There was a five-part special report about the station and its history aired during the station’s newscasts and posted online, two celebratory segments (one on Friday, another the Monday before) on morning show “Breakfast Television” both featuring chief news anchor Gord Martineau (who, incidentally, just celebrated his 35th year with the station), and an on-air gathering by the CityNews staff during Friday’s 6:00 edition, after they ran the last part of the anniversary special report. Not too much fanfare anywhere else on the station’s airwaves. A bit of a sad note, perhaps, to many Torontonians who grew up watching “the little station that could”. And for me, who, even as someone who had only been living in Canada and the GTA for five years, came to know and love the station.

The original Citytv building

The original Citytv building at what used to be 99 Queen Street East (currently 111 Queen East). Prior to the station moving into this building in 1972, it was the site of a nightclub named Electric Circus–which incidentally became the title of the station’s live dance/music video party in the late ’80s. This was Citytv’s headquarters until May 1987.
(Photo taken September 2010)

Citytv print ad, late '70s

A Citytv print ad for a primetime “Great Movies” double-bill from sometime in the late ’70s.
(Scanned from an old issue of Toronto Star’s StarWeek magazine, from my own personal collection)

To a generation of Toronto viewers, Citytv meant groundbreaking, revolutionary television especially during its prime in the ’80s and ’90s. It may not have become the top-rated station, but it definitely made a mark on both the industry and the city itself. To some, it was about being the music station even before the birth of MTV–with programs such as magazine show “The New Music,” music video shows “Toronto Rocks,” “City Limits” and “CHUM 30,” and concert simulcasts in stereo (along with now-former sister radio station CHUM-FM), and the fact that City spawned Canada’s first and original 24-hour music video channel, MuchMusic. To others, it was about the gutsy, action-packed, in-your-face reportage of the “CityPulse” news team, which perhaps became the ultimate personification of the station’s tagline, “Everywhere!” as they scoured Toronto and the GTA for the stories that mattered. For others still, it was about those “Great Movies,” “Late Great Movies” and even those “Not-So-Great Movies”, from box-office hits to the duds, all day and all night.

It was about the irreverent humor of “Ed’s Night Party” with cigar-smoking puppet Ed the Sock on Friday late-nights, or how lots of men secretly tuned in to every…uhm…extremely sexy “Baby Blue Movie”. For “Star Trek” fans all over the city, it was about being their “federation station”, being the home of “Star Trek: The Next Generation” through its entire run–and how City marked the series finale with a big screening event at the SkyDome (what is now the Rogers Centre). It was about how Brian Linehan surprised his celebrity interviewees every “City Lights” episode with his extensive research. Or how the beautiful Jeanne Beker took fashionistas around the world through their TV screens on “Fashion Television”–long before the term “fashionista” was even coined.  It was about the CityPulse news team reflecting the diversity of the city, the smooth delivery and sharp, witty writing of the late Bill Cameron on the late-night newscast, the revelations and hard truths about Toronto in the CityPulse “Newserials”, the occasional antics of CityPulse sports anchors such as Jim McKenny and Peter Gross, how reporter/ombudsman Peter Silverman was not afraid to stand up for the TO consumer, and how Gord Martineau has always been there forever on the 6:00 time slot, with Dini Petty and later, Anne Mroczkowski as his sparring partner. It was about being part of the dancing crowd every weekend on “Electric Circus”, or the live audience of “CityLine” or “Lunch Television.” It was about having a minute to speak out or strut your stuff for just a dollar at the “Speakers’ Corner” booth (something that helped start the careers of such hometown boys who’ve made it big like Mike Myers, Scott Speedman, and the Barenaked Ladies), and how the station’s now-former home at 299 Queen Street West in downtown TO was called “the living movie”, where passers-by can easily have a look at how television is made. More importantly, it was about how “The Voice”–the late, great Mark Dailey–gave Citytv its distinct identity with his signature baritone and his quick, cheeky one-liners teasing every program, and injected his sense of humor into every Citytv ident ending it with his trademark line, “This is Citytv…everywhere!” Citytv was all about the city, and the people who lived in it. Eventually, I learned, even the world started to take notice. And a lot of it was because of one Moses Znaimer–Citytv’s co-founder and bossman through most of its history–who aimed to take local television out of the box.

The original CityPulse LiveEye

Canada’s first-ever microwave truck, the original “CityPulse” LiveEye–which, I learned, was built by a station engineer in the ’80s. It has since been replaced by the logo of CP24, the local all-news station that Citytv used to own (it’s now under the ownership of Bell Media).
(Photo taken April 2008)

299 Queen Street West

The second home of Citytv, 299 Queen Street West–originally known as the CHUM-City Building. It was famous for being one of the few television production facilities in the world without any legitimate studio. It was wired in such a way that anyone can easily do a shoot anywhere around the entire building. Citytv called this building home from May 1987 to September 2009, but its former TV assets now owned by CTV/Bell Media such as MuchMusic, MuchMore, CP24 and Bravo are still there.
(Photo taken April 2008)

"Everywhere!", the mural

The old “Everywhere!” mural at the 299 Queen West parking lot. The Citytv logos have since been replaced by CTV logos.
The 299 parking lot during the City days was used for some outdoor segments of morning show “Breakfast Television” and for big events and specials. Also, during a huge Toronto-wide blackout, “CityPulse” aired live from the parking lot with just one camera and their LiveEye truck making the newscast possible. CTV still uses the parking lot now for TV purposes, especially for MuchMusic’s annual Video Awards (or MMVAs) every summer, which usually closes off the entire intersection of Queen and John Streets.
(Photo taken April 2008)

City was the first local station I watched when I arrived in Toronto in 2007. I could still remember figuring out how to pronounce the last names of Anne Mroczkowski and Dina Pugliese everytime I saw them on the air, and how proud I was to see my Filipino lineage being represented in the station by some of their reporters at that time–Kris Reyes (whose roots, I learned, were from my parents’ hometown of San Pablo City in Laguna where I was also born), Richard Madan, Marianne Dimain, and later, Michael Serapio. I cannot exactly recall now how else it happened, but I easily related to City and its personalities. And the TV geek that I am (as some of you may recall from a previous post here on this blog), I began to read up more on Canadian and Toronto TV history, which, among other things, led me to YouTube and a ton of archival Citytv clips and idents–mostly from the Retrontario account, which I have since considered the “unofficial” digital archive of Toronto-area television. That was where I discovered bits and pieces of Citytv’s visual history and how valuable it had become to many a TV viewer in the city and beyond. And putting past and present together, I have since resolved that I would love to work for the station someday.

As the succeeding years since my move to Canada went on, it was also within the social media atmosphere where I found out what many of those who grew up watching Citytv have been lamenting all along: that the station is not the same as it used to be–not even a shadow of what it was. As most of them would point out, the corporate shake-up that began in the mid-2000s could be the biggest thing to blame: Moses Znaimer leaving the CHUM empire, then CTVglobemedia (later known as Bell Media, owner of leading Canadian private TV network CTV) buying all the CHUM assets but having to sell off Citytv (and its co-branded sister stations in Vancouver, Calgary, Edmonton and Winnipeg) due to Canadian media ownership regulations–Rogers Communications, another telecom giant and staunch Bell competitor, being the eventual buyer of the City system. I, along with many viewers, witnessed some of those post-buyout changes on the air–things like the eventual axing of “Speakers’ Corner” and “Ed’s Night Party,” the remaining “Great Movies” primetime slots gradually being replaced by US network programming, the late-night “Late Great Movies” and “Baby Blue Movies” slots replaced by second-run reality shows and infomercials, and so on.

And there was that big lay-off in January 2010, the “casualties” of which included veteran CityNews reporters Laura DiBattista (now with CBC Radio), Merella Fernandez (now with CTV National), Pam Seatle (who eventually returned September that year for the station’s G20 Summit coverage, and has remained with City since), and the biggest “victim,” long-time 6:00pm co-anchor Anne Mroczkowski (now with Global Toronto). That event affected me so much as a viewer because to me, perhaps as with a lot of other viewers, those involved were people we trusted–people we considered “friends” or acquaintances, even if we just knew them through the TV screens.

33 Dundas Street East

The current home of Citytv at 33 Dundas Street East, right by Yonge-Dundas Square and in front of the Eaton Centre mall. The station moved into this building (formerly the Olympic Spirit building) in September 2009, and shares the facility with the Rogers-owned OMNI multicultural stations. Just the same as at 299 Queen West, the building’s windows still allow passers-by a view of how television is made.
(Photo taken July 2011)

The City newsroom

Part of the current City newsroom at the building’s 4th floor. Also staying true to its previous years at Queen West, the station’s main newscasts are still done in and around the newsroom with no anchor desks.
(Photo taken July 2011)

Citytv has never been completely the same in the last few years. And in this day and age when the regulatory bodies seem to be more strict about broadcast standards, I don’t think that the Citytv most Torontonians knew and loved in its prime would be able to exist. However, the almost-eternal optimist that I am, I also think that all still isn’t lost. It’s in the way viewers could pack Yonge-Dundas Square even at the crack of dawn (with a few people lining up as early as 10:00pm the previous night) for “Breakfast Television’s” Viewer Appreciation Day event–which I’ve gone to for two consecutive years now. Or how their annual New Year’s Eve party outside Toronto’s City Hall still attracts thousands of people, whatever the weather. It’s about how the BT gang (particularly, main hosts Kevin Frankish and Dina Pugliese) unabashedly makes fun of themselves on live TV now and then. It’s about how host Tracy Moore and her panel of experts still make “Cityline” stay true to its aim of helping women coast to coast (not just in Toronto) live life better, perhaps more than previous hosts Dini Petty and Marilyn Denis would’ve ever imagined. It’s how sports anchor Kathryn Humphreys sneaks in a crazy one-liner or two while going through her sports highlights every night, or how fellow sports anchor Hugh Burrill writes his script for his weekly “HughLites” montage and how he once walked all over downtown Toronto in green tights–antics that could probably be reminiscent of their predecessors Gross, McKenny, Debbie Van Kiekebelt and Ann Rohmer. It’s about how the “Newserial” spirit seems to live on through reporter Avery Haines’ “Inside Story” segment on the 6:00pm edition–with such daring and eye-opening topics as the illegal drug called “bath salts” and female genital mutilation, and heartwarming ones like tonight’s story on a 16-year-old boy suffering from progeria.

It’s how the news team’s local focus is still there, as shown in tonight’s lead story on the 6:00 broadcast: a young cancer patient’s iPad stolen inside the SickKids Hospital. It’s about how viewers stood by reporter Cynthia Mulligan as she documented her battle against breast cancer, in the same manner that Mark Dailey did during his own bout with prostate cancer in the early 2000s. And speaking of Dailey, it’s about how the whole city and beyond–myself included–wept and stood by the station’s side when The Voice fell silent and succumbed to kidney cancer in December 2010. And the list could go on and on and on.

The little station that could has grown by leaps and bounds in the last 40 years. And while it is no longer the same Citytv that Toronto knew, I think we should still trust that the station’s old spirit will still be kept alive somehow by the stalwarts who were there during the glory years, and by new faces who still believe that the station will and should always belong to the city it serves.

Happy 40th anniversary, Citytv Toronto. I know that somehow, you are still loved. Everywhere.

Roger Petersen

Me with current 11:00pm weeknight anchor Roger Petersen. I told him after I had my photo op with him that the late Mark Dailey must be proud of him taking over the late-night newscast.
(Photo taken July 2011)

Hugh Burrill

With CityNews sports anchor Hugh Burrill.
(Photo taken July 2011)

Tracy Moore

With “Cityline” host Tracy Moore.
(Photo taken July 2011)

Breakfast Television

With “Breakfast Television” hosts Dina Pugliese, Jennifer Valentyne, Kevin Frankish and Frank Ferragine. I believe this is my 4th or 5th photo-op with them since I started going to some of their big broadcasts. Might as well call it a “tradition”?
(Photo taken August 2012)



It was one of those events wherein you’d absolutely remember where you were when it happened.

In my case? I was just 17, still living in the Philippines back then. And at the exact time it happened, I was out having dinner with my family at a Filipino restaurant a few minutes away from my college dorm. I didn’t even have a clue about what was happening–all we just knew back then was that someone sent my Dad a text (SMS had just become popular during that time), telling him to watch CNN. I don’t even recall watching the late-night news that evening, but definitely, it wasn’t until the next morning when I found out what happened half a world away–the twin towers of the World Trade Center in New York City, reduced to mere rubble after two passenger planes crashed into them. Thousands of people dead, thousands (and even millions) more left in shock. The US President, vowing to pull out all the stops to make whoever was responsible pay.

And when did all of those events happen? On my birthday.

Growing up and prior to 9/11/2001, I would think once in a while that I must’ve been born on a bad date. I knew for a fact that I shared the same birthday with a former Philippine President who became a dictator in the eyes of many–God rest his soul. History lessons gave me an idea that the last 5-10 years of his term was one of the worst, if the not the worst period in my Motherland’s life.

And then, for a while after it happened, I thought that 9/11/2001 just made my birthdate THE worst. Ever.

I don’t think I can ever blame anybody, though. The WTC tragedy was definitely one of the most horrific anyone has ever seen. Like I said earlier, thousands of lives were lost that day. And every year since then, I remember them in my prayers just as the rest of the world does. However, it just made me sad that I felt like the tragedy took away a good chunk of the happiness that September 11 always brought into my life–and into the lives of many other people who I share my birthday with all over the world. It felt like we who were born on this date had no right to celebrate because the whole world would always be in mourning. And then, there would be those rare occasions I would get jokes about my birthday being “malas” (“unlucky” in Filipino) or whatever other negative adjective. Much to the point that sometimes, I would always answer a casual “When is your birthday?” question with a lot of caution. I don’t know, maybe I just became unreasonably sensitive.

We can never change how most of the world feels about this date anymore. I understand that. I began looking at it as something bigger than myself. Last year, my good buddy Mark seemed to put it in perspective with what he said on my Facebook: “[W]e should take a few minutes to remember, and then get on with life. Perspective and love of life can be worked in together.” Perhaps, he’s right. While I do know that we will (and should) never forget the WTC tragedy and all the heartbreak, loss, and maybe even the anger that it left this world behind, life must continue. And in my case, a celebration of life can go on–perhaps, in the most appropriate manner, of course.

That being said, I say another prayer tonight before I head off to la-la land for those whose lives were lost, and the families affected by those deaths 11 years ago today. And another prayer that a similar event of worldwide catastrophic proportions will never happen again–EVER. If anything, the 9/11 tragedy was yet another event that will always remind of how fragile and fleeting life can become, and to, therefore, live it to the fullest. And when you think about it, maybe there couldn’t be another more appropriate time for that than on your own birthday.

Back To Square One

It was just supposed to be a typical work day–me waking up almost on cue at 5:35 even with just four hours of sleep, firing up the stove for some breakfast, missing the bus by a few minutes (and ergo, ending up calling a cab to get to the GO train station), starting off the train ride with the daily free paper and some music, squeezing in a quick power nap while Carly Rae Jepsen’s “Call Me Maybe” (my new favorite song–don’t judge) was playing, and finally arriving in downtown Toronto, rushing to catch the 8:10 office shuttle bus. I’ve had that routine pretty much down pat (with just a few hits and misses) for the last few months. And as I headed to my desk, I already had in mind the stuff I’m supposed to accomplish for the day–which break log I’ll be working on, which program episodes have still not been sent for airing, which editors I should be bugging, err, emailing about content, even what time I intend to go home for the day.

But I bumped into one of my co-workers who came in earlier than usual. “Did you know we have a meeting today?” she said. True enough, as I opened my email, there it was. The email from one of our bosses came in after I left work the day before. It was around 8:20 by then, so I just checked some more emails, and suddenly remembered that today was exactly six months since I started working for the company. Kicking it off with an “all-hands meeting” as the email stated? That was interesting, I thought

The clock struck 8:30, and off we went to the meeting room. And the hour or so that followed became pretty much the proverbial “first day of the rest of our (me and my co-workers’) lives.”

In short, I am out of a job again. For the meantime. Of course, I won’t discuss details for obvious reasons (and with that in mind, I am very, VERY grateful to the company I worked for). But needless to say, the last few hours since this morning have been pretty tough–at least on the inside.

It was my Mom who I first called to tell what happened. And honestly, I have to admire her positivity–summed up in this age-old saying that never fails: “When God closes a door, he opens a window.” Of course, in typical Mom fashion, she’ll start asking question after question again eventually, if, God forbid, nothing happens for a while. But for at least those ten minutes I was on the phone with her, I found it comforting to talk about my situation with her, and listening to her present some options and suggestions for the job hunt. I mean, come on, mothers know best, right?

As I cleaned out my desk before leaving the office, I got my hands on this “smiley ball” my high school friend Liza gave me before I left the Philippines in ’07:

“Smile though your heart is aching…”

I just thought that it was an appropriate reminder of how to best deal with this situation.  If anything, I’m doing my best to just stay positive about it–simply because, I think, it’s the better and less stressful thing to do.

So what’s next? To be honest, I’m still trying to put things together. The immediate answer in the interim has been to go back and do some more shows for our community cable station, especially now that our fall programming season is about to end. In fact, it was the first thing I did as soon as I was given my walking papers in the morning (and boy, was I happy to be back–like “the prodigal son” coming home). But for sure, there will be lots of emailing and resume editing and online job hunting to do again. Mom also brought up the idea of looking westward–Saskatchewan, to be exact, where my Dad is staying and working right now. The signs, she said, might be pointing towards there. But frankly, that particular option’s the last thing on my mind at the moment–even if I’m trying to heed Mom’s constant reminder to be open to anything. I don’t know. Maybe, eventually, I’ll look into that with a bit more interest. In any case, I would love to do this whole temporary unemployment thing all over again at my own pace, if possible–keeping in mind, of course, that I have to be practical and not be complacent. As long as anyone doesn’t get on my case too much, I think I’ll be all right.

On the other hand, there’s the fact that I can sleep in again on most weekdays, although I would also still most likely be cooking breakfast for the family (I can probably work around that). And I can get some other “domestic” stuff done more often, like cooking or doing the laundry and all that. Maybe less grocery-shopping in the meantime, though (due to the limited finances).

So, there you go. Back to square one. It’s not a good place to be right now, but I’m eager to see where the next adventure will take me.

Saw this during the train ride back east today–it was like Mother Nature knew how I felt. But I thought that the sunshine would be back again soon (and true enough, the sun was high and mighty later in the afternoon).

Pounding The Pavement

One of the “Team Diabetes” runners representing the Canadian Diabetes Association

Last May 6, my family and I headed for downtown Toronto to watch the annual GoodLife Fitness Toronto Marathon, originally to cheer for the team fielded by the Canadian Diabetes Association (which one of my sisters volunteered for a few months back). We ended up cheering for practically every runner throughout the four hours or so that we were there. And they came from almost all walks of life. Some were, just like “Team Diabetes”, representing their organizations, companies or communities, while others were just on their own. Either way, the full marathon covered more than 40 kilometres from Yonge and Sheppard to Lake Shore West, then turning back a bit to head for Ontario Place (where the finish line was).

Now, the situation may not have allowed it, but it would have been really interesting to find out (especially from those who weren’t part of a group or organization) why they ran. Or perhaps, more importantly, who they ran for. Maybe there were personal records or “personal bests” waiting to be beaten. Maybe it was just for kicks or “bragging rights”. Or maybe, it was for a loved one suffering cancer (after all, proceeds from the marathon went to the Princess Margaret Hospital in downtown Toronto–one of the premiere facilities for cancer patients and cancer research, I’ve always believed). We never knew, of course. Nonetheless, there was enough inspiration from every runner we saw.

Some runners already having made a “U-turn” along Lake Shore West, on their way to Ontario Place

I might have missed the runners who could’ve eventually been among the first to finish. But perhaps, for everyone else who passed that stretch of Lake Shore where we stood and cheered, it was never a race at all. As we saw the runners heading back east towards Ontario Place, there were those who steadily kept their pace and a few who became visibly tired. The whole time we were watching the marathon, I kept asking myself how these runners can withstand such a physical challenge. I mean, sure, they train for it and all that, but it’s still amazing how a lot of them can stay strong and steady throughout the 40-kilometre distance–I know I can’t.

I then realized that maybe, for a lot of the participants in the Toronto Marathon, it wasn’t about getting to the finish line first. Instead, it was about simply the fun–or the challenge–of getting there. In the bigger picture, a lot of us could probably have become so used to life becoming a race that we sometimes fail to enjoy the journey. Now, I wouldn’t expound more on that part, lest I sound too cheesy or preachy. But…I’m sure you guys catch my drift. It’s something that even I am trying to remind myself everyday, especially whenever I’m caught in the middle of, say, the fast-paced world that is downtown Toronto every work day (now that, of course, would be for another time and another blog entry).

So how’s your own “marathon” in life coming along? Who are you (figuratively) pounding the pavement for? I hope you too are enjoying the run, as much as I am doing my best to enjoy mine.

Sometimes, it’s not about getting there first–instead, it’s about simply getting there.