When Eat, Bulaga! premiered at noon of July 30, 1979, it only had four mainstays: Tito, Vic & Joey and Chiqui Hollmann. After 31 years, the number of on-cam talents who went in and out of the show must now be by the hundreds if you do a head count. Some had been with the show for 22 years: Jimmy Santos and Ruby Rodriguez. There are others, however, who stayed only for a while (like now-TOYM awardee Illac Diaz), but are nevertheless considered part of the Dabarkads, a term coined by the late Francis Magalona.
Yes, I envy them because they will carry that tag with them forever. If it’s some consolation for me, I also had my share of special moments with the program — even if only in guest appearances. Here, bear with me as I recall the instances when I basked in Eat, Bulaga!’s glory: When I joined ABS-CBN as host of Showbiz Lingo on Aug. 16, 1992, Eat, Bulaga! was still airing on Channel 2 (its second home after RPN-9).
In 1994, I was invited to sit as judge in the grand finals of one of the noontime program’s beauty searches. I remember this one contestant who was not very tall and not exactly among the fairest in that batch. I knew she wasn’t going to make it to the Top 5, except that she exuded so much charm and I wanted to reward her for it by pushing for her to win at least one of the special awards. She did get a special prize and it was a mere coincidence that I was asked to come up on stage and hand her the award. I had quite a load in both hands: The sash, a bunch of flowers and a delicate glass trophy.
When her name was called, she was at the very top level of the stage and she had to walk down several steps to claim her prizes from me. Maybe out of sheer excitement, she missed a step and came tumbling down the multi-tiered stage.
Everything happened so fast and nobody was able to come to her rescue. Maybe I could have done something, except that I was several meters away from her. Perhaps I should have just dropped everything in my hands to the floor, break the glass trophy and be made to pay for it — and leap to where she was and catch her in my arms. But then, that only happens in the movies.
For weeks, I felt guilty not having done anything. I merely consoled myself in the fact that, well, at least there was this girl “who fell for me.”
In 1995, Eat, Bulaga!’s contract with Channel 2 was not renewed and the show moved to GMA 7, which is still its present home. Sometime that year, Eat, Bulaga! lady boss Malou Choa-Fagar invited me to be a guest co-host for a week and I got excited because that was my chance to be part of the gang, no matter how temporary. Of course, ABS-CBN put its foot down because the network had its own noontime show, ‘Sang Linggo nAPO Sila. When I moved to GMA 7 to do Startalk, Eat, Bulaga! became a sister show to us because of that seamless portion that connects both shows every Saturday afternoon.