How ‘Ang TV’ raised an entire generation of viewers (and actors)

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The oral history of the youth-oriented T.V. show that changed our afternoons forever. Illustration by JL JAVIER

Manila (CNN Philippines Life) — In the 1990s, “4:30 na, 'Ang T.V.' na!” was a national catchphrase; kids of every age yelling it to signal the end of the school day and the start of everyone’s favorite youth-oriented variety show, “Ang T.V.” The brainchild of Johnny Manahan, or Mr. M, “Ang T.V.” enjoyed riotous success, spawning mall shows, concerts, albums, and even a movie. Its other catchphrases “Nye!” and “Esmyuskee!” became ingrained in our cultural consciousness, reflecting the innocence and purity of the show. More than 20 years after it premiered, the show still makes waves, as some of its alums such as Jolina Magdangal, Patrick Garcia, Angelica Panganiban, and even Sarah Geronimo remain some of the biggest actors today.

In 1992, the initial cast of "Ang T.V." was handpicked by Mr. M. The show somewhat became a launchpad for the showbiz royalty’s descendants with actors such as Dolphy (Vandolph), Aga Muhlach (Igi Boy), Albert Martinez (Alfonso and Alyanna Martinez), Francis Magalona (Maxene Magalona) starting out their kids’ careers on the show. Auditions were later held, attended by thousands since the show went on to become the biggest thing on T.V.; every kid wanted to be on “Ang T.V.”

Every Saturday, two of ABS-CBN’s studios became a playground for these kids, a workshop on air for the future generation of actors and actresses. We talk to some of the show’s biggest stars and look back on the best kids’ show of the country, our answer to “The Mickey Mouse Club.”

GUILA ALVAREZ: The studio was like a big playground. I always looked forward to ending my week in school and spending my Saturday in the studio.

ANTOINETTE TAUS: We get called in the morning. Not everyone was happy to be there [that early on a Saturday]. Some kids were tamad also. They would call us at like 7 or 8 in the morning.

ANGELU DE LEON: ‘Pag bukas mo ng studio, may set-up na hindi mo maintindihan. Bakit meron ditong bahay? Meron ditong tindahan, meron ditong stage. It will dawn on you pag dumating na si Mr. M., “Uy, oo nga pala magiging artista ka na.”

BARON GEISLER: The first day was scary and exciting all together. I wore my taekwondo uniform. So maybe I intimidated some of the boys.

GUILA ALVAREZ: Working [in “Ang T.V.”] always felt like I was going to daycare where there are other kids that I could play with. I was excited but didn’t realize it was gonna be that big.

JAN MARINI ALANO: Shooting in two different studios was not as complicated as it sounds. Magaling ang staff namin. Genius si Mr. M, eh. He knew what he was doing so tapings went smoothly naman. Kahit ganun kami kadami.

GUILA ALVAREZ: We had acting workshops with Bernardo Bernardo, singing workshops with Ryan Cayabyab and dancing workshops with Maneuvers.

A screencap from the opening credits of "Ang T.V." featuring the cast. Screencap from JEEPNEY T.V.

JOLINA MAGDANGAL: Ang recording ng mga kanta ay every Wednesday so meron kaming extrang araw na magkakasama kami. Tapos meron din yun mga dancers — sila Gio, Guila, 'yung mga 'yun — kaya iba naman din ‘yung pagkakaibigan ko kanila pero [mas close ako] more sa mga singers.

ANGELU DE LEON: Every Tuesday may rehearsal kami ng sayaw kasi kami ‘yung dancers [group].

JOLINA MAGDANGAL: Parang naalala ko parang kaming naglalaro na merong camera tapos, hanggang sa tumatagal-tagal na, in-enjoy ko lang lahat. Nung time na ‘yun hinahayan ako na magbihis kung anong gusto naming isuot kaya siguro nagkaroon ako ng mga [wardrobe na parang] Christmas tree. Ang pakiramdam ko tuloy, hinayaan na kami ni Mr. M maglaro. Tapos kinukuhanan niya kami kaya natural na natural. Normal kids lang ‘yung napapanood ng tao.

ANTOINETTE TAUS: What I remember about Mr. M is he’s the kind of person that people would say they are intimidated by him. But actually when he’s dealing with you one-on-one or with kids, even these days, he’s just so nice. He’s chill. As a kid, I remember when he was giving us instructions, parang when he would tell us what to do; it was full of warmth and love. He didn’t make you feel afraid. He would even kind of demonstrate it himself. He made it really easy for a child [actor] to understand what he wanted. He didn’t scare the kids.

TOM TAUS: The assistant director, Tita Malou [Sevilla], was the one who had a hard job of disciplining everyone.

NIKKA VALENCIA: Before, the pressure as an artist, hindi ganon katindi. Ngayon kasi they launch artists as commercial artists. During our time, it wasn’t that serious. We know that it’s a business but at the same time we learned how to enjoy. Ngayon, it’s a money-making business na talaga. With “Ang T.V.,” hinahasa ka. There’s a process that you have to go through.

ANGELU DE LEON: Ang bilib lang ako kay Mr. M [ay] you wont see any bias. Kapag nagkakaproblema kinakausap niya lahat. Hindi siya yung type na makikita mo kung meron siyang favorites. He was trying to build everyone up. Depende na lang yan sa character ng bata. Hindi lang siya Mr. M, naging tatay s’ya of everyone.

Most of the time, only the kids who had skits were inside the studio. While waiting for their turn, the kids were spending most of their time playing around ABS-CBN, which wasn’t as sprawling as it is today in their lot in Quezon City.

NIKKA VALENCIA: Nakakalat kami sa hallway, nakaupo. Ang saya lang, you feel that it’s your second home.

ANTOINETTE TAUS: It was so much fun. I remember I would bring stink bombs or eggs to the set, or if they had eggs as props, kinukuha namin because we would play the game na you would throw the eggs, pass it on to each other, palayo kayo nang palayo until somebody can’t catch it anymore. The studios in ABS-CBN then were so big and kapag may empty studios that didn’t have tapings, we would sneak in and play with the eggs. Sometimes when they would have gags in house set-ups, I would go behind that set and set off stink bombs (Laughs) and they won’t really know what’s going on. Akala nila talagang mabaho lang.

A lot of friendships were formed. A lot of my friends until today are my friends that I met during “Ang T.V.” like Cheska Garcia, Patrick Garcia, and a lot of people from the cast.

Some of the teen cast members Lailani Navarro, Rica Peralejo, Lindsay Custodio, and brothers Luigi and Gio Alvarez. Photo courtesy of GUILA ALVAREZ

WINNIE CORDERO: Sa teens, quiet kasi may sarili na silang mundo. May sarili na silang preferences. Sa kids, mas magulo at saka mas fun kasi parang laro lang talaga. With the older kids, parang work na. Even our assistant director, si Boyong Baytion, is more serious with them than the kids.

JOY VIADO: ‘Yung mga teens, nasasaway pa. “Huy, umayos ka,” mga ganon. Napapagsabihan pa sila. ‘Yung mga kids as in sobrang titigas ng ulo! Halimbawa sa likod ng backdrop, sa likod ng kurtina may mga nag-aaway! ‘Yung nakikita mo na lang [nasasagi yung backdrop] kasi may nag-aaway na.

NIKKA VALENCIA: Ako yung madalas nawawala sa set. It’s either nasa CR ako, or nasa ilalim ng lamesa sa make-up room. Dun ako lagi sa boys kasi masyadong marami sa girls, andun ang mga moms, dads, yayas, so dito ako sa boys kasi konti lang tao. Minsan doon ako sa ilalaim ng table and dadaganan ako ng bags nung boys para hindi ako makita kasi matutulog ako. Gumimik kasi ako.

ANGELU DE LEON: Nakakaloka. Now I could just picture Nanay Elena, Tita Malou, lahat ng RMs, lokang-loka kasi, imagine mo, binigyan sila ng show na puro mga bagets.

ANTOINETTE TAUS: Marami din mga crushes, puppy love, noong time na yun. Everybody had their crushes or puppy love moments.

TOM TAUS: Yeah, if you were hanging around the same people and working with the same people a lot, siyempre magkakadevelopan ng konti.

ANGELU DE LEON: Si Geoff Eigenmann! ‘Yun ang unang naging “boyfriend” ko sa “Ang T.V.” kasi crush daw niya ako! Sa kids s’ya.

NIKKA VALENCIA: ‘Yung ibang mga bata doon, feeling nila girlfriend nila ‘yung mga teens. Nakakatawa.

JOY VIADO: Si Sarah Geronimo noon pinakakanta lang namin ni Joji! Parang radyo! Tapos mga Shirley Bassey yung kinakanta.

Jolina Magdangal, Claudine Baretto, and Angelu De Leon. Photo from ANGELU DE LEON

The show's segments were divided between the two groups: kids and teens, they would only have kids and teens in selected skits and during the finale of each episode. The show also had four actors to support the kids: Winnie Cordero, Joji Isla, Giselle Sanchez, and Joy Viado.

WINNIE CORDERO: I was the teacher in a classroom full of kids. Wala kang problema pagka sinabi ng director na kunwari magulo. Ay nako, wala ka nang kailangan sabihin sa kanila. Ang mahirap yung to keep them still.

Ako din ‘yung tita nung set nila Claudine Barretto, Angelu de Leon, saka si Guila [Alvarez]. Silang tatlo, ako ‘yung tita nila. We live in one house, tapos hatid-hatid sa campus and all. Actually, alternate kami ni Giselle Sanchez, being the teacher in the morning, and si Giselle naman parang owner ng isang restaurant or parang canteen.

ANTOINETTE TAUS: Every week, “Ang T.V.” had a theme. One week it would be outer space, or jungle.

TOM TAUS: We had different kinds of sets and costumes. It was fun. You get to dress up.

NIKKA VALENCIA: Meron kaming script but at the same time dapat marunong kaming mag-adlib. Kailangan you have to be a thinking actor. Batuhan ng lines yan eh. You have to improvise. Mahirap magpatawa. Dun kami lahat natuto.

JOLINA MAGDANGAL: Nagkaroon sa “Ang T.V.” dati na ginugrupo-grupo kami tapos hinahayaan kaming gumawa ng pag opening or closing nung parang skit, parang ganun na.

NIKKA VALENCIA: I’d do it with Luigi and Guila Alvarez. ‘Yun ‘yung nakakamiss. Minsan, on the spot, tapos papakinggan ni Direk Boyong yan. And he’d say, “sige, okay yan!”

“‘Ang T.V.’ was my best workshop. Dun ko natutunan lahat, na magrespeto ng nakakataas, na sometimes you have to be okay kasi dun lalabas lahat ng insecurities mo. Parang ‘Bakit siya kaya nyang gawin yun, ako hindi?’” — Angelu De Leon

JOLINA MAGDANGAL: Pero walang pressure. Walang sinabi na “Pagalingan ha!” Basta sabi, gawa kayo tapos kami gagawa sa biglang script.

JAN MARINI ALANO: I loved the Ma’am Charo/MMK spoof that I did! “Mwahaha Mo Kaya” ‘yung title, and we played with Ma’am Charo's mole. Pinepwesto namin paiba-iba, minsan dumadami pa. That was hilarious.

TOM TAUS: If you’re going to talk about “Ang T.V.,” “Pedring!!” [is] one of the main things people remember. First of all, it was really hilarious. How could you forget “Pedriiiiinnggg!”

WINNIE CORDERO: Si Pedring! Si Paolo Contis. Bibo rin yan. Gustong gusto nila si Paolo kasi komedyante talaga ang dating.

ANTOINETTE TAUS: That was with Camille Laki [Camille Dela Rosa]. “Yes ati,” ganon.

ANGELU DE LEON: Nakakatawa ‘pag ‘yung newscast. Kasama sina Sargie, Marnie, Claudine… Lahat ng skits may punchline so dapat mabilis ‘yung pickup mo. Sila Ate Joy Viado, nakaka-overwhelm sila, kapag may sasabihin sila [na improvised] tapos ikaw… “Uhm, ano daw yun? Wala yun sa script!’

WINNIE CORDERO: If you analyze it, ka-pilosopohan lahat ng jokes for the kids. Pero come to think of it, when you deal with kids, you deal with these types of questions. ‘Yung nakaka-pilosopo pero hindi. Nagtatanong lang sila. That was the fun part of it, and the funny part of it also na napaka-inosente nilang tingnan and yet they deliver these ridiculous questions that sounds funny.

‘Yung “Esmyuskee!”, “Excuse me” ‘yon. Ang concept no’n is during a busy day, during a busy environment, “excuse me!” Tapos parang mas cute. May bata, hindi masabi sabi ang “excuse me.” So naging “esmyuskee.”

The cast of "Nagbibinata" (1998) Kristoffer Peralta, Baron Geisler, John Lloyd Cruz, and Patrick Garcia (reclining) — save for Cruz, all these actors came from "Ang T.V." Photo from JEEPNEY TV

ANTOINETTE TAUS: We had summer specials, things like that. Remember when Paolo Contis cut his chin? We had a summer special in Bulacan and there was a water slide. Instead of sliding down he was climbing up. It was slippery and he fell and he got his chin split open. He had to get stiches.

JOLINA MAGDANGAL: Tapos ang pinakanatuwa ko sa “Ang T.V.” noon, nagkaroon ako ng sariling kong portion, yung “Payong Kaibigan” na matagal ko siyang in-enjoy. Nag-a-advice ako sa mga bata na feeling ko ang ganda-ganda nung advice ko dati pero kung anu-ano lang ang advice ko. May mga tanong dati na pano mag-ipon ng pera. O kaya, paano nga ba gagawin mo kapag walang pasok. Naalala ko nung time na ‘yun, ang sinabi ko, pwede kayong maglaba kasi naglalaba ako noong eksena na yun, mga ganun.

JOY VIADO: Dati sa “Payong Kaibigan” umakyat nga kami sa tuktok ng bundok Banahaw! Tapos nung bababa na kami umulan so syempre madulas. Akala ko mamamatay na ako! Kung ano-ano itong mga kalokohan na ‘to, nadadamay pa ako. Doon nag-”Payong Kaibigan” si Jolina sa tuktok ng bundok.

WINNIE CORDERO: Ang standout talaga namin nun si Camille Pratts, bibo bibo. Very small pa siya nun, lahat take one. Memorized na memorized ang lines. Ang super-duper tagal namin, si Vandolph. Hirap na hirap kami. (Laughs) Ilang takes ‘yun talaga.

Some of the cast members eventually left “Ang T.V.” after a period of time. Claudine Baretto was the first to leave, then Angelu De Leon who left for Viva and starred in sitcoms and shows in GMA-7. These ‘graduated’ kids were the ones who were pursuing a more serious career in acting or singing (or in some cases, like Antoinette Taus, both). There were others like Tom Taus who left the show because more movies were lining-up, one of which was “Cedie, Ang Munting Prinsipe.”

Most of the skits of "Ang T.V." revolved around the daily lives of kids and teens, setting them against the ordinary backdrops of classrooms, canteens, and the living room. The teen cast included (from left) Claudine Baretto, Sargie Cruz, Marnie Arcilla, Gio Alvarez, and Angelu De Leon, photographed here with the show's assistant director Boyong Baytion. Photo from GUILA ALVAREZ

Eventually, there were more kids than teens. The show became a kids-only show with the remaining teens moving on to shows like ASAP, which premiered in 1995. The show stayed on until 1996 and finally went off the air, transferring some of the kids to the show “Keybol Ang Bagong T.V.”

WINNIE CORDERO: We already did everything. Wala na eh. I don’t know if you believe that in every show: may shelf life lang siya talaga. Kaya lang, ang difference lang noon, yung mga sitcoms stayed longer, kahit na gaano pa siya ka-corny. Pero ngayon parang ang hirap nang patawanin ang tao, mas madaling magpaiyak. Actually, totoo naman. Mas madali talagang magpaiyak kaysa magpatawa. Pero ngayon parang mas tumaas ang standards ng mga tao. Kasi noon, parang mas simple lang ng expression, ng bato, ng linya. Ngayon hindi. Parang merong ibang factors silang hinahanap. Sa tingin ko, nag-e-experiment para humanap ulit ng template for a sitcom. A gag show, even. Ang “Goin’ Bulilit,” nakuha naman niya ‘yung hearts namin, ‘di ba?

ANGELU DE LEON: Malaki yung factor ng “Ang T.V.” kasi you learn right away if you know how to throw a joke, if you have it. Ang maganda sa “Ang T.V.” they hone you for the talent that you have, they don’t force something that’s not in you. Hanggang ngayon nagagamit ko pa din yun. It was my best workshop. Dun ko natutunan lahat, na magrespeto ng nakakataas, na sometimes you have to be okay kasi dun lalabas lahat ng insecurities mo. Parang “Bakit siya kaya nyang gawin yun, ako hindi?” It’s a great boot camp if your passion is to be an actress.

NIKKA VALENCIA: Nakakaiyak kasi nahubog yung pagkatao mo doon. ‘Yung [gratitude] that you became part of that show kasi na-enjoy mo ‘yung youth mo, na-enjoy mo ‘yung career and fame.

JOLINA MAGDANGAL: Doon ako natuto umarte talaga, pati ng comedy. Doon ako natuto maging natural. Doon din ako natuto mag-imbento kung anong mangyari sa itsura ko so malaking impact sa akin noon. Sa mga shows na ginawa ko, ‘yung tanggap ng tao, alam namin na malakas yung impact ng “Ang T.V.” sa ibang tao.


This article originally appeared in the December 2014 issue of Rogue Magazine.