I spent my happiest and craziest days in Iloilo many love stories ago, so it was a delight to join GMA 7 for Dinagyang 2013 in the so-called “City of Love.” It was a solid laugh trip/food trip with Kapuso network’s Butch Raquel and Rica Torres, and cool colleagues Rito Asilo, Dindo Balares and Bibsy Carballo.
Aljur Abrenica, Kris Bernal, Mark Herras, Francheska Farr and Mike Tan kicked off the festivities via “Kapuso Night” at Robinson’s Place. Main event was the participation of “Indio lead stars Bong Revilla, Rhian Ramos and Jennylyn Mercado in the Kasadyahan Parade. Chynna Ortaleza, Vaness del Moral, Moymoy Palaboy and Kris Lawrence joined the festival’s closing ceremonies
Bong, who’s as hot as Iloilo’s batchoy, was accompanied by his best buddy, Phillip Salvador. “Di ako nahihiyang magpa-coach sa kanya for my ‘Indio’ shoots,” Bong said, “kasi di matatawaran ang galing niya.”
He continued: “Our serye is as grandiose as a movie. People can watch for free instead of waiting for the MMFF (Metro Manila Film Festival). Matalinhaga ang mga dialogue ko. Baka sa next speech ko sa Senado, malalim na ang Tagalog ko (laughs).”
He was awed by GMA’s support for “Indio,” Bong said. “Imagine, they included their most beautiful actresses in the cast. But my wife Lani has nothing to worry about since our time slot is GP, so no kissing scenes. Besides, at this point she’s immune to intrigues linking me to my leading ladies (laughs).”
As yummy as Iloilo’s inasal, Jennylyn Mercado was all aglow, even sans make-up. Seems her boyfriend Luis Manzano has such a positive effect on her. “He taught me how to take things in stride,” she quipped. “Magaan siyang ka-relasyon. Since we’re both busy and our priorities at this point are our careers, we just have to be good at time management so we can squeeze in a few hours to be together. We just laugh off rumors that we’ve gotten married. That’s not even in our agenda yet.”
Jen would rather not dwell on negative issues about her ex Patrick Garcia and their love child Alex Jazz. “I was surprised when issues about financial support and visitation rights cropped up again. He’s welcome to visit our son anytime. I wish people would spare my baby from controversies.”
We proceeded to the GMA 7 station there. Its manager, Jonathan Cabillon made us feel instantly at home. Iloilo happens to be “Lopez Country” (the clan behind competitor ABS-CBN) so, according to Cabillon, they have to exert extra effort to beef up their programs. “We have a morning show, ‘Arangkada,’ hosted by Enrico Surita Jr. and Charlene Belvis; and a local newscast, ‘Ratsada,’ anchored by Mark Nunieza and Gerthrode Tan,” he said. “During the recent floods, even if our station was submerged, we still went on the air.”
The Kapuso Network is going all out in keeping the fiesta spirit alive all year round. Oli Amoroso, assistant VP for sales and marketing regional TV, they have 50 festivals lined up for coverage.
“We even have a travel show, ‘Let’s Fiesta,’ which is translated in six dialects and aired in all regions except Manila,” he said. “There’s a clamor in the regions for localized shows. It doesn’t have to be Manila-centric always. GMA Iloilo is one of our hubs that feed newsworthy stories to Manila. We always want to be of help to the locals in promoting their region.”
We capped the merry-making at Iloilo’s ultimate party place, Flow Super Club. Kapuso network and “City of Love” go together well. As the booze flowed, I proposed a toast to my second home: Palangga ta ka akong banwa! My love story with Iloilo will never end.
PERSONAL: Damo gid na salamat to my good friends in Iloilo—Cedric and Engel Loring, Nath Pugales and Pauline Banusing—for spoiling me more than I deserve.