Tito, Vic and Joey makes pained farewell to ‘Eat Bulaga!’ producer
In what was described as the “toughest decision” they have made in more than four decades, former Sen. Tito Sotto, Vic Sotto, and Joey de Leon announced on Wednesday that they had parted ways with TAPE Inc. — the producer of the longest-running variety show in the Philippines, “Eat Bulaga!”
An emotional Vic announced on camera: “This may be the hardest decision we have made since 1979. We will no longer talk at length about what’s in our hearts. All we want is to be able to work in peace, without taking advantage of anyone, treating one another with respect.”
“Today, we are bidding farewell to TAPE Inc.’’
He was joined onstage by his fellow pioneer hosts, Tito and Joey. Together, they form the comedy trio fondly called “TVJ.”
Tribute to fans
“Ït was July 30, 1979 when we started in ‘Eat Bulaga!’ It’s turning 44 this year,” said Joey, who thanked the three networks that have served as the program’s home: RPN 9 from 1979 to 1989; ABS-CBN, 1989 to 1995; and GMA, 1995 to present.
Tito, meanwhile, paid tribute to their loyal fans, or the “Dabarkads,” as well as TAPE Inc. co-founder Antonio Tuviera — one of the brains behind the show.
“Thanks to the Dabarkads (the show’s cohosts), to all the viewers who have shown their love for our show every noontime,” he said.
“We are also grateful to Mr. Tony Tuviera for his friendship and for being part of this family … And most of all, to God who has never turned his back on us,” he added.
While the revelation came as a surprise to many viewers, show biz insiders anticipated TVJ’s exit as a conceivable outcome of their simmering power struggle with TAPE, which is now mostly controlled by majority owner, Romeo Jalosjos Sr., and his children.
Last April, Dapitan City Mayor and TAPE chief finance officer Bullet Jalosjos gave an interview in the talk show “Fast Talk with Boy Abunda” to address rumors about his family’s alleged takeover of “Eat Bulaga!,” its financial standing and their desire to rebrand the show and shake up its cast.
Bullet’s public appearance amid ongoing talks between the two parties apparently did not sit well with Tito, prompting the latter to break his silence in the GMA podcast “Updated with Nelson Canlas.” There he expressed his displeasure about Bullet’s remarks that TVJ “can’t live without ‘Eat Bulaga!’ and that they would be “retained” — as if implying, Tito said, that he and his co-hosts are dispensable and not, in fact, synonymous with the show’s brand.
Unpaid talent fees
For a while, it seemed like TVJ and TAPE had agreed to preserve the status quo, so that “Eat Bulaga!” could stay true on its promise to deliver “isang libo’t isang tuwa” (a thousand and one joys) to people from “Batanes to Jolo.”
However, the controversy continued to fester as issues regarding unpaid talent fees and the show’s copyright ownership — among many others — started to surface.
Yesterday, confusion prevailed among viewers who observed that “Eat Bulaga!” wasn’t live and just replaying old segments on its official social media accounts. As it turned out, Tito said, TAPE had prevented them from going on air — perhaps in anticipation of the trio’s bombshell.
“We showed up ready to work today, but we weren’t allowed by the new management to air live,” he said.
The hosts’ haphazard, almost unceremonious farewell did not escape eagle-eyed observers, including former “Eat Bulaga!’ host and singer-songwriter Ice Seguerra, who described the kind of exit given to TVJ as “downright disrespectful.”
“They didn’t deserve that. Regardless of whatever show or event it is, to be told that you can’t work when you’re already there is downright disrespectful,” Seguerra, who first appeared in “Eat Bulaga!” as a finalist in the “Little Miss Philippines” pageant back in 1987. After the contest, he became a show regular until 1997.
“But maybe it’s a good thing,” Seguerra surmised. “It’s the universe’s way of saying that they don’t deserve to stay in that kind of relationship anymore—that ‘Eat Bulaga!’ would be better off without TAPE.”
Now, the big question is: What will happen to “Eat Bulaga!”?
While some earlier reports interpreted TVJ’s statement as the nail in “Eat Bulaga!’s” coffin, a source told the Inquirer that only TVJ left TAPE and that “Eat Bulaga!” could very well continue in one form or another. And in a statement by GMA Network, it said that it was “praying for a smooth and swift resolution of the issues” of the parties involved.
The Kapuso network also stressed that it still has a blocktime agreement with TAPE until 2024. “We’re saddened by today’s unexpected turn of events. GMA has been the home of ‘Eat Bulaga! for many years,” the statement read.
The Inquirer also sought clarification from “Eat Bulaga!” executive producers and creative director about its future moves, but has yet to receive a reply.
Buzz about Benitez
There are also whispers that “Eat Bulaga!” may find a new producer in Bacolod City Mayor Albee Benitez who owns Brightlight Productions, a blocktimer on TV5.
In a cryptic Instagram post, Joey wrote that “we’re not signing off … we’re just taking a day off!” His son, Jio, meanwhile, said: “TVJ is ‘Eat Bulaga!’ and ‘Eat Bulaga!’ is TVJ. 44 years with many more to go!”
“I have not the slightest hint of worry for ‘Eat Bulaga’s’ future. We’re a strong bunch. We’ve been through a lot, and we’ll go through so much more, but ‘Eat Bulaga!’ will come out victorious,” Seguerra told the Inquirer.
But regardless of how things pan out, one thing is for sure, Vic said: “Saan man kami dalhin ng tadhana, tuloy ang isang libo’t isang tuwa!” (Wherever destiny will take us, we will continue giving a thousand and one joys.)
GMA ‘saddened’ by Eat Bulaga’s departure from TAPE: ‘We pray for smooth, swift resolution of their issues’
Subscribe to INQUIRER PLUS to get access to The Philippine Daily Inquirer & other 70+ titles, share up to 5 gadgets, listen to the news, download as early as 4am & share articles on social media. Call 896 6000.