Poor Filipino makes it in ‘Bulaga’ Indonesia
BOLINAO, PANGASINAN—As a teenager in this northern coastal town, Leonardo Consul walked every day from a small rented house in Barangay Arnedo to Cape Bolinao High School to attend his classes.
He dreamed of becoming a news anchor someday.
To his schoolmates and teachers, he was Dhong, the choreographer, dancer, singer, emcee, campus journalist and school play actor and director. To his family, he was Dodong, a smart and active kid, who was so full of determination to succeed.
Today, he is Leo Consul, the only Filipino among the hosts of Eat Bulaga Indonesia, which has been getting good ratings in Indonesia since its debut on July 16 over Surya Citra Televisi (SCTV) in Jakarta.
The show has made Consul an instant celebrity, not only among Indonesians but also Filipinos.
“It’s overwhelming. The support and acceptance that I’m getting not only from Indonesians but from our kababayan is just amazing. I never expected it would go this far,” says Consul, 24, in an e-mail interview.
“Sometimes when I’m alone, I’d find myself taking a pause and catch myself staring blankly with my jaws dropped. I still can’t believe this is actually happening,” he says.
Consul’s journey to where he is now has not been smooth and easy.
Teofilo Corilla, principal of Cape Bolinao High School, says he almost cried when he learned on Saturday that Consul has made it big in Indonesia.
“I was very elated when I learned that Leo was already there, especially when many people texted me, asking about him. He was the talk in the church after the Mass last Sunday,” Corilla told the Inquirer.
But what made him teary-eyed, he says, was when he remembered all Consul had gone through because he belonged to a poor family. He says Consul often stayed in a corner during recess because he had no money to buy snacks.
“Life was very hard for them,” Corilla says.
Despite this, Consul was active in school activities. When he graduated in 2004, he was fourth place in his class and one of only six students who passed the admission test to the country’s premier University of the Philippines.
He also received the school’s “Journalist of the Year” and “Emcee of the Year” awards.
Consul’s father, Ernesto, 69, says he could not contain his happiness when he was shown a video footage of his youngest son as one of the hosts of Eat Bulaga Indonesia.
To him, Consul’s success was more than any parent like him could ask for. “Study hard because I did not finish anything and I have nothing to give you,” Ernesto remembers always telling his son.
Ernesto says he first worked as a driver in Metro Manila hoping to send his five children to college.
“I drove taxi cabs, jeepneys, even cargo trucks. I wanted my children to attend even just two years of college,” Ernesto says. “I told them, ‘By attending college for two years, you would have at least a little educational background.’”
Of his five children, only Consul finished college.
His eldest son, Ernil, stays with him here. Two other sons work in Metro Manila and his only daughter, Nellie Grace, married an American and migrated to Indiana in 2005. His wife works in a laundry shop in Makati City.
Consul says his first television break was in a regional television show of the ABS-CBN network Baguio as one of the hosts of “Northern Catch Atin ’To,” a weekly TV magazine. He was then a Communications student at UP-Baguio.
Teacher in Jakarta
When he finished college, he says, he decided to visit Indonesia on the invitation of friends who were working as teachers in an International School there.
“Since I didn’t have a job in the Philippines back then, I decided to send my resume to several International Schools in Jakarta and luckily, I got hired. I taught for six months and then I quit because of some personal problems,” Consul says.
He was about to come home to the Philippines to look for another job when Sony BMG Indonesia invited him to audition for its boy band, XO-IX, which is one of the most successful boy bands in Indonesia.
Consul got in but after arduous months of training, things didn’t work out.
He was about to lose hope, he says, when Nada’s Records contacted him and asked him if he was interested in joining a vocal group named RiS3 (pronounced as Rise).
“I got in but didn’t expect too much because of my past experience. The group did quite well. We released our first single entitled, ‘Hidup Cuma Sekali’ (We Only Live Once) and our first music video,” Consul says.
Earlier this month, Consul says an agent whom he had worked with on several TV commercials in Indonesia asked him to audition as TV presenter on Surya Citra Televisi (SCTV) for an upcoming show.
“I tried my luck. When I came to the audition, I had no idea that it was for Eat Bulaga Indonesia. I thought it was just another music show, which sporadically airs here in Indonesia,” Consul says.
But when he got a copy of a script to memorize, Consul says he was thrilled.
“I just had a rough idea of what the show would be like because it was written in straight Bahasa Indonesia, but when I read ‘Eat Bulaga Indonesia,’ I was revved up,” he says.
“I got inside the screening room. They asked me to deliver the lines, although I messed up with my Bahasa because they asked me to do an impromptu. They also asked me to sing and dance,” he says.
After the audition, Consul says he didn’t expect too much. “I wasn’t sure if I’d get in because for you to become a TV host here, you have to speak fluent Bahasa … this is not really an English-speaking country,” he says.
But just five days after his audition, Consul says he received a call telling him that he had been chosen.
“I was surprised. I didn’t expect it. They told me that the character that they were looking for fitted me right. After several days, we went through briefings, rehearsals and simulations. I was taken aback because things happened really fast. I thought it was going to run after a month or so, but we hit the airwaves on July 16, a week after the audition,” Consul says.
First foreign franchise
Tape Inc., Eat Bulaga’s Manila producers, provided SCTV with a production manual outlining the noontime show’s set design and game portions.
Malou Choa-Fagar, Tape Inc.’s senior vice president and chief operating officer, met Leo Consul and the other “Eat Bulaga Indonesia” hosts when the Filipinos visited the show’s set during its debut on July 16. “At first, I thought Leo was Indonesian because he spoke Bahasa. I was surprised to learn that he was from the Philippines.”
Fagar said Filipinos could “blend well in Indonesia.”
“We have a lot of similarities. Even some words in Bahasa sound the same as Filipino terms,” she said.
Bulagaan in Filipino is translated as “Bolagaan” in Indonesia.
Fagar said, “Leo seems to be doing well there. The Indonesian producers got a good mix of new and veteran hosts for the show.”
(One of the Philippines’ original core hosts, “Bossing” Vic Sotto has his Indonesian counterpart: Uya Kuya, who is called “Boss Uya.”)
Leo’s brother, Ernil, says he learned of his brother’s casting on Eat Bulaga Indonesia when they chatted via Facebook just a day before the show aired.
“I’m so happy for him,” Ernil says.
“Leo was so full of determination. He always told us that we should not allow poverty to defeat us,” Ernil says.
Consul says he can imagine his father’s excitement about his success. “He’s always been so proud of me. I’m doing all this for him actually. I haven’t seen him for like six years now and I miss him so much,” he says.
To residents of this small seaside town, Consul has become a new hero and inspiration. In his high school yearbook, Consul wrote: “Poverty is not a hindrance to success.” With a report from Bayani San Diego Jr.