Michael V: It’s much harder to do comedy today | Inquirer Entertainment

Michael V: It’s much harder to do comedy today

/ 12:20 AM October 07, 2023



One Filipino at a time,” said comedian Beethoven del Valle Bunagan, also known as Michael V or Bitoy, as a way to explain how he intends to educate local audiences and “elevate the standards of Philippine comedy.”

Bitoy was one of seven comedians honored at the closing ceremony of the recently concluded 2023 Philippine Film Industry Month (PFIM), organized by the Film Development Council of the Philippines (FDCP). The monthlong affair, which carried the theme “Tuloy Pa Rin ang Tawanan,” paid tribute to iconic Filipino comedians and how they took part in shaping and nurturing popular culture.


“This award is significant because it was given at a time when it’s already very difficult to do comedy, what with all the restrictions we have to consider. To be recognized as an advocate of comedy in the Philippines is a huge honor,” Bitoy told reporters during the recent awards ceremony held at Acacia Hotel in Alabang.


“When I first read the news, I thought it was a joke,” Bitoy said, laughing. “Soon after, I received a proper invitation from the FDCP. I made a promise to personally accept the award. To be lined up alongside these heavyweights, for my photo to be put on the same page as theirs, is a big deal for me.”

The other honorees that night were Vice Ganda, Eugene Domingo, Ai-Ai delas Alas and the comedic trio TVJ (Tito Sotto, Vic Sotto and Joey de Leon). The late Dolphy was also given a trophy, “an overdue recognition for somebody who should be a National Artist,” declared FDCP technical consultant Jose Javier Reyes.

In his “thank you” speech, Bitoy, one of the main cast members of the gag show “Bubble Gang,” talked about the struggles of today’s comedians. “It has already become the objective, especially of those of us in ‘Bubble Gang,’ to at least try to elevate the standards of Philippine comedy. This is difficult now because of all the restrictions, but we learn and find ways to move forward. Our wish is to be able to come up with more projects that will educate people and widen their appreciation of comedy.”


These so-called restrictions were set by society, Bitoy stressed. “Once you work with a network, restrictions are automatic—it will not allow you to do anything that might offend the sensibilities of the audience or anything that will put them in trouble. Self-censorship? We take it upon ourselves to watch out for each other,” the comedian said, recalling the only time in the early 2000s when the show was “summoned” as a result of several complaints filed before the Movie and Television Review and Classification Board (MTRCB).

“One of these days, I will post that memo just to remind people that similar situations really happen, even years before. As I’ve said, we learn from our mistakes. We didn’t have lawyers sitting with us on the set before. Now, we do. I’m always open to meeting with my bosses halfway,” he declared. Eric Quizon accepted the award on behalf of his late father’s family. “When you honor him, you honor us as well,” the actor-director told FDCP chair Tirso Cruz III. “In his book, Dad said, ‘I didn’t achieve all of these on my own.’ Remember that in comedy, situations are always give and take. Your coactors also have to be good in order for you to really shine. During the last couple of years, comedy has become like a dying art. I hope that with what the FDCP has been doing, we would be able to encourage people to create and patronize comedy more, not just in the cinemas, but also on TV.”

Eugene Domingo, who is vacationing in Barcelona, Spain, asked her long-time friend, writer-filmmaker Chris Martinez, to accept the trophy for her. Meanwhile, actor Sancho delas Alas was the representative of his mom, Ai-Ai, who is currently in the United States. Tito, Vic and Joey were represented by their sons, Gian, Oyo and Jako, respectively.


“Our fathers wanted us to deliver this simple message to all. These words have always been in their hearts: ‘We rise by lifting each other up.’ To be honest, they never dreamed of anything else for the industry, except to entertain people, to make them laugh,” said Gian, who is vice mayor of Quezon City. “Our prayer is that we continue to help lift each other up because this is the only way for Philippine cinema to be known throughout the world.”

Meanwhile, Jako also shared a quote that he considered meaningful and deemed appropriate for the occasion. “’No person has ever been honored for what they’ve received, but for what they’ve been given.’ TVJ, that will be celebrating its 50th anniversary this year, has given so much to comedy, music, film and television. Receiving something like this, even for us, their sons, is very humbling. We thank the FDCP and everyone who have ever appreciated their work,” Jako said.

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Also part of the ceremony was the announcement of Carl Joseph Papa’s animated film “Iti Mapukpukaw” as the official Philippine entry to the best international feature film category of the 96th Academy Awards. The show, hosted by Ryan Agoncillo, featured live performances from BGYO, Jed Madela, Sheryn Regis, Drei Sugay, Jeremy Glinoga and Marlo Mortel.

TAGS: Michael V.

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