imyeyes-banner-sqIn My EyesBy Edward B. Antonio

Quarantine days: Enjoying the radio dramas (First of two parts)

The quarantine days have brought back a lot of memories, fellas.

I’m sure, you will agree when I say that after listening to the usual news programs in the morning, the next programs offered are the radio-dramas of Bombo Radyo, DZWT 540 and even DZNS (Catholic Media Network of Nueva Segovia) and DWRS (Commando Radyo).

If you were born in the 60s to the turn of the millennium, most probably, you are a radio-drama guy like me. In the 70s, when electricity and televisions were luxuries, households would hold on to their precious battery-powered transistor radios to listen to the radio-dramas. When we were young, after coming home from school, we would be anticipating the radio-dramas during dinners with the radio starring prominently in our dining room as if we were watching movies, although during those days (particularly during fiestas) the black and white movie was already lording it over the fiesta carnival grounds. After listening to the evening dramas, we would sneak out, much to the objection of our parents, to watch the movies of FPJ, Tony Ferrer, Romeo Vasquez, Jun Aristorenas, Chiquito, Bernard Bonnin and Roberto Gonzales among others at Choleng’s Cinema. Penniless, we would lift or forcibly push left or right the split bamboo fence of the “movie house” to get in. It was not exactly a movie house as we have them nowadays as there were no chairs and we had to sit on the ground using our slippers as “chairs.” But this would merit another column in due time.

DWLW’s radio-drama “Jim Rocha, Agent 660,” starring Pete Agag was a super-blockbuster hit, fellas. He was the drama equivalent of Falcon Agent X-44 (Tony Ferrer) and James Bond, then played by Sean Connery and Roger Moore. Following “Jim Rocha, Agent 660,” was another blockbuster drama entitled “Leonardo,” a fantasy-adventure of a village hero with a winged horse. During lunch break, we were all glued near the radio as the drama “Ti Gubat ti Troya” (The Battle of Troy” was aired. I had, then, a copy of Homer’s Iliad which narrated the Trojan War and I couldn’t help comparing the plot of the two. The 70s to the first decade of the 20s may well be considered as the Golden Age of radio drama spanning a period of more than 40 years when the drama stars lorded it over most of the radio airtime. Aside from DWLW, DZJC followed and when Bombo Radyo shared the limelight, the battle for radio dramas began.

DWLW’s station manager Rolly Albano recalls in a post:  

“Nasam-it iti manglagip iti napalabas, the days and numerous years of being number 1 sa mga surveys noon, spanning from sign on to sign off, the days of BBC-DWLW, for how can you battle the likes Betty Visco, Al Agno, Elizard Camit, Dom Austria and Thelma Agdeppa Galario; the drama pool of Pete Agag, Danny Ventura, Ben Sulicipan, Leonard Villa, Sonny Dancel, Nemy Ruiz, Daisy Pasion Deus, Edith Baldivino, Emy Felipe, Imelda Pasion, Josie Dumayas, Agnes Atud, Annie Borromeo, Zeny Pablo Domingo; the great writers, Jun Bumanglag, Ria del Rosario, Amancia Pugat, Nemesio Ruiz and Leonard Villa. I may not be able to name them all but each and everyone ket nakaikapet iti lansa, semento, teddek, atep, agdan ken amin a paset ti maysa a pasdek. Kangrunaan, saan a dakami dagiti kalalaingan ngem awan pinnanakkelan. Saanmi nga inyun-na a pinadakkel dagiti naganmi, simmurot laeng ti nasayaat a nagan iti naindaklan ken nanumo a nagappuanan. BBC a big beautiful country, come and live and you will see…… DWLW.”

Daisy Pasion Deus, a very pretty woman but of the silent type, was my classmate in one of my English major subjects (Poetry and Drama) at MMSU-College of Education in Laoag City but she never got to deliver her golden radio drama voice because the subject was in English medium whereas the radio dramas were in the Iluko dialect. I remembered her as playing the role of a nympho wife in “No Puso ti Masugat,” an evening drama we enjoyed while classifying dried tobacco leaves. I reminded her of her role in that evening drama flick and she just smiled saying it was a beautiful novel and that she had fun portraying the challenging role. She went on to explain how things were done inside the drama studio.

 We met Jun Bumanglag in 2018, dropping by at his mansion in San Nicolas, Ilocos Norte when we were going home from Sta. Ana, Cagayan for the Gumil Filipinas National Convention. His hi-tech spy gadgets reflect his spy novels so much so that even though he is based in the United States, he said he can still monitor everything that happens in his mansion using the advanced spy cameras and computer network. I tried to scroll over the social media the other names in the DWLW drama pool and I saw Zeny Pablo Domingo (who played the voice of Lady Godiva in a Jim Rocha episode), now a public servant.

But those were the early years, fellas.

Fighting boredom and summer heat, the quarantine days starting in the 2nd week of March 2020 have revived my interest in listening once more to radio dramas although I constantly listened to them (again) in the 90s via Bombo Radyo with the emergence of Saleng Drama Productions Center producing Remy Balderas’ “Pagsarmingan,” “Dagiti Tugot Iti Dana Ti Biag” and “Saripda Salvacion.” These three Balderas starrers were constant household hits and anticipated daily from Monday to Saturday. “Pagsarmingan” (Looking Glass), which started airing in 1970, was a 30-minute, daily ending drama portraying plots of moral values. Balderas was a radio announcer for Bombo Radyo Baguio but quitted her job when she was offered to host “Pagsarmingan.” “Dagiti Tugot…” which ended daily, too, dealt with the real-life experiences of listeners who sent their life stories and were re-scripted to fit the 30-minute allocated drama period. “Saripda Salvacion” depicted the adventures of supercop Saripda Salvacion fighting criminals and syndicates of all sorts. The weekly episodes earned for Balderas the admiration of her thousands or even millions of fans and her sudden retirement probably partly triggered the demise of Saleng dramas at Bombo Radyo.

Saleng is the local name for pine tree in Baguio City where the productions outfit was based.

Another blockbuster hit was “Laughingly Yours, Bianong” hosted by Fernando “Bianong” Ubado. The daily soap opera started in 1989 and dealt with the true-to-life-experiences of letter senders but told from the funny point of view. The drama was first heard on air in 1989 and the title was proposed by the late manager of Bombo Radyo-Baguio, Crisostomo “Cris” Ilustre. The name ‘Mang Bianong’ came from Ubado’s radio name who served as the first host of the drama. Ilustre advised Ubado to start a daily ending comedy drama where the listeners would be involved by sending and sharing their funny experiences through letters. After airing for some time, the station learned that this drama was widely popular and loved by the listeners, so the episodes were replayed in other Northern Luzon Bombo stations in Dagupan, La Union, Vigan, Laoag, Tuguegarao and Isabela. Ubado did not only host the program; he was also the director and scriptwriter of the said drama. The letters that were sent to the Bombo station and to Ubado were his basis in making the scripts that would be dramatized. He submitted the scripts to Saleng Productions Company for recording while the letters were filed so that no other people could read them.

I don’t exactly know why Saleng and Bombo went cold, in fact, I don’t hear or read anything about Saleng anymore. Curious about Saleng’s departure (or non-renewal of contract) from Bombo Radyo, I befriended via social media former Saleng dramatists Balderas, Jena Almoite Diaz, Perry Claro, Jovie Dupais, Teresa Calay and Eddie Bona.

All except Teresa Calay responded.