The Butcher | Philippine TV@70—The best 70 shows (Part 1)

Beginning this series and every Monday thereafter, The Butcher will enumerate, in random order, the best 70 shows aired on Philippine television. This is in celebration of the 70th year of local TV that began in 1953. For the first isntallment, we give you: Pista ng Catex, Tawag ng Tanghalan, and Student Canteen.

Photos: caltex.com, Emmanuel Brazil Viray FB, abs-cbn.com & Pilipinas Today Lahat 1900s FB

Beginning this series and every Monday thereafter, The Butcher will enumerate, in random order, the best 70 shows aired on Philippine television. This is in celebration of the 70th year of local TV that began in 1953. For the first isntallment, we give you: Pista ng Catex, Tawag ng Tanghalan, and Student Canteen.

Beginning this series and every Monday thereafter, The Butcher will enumerate, in random order, the best 70 shows aired on Philippine television. This is in celebration of the 70th year of local TV that began in 1953.

                                            

PISTA NG CALTEX     

Have you ever wondered why drama serials on radio and TV are called soap operas? That is because the early sponsors of dramas were soap brands: detergent, bath and beauty soaps.     

Soap manufacturers advertised heavily on dramas because the followers of these programs were mostly women who are the target consumers of the makers of detergents and beauty products. For stronger impact, some brands would buy the entire show and put its name on it.     

In the 1950s in America, for instance, the beauty soap Camay wanted its presence felt in the market, which was why it produced its own drama series. The show was called Camay Theater and that truly made the soap brand a household name.     

In the Philippines in the 1950s, automobiles were starting to become big business. But for a vehicle to start running, it would need gasoline. The competing gas companies then were Caltex and Esso.     

To get ahead in the market, Caltex decided to advertise heavily. TV was starting to boom in the country and the Caltex executives knew they could convince vehicle owners to patronize their petroleum products through this new medium.    

It so happened that ABS (no CBN yet) had an existing musical talent show called Pista ng Bayan that the network could no longer sustain financially. And so, the people of ABS (then still owned by Antonio Quirino and James Lindenberg) decided to sell the show to Caltex. ABS was still willing to mount it for Caltex. All the gasoline company had to do was finance the program.     

Pista ng Bayan therefore became Pista ng Caltex. Hosted by comedians Pugo, Patsy and Lopito, the show was basically a singing competition.     

Its format was no different from "Tawag ng Tanghalan" of today in It’s Showtime. The hosts put the contestants at ease through humorous, but friendly banter before every performance.     

Pista ng Caltex had a sister show in Caltex Star Caravan, which was more highbrow since it featured classically-trained singers like Sylvia la Torre - before she decided to embrace the masses as her audience, that is.

                                          

TAWAG NG TANGHALAN    

An amateur singing contest, Tawag ng Tanghalan aired on radio first. The TV edition made it even more famous. The show was initially hosted by Patsy and Lopito. After Lopito died, Pugo was brought in as Patsy’s co-host.     

Pugo, however, also left the show and Patsy was given a new male co-host every week. Vic Vargas, for instance, was once invited to co-host with Patsy. In time, even Patsy was taken out of the show and was replaced by Rod Navarro.     

After martial law forced the shutdown of ABS-CBN in 1972, this singing contest resurfaced on Channel 9 as Tuklas – still with Rod Navarro.

                                         

STUDENT CANTEEN     

This noontime show also started on radio – in the Lopez-owned CBN (ABS was still with the Quirinos that time). It was originally called CBN Canteen and was a purely musical program that ran only for 15 minutes.     

Headlining CBN Canteen was singer Priscilla Aristorenas, who was also known as the Kolynos Girl. Kolynos is a toothpaste brand that used to be popular in the local market (it is still available abroad though).     

A Pinay beauty (think Perla Bautista), Ms. Aristorenas sang only because singing was her passion (she was very good though). Her family was well-off and had invested on properties – one of which was a huge lot in Plainview in Mandaluyong. When she got married and had to live abroad, she had to say goodbye to her show, which had been extended to half an hour by then.     

That became a problem for the executives because they were about to lose a successful show. This was when Leila Benitez was brought in. Her co-host was radio announcer Armando Datuin. Soon after, he was replaced by Eddie Ilarde.     

The first Tawag ng Tanghalan champion, Pepe Pimental, later joined the noontime program that was eventually called Student Canteen. Student Canteen by then had become a variety show that featured singing competitions.     

Student Canteen moved to television in 1959 and enjoyed high ratings. In 1964, however, Ilarde and Benitez decided to walk out of the show after a misunderstanding with management. Although new talents came in – the likes of Ben Aniceto and a then still single Boots Anson - the show’s chemistry dissipated. It was soon canceled.     

Student Canteen made a comeback in January 1975. ABS-CBN had already been shut down and so it came out on Channel 7 as a block-timer. Leila Benitez had moved to New York by then and was replaced by Coney Reyes.     

Ilarde and Pimentel were also part of the lineup of emcees, along with Bobby Ledesma, who worked for the old ABS-CBN as a floor director. After a couple of years, Helen Vela would also be part of Student Canteen.     

Student Canteen was the unbeatable noontime show from the mid-1970s till 1982. Sadly, the hosts would have issues among themselves and leave one by one.     

The first to go was Pepe Pimentel who put up his own noontime program with Tess Limcauco on Channel 9. The show was called Broadcast Campus, which at one time hailed as Coed of the Day a then still single Malou Choa-Fagar (later of Eat Bulaga).       

In1982, Helen resigned from the show and was replaced by Chiqui Hollmann. Two days before Chiqui joined Student Canteen, Coney was fired supposedly for sympathizing with Helen.     

Jackie Lou Blanco and Chat Silayan were eventually brought in a few weeks later as reinforcement. After two years, Chiqui, Jackie, Chat, and George Javier walked out of the show en masse. It was like a repeat of what Eddie and Leila did two decades earlier.     

Student Canteen was canceled by GMA in 1986. It resurfaced in 1999 on Channel 13. The mainstays were Eddie Ilarde and Boots Anson-Roa. But the show had become too old by then and didn’t last long on the air.     

Student Canteen was not the perfect show – far from it. For one, it was not gender sensitive. Aside from Ilarde’s occasional off-color humor, didn’t it feature the exploitative "Body Language" contest?     

But other than the issue of sexism, which wasn’t a big deal back then, Student Canteen provided honest-to-goodness entertainment to various generations of Filipino viewers.                                             

(To be continued)

 

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