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Tuesday, February 27, 2024

Beloved working boys

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THE Eat Bulaga! saga is in essence a reflection of the enduring fame of a trio we so know as Tito, Vic & Joey. The length of time that the noontime show has aired on Philippine TV, specifically with them on board, mirrors the unwavering admiration their group enjoys from Filipino audiences.

While in terms of longevity, we should qualify their Eat Bulaga! hosting as that one job that has kept them visible and relevant despite the changing times, we have willingly embraced the fact that their multifaceted talents and infinite charisma enabled them to penetrate various fields of endeavors. They’re household comedians, with notable sitcoms under their belt whether done as a group or without the others.

Some comedians on TV can’t duplicate their success on the big screen. Not TVJ who are bankable movie actors, too. My younger brother Reinhard is placing bets in his claim that the funniest Filipino movie ever is the 1985-released Working Boys, which saw the troika supplemented by a young Herbert Bautista. See it and laugh your way to agree, with many of the punch lines anchored on the theme of fakery – Joey De Leon’s face on a bill, fake wake with a breathing Palito lying in a coffin, and fake TV repair to keep a drunken Joaquin Fajardo entertained.

Super trio Tito Sotto, Vic Sotto, and Joey De Leon, collectively known as TVJ

Tito Sotto launched a remarkable political career owing to his exposure as the de facto figurehead of the group, which led to everyone fondly calling him Tito Sen. His brother Vic Sotto had become a box office star in his own right, consistently drawing theatergoers to see his movies either featuring him as Enteng Kabisote or as the leading man of whoever is the hottest ticket in the biz.

Joey, the acknowledged resident joker, has delivered the goods in various gigs – host of Wow Mali, the leader of the pack in TODAS (Television’s Outrageously Delightful All-Star Show), and boss of super sidekick Rene Requiestas.

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It should put a smile on your face that when you google Tito Vic & Joey, you’d see them being officially identified as a musical band. They have more than 13,000 monthly listeners and 47,811 followers as of this writing, certainly not bad for an act that recorded materials for a laugh. Their most streamed track is one called “Upakan,” a song that sounds like a natural single from the band Cinderella until wordplay master Joey’s antics comes in at 1:21, which turns the piece into vaudeville way before Grin Department came up with “Skin.” Their parody of the Voltes V opening theme charms with the cute line “Pagdating ng araw at di na tayo kids.”

TV5 Chairman Manny Pangilinan (left most) welcomes the iconic Tito, Vic, and Joey in their new home network

And then there’s “Iskul Bukol,” the theme song to a sitcom of the same title the trio starred in for 10 seasons. This one possesses a riff that stands the test of time and features Bossing Vic’s disarming vocals that should remind everyone he’s a real-deal singer. On that note, VST & Company, which sees his singing voice become a pioneer of Manila Sound, actually falls into a TVJ side project that turned out, once again, very big.

Indeed, Tito,Vic, & Joey as TV stars overshadowed their achievements in music. Both Vic and Joey wrote the VST classics “Awitin Mo At Isasayaw Ko” and “Ipagpatawad Mo.” Tito penned “Magkaisa,” sung by one Virna Lisa, which became a hit after the EDSA Revolution in 1986.

They are an act that for the longest time had nothing to prove anymore. They could have officially retired from showbiz after their announcement on social media that they’re leaving the show they painstakingly carved into a national pastime.

And yet, that’s the very reason why they can’t just drop the mic. They have become part of the national fabric that their retirement may prompt a politician aching for the spotlight to label it as a national emergency. As we have witnessed, the mere drama between them and TAPE Inc. led to Pinoys (despite having their own worries to deal with) sparing some time to write tribute posts about Eat Bulaga!

That TVJ will be back on TV as essentially they are, or as we have known them all these years, means the epoch that is inherently them continues.

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