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Radio drama is DZRH's legacy

MANILA, Philippines - A visit to the DZRH drama booth is a travel in time, to the days when radio dramas reigned supreme over the airwaves, when stories ran for months, even years before they expired. Radio served as training ground to many who eventua...

Apr 23

Radio drama is DZRH's legacy

From left: Tony Angeles, Susan Robles, Augusto Victa, Ester Chavez and Rosanna Villegas

Author: Bibsy M. Carballo

MANILA, Philippines - A visit to the DZRH drama booth is a travel in time, to the days when radio dramas reigned supreme over the airwaves, when stories ran for months, even years before they expired. Radio served as training ground to many who eventually found their way into the movies and television. One of the country's best, Mario O'Hara started his career on radio and to this day remains an actor-writer-director of no mean ability. When we needed good actors for a three-month shoot of Ishmael Bernal's Himala with Nora Aunor in the deserts of Paoay in Ilocos, we went to radio talents.

A cursory flipping on AM radio in search of traffic news got us involved in a dramatization of Sagrado followed by Kasaysayan sa mga Liham kay Tiya Dely over DZRH. Dely Magpayo or Tiya Dely, an icon on radio had died last year, and curious as to who was continuing her program we decided to pay DZRH a visit.

The radio booth was crowded with at least 20 persons speaking at the same time and enjoying themselves immensely. Some we knew like Ester Chavez and Tony Angeles. Didi Reyes-Belonio now known as Didi Magpayo, daughter of Tiya Dely who had continued her mother's high-rating program shared with us lessons she picked up from her mom.

When in 2005, Didi opted for early retirement after working 25 years, Tiya Dely was aghast. "Nobody retires at 45," she said. She was 85 and Didi 45. At that time her mom's central vision was also starting to fail, and she got Didi involved in what Didi calls her OJT with the show. Starting with retyping scripts in larger font points, to reading the letters herself on air, to being taught the criteria for letter selection, Didi's OJT soon led to a full-blown career on radio.

Perhaps the most engaging aspect of the OJT was the lessons in Tagalog. "When I had to retype, I had to remember rules of dito and rito. When the preceding word ends with a vowel it has to be rito. Halika rito. Whatever is the root-word you repeat like nakahihiya and not nakakahiya, natutuhan and not natutunan, nakatutuwa and not nakakatuwa. It was also kagagalitan and not pagagalitan, bestido and not bestida. When met with grumblings Tiya Dely would counter that this is what Lope K. Santos, one of eight who developed the Wikang Pilipino, and that is what it should be. "

The talents listening in on us would repeat in unison laughing, "It is subukin not subukan. Subukin is to try. Subukan is to spy. "

The group loved sharing the discipline Tiya Dely imposed on them as much as they loved the show. Many of them live comfortably, but would return time and again. It was therapy, they agreed. It brought back the memories of the good old days.

During our visit, we were witness to a happy reunion when Augusto Victa, longtime Tiya Dely director suddenly made an appearance after months of absence due to a stroke. He admitted he missed the show, the camaraderie of the group, and promised to soon be back at work. During the recent DZRH 70th anniversary Luz Fernandez and Augusto Victa were awarded Best Actress and Best Actor of all Time, and Sagrado chosen Best Drama.

We returned on Sagrado's recording day and found known contravida Luz Fernandez and Salvador "Dong" Royales, drama manager of DZRH and scriptwriter of the current top drama on the station. A virtual newcomer in a sea of veterans, Dong relates how he grew up in Bicol as an avid follower of the radio dramas of Augusto Victa and Luz Fernandez. He joined Bicol radio as scriptwriter, talent, director, musical director before trying his luck in Manila and joining DZRH as scriptwriter in the '80s.

He got introduced to the movies when Charo Santos bought his top-rating scripts on radio Kapag Langit ang Humatol and Kailan Mahuhugasan ang Kasalanan for her company Vision Films. It is testimony to the lasting appeal of radio drama that the current teleserye on ABS-CBN Dahil May Isang Ikaw is inspired by the multi-awarded Kailan Mahuhugasan which Lino Brocka directed in 1989 with Helen Gamboa, Lorna Tolentino, Richard Gomez, and Eddie Garcia.

This is perhaps why Dong was so confident in the power of radio that he insisted his project Sagrado be aired even when management felt it was outdated and passÈ. Dong was soon vindicated when on the second month of its airing, Sagrado was already at the top of the ratings. It is now entering its ninth month and is still on top.

Radio apparently does have an umbilical appeal that keeps one tied to it through thick and thin, just like the talents and staff of Tiya Dely. Even when he was already getting to be known on television and the movies for his stories and screenplays, Salvador Royales never left radio. There were even occasions, he says, when he had to reject some TV offers because of conflicts with radio, even if the pay was a small percentage of that earned on television.

Now that he is drama manager, the responsibility is heavier. He has to oversee the shows, scripts, and casting for the dramas aired four hours from 10 a. m. to 2 p. m. , and a half hour at night every day except Sunday.

Luz declares that if there is anyone on radio that deserves a medal for longevity and loyalty to DZRH it would have to be her. She has been at it for the past 58 years, portraying her villainess roles with gusto as she does now making life miserable for Betty Reyes in Sagrado.

"I never left RH and went on vacation only when I gave birth. I never left even when there were exclusivity offers being given by other stations," she tells us.

Recalling her beginnings, Luz details that she worked for a year on a sustaining basis, meaning no pay. She auditioned everywhere and her break came when Rosa Mia who was in Gulong ng Palad went on to a movie career and she was taken as replacement. Then began the supremacy of the soap opera. There were Gulong, Dr. Ramon Selga, Aklat ng Pag-ibig, Ilaw ng Tahanan. They were all produced and sponsored by the Philippine Manufacturing Company, makers of Perla, Camay. That's how they got called to be called soaps, affirms Luz.

Today, while appearing in Sagrado and the political satire Ukay Ukay written by Fundador Soriano, Luz also directs Mr. Romantiko and does occasional movies like the upcoming MZET entry Darling kong Aswang of Vic Sotto for the December MMFF where she plays a yaya with powers.

Since the '50s, DZRH has unflinchingly supported its drama shows that continue to have their own band of loyal supporters. The drama shows currently airing over RH are Gabi ng Lagim (a retelling of Froilan Villegas' original version), Kasaysayan sa mga Liham kay Tiya Dely, Ito ang Palad Ko (episode Sementadong Gubat) under the outside producer VG Productions, Dolorosa, Hinding Hindi ko Malilimutan, Sagrado (episode Crisanto Salvador), Hukuman Pang Tahanan from Criminal Cases, Radyo Balintataw of Cecil Guidote Alvarez, another outside production.

(E-mail me at bibsycarballo@yahoo. com. )

Source: The Philippine Star