Thursday, June 11, 2009

The Eat Bulaga Caper II: The View from the Mosh Pit

Cha Park has finally uploaded the pics she took during the show and my, are they fabulous. Cha's not much into blogging so I asked her to let me make this entry in her stead. I asked her one question about this caper: what does she remember the most about it? Here are 3 things she pointed out which I'll try to recount with as little embellishment as possible: (1) How it felt like being in a pressure cooker inside the studio. You will recall that I said people were ushered into the studio til the segment preceding Cooky's appearance. Everywhere she looked around there were people. She had her back plastered to the wall, couldn't sit, couldn't move much. There were no aisles to speak of, no passage possible to the exit door. The studio was packed from wall to wall. (2) The odd mixture of people in the crowd. One would think majority would be those from classes C and D, Eat Bulaga being what it is, again, as I mentioned in my account. But Cha notes that from where she stood she could see people from classes A and B as well, and numerous celebrities besides, waiting in clear anticipation for Cooky. (3) The sheer look of joy on Cooky's face as he performed. Cha Park had seen Cooky upon his arrival in Manila - he was tired and jetlagged, possibly a bit cranky, at the same time bewildered at all the attention he was attracting and the fuss all the people around him were making. What an amazing contrast to how he now met this enthusiastic, adoring crowd who cheered him on and sang along to Always Be My Baby. Cooky was clearly, irrefutably amused.

During the performance Cha Park had quickly moved forward and stood alongside a bed of cables on the floor right in front of the stage -- the crewman who minded the equipment had tried to shoo her away but she wouldn't budge. She was able to take video but the battery conked out several seconds before the end of the song. Cooky sang, "You will linger ooooooon..." -- the battery didn't. The camera stopped recording, but Cha quickly snapped a few photos before it finally died. And so we have this. What have we been saying all this time about Cookistas and the David Cook Manila visit? We have perfect timing.

The precious few other pics can be viewed at Cha Park's flickr gallery. Cha is still trying to see if the video is salvageable. It looked incredible the first time we checked it (close-up!), but there seems to be a problem now with the file. If it checks out alright we will try to upload it as soon as possible.

Monday, June 8, 2009

The Eat Bulaga Caper

Before I begin I think it should be explained to our friends outside the Philippines just what Eat Bulaga is so they have the proper context with which to read this caper. Eat Bulaga (from here on to be referred to as EB) is a local noon-time variety show, the longest running of its kind on Philippine television. Let’s just say I used to watch (and enjoy it – what, I had simple needs and wants back then *snort*) the show way back when I was a child. Apart from having tons of guest actors and singers, the main reason the masses flock to see the show each day is to join the games where sizable amounts of money can be won. Entry into the studio to watch the show is free, but one either has to line up on the day of the show, or make reservations ahead of time, or have a contact inside. Word has it that on any given day, lines start to form at midnight. Yeah, you read that right. Imagine our horror upon finding that out the day before the scheduled guesting of DC. We were told a few days before that 6am was an early enough time to get in line, and that was hard enough, but gah , midnight? *insert imaginary groans here*

In any case, we had been trying for days to try the other method (i.e., find a contact who can get you in without having to line up), but to no avail. uber_cookie also had gone out of her way to go to the EB office several times to get us a group pass, but was told that that particular privilege was given only to “excursionists” who could present proof of residence or some such certification from a barangay captain (these excursionists normally come from towns and provinces around and outside of Metro Manila), so that option too, went down the drain. By the time May 15 came, only a few brave souls were willing to take a chance. Note that the Meet & Greet event at the SM City Skydome was on May 14, the day before.

Cha Park and I had been up til the wee hours on the 14th (making preparation, coordinating with a lot of people, etc.), and had had very little sleep. It was also only on this day that we got word from Vera (of Illusions of Cook) of two confirmed seats inside the studio, courtesy of her contact who knew THE one person who could get anyone into the show at the last minute. Cha Park was the one chosen initially, but she gave up her seat to get me in. I had not wanted to go because well, for personal reasons I could not be seen on television (it’s Eat Bulaga, hello! The camera pans through the audience, and lucky you if you’re not picked for some odd game or contest during the course of the 2-hour show).

To cut a long wearisome story short, while the Cookistas who had agreed to line up outside Broadway Centrum were there early as 5:30 am (jackievincennes, we salute you!), even 4:30 am (Anakin of The Dash, did I get that right, or was it earlier?), Cha Park and I woke up at about 7 am or so and discovered to our horror that we had the Cookista banner in our hands – that same banner, as it turned out, that would have been the others’ (probable) pass for getting into the show. After much hurrying (which didn’t help very much on account of the slow traffic), we were finally able to give the banner to flygirl24 and jackievincennes, who rushed with me to the head of the line, where there was already much moaning and groaning (from the crowd) and irritated finger-pointing and more (from TPTB at the lower gates, so to speak). No one got in without the gatekeepers’ say so. At that point there were about 40 excursionists entering the gates. All around were many more people standing and gawking and milling about. It was hot and crowded. flygirl24 and jackievincennes tried to catch the gatekeeper/namecheckers’ attention by displaying the banner and introducing themselves, but things didn’t seem hopeful. After several minutes Vera arrived and it was already time for us to go in. Sometime between my troubled sleep and the trip to Broadway Centrum I had accepted the challenge (*snort*) of going – what, I wanted to see Cooky sing live too, as soon as I could! Never mind the not-being-seen-on-television problem, I would figure out a way out of it (sleep deprivation makes for faulty judgment, you know that). Besides, I was tasked with taking video from inside the studio. Back at the Cookista homestead, we already had people ready to record the show during the telecast.

Before going inside, Vera and I were asked to leave some things that weren’t allowed in the studio – any food or candies, water, fans, pens, cigarettes, and cellular phones (ack! Foolish little me, I had assumed we could try cellcasting the show through Mandy; so you can guess what the last thing was that I did before I gave up my phone – send the word out that there would be no cellcast). This, only after the gatekeeper had meticulously ascertained that Vera’s name was indeed in the list of “approved guests” (my term, not theirs) – that is to say, it took a little while before we were approved. But once we were, someone from inside, upon finding out that we were guests of THE person, scolded the guard who she thought was stalling our entry by not speedily collecting our forbidden stuff (the delay was on my account, as I said, I had to send word out about cancelling the cellcast; thanks to riverhorse, hello!). We were ushered inside, and I found myself gaping at how small the studio was – I couldn’t for the life of me, imagine 700 people fitting into that space (initial reports said only 500 would be let in; that morning we heard 700). Gah, how was I supposed to hide from the cameras? One sweep and I’d be on freaking television!

So now you understand why, after having been seated about 20 feet away (warning: I am not at all that good in estimating distance; yeah right, so what good is that to us, imogen, you say? Well consider it a figure of speech! You’ll see how far I was in the video anyway.), when Vera realized we could get even closer, I didn’t come running. She ended up at the left side of the stage about 10 feet away, methinks, with some middle class peeps who seemed to be David Cook fans (a few had signs and held CDs or magazines). I stayed at the right side, beside and behind a good thick crowd to get lost in, which, later to my horror (yes, horror was for me the emotion of the day, I kid you not), turned out to be visiting families – who routinely get mentioned one by freaking one at the start of the show.

Host: Palakpakan po natin, ang Pamilya Garcia! [Let us all applaud the Garcia Family!]

Garcia Family, with signs indicating their name, arms flailing happily, shouting wildly: Wooo!!! Woo!! Yeeeey!!!” *whistles* *claps* *much flailing and other signs of enthusiasm*

You get the idea. And it got more horrifying by the minute. Cha Park and I not only had very little sleep, we had also skipped meals from the day before til that morning. The day of the Meet & Greet, we had rushed in the nick of time from the Magic 89.9 station which held its interview with the 2 Davids and ran through an already gathering crowd from SM The Block towards the Skydome which was already so packed they weren’t letting any more people in – Cooky was already shopping at Kultura a hundred or so steps away from the Skydome. The crowd was so dense it’s a miracle the stamp on our wrists didn’t get erased from all the people we had to run through. We had no time but for one meal – lunch late in the afternoon – and nothing else. In the morning the day after, when Cha picked me up I had only time for a quick cup of coffee and 2 granola bars which we shared in the car while rushing to beat the 10 o’clock deadline for our fellow Cookistas who had been patiently waiting in line with little hope of getting entry (jackievincennes, anakin and friend, miakka, dew_delight, flygirl24) . Just my roundabout way of saying that by the end of an hour I was getting close to hyperventilating (what with the studio rapidly filling up with people – imagine, behind me there was a dividing wall that separated another section from where I was, there must have been only about a foot and a half of space between the wall and the back of the bench I was sitting on, but guess what, there were people there too). I was wondering how long I would last without collapsing – I had had no water, my lips felt cold and dry. I was hungry, and I was tired. But all this was forgotten when the next horror was introduced.

The pre-show guy -- maybe the EB fans can help me here, I’ve forgotten his name – really funny gay guy, kinda round-faced... no? Maybe he was called Kim or something like that, let’s call him Kim, and there was another pre-show gay guy – Kim came out and talked to the audience and prepped us for the show. Oh joy. He basically told us about the different segments which needed audience participation (yep, there’s the horror, read on). He said we were supposed to be happy people; those who weren’t happy can simply go outside and join the countless others who can’t get in no matter what they do. For the 1st segment, I believe it was called the Close-up smile segment, he taught us the steps: we were to stand up and dance to the music with our arms held high, and on cue, stop, hold our fingers just so, framing the prettiest Close-up smiles we could muster on our perfectly happy faces, which the cameras would pan through to find the most winning smile. Now understand, I’m all for fun and games and the like, but, well, it’s just not me. Let’s face it, I do participate in games on occasion, but certainly not always, and much less so with people I had never seen in my life – that’s just how I am. So there I stood hatching up my evil plan to sit myself down and hide among the multitudes when the time came, when Kim loudly remarked that anyone found uncooperative would be escorted out of the studio. Since the cameras were on us, weeding out the ungrateful would be fairly easy. Haaaaaah! Yeah yeah laugh your faces off, this is what I did for the love of Cook: I held my arms up and danced like an idiot (not to imply that all who danced were idiots, that’s just me, it happens when I try something like this, out of the natural see, you get the picture), and smiled (more probably grimaced) as much any person who’s about to hyperventilate could smile. What, after all the bother and the stress and the strings we tried to pull, and knowing that my fellow Cookistas were outside waiting under the heat of the sun without any assurance of entry, I wasn’t about to be ordered outside before I’d seen the Cook, hell no.

There were two more game segments I think, which I can’t remember anymore. Whatever they were, let’s just say that they couldn’t have been any worse. After the pre-show gays drilled us a coupla hundred times, we were allowed to sit in peace. More and more people were ushered in. Still no other Cookistas in sight. After sometime I was already wondering whether I should have taken the banner. Had they failed to get inside, was it just me and Vera? After some time, to my surprise, clandestine and her mom made their way from the crowded entrance to the right. They didn’t see me at first as they tried to wade their way through the sea of people behind me. Cha Park trailed behind them, then flygirl24. The others weren’t with them. When Cha saw me they held up the banner. Noting that I would have nothing to hang the banner on, and no one I could convince to hold it for me as I took video, I pointed them toward Vera, who I thought would have a better chance of asking help from her seatmates. But they didn’t make it to her side, couldn’t cross due to the crowd blocking their way, so they went back out. And so there I sat wondering, hoping that they would be allowed back just before Cooky came out.

The pre-show guys gave us last reminders. All throughout they kept referring to David Cook, noting how they knew the audience couldn’t wait to see him. Kim joked that the day before he had his cellphone camera (Archie was the guest), but this time he had brought his digital camera. And so on and on the teasing of the audience went. It’s almost time to see David Cook, and then it’s not, there’s still the Henyong Pinoy segment. Ayan na, eto na si David Cook [Here he is, here comes David Cook], but there’s still this other game or announcement.

Before I forget, I survived the Close-up segment by yes, joining in with the dancing and all that, while trying craftily to blend in with the crowd, and I think, successfully avoiding the cameras. Even when each family around me was called out and greeted, with lights and cameras and everything, I managed to “hide”. Anyway, after what felt like hours, the crew on stage brought out two stools, and then there was the Hummingbird. And then, there was Cooky’s sound guy. He tested the guitar and the mic.

So one would think David Cook would finally come out next, right? A series of commercials were running, and then the Sexbomb girls (or are they called the EB girls now, somebody somewhere knows the answer to that) came out. Again, I sat in horror and nearly short-circuited mah brainz: what, would there be sexy dancing girls as Cook sang? What! No need to string this out longer than need be, besides, you've all seen it anyway, so yes, let’s just say mah brainz must have been lacking oxygen too at that point, because, no, the dancing girls (who gyrated to Boom Boom Pow) were brought out on their own, no David Cook in sight, and then there was some other segment, until finally it was time for the Cook.

Now the central semi-circular platform to my left (at the center of the audience) was mostly kept vacant during the first part of the show. This was where sometimes the hosts would stand, and camera men move around to get their shots. As the show went on they brought in rows of chairs and had special guests sit on them (some were balikbayans, I think). When the segment preceding David Cook’s was about to start, more people were ushered in through the left side – I was so glad to see flygirl24, Cha Park, clandestine and mom. I found out later that they went to different sections of the stage, any available space they could find to sit or stand while waiting. After the dancing girls and whatever other thing that was I can’t remember, the fans were called by the floor manager (my term, not that I’m sure that’s who she was) to stand with the huge Cookista banner at the center of the semi-circular platform. The space you’ll see on that platform? That was the most space there was in that studio during that segment. Everywhere else there would be people. If people could stick to walls, they would have been filled too.

I don’t need to describe anymore in detail what ensued, you can see it in the video. Pardon the shakiness, I was holding my arms stretched up high (I’m fairly short), over the crowd in front of me, the whole time. I had two cameras with me at the time, but didn’t find any way I could use both (say take both video and pics). At the start of the video you’ll see the floor manager directing the fans, pointing out where they should be standing. I could only see flygirl24 holding the middle part of the banner, accompanied by other fans I’d never seen before (the others weren’t allowed in, apparently. Clandestine and her mom found a way to get in only 4 people). Clandestine and her mom were somewhere in the middle section. In the video, you can hear said floor manager say, “O, walang tatayo ha. Walang tatayo!” [“No one will stand, ok?], and several people around me also remarking and making a fuss that no one should stand or move out of their place. Yeah, right.

By the time the last commercial ended and Cook stepped on stage, the studio was packed to the rafters. The minute he began singing, the crowd (those unencumbered by seats blocking their way) surged forward and half the audience seemed to have pushed their way right in front of the stage. As I took video, I looked behind me and saw that the people behind my bench minutes before were already right there standing on it (why did I not have the sense to stand there too? Oh wait, I was so afraid I’d be ushered out. Silly me, who in that crazy packed crowd would even get near enough to kick me out?). In the section above me, there was an actress and her daughter sitting (or most probably standing, I really couldn’t see that part of the studio anymore) amidst ordinary people, having asked to get in because they knew David Cook would be the guest. Near the stage, right in front, were many “VIPs” – actors and actresses, even those who had nothing to do with Eat Bulaga, or their families or relatives who had asked favors, and various other people from the upper classes who had never set foot in that studio before, and were there solely because of David Cook. Cha Park, I later learned, was near where Vera was, and stood next to a lurker of our PEx thread, a virtual Cookista who happened to be someone who could have gotten us some seats had we known about her (I am not mentioning her exact situation on purpose in case she does not want it revealed. Madame, hello in case you’re reading this. *wink*)! Cha was able to find her way right up to the stage, as so many others did, and took excellent video – which unfortunately, cannot be seen at this time due to a possibly damaged memory card. She saw how the actors and actresses in front stood so close to the stage, that by the time Pia Guanio interviewed Cook they were already actually encroaching on stage area that should have been left clear of people.

That’s all that I’m saying, the rest you can watch in the video. Oh, let me just say, that voice filled the studio, and sick though Cook may have been, his voice sounded rich and masculine and resonant. Acoustic Always Be My Baby: the choice of song in itself was not surprising, but the voice singing live, was. That was the extent of my insight given all that was going on at the time. There I stood, inside the studio of a local noontime variety show I hadn't been watching for years, thinking: Damn you, Cook.

(Very special thanks to Vera of Illusions of Cook, without whom I couldn't have had this experience; to Cha Park for giving up her seat for me; to uber_cookie, who got us information about the show fairly early on, and had tried her best to get the Cookistas some passes; to miakka, jackievincennes, dew_delight, anakin and friend, who came so very early to line up under the heat of the Manila sun; to flygirl24 who proudly held the Cookista banner for all to see; to clandestine and her mom, for making sure the Cookista banner made it into the studio, and for many other things besides *wink*; to me_lovin_dc for taking charge of having the banner made; to all Cookistas who initially planned to be there, and all those who watched Eat Bulaga that day. Remember, you didn't see me. *snort*)