Last semester, the person behind the LRT voice over (among many other credits), Ms. Pinky Aseron, became my professor in my first ever Broadcast Communication class (BC 100) in college. Her subject was an introductory course for BC freshmen, so majority of what we discussed the entire semester was about the history of television programming in the Philippines. Being an avid viewer of several local television programs—from teleseryes to variety shows to imported programs—I found myself very active in her class. Most of the time, when she had a story to tell to the class about a certain TV program, I would ‘unconsciously’ give a follow-up trivia, or additional information. In fact, I would sometimes detail to the class the viewership of that certain program—what show is becoming phenomenal, what show is slowly but surely gaining followers, or what show is becoming a flash in the pan. Participating in her class was very effortless for me that at one point, Ms. Pinky told me I can be a “media historian”, or a broadcast analyst.
I know it’s quite an exaggerated conclusion, because of course, my knowledge about media is still limited. But then, when she told me that, aside from being tremendously flattered, a realization hit me—I really know what I was talking about in class! I would admit that I’m not much of a current-affairs guy; I’m more of a trivial-showbiz-news person. Every day, I would visit entertainment news websites to know what latest kabaduyan local celebrities are up to. But more importantly, I would search for the TV ratings data provided by AGB Nielsen and Kantar Media to find out what TV shows are trending and which between ABS-CBN and GMA7—both claiming that they are Number 1—is telling the goddamn truth.
My fascination started when I was really young. I remember my dad used to watch ABS-CBN and GMA7 shows, and he often compared which among counterpart programs was better. I remember my mom sometimes talk about celebrities, and she herself is a fan of teleseryes. When my mom and dad separated when I was in fourth grade, my uncle took care of me. And because he is a solid Kapamilya himself, he would always tell me even if I had no intention of arguing whatsoever that ABS-CBN is always the better station, and that the programs of GMA7 are mediocre. He would put ABS-CBN in the pedestal and assure to me that there’s no way in this whole wide world that GMA7 will be number one. Looking back, I saw myself growing up in an average Filipino family in the province whose mindset was heavily influenced by the dictates of media.
It was around 2007 when I was first introduced to the wonders of the internet. When I learned how to use Google, one of the first things that I looked up were TV ratings. I didn’t know what I exactly typed at the search bar, but nonetheless, I found my way to a ratings data of AGB Nielsen. I just wanted to know how huge the lead of ABS-CBN was, because as my uncle claimed, there’s no way ABS-CBN cannot be number one. But to my surprise, I learned that GMA7 programs—namely Marimar, Zaido and even that very jologs Whammy Push Your Luck—were easily crushing Kapamilya programs like Lastikman, Kokey and Prinsesa ng Banyera (damn, how can you beat a teleserye starring a goddess like Kristine Hermosa?!). I was stunned; in fact, I was one of the hardcore Kapamilyas who doubted the credibility of the survey firm at the time it was publicly accused of ratings manipulation.
To make the long story short, since the day I clicked that very first entertainment blog that led me to the local TV ratings page, I never lost track of what was happening in entertainment media, specifically in the ratings game and network war. I virtually witnessed when the news came out that ABS-CBN was leaving AGB Nielsen, and when a few months after, another survey firm in the name of TNS (which will later be renamed Kantar Media) would release TV ratings. I was a dedicated observer to many things, such as disappointing flops—from the overly publicized Sarah Geronimo-starrer 1Dol being axed after barely a month of airing to the series of replacements on GMA7’s Sunday noontime block because shows pitted against ASAP wouldn’t stand a chance. Moreover, I was amazed by the surprise hits—from the Aljur-Kris tandem kicking ass in the national ratings race (an ABS-CBN territory) via Dapat Ka Bang Mahalin? to the morning talent program Showtime giving the longest running morning talk show Sis a run for its money and finally making history in the course of daytime programming. I can enumerate a lot more but I’m afraid I will sacrifice the quality of this specific paragraph because it became too long. But the point is, I might not have remembered the exact numbers, but I’ve been very much familiar with the trend that I consider myself a superfan of ratings and figures. Indeed, I’m writing this with a distinct sense of euphoria, because I’ve been fascinated by these numbers and I don’t exactly know why.
I loved that BC 100 class with Ms. Pinky because it was the first time that I openly shared my fascination with TV ratings. I know it sounds absurd, but before getting her subject, I never enthusiastically discussed anything showbiz-related to anyone, because I was afraid to be ridiculed. Although I never asked, my uncle’s homosexuality is an open secret in the family. So when he started taking major parenting responsibility of me while my mom is working abroad and my dad is taking AWOL, I would often be subtly reminded by my relatives (particularly my grandfather) to be careful so I wouldn’t be mahahawaan (lit. infected) by my tito. It’s the reason why I didn’t acknowledge my strong familiarity with the lighter side of media, because aside from its triviality, I was a little afraid to be associated with my Tito’s interest in Philippine TV and then be linked with homosexuality.
I just look back and think how stupid that was, to be scared of being associated with people who were not different at all. And that’s why I couldn’t be much happier to be in my current school, because the people I’m surrounded with are people who advocate for equality and proper representation. Furthermore, I couldn’t be much happier to be in my course, precisely because my coursemates also have their fair share of knowledge towards matters that interest me too.
It’s funny and amazing how you think you already know your strengths, but then it takes other people to point it out to you. Tomorow, I’ll start publishing articles about my insights towards television shows in relation with their ratings. I know it’s not as important as current affairs and national issues, but I won’t try to pretend to know so much about things that I have little idea about. Who knows, I might land a decent job someday just because I can interpret TV viewership. That’s like, the best job in the world, looking at numbers whole day and feeling high at what you’ve been able to conclude with figures.