Locally-produced educational children's shows are so rare these days you can count them on the fingers of one hand. The era of childhood favorites Batibot, 5 and Up or Sineskwela airing on a daily basis has long since passed, replaced by foreign anime and cartoons with entertainment rather than education as their primary goal.
This lack of edifying children's programs compounds the shortage of public early childhood care and development institutions in the Philippines. The United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) ‘Education for All by 2015' report states that pre-primary education in the Philippines is available only to 41% of the total population, as most pre-schools are privately owned and concentrated in highly urbanized areas.
This overwhelming need challenged GMA's award-winning News and Public Affairs Group to produce a definitive pre-school education program with the objective of shaping a whole new generation's viewpoint.
The result: Happy Land, a children's program that inspires young viewers to discover happiness despite the bad things in life. In a poverty-stricken tenement, Anna and Buboy—children of OFW parents—discover a portal to Happy Land, a fantasy world where knowledge thrives and problems are systematically solved. The show follows the lives and exploits of Anna and Buboy as they meet the different residents of the tenement—including Muslim and Visayan families—and discover a fantasy world through a magical junk shop inside the compound.
Through Anna and Buboy's story, the show intends to present reality to child viewers—discussing social issues with no pretense or sugarcoating. Happy Land also seeks to address the issue of OFWs by helping its main characters cope with OFW parents, and hopes to impart Filipino values and character education to both children and adult viewers.
Combining animation, digital technology, and live-action photography, Happy Land hopes to bring children to a new level of TV viewing. Aside from the narrative, the show will also teach basic pre-school subjects like Language and the Alphabet, Math, Science, and General Knowledge through independent segments.
Two adorable kids lead Happy Land's cast of characters. Nine year- old Patricia Gayod plays Anna, Buboy's loving sister who acts as a mother to Buboy while their Nanay works as a domestic helper in Hongkong. Meanwhile, six-year-old Jermaine Ulgasan plays Buboy, a quick-witted kid who's very dependent on his older sister. True to real life, Jermaine is a son of an OFW parent. His father works as an engineer in Saudi.
Public Affairs host Love Añover plays Ate Belle, the tenement's friendly repairwoman who can mend everything from broken irons and refrigerators to broken hearts and dreams. Veteran theater and TV actress Joy Viado joins the cast as Tita Auring, Anna and Buboy's strict but loving aunt. Completing the main cast is an animated creature: Mingming, the tenement's resident black cat who will lead the children on their journey through Happy Land.
Kid viewers will also get the chance to meet "Bulatelino," an intelligent, talking earthworm who will teach kids anything and everything about Science. Youngsters also get to learn more about geography as Popoy and Cocoy, Happy Land's mice duo, bring them to all sorts of places through their segment "Mga Dagang Gala."
Happy Land is directed by acclaimed film and television director, Bb. Joyce Bernal.
Discover happiness, learn new things, and have fun all at the same time as the newest addition to GMA News and Public Affairs' roster of award-winning programs airs this June!
Happy Land's pilot episode on GMA-7 airs next Saturday, June 6, from 9:30 - 10:00 am.