The Escalera brothers. Professor Ungasis. Miss Tapia. These are some of the characters that made Iskul Bukol a household name in the ’80s. This popular sitcom centered on the wacky and funny side of campus life. For eleven years, viewers followed the misadventures of Tito Sotto (who played Tito Escalera), Vic Sotto (as Vic Ungasis) and Joey de Leon (as Joey Escalera).
Now, the contemporary version of Iskul Bukol will make its debut tonight, May 24, when it airs after Mga Nagbabagang Bulaklak on TV5.
THE NEW ISKUL BUKOL: KWELANG ESKWELA ’TO. The new generation of Iskul Bukol is a mix of actors and theater talents. Leading the pack are "Kuya" Keempee de Leon, who is an avid fan of the original Iskul Bukol that aired on IBC-13.
His co-stars include Sam YG, Alwyn Uytingco, Jerald Napoles, Rude Valentino, Shawie Cunanan, Barbie Que, Tess Antonio, Lao Rodriguez and Joel Saracho.
In the modern re-imagining of the classic sitcom, there will be new characters introduced to the viewing public.
There’s the good-looking but nerdy Rude Valentino (Fredison Lo), the youngest professor to teach at Wanbol University; the often notorious Balidosa twins Easy (Sam YG) and Chill (Alwyn Uytingco); the student janitor Itor (Jerald Napoles) and the teacher assistant Wacky Roque (Keempee de Leon), a closet homosexual living the double life of a masculine authority among the guys while being the "parlorista bakla" among the girls.
There’s also the sporty chick Shawie Cunanan (Erika Padilla) and the ultra-conservative probinsyana Barbie Que (Regine Angeles).
Adding color to their lives are other characters such as the Wanbol University’s Prefect of Discipline Bongbong Bing (Joel Saracho), the cafeteria owner Aning Francia (Tess Antonio) and her assistant Pet Jacobo (Lao Rodriguez) who either become victims or unknowing accomplices to some of the students’ pranks.
Keempee plays the role of a "closet gay" teacher assistant. His father, Joey de Leon, is part of the Tito, Vic and Joey triumvirate that fueled the success of Iskul Bukol over the years. Joey has advised his son Keempee to "take care of the show’s good name."
Keempee recealled his father’s advice by saying, "Ang sabi lang niya alagaan yung show. Di natin makakaila ilang taong tumakbo...We’re just hoping na tumakbo nang maayos ito."
He added, "We’re doing our best. Lahat naman kami talaga hands-on dito. Even mga artists, kapag may ideas, kinakausap ko ang mga writers, nagbibigay ng idea, similar ito sa kalokohan dati ng Escaleras...para yung characters nila magkaroon lalo ng buhay. Mas kilala pa lalo."
Keempee knows that TV5’s version of Iskul Bukol will inevitably be compared to the original version. "Iba kasi yung characters nung Iskul Bukol original. Hindi mo talaga mapapantayan. Di mo mapapantayan. Pag sinabing Iskul Bukol, Tito, Vic, and Joey lang ’yon."
Keempee learned from his father on how to support his fellow actors when it comes to delivering jokes in their sitcom. "Naandun yung pressure kasi naabutan ko yung Iskul Bukol kaya I have to adjust. Kailangan kong um-adjust din, maging pantay kaming lahat....tulungan ang nangyayari...Siyempre lahat kami, nangapa noong una...this is a new group of stage people...mga artista, tapos pinag-combine pa.
"Una, medyo, rattled kami. Kasi nga, 11 kami, ilalagay mo sa classroom, pag nagbatuhan ng linya, isipin mo...Siguro maganda rin, nahahasa mo ang memory mo, when it comes to lines. Di lang linya mo minemorize mo kundi linya rin ng kabatuhan mo."
He explained, "Minsan naman may ideas akong punch line, gusto kong ibato, ako ang ’feeder,’ ikaw ang magbabato ng punch line. Sabi nga nila sa comedy, may isang ’feeder’ at isang ’punch liner.’
"Nakakalito lang at first. [I suggested] na ibalik lang yung dating script committee. You sit down in one table at magreading tayo. Di tulad ng iba, pagdating sa set, porke’t alam na yung lines, ok, rehearse tayo. The whole script itself, ni-ru-run through namin."
PRESSURED TO BE SUCCESSFUL. When asked if he felt pressured while doing this remake, Keempee admitted, "May pressure kahit papaano. Pero di lang sa akin...dito sa nagbuo ng Iskul Bukol, mga producers. Yung ginagawa namin, talagang kailangan lang ma-introduce ng maayos..."
"Kailangan talaga tulungan...senior ako sa cast. It’s my job na tulungan ang baguhan."
"Inaalala namin yung timeslot. Yun lang ang worry ko personally...Di naman puwedeng sabihing ang tao na magpuyat kayo... Originally, ang Iskul Bukol before ay Tuesday. Sana lang na maisipan nila ng mas maaga [na timeslot]."