The Wowowee staff and their no-turning-back decision to join Willing Willie

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Willie Revillame's (top, right) departure from ABS-CBN caused an exodus among Wowowee's former staff members—(top, from left) Sagat Pomantok (former utility man) and Natchie de Jesus (former chargen programer); (middle, from left) Julieta Bocong (seamstress), Gloria Odulio (seamstress), Demetria Alawigan (laundrywoman), and Mel Vicentuan (seamstress); (bottom, from left) Mama Berns (makeup artist), Elaine Resurreccion (production coordinator),


Willing Willie is going to be the reincarnation of Wowowee.

Aside from having the same host, most of the people who will run it came from the defunct show of ABS-CBN.

The exodus took place in August.

But Willie Revillame quickly clarified in an exclusive interview with PEP (Philippine Entertainment Portal): "Kusang loob po silang umalis. Hindi ko po sila tinawag o pinangakuan ng kahit na ano."

This was echoed by the people who made a no-turning-back decision for the love of this man they fondly call "kuya."

FLOOR DIRECTOR. The bubbly guy with a headset left Pilipinas Win na Win!, the noontime show that replaced Wowowee, barely two weeks after the new show's launch.

His name is Owen Ercia. "Floor director po ako ng Wowowee for five years since day one. And then, nawala lang ako nung nawala yung show. Nag-stay ako ng two weeks sa Win na Win, pero nag-decide ako na mag-join kay kuya talaga para sa bagong show and bagong buhay," he began.

Owen recalled that in the beginning, he was more scared of 49-year-old host-comedian than starstruck.

"Nung una, may konting takot kasi Willie Revillame, e. 'Tapos, natatakot ka na baka konting mali, e, masisigawan ka," he said.

He had his share of the "nasigawan" moments with Willie. "Kapag may palpak ka, hindi niya palalampasin yun. Perfectionist kasi siya, e, and maganda naman lagi ang nagiging outcome ng pagiging perfectionist niya kasi maganda ang mga segment, maganda yung show. Kasi kung hindi siya ganun, hindi siya magiging istrikto, siguro, parang magiging parelax-relax lang kami, e," Owen explained.

He also said he has no control over the public's general perception about his boss. "May mga kuwento na kesyo ganito raw siya o ganun pero karamihan, may sobra."

One story he validated was Willie's alleged preference to cover the pathway leading to his studio with white cloth, so no one would block his way. "Sa dressing room lang yun," Owen corrected. "Mahigpit talaga ang security dun kasi nakaka-distract nga naman kapag nagtatrabaho ka, nagra-run yung show, 'tapos may haharang para magpa-picture, di ba."

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Continuing his line of thought, "Actually, yun ang tingin ng mga tao sa kanya, mayabang, kasi 'yong way ng pananalita niya sa TV. Pero para sa akin, hindi siya mayabang. Nagiging totoo lang siya kasi yun siya, e."

The real Willie, according to him, is "masayang katrabaho."

During briefings and rehearsals, the boss would have punch lines that would leave the staff in stitches. He added, "Nag-i-enjoy talaga kaming lahat."

Another come-on for the floor director is his familiarity with the host's work style.

He elaborated, "Ngayon, sanay na ako, sanay na ako sa kanya. Alam ko na yong mga gusto niya. Yung tipong habang nag-su-show, isang tingin lang niya sa akin habang umeere, titingnan niya ako, alam ko na ang gagawin ko."

His motivation to work harder diminished the minute he learned that there was only a slim chance the charming host would return. Owen felt, "Nawalan ako ng gana. Nag-iba talaga, e. Yung energy sa studio, bumaba. Okay naman yung mga pumalit na hosts. Mababait din sila, pero mapapansin mo, talagang yung energy sa studio, bumaba."

During that period, he made the decision that if given the chance to work with "kuya" again, "sasama ako sa kanya."

And that was what happened after hearing from Willie, to whom he had been sending text messages since the controversial host filed an indefinite leave. Owen resigned. "Hindi ako nagdalawang-salita, sumama ako sa kanya."

When he left, along with 25 other people, the rumors began brewing. Some claimed that joining Willie has more perks than staying with the Kapamilya network.

Owen refuted the allegations, "Alam mo, maniwala ka o hindi, hindi talaga pera ang dahilan ko. May increase, meron yung usual benefits, pero ang mas na-excite ako ay yung papasok ako sa isang studio na lahat ng tao, masaya."

Then with palpable adulation, he said, "Ewan, parang santo na siya, o isang kulto na sinasamba ng mga tao ."

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But did Willie offer "house and lot courtesy of Camella Homes?"

"Hindi," Owen said. "Ano yun...mga housing loan. Maganda rin naman talaga na yung bahay, pinaghihirapan mo. So, ang ginawa ni kuya Willie, eventually, magkaroon ng housing loan kasi gusto niya kaming lahat ng staff, lahat ng nagtatrabaho sa kanya, my sariling bahay, sariling kotse. So, eventually magkakaroon ng housing loan na maganda ang deal."

SEGMENT PRODUCER. Natchie de Jesus worked with ABS-CBN for 20 years.

The former chargen operator of Channel 2 related, "Right after college, nag-ABS na ako kaagad. Lahat ng daily shows na live, hawak ko 'yong chargen, 'yong naglalagay ng pangalan ng contestant, credits, at 'yong sinasabi ng artista on the spot."

She had the chance to work with Mel Tiangco and Jay Sonza, Korina Sanchez, Boy Abunda, Kris Aquino, to name few. But it was Willie who made her feel like she's part of a family.

She explained, "Hindi mo masabi through words. Kung sa trato kasi, hindi mo kailangang i-detail [pero] mapi-feel mo na lang ganun. Kahit utility may place siya. Pag outing, tatawagan at kailangan kasama siya. Hindi tulad ng iba, di ba, the usual—kung sino lang yung major staff, yun lang ang kasama. Sa kanya, lahat, halimbawa, nagbigay siya ng something sa EP [executive producer], iyon din ang matatanggap ng utility hanggang sa amin. Pantay-pantay, walang mas mataas."

And as far as work is concerned, "Gusto lang niya, pasok ka ng maaga. Mas maganda nga yung ganung istrikto, at least ikaw, madidisiplina ka kaysa pa-easy-easy."

When Willie left last May, she started experiencing burnout. "Yung routine mo na lang, gigising ka, papasok ka," Natchie said.

She said she never lost touch with the host. She resumed, "Tini-text namin siya, parang kinukumusta namin. Tinatanong namin siya, 'Kelan ka babalik?'"

It was August 14 when she, along with the some staff members of the defunct noontime show, had the chance to bond with "kuya" again.

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Natchie recounted, "May mga nakakita po sa amin sa coaster. Pumunta po kami ng Tagaytay, at yung Wil Tower [across ABS-CBN] and meeting place namin."

That meeting created quite a stir, and afterwards, she claimed that some people in the network began questioning their "loyalty," and labeling those who joined the out-of-town trip.

Next thing that happened, "Tinanggalan ako ng access."

According to Natchie, before she left, her access card was working "pero nung sumama ako sa kanila, wala na."

Next thing she knew, "Pina-resign [po kami]."

In a mild tone, she continued her story, "It was a choice between Willie or ABS-CBN. Kung ABS ka, okay. Kung Willie ka, goodbye. It's better na rin siguro...Actually, parang pinadali na lang din nila, di ba. Yun nga lang na-aano lang kami, nagawa naman namin lahat 'yong...may clearance naman kami, bakit ang pinapalabas nila terminated?"

She underlined two things:

First, "Nag-resign po kami. Nagwo-work lang kami, [then] right after, ang dami ng label sa amin. May mga nagsasabing terminated kami, pero nag-resign kami. Nagbigay kami ng resignation."

Second, "Never niya [Willie] sinabi na, 'Sumama kayo sa akin.' Never siya nanghikayat, na wala siyang kontrata. Sabi lang ni kuya, 'Magtiwala.' Wala...Hindi kami nanigurong may kontrata siya, basta sumama lang kami sa kanya. Kasi, kasama na rin 'yong burnout ko sa office. Twenty years, same thing 'tapos wala namang progress, ganun. Kaya siguro, after 20 years, time to move on, 'tapos ito yung opportunity."

Natchie affirmed that she's very happy with her choice. Aside from the fact that she got promoted to the post of segment producer, "nagwo-work ka na, happy ka pa," she exclaimed happily.

She knew that becoming a Kapatid is a no-turning-back decision, but with much enthusiasm, she said, "We're in good hands."

VTR PLAYBACK OPERATOR. The fate of Clara Magno was similar to Natchie's.

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Before leaving ABS-CBN, where she had been an employee for 19 years, she worked as the "VTR playback operator ng lahat ng shows po sa ABS-CBN na live, like ASAP, SNN, Entertainment Live, The Buzz, Wowowee dati, saka Win na Win."

She also mentioned, "After ko ma-graduate, nanganak po muna ako. After three months nung nanganak, nag-ABS na po ako."

Last August 16, right after the live telecast of PWW, she ended her ties with the network.

Clara narrated, "Tinanong na kami ng EP sa ibaba, 'Sasama ba kayo o hindi?' 'Tapos kinabukasan, sabi ng EP, 'Sabihin mo, Ate Claire, na hindi ka sasama kasi wala ka nang work bukas.' Hindi ko kayang magsinungaling."

Her eventual decision was to leave.

She admitted, "May plano naman, nagulat [lang] kami kasi parang today kami kinausap, today na rin magri-resign. Kaya nga po, walang due process 'tapos ni singko, wala po kaming nakukuha kahit isa. Pero okay lang, kaysa naman mag-stay pa kami na ilang taon, ganun naman ang trato."

When asked why her previous company would do that, Clara's nonchalant answer: "Loyalty issue daw po kasi, e...Parang sumakay kami sa coaster ni kuya, hindi na kami puwedeng pumasok."

As she was recalling her transfer from ABS-CBN to TV5, her tone no longer bore hurt.

Aside from the fact that "kay kuya Willie na kami," she exclaimed, "Sobrang saya po kasi 'yong binigay ni kuya sa aking suweldo, natumbasan niya yung limang shows ko sa ABS—sobra pa.

"'Yong limang shows na 'yan—Monday to Sunday—pumapasok ako mula 10 ng umaga hanggang 12 midnight. Samantalang dito, sa kanya lang. 'Tapos pinapayagan pa niya akong rumaket saTV5.

"Noong sumuweldo po kami nung isang araw [September 15 payday], di po ako makatulog, parang totoo ba ito? Nag-text ako kay kuya nung gabi 'tapos kinabukasan, sabi ko kay kuya, 'Di ako nakatulog.'"

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Lastly, she beamed, "'Saka simula po nung nawala si kuya, di na kami masaya, so, kung nasa'n po si kuya, sumama kami. Siya 'yong boss namin, exciting!"

PRODUCTION COORDINATOR. ElaineResurreccionis a registered nurse, who was given the chance to give production a shot by Willie.

Her story: "Kasi umuwi ako for a vacation from Canada 'tapos, nanood ako sa kanya. 'Tapos sabi niya, tinanong niya ako kung gusto ko dito. Two weeks pa ako bago nakapag-decide, kasi nurse ako sa Canada for two years 'tapos nagbakasyon. Balewala sa kanya 'yong natapos mo, kung saan ka nanggaling. Basta bibigyan ka niya ng trust once he sees na meron kang potential na kaya mo yung ipapagawa niya."

She accepted the job—which requires her to close ex-deal arrangements for the needs of the show, and help coordinate anything that has to do with logistics—and became happy that she did.

She said, "Sobrang happy ako kasi, binigyan niya ako ng tiwala na ganun...'Tsaka masaya, parang three months pa lang ako nun sa Wowowee nun, sinama na niya ako sa world tour..."

When she learned that Willie would no longer go back to show, "para kaming nawalan ng tatay na hindi [kami] makapag-function nang maayos."

So one day after working for PWW, "Nag-resign po ako."

PRODUCTION ASSISTANT. "My name is Giminiano C. Pomantok, but you can call me Sagat," was his cheerful self-introduction.

When asked about his job title, his smile grew even wider: "Ngayon po, production assistant na. Dati po, isa po akong utility. Nine years ako dun sa [ABS-CBN]."

"Masayang-masaya po ako. Kahit po sino dito, Ma'am, masaya. At 'yong loyalty ko sa kanya, kay kuya... Ang tao kasi pag nagtatrabaho ka, malalaman mo kung hindi ka na masaya.

"Kaya ako mula't mula nung na sa kanya ako, masaya ako talaga. Nakakatawa ako, 'tapos nung nawala, parang ano na nga ako, squatter na nga ako..."

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He said even before Willie said goodbye to ABS-CBN for good, he already assured his boss that whatever happens, Sagat's loyalty would be with him.

"Nag-text lang po ako sa kanya. Nagpapasalamat po ako. Nung time na yun na malabo pa...Pero ang usapan namin nun, nagbibiruan, 'Ikaw, Sagat, sasama ka ba sa akin?' [Sabi ko], 'Sige po, Sir, basta isasama n'yo po ako," the PA related.

When asked why he's loyal to Willie, he said that in so many ways, the man has inspired him.

"Ako kasi yung parang butler niya. Mas matagal ko siyang nakakasama pagkatapos ng show. Nandoon lang siya [sa dressing room], yung tipo ng tao na tahimik talaga pero nag-iisip. Iniisip niya yung para sa show, para sa tao, kung ano yung maibibigay pa niya..." described Sagat

He added, "Si kuya, professional. Alam mo yung kapag trabaho, trabaho gusto niya, tutok siya. Trabaho ko ito, mahal ko ito, ganun siya..."

And Sagat's promise to his kuya Willie: "Iba 'yong binigay na posisyon sa akin ngayon, kaya dapat lang na suklian ko yun. Hindi obligasyon. Alam mo sa sarili mo, dapat gawin mo yung tama."

THE SEAMTRESSES AND LAUNDRYWOMAN. Four more ladies joined Willie's group—seamstresses Gloria Odulio, Mel Vicentuan, and Juneta Bocong, plus laundrywoman Demetria Alawigan.

All of them worked for the Kapamilya network for 13 years, providing their services to all shows. But Wowowee became their favorite.

Mrs. Odulio said, "Sumisilip [kami] sa studio kapag opening po. 'Tapos tatawagin po niya kami, 'O, mga nanay, kape muna.' Lahat walang maiiwan—maliit ka man—lahat ng staff..."

All of them saw the surge of Willie's career from being one of the hosts of Magandang Tanghali Bayan to making Wowowee synonymous with his name. But, "hindi po siya nagbago," said Mrs. Alawigan.

He added, "Kahit ganito lang kami, hindi niya kami itinuring na maliit na tao mula noon hanggang ngayon. Hindi nakalimot sa amin, kahit nasaan siya, nandoon din kami. Hindi kami pinapabayaan. Kahit nawalan siya ng show, nandudoon pa rin, pinapatawag niya kami. Binibigyan kami ng pera o ano mang bagay. Sinasabi namin ang problema namin sa kanya. Si Willie napakabait ng tao na 'yan."

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All of them resigned voluntarily "kasi mahal namin siya."

Mrs. Bocong said they never lost touch with Willie's trusted accountant Tess Mationg since the TV host filed his indefinite leave. It was only last August that they received positive feedback from "Ate Tess."

Mrs. Bocong said, "Masayang-masaya na kami kapag nakapiling na namin siya. Kung ano po yung ibibigay niya, yun po ang tatanggapin namin. Pero hindi po kami masaya dun sa kinalalagyan namin simula nung nawala siya. Kasi alam mo, pinapatawag kami kaya kapag may party, tawagan ang mga mananahi, tawagan ang mga nanay. Napakabait niyang tao."

And all of them want to be part of Willie's success.

In tears, Mrs. Odulio told PEP: "Lahat nang kabutihan niya sa akin, hindi ko makakalimutan. Kaya nga, kahit anong hirap nun, kahit hindi niya ako bigyan, sumama ako sa kanya. Kasi, alam mo, napakalapit ng loob ko diyan. Ang turing niya sa akin, parang totoo niyang nanay. Kaya kapag nasasaktan 'yan, naiiyak ako...Talagang hindi namin makakalimutan habang buhay, mamamatay kami na dala namin ang pagmamahal sa kanya."

Mrs. Bocong seconded, "Gusto ko lang sana itong programa namin magtagumpay para pare-pareho kaming masaya. Kaya lagi ko siyang ipinagdarasal na magtagumpay sana ang aming show at lagi kong ipinadarasal na huwag siyang magkakasakit kasi marami siyang naitutulong sa amin."

For her part, Mrs. Vicentuan promised loyalty and commitment: "Kahit saan man siya, hahanapin namin siya, handa kaming lagi para sa kanya. Sana itong show na ito, magwagi para nandito rin kami."

Mrs. Alawigan added in jest, "Sabi namin kay kuya, 'Kung saan man siya magpunta, sasama kami. Hindi ka namin iiwan. Huwag lang sa abroad kasi wala kaming pamasahe."

ABS-CBN REFUSES TO COMMENT. Last September 19, PEP spoke to Mr. Bong Osorio, head of ABS-CBN's corporate communications, over the phone.

We relayed to him the stories of some former employees of Channel 2 about allegedly losing access to their respective departments even if they hadn't resigned yet and leaving without separation pay.

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Mr. Osorio politely refused to comment. "Tingnan muna natin ang mga pangyayari," he said.

Should ABS-CBN eventually decide to issue a statement, PEP will readily publish it.


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