The Philippines may be known to foreigners for its lush beaches and landscapes, but it's not exactly a “top-of-mind” travel destination when it comes to exotic fauna.
So why the heck is Kim Atienza always dressed like an African safari tour guide?
The It’s Showtime co-host explained to PEP (Philippine Entertainment Portal) his signature style, which has now ultimately become a part of his life, in an interview held July 9 after he was introduced as the new endorser of Omron, a blood pressure monitor brand.
“Kuya Kim inherited Ka Ernie’s position, e, it just so happened that I have a hat,” he said about how it all began when he took over the position of the late Knowledge Power host and TV Patrol weather reporter Ernie Baron.
Kim started his television career as a voice dubber for Tagalized Japanese cartoons, and later on joined ABS-CBN’s News and Current Affairs group.
He quickly gained popularity with his animal trivia spot on primetime news, and since then, he became known to the masses as Kuya Kim.
“It mutated. It started out as Steve Irwin,” referring to the late Australian documentary show host, who became famous for his dangerous encounters with crocodiles and other wild animals.
Kim continued, “I was always wearing khaki. I was copying Steve, pananalita ni Steve Irwin ginagaya rin namin noong una.
“And then, nag-mutate, e. Eventually, I was doing people. I was interviewing people, tapos hindi na khaki. Dahil tao na ang kausap ko, hindi na naka-safari.
“Medyo naka-Ralph Lauren na suot ko dati noon.
“And then, nilagay ako sa weather. Sa weather, iba naman, Ka Ernie na ako noon.
“Pero hindi na puwedeng alisin iyong sumbrero kasi, ano iyan, e, parang shades ni Randy Santiago. Pag tinanggalan mo ng shades, weird, e. Pag walang sumbrero, naa-ano sila, na-o-off sila, e.”
Since 2006, Kuya Kim’s presence transcended from news and current affairs—TV Patrol, Umagang Kay Ganda, and Matanglawin—to entertainment, via the morning variety Showtime.
“Sa Showtime naman, kailangan magbihis ako ng mas bata-bata at magmumukha akong lolo [ng co-hosts].
“I couldn’t understand at first because in the news, I was the young one. Kasama ko si Ted Failon, Noli de Castro… ako’ng bata doon, e.
“Pagdating sa Showtime, ‘Lolo, lolo…’ tinatawag akong lolo. And then I realized, si Anne [Curtis] nga pala, 25, si Vhong, 36. Kalahati iyon ng edad ko.”
Kuya Kim finally let go of his khakis and started donning colorful sports shirts and casual polo shirts for the noontime show.
“But the hat is the constant,” he asserts.
THE HAT. Aside from being a signature accessory, there is also something extra-special about Kuya Kim’s hat.
“This is called the Safari Stetson hat, and I buy it from one company in South Africa. It’s called The Rogue Company. You cannot buy this in stores.
“I wrote to them, and they send me a supply every year. I finish up about maybe six hats a year.”
There’s also a cool back story as to how Kuya Kim ended up picking this particular style of hat.
He tells, “I first wore this hat when I went on safari before my TV days.
“I went on safari in Africa with my wife, we were newly-married. And then I went to a safari in Botswana, I bought this in a store, in a souvenir store.
“When I was experimenting with people, with image, I said, ‘Maganda to, a.’
“Sinubukan kong palitan. Australian hats are easy, e, pangit, e. Malaki ang brim. At saka bumabagsak, pangit sa TV.
“Ito kasi, parang plantsado—hindi nagbabago, hindi malaki, hindi mukhang cowboy.”
With an average of six hats used each year, Kuya Kim says he amassed quite a lot already, and to update his inventory, he would usually give some of the hats away for charity auctions or as a gift to special people.
Beyond style and fashion, Kuya Kim’s meticulous attention to the kind of hat he wears is more of a reflection of his passion for work.
“‘Kim, mahalin mo ang trabahong minahal ko katulad ng buhay ko,’ that was his advice to me,” he said, quoting from his last conversation with Ernie Baron.
And knowing that he is practically living his “second life” now after he survived a mild stroke in 2011, Kuya Kim says he is simply “living in the now.
“I’m a ‘now person,’ e. I like what’s happening now, and I don’t worry so much about the future. I’m always in the now,” Kim proudly declares.