In Depth With Boy Abunda

Monday May 1, 2017

MU: Mr. Abunda can you tell us about yourself? Which province, if any, schools you attended and the family you come from?

BA: My popular name is Boy Abunda. My full first name is Eugenio. There was a time in my life when I wasn’t so comfortable with Eugenio, only for me to realize that it means a lot to have the name ‘Eugene’ (in English), it translates to the word ‘genius’. I hail from Borongan, Eastern Samar. Borongan is the capital city of Eastern Samar in region 8. I went to the Borongan Pilot Elementary School. But before that I studied first grade in a very, very small barrio, it is a remote town in Eastern Samar, Can-avid. I spent my first grade at the Barok Elementary School, where my Nanay (mother) was a public school teacher. Thereafter, it was at the Borongan elementary school where I studied from the 2nd through the 6th grade. I spent 4 years of high school at the Seminario de Jesus Nazareno. And then, for college, proceeded to the Ateneo de Manila University. My father said that even if they were not rich, he would work so I can study where Rizal (our national hero) studied. My father passed on when I was in my second year of college. I quit school because I needed to work. I was lost. I did menial jobs from opening doors at restaurants to selling encyclopedias and fire extinguishers and became a tourist guide. I did all sorts of things until I found my way to the theater. In the theater, I was a production assistant. There was a time when production assistants were called assistant stage managers. And then, the great Conching Sunico discovered me. She told me to go to her office one day, and asked me to become part of her public relations office. That’s how I started. I eventually became the Director of Public Relations of the Metropolitan Theater. I became a member of the board, I think I was 22 or 23 years old. I familiarized myself with the discipline of public relations. From there I left the (Metropolitan) theater, and set up my own company. I began with one typewriter “lumang, luma” (very old), and worked in a small space, it wasn’t even the size of an apartment, it was just a small room. I started handling talents, and became a publicist. To make a long story short, I started representing the likes of Kuh Ledesma, Regine Velasquez, Martin Nievera, Zsa Zsa Padilla, Apo Hiking Society, and many more entertainers. Name a singer in the country, and it’s likely that I was their publicist at some point. From being a publicist, I became an artist manager. Then I set up Backroom Inc. where I represented, among others, the likes of Ariel Rivera, Monique Wilson, (of Miss Saigon fame), Dawn Zulueta, Gretchen Barretto, Kris Aquino, Ai Ai delas Alas, Erik Santos, Bianca Gonzalez, Drew Arellano, Mariel Rodriguez Padilla. I still manage most of them. Backroom, the business has stopped operating, but I opened up a new office, which is called the Asian Artists’ Agency Inc. In short, that’s the story of my life and career. About his show “Tonight with Boy Abunda” (Mon to Friday late nights) and showbiz career

MU: Who was your most fascinating guest?

BA: Every star I hosted at “Tonight with Boy Abunda”(TWBA) is fascinating, each one is a peculiar and unique character. But the first names to come to mind are Mariel Rodriguez, Bianca, and Toni Gonzaga, it was really fun having them as guests then I did an episode with the three girls. Also one in show biz, the most fascinating was the interview I did with sister Christine Tan. She passed on, she was a great woman, a great nun. She came to my show not knowing who I was. I think she was sent by her congregation to “Private Conversations” with Boy Abunda, because they had a project they wanted to promote, I don’t remember exactly why she was on my show. “Private Conversations” with Boy Abunda was live, so the first 10-12 minutes of the show were daunting, grueling, because I didn’t know where to go, what to do, what to say, or what to ask. Christine answered my questions with a word or two. It was a really, really difficult interview. But right after the first break, I prayed to God “Lord, help me, I don’t know what to do, where to go”. When a guest doesn’t give much, it becomes a challenge for the host. So I continued praying and I prepared for the interview. I did so much research for that interview which was interesting. The, during the second part, we started talking about her advocacy. And about her love. I asked, “Tell me what you know about love, Sister?”. She said “Love for God, Christ. I do what I do because I love God”. Then I asked, “Did you fall in love before you became a nun?” She answered “Yes, of course”. That broke the ice. Then we began a wonderful, fascinating conversation. Unforgettable!

MU: Did any of your guests get you in trouble with the Movie and Television Review and Classification Board (MTRCB)?

BA: Many! No specific guests did, but there were some episodes that had us go to the MTRCB. I remember once when we were called for a particular episode. The “Buzz” was my afternoon show at 4:00 o’clock. There was feud among a whole family including children. We did some stories that got us into trouble. Actually, I don’t remember specific guests, but when doing a live show, one can control what happens only up to a certain point. What your guests say and what happen, are beyond your control. What I cannot forget was an episode I did for “Controversial”. I did political stories in that particular show. Somebody, whom I don’t remember, brought us to court. We fought well against these court cases filed against us. I was summoned to the ‘sala’ of a judge in Quezon City. After watching an episode I did on “Controversial”, the judge wrote me a letter asking me to explain why I should not be cited for contempt because I conducted an interview with a minor. I remember going to a great lawyer Kathrina Legarda, a very good friend of mine, and I sought her advice on what I should do. She just told me to write a letter to explain my side of the story. I remember writing a personal letter to the judge. I wrote, “When I did that interview, her lawyer was less than a meter away from the child. I had raw footage of the interview that proved that the lawyer was present and also beside her client. I also remember asking “Am I actually allowed to do this interview?” It was recorded on tape because I was aware that the girl was a minor. We got into a lot of trouble, but I don’t remember having done anything on air to intentionally discredit,malign or destroy the reputation of anyone. We got into trouble because of technicalities, and because of some events on the Buzz that were beyond our control. We negotiated with some guests who were displeased with the way we did our shows. I remember being called by the Vice President for news, asking how and what happened to the final version of an interview. It’s territorial, it happens. And among the hazards of the trade.

MU: Who was your smartest guest?

BA: One that comes to my mind is Deepak Chopra, a new age philosopher. The very first episode of “Private Conversations with Boy Abunda” was with him. I also interviewed Victor Hansen, author of “Chicken Soup for the Soul”. I had some brilliant guests, the likes of whom are Kris Aquino, Cherie Gil and former President Gloria Arroyo, who was extremely brilliant. I invited her when she was still the Vice President, and she came to the show when she was the President of the country.

MU: Has anyone during your career as show host, walk out on you during an interview?

BA: I did a lot of “sensitive” interviews with so many people, but so far no one has walked out. Maybe one or two of my guests got offended but so far no one walked out.

MU: Who was the most fascinating international celebrity you have interviewed?

BA: Deepak Chopra whom I had mentioned earlier. And Sarah Jessica Parker, I think she was fascinating. I was given about 12 minutes to do the interview, but they moved the interview to an earlier time, so I was late and was only given 6 minutes to do the interview. When the six minutes were up, she told me “No, you can continue because I’m enjoying the interview”. Despite my reluctance, she wanted me to ask her more questions. She then turned to the producers and said “Why don’t you allow interviews like this to go on MANILA UP! for longer?”. I won’t forget her. Ben Stiller was interesting, I interviewed Jennifer Lopez thrice. Jackie Chan and Ben Affleck were both interesting too. Adam Sandler was very, very smart. Cameron Diaz was also fascinating. There was a time in my career when I was doing junkets like these once a month until it became so tiring.

MU: How many talents do you manage, aside from Kris and Ai Ai. How is the pressure in this type of business?

BA: Approximately, we have anywhere between 20 to 30 talents. (The pressure) is crazy. If you give into the pressure, you go crazy. It’s too much. It’s a business of projection, it’s a business of ego, it’s a business of beauty, it’s a business of stars, it’s a business of ‘has-beens’, it’s a mind game. Weaker souls have no space in this business. It’s crazy, but it’s also fun. It can also be fulfilling. The entertainment business, at least in this country, is a space between heaven and hell, closer to hell depending on what stage you’re on. It can also be closer to heaven, when you can make unknowns into superstars, that can be fulfilling.

MU: Who, in your opinion are the most beautiful local celebrities in ABS-CBN? Outside ABS-CBN?

BA: First name that pops into my mind is Liza Soberano. That girl is beautiful. Outside of ABS-CBN, I like Bea Valdes, it’s the whole package. Of course, there is Gretchen Barretto and Dawn Zulueta. The nice thing is that these girls are beautiful inside and out. And of course, there is my best friend, Kris Aquino, who I think has one of the most beautiful skin in the world. b. Outside Showbiz

MU: Do you have political plans? In what province or city?

BA: I am the only one in my family who is not into politics. My father was in small town politics. My mother, after being a public school teacher, got into politics. My sister right now is in her third term as the Mayor of Borongan City, my birthplace. There have been invitations for me to run as the governor or congressman for Eastern Samar. There were times when I actually seriously considered running in our district. Right now my answer to you is a “No”, but my doors are not closed.

MU: What is your chosen charity work?

BA: I’m proud of my foundation called Make Your Mama Proud (MYMP). I’m very passionate about this foundation. Our motto is: ‘To make your Nanay proud, be the best of who you are, be the best in all that you do, and it’ll make her proud’. Can you imagine a world where each one consciously makes his or her nanay proud? What a wonderful world would this be.

MU: What are your hobbies outside of showbiz?

BA: I play badminton. I play tennis. I love reading books. You can leave me in an island with books of Angelu or Gabriele Garcia Marquez and I will be fine. Now, I’m reading a lot of books on political theories and social development because last year, I finished my doctoral degree with a PHD in Social Development.

MU: What do you think of the current Duterte administration?

BA: I’ll put it this way, the President and his government need a lot of support, our support. I would take it the other way around, we need to be active citizens. Was it Kennedy, who said about active citizenry? “Ask what the country can do for you, but what you can do for the country.” It’s too early, he’s been in the office for 8 months. Let’s give it a chance. I love this country. I believe him when he says he loves this country. I believe it when he says he will kill and die for this country. So I’ll take it from there. But this is a time in our lives when we have to choose to be the best citizens we can be. This government, this President, our President, needs our help. Credits to: Elna Villaflor, Tim Parks, Edith Pendleton Special thanks to Mr. Boy Abunda and to his staff

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