Thursday, May 19, 2005

Network War

AFTER the chaos, a more orderly show. Onstage is Bituin Escalante.
AFTER the chaos, a more orderly show. Onstage is Bituin Escalante.
Stampede in Cebu

Posted 10:23pm (Mla time) May 05, 2005
By Bayani San Diego
Inquirer News Service

CEBU CITY -- Fans stampeded in Ayala Center right before an ABS-CBN mall show on Saturday, second day of the network's promo blitz in the southern capital.

Monobloc chairs and pieces of metal railings flew as waves of zealous spectators surged toward the stage.

No one was reported hurt, but the melee left a wailing child or two in its wake, and a frantic lola searched the grounds for her missing bakya.

The same couldn't be said of the stars, who suffered bruises and scratches.

Amy Perez, Roderick Paulate, Nikki Gil, and Angelica Panganiban were among the casualties. But they all shrugged it off as "evidence of the Cebuanos' love and warmth."

"There were so many people, everywhere we went," guest star Rachel Alejandro told the media later in Tambuli Resort, which was likewise swarming with fans even though it was on faraway Mactan island.

To think that homegrown ABS-CBN talents Angela Calina and Jude Bacalso earlier claimed that Cebuano fans "are really not showy (demonstrative)."

On this weekend they were, definitely.

It was obvious that the showdown here between ABS-CBN and GMA 7 (April 29 to May 1) had charged up the local crowd.

The collision has been described variously as "a miting de avance" and "all-out war."

Strewn all over the city were streamers and posters of the two giant networks.

"It really is a lot like an election," said a source from ABS-CBN, "or a fiesta."

"Some of our Cebuano friends were saying this event was bigger than Sinulog," said Charo Santos-Concio, ABS-CBN EVP and Entertainment head. She added: "At the airport in Manila, I told some of our GMA-7 friends: 'This [weekend] will be fun!'"

The revelry, however, smacked of politics.

It was as if the Visayan viewers were being asked to vote which of the country's two top networks is No. 1.

GMA 7 claimed it was No. 1 in Mega Manila; ABS-CBN countered that they were No. 1 all over the country.

Throughout the weekend, they were clearly monitoring each other's movements.

Case in point: Over merienda, "TV Patrol" Central Visayas anchor Leo Lastimosa fumed: "It's sad that our competitor had to resort to dirty tactics, ferrying audiences to the venues in a fleet of buses."

The following day at breakfast, GMA insiders were denying the "dirty tactics" allegation.

It was also a war of words. Charges and counter-charges flew thick and fast.

The GMA camp insisted that ABS-CBN's decision to invade Cebu was a last-minute decision.

ABS-CBN, through Santos-Concio, explained that summer specials have always been a part of the station's annual calendar.

"Every year, we bring our different musical-variety shows like 'ASAP' and 'MTB' to the provinces. It's just that this year, we planned something bigger," Santos-Concio said.

GMA 7, through president and CEO Felipe L. Gozon, reportedly approved a P40-million budget for the blitz only after the head-on collision with ABS-CBN was confirmed.

On the other hand, Santos-Concio insisted: "We just spent our regular budgets [and] got a little help from our friends in Cebu."

Food flowed from host restaurants and vehicles were lent by said Cebuano friends, who also donated streamers and giveaways.

"Aggressiveness is also a function of competition," Santos-Concio said, unperturbed. "And there is nothing wrong with competition."

"Surreal," a talent manager called the Cebu confrontation. "It's palpable proof that there is a raging network war."

Guess who's caught in the crossfire? The hapless masses, of course, who would risk life and limb and brave a stampede for a glimpse of Jericho Rosales and Shaina Magdayao.

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