MANILA, Philippines - People have strongly agreed and disagreed with the commentaries of Studio 23’s Iba-Balita main man Anthony Taberna. But the 36-year-old TV and radio personality thinks that being part of the media industry for roughly two decades now has built his credibility and believability in dispensing opinions on the most burning of issues in the news.
It was at the age of 17, to support his Masscom studies at New Era University, that Anthony got a job first as a part-time writer, then news producer, before becoming reporter for DZEC of Eagle Broadcasting Corp. He even did a program where he acted like some Dr. Love and played music. In 1997, he was “pirated” by ABS-CBN’s DZMM when they were looking for field reporters. In 2000, he joined Gerry Baja in the radio program Ito Ang Radyo Patrol, and this led to their current tandem program Dos Por Dos. The duo’s chemistry clicked with listeners, and their style earned notice for giving otherwise heavy and serious issues a lighter and even humorous take.
Anthony, who’s more popularly called Tunying (it was his father’s nickname which he chose to use after his father died in 2002), carried this style of commentary when he crossed over to TV via Magandang Umaga, Pilipinas in 2005, which eventually became Umagang Kay Ganda wherein he has his own segment Punto Por Punto.
Last year, he was given his solo newscast Iba-Balita. He said that what makes the show stand apart from other primetime news programs is that here he is given the freedom to become more opinionated on issues that they deem important for the viewers to know about and it features an editorial at the end of the program.
One thing you’ll notice about his style is that he engages guests in a subtle manner — he has that proverbial impish smile and smiling eyes — but you won’t miss the hard questions and the bite in the remarks. His work on the newscast earned him the Philippine Movie Press Club award for this year’s Best Male Newscaster. Why did he think he won?
“Perhaps, our friends from the movie press wanted to give the award to the youngest and the most good-looking,” he mused in Filipino before adding, “Maybe it was luck and accompanied by prayers. I guess everyone has his own time (to be recognized).”
Apart from the long years in the industry, he credits his being “opinionated” to the environment where he grew up back in his hometown in Nueva Ecija.
“Siguro dahil ako po ay hampas lupa lang eh,” he said. “Anak po ako ng bus driver, nakatapos lang ng second year high school, ang aking ina nakatapos lang ng elementary. Nakaka-salamuha ko na mga tao ay puro lang opinyon. Yan po yung ginagawa ng mga tao na mga walang trabaho, mga estambay lang at pag-nag-umpukan, opinyon, opinyon, opinyon.”
But from there, he said he was also able to imbibe some intelligent opinions. “You can call them ‘street-smart,’ yun po siguro ang na-absorb ko. Most of my friends were a lot older than me. So even when I was a teenager, I thought and spoke like an adult. Maybe na-develop na at dala-dala ko hanggang ngayon.”
In Iba-Balita, he has asked point-blank some political personalities to apologize for certain actions that they did. But did he ever regret some of his opinions and apologized for them? “Oo, marami pong pagkakataon, pero kasama ho sa paghingi ko ng paumanhin ang panindigan ko sa aking opinyon. I only asked sorry if I’ve hurt their feelings, but pinanindigan ko po yun.”
He shared that it’s stressful having to deal with issues every day, but that very much like his newscasting style, he takes everything with a dose of humor.
How about death threats? “Ay, takot na takot po ako,” he admitted. When he was single, he just shrugged them off. But since he got married to Rossel Velasco, a former model, his attitude towards it took a 360-degree turn. “Mula ng nagkaasawa ako, sabi ko ang ganda ganda ng asawa ko pag namatay ako, mag-aasawa lang to,” he said with a laugh. “Lalong natakot ako, nung nagkaanak kami. I have two young girls (Zoe and Helga). If I’m gone, I’ll be leaving three girls behind.”
There were times when risky assignments were assigned to him so much so his wife would plead him to pass up and give them to someone else. “Pero naisip ko, ano nalang ang itatawag sa akin, pag-nalaman ng mga tao ang pagtiklop ko sa isang challenge?
“I just call them occupational hazards. I haven’t received any death threat now, but I’m still very careful for myself and for my family. I always pray for my family’s and my own safety,” he said.
He admitted that it’s been hard to balance his family life. “Honestly, it’s not balanced. I wake at 4 a.m. I arrive at home 10:30 p.m. Pag-gising ko at pagdating ko, tulog po kadalasan ang mag-ina ko.”
That’s why Saturdays and Sundays are sacred for him, as this is “the only time I can make up for my girls.”
He said the only time he’ll stop being a journalist is when he chooses to retire from the job, and when he can see his children all-grown up, stable and can take care of themselves.
Meantime, Anthony embraces his work — the highs and lows, the upsides and downsides of it. He even shares a dream interview. “Mahina po ako mag-English. I’m working hard on it. But if there’s one person I want to interview na babaunan ko ng maraming English, gusto kong ma-interview si Barack Obama.”
He is fascinated by the story of Obama, from his rise to power to his fall in popularity among Americans. “‘Yung kasaysayan ni Obama ay parang kasaysayan din ng mga ordinaryong Pilipino. ‘Yung kanyang tagumpay at saka kabiguan niya ay gusto kong malasap,” he explained. “Alam niyo po ang laki ng inilaan ng America kay Obama. Kaya noong lumalaban si (Pres. Noynoy Aquino) ay parang inihalintulad kay Obama. Ngayon, ‘yung mukhang pagbagsak niya ay huwag naman po sanang mangyari sa presidente natin ngayon. I want to interview him and maybe we can learn from him. My first question will be: Do you have any regrets running for president?”
Anthony pondered, “I never imagined I would reach where I am now. I started out in journalism as a means of survival. But I have come to truly love my profession.”
Iba-Balita airs weeknights at 9 p.m.