There is an episode every year that we all dreaded. No, not the traditional SONA spoof. It is when it's time for the kids—or as we call them Bulilits—to graduate. Seeing them cry while singing a tribute song in all their little tuxes and gowns, makes us, the staff, cry too. Little did we know, that the show itself would graduate and take a bow as well soon after.
Last July 25, I posted on Instagram and Facebook asking fans and those involved with the show to share their "Kwentong Bulilit," using the hashtags #AngHulingDalawangLinggo and #GoodBabyeBulilit. I didn’t expect the amount of engagement it would receive. That post made it to the online versions of broadsheets, and even Fashion Pulis! Suddenly, everyone is talking about our little show, leaving the comments section with crying emojis and sharing how they grew up with it. The show changed their lives or made their Sunday early evenings complete.
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One post in particular became viral on its own. Spoken poetry writer and performer Juan Miguel Severo wrote on Twitter: “Goin’ Bulilit isn’t just a show with cute kids. It’s also arguably the most political comedy show since Abangan Ang Susunod na Kabanata. It’s been—on countless occasions—the child at the end of The Emperor’s New Clothes, shamelessly poking fun at the stupidity of adults.”
That post made me ecstatic because that last part of Severo’s tweet sums up the show. As much as Goin’ Bulilit is a comedy gag show in the veins of Saturday Night Live or its sister show Banana Sundae, for us it isn’t just a children’s show. It's a comedy program with children playing as adults hence the disclaimer at the beginning of every episode: “This show… is for adults also.” It's an indictment of the frailties of adults and society. The bulilits spoof the trivialities of everyday life and the trending kapalpakan of the elders.
Just this March, during the election campaign period, we made a two-part episode spoof of Abangan Ang Susunod na Kabanata. The cast members played all the classic characters from the show, from Congresswoman Barbara Tengco to the flamboyant Benny. The episode arc touched on class division, political dynasty, nuisance candidates, and vote buying.
In July, an episode had the kids playing fishermen that were harassed by a bigger boat, a parody of the Reed Bank incident. A clip from that skit in the episode went viral, earning praises for the children and the staff for being woke and having guts. “When Goin’ Bulilit makes a better point than some politicians. Makes actual funny jokes too,” goes Twitter user Caryl Angeli. “IDK if all these Goin Bulilit excerpts are legit pero damn when the best political satire on TV comes from a kids’ comedy show it really says something, huh?” opines another Twitter user Ralph Flores.
Well, IDK either. I think funny things are all around us, from a senator winning an election through a novelty dance to spokespeople trying to spin every word that the powers that be say. Perhaps the real irony is, in this climate of uncertainty and political turmoil, people still need a comedy show to slap them, and wake them to their senses.
When our director, Edgar "Bobot" Mortiz and producer/champion Linggit Tan-Marasigan conceptualize the show, they saw it as a program that would hit two birds with one stone: a gag show in the tradition of the 90s hit Ang TV, and a training ground for the country’s future stars. The latter goal was fulfilled; the likes of Kathryn Bernardo, Julia Montes, Sharlene San Pedro, Nash Aguas, Miles Ocampo, Jane Oineza, John Manalo, Igiboy Flores, Mika dela Cruz, Kiray Celis, Katrina Legaspi, Eliza Pineda, CJ Navato, Kristel Fulgar, Alexa Ilacad, EJ Jallorina, Clarence Delgado, Mutya Orquia, and Heart Ramos had their beginnings in the show.
For the past 14 years, Goin’ Bulilit has left its mark in its parent channel ABS-CBN and in Philippine entertainment. For every MMK episode that features a kid, there’s a bulilit. For every teleserye or movie lead that needs a younger version of the protagonist, there’s a bulilit. For every teleserye with a kid at the center (like Sophia Reola as Mikmik now in Nang Ngumiti Ang Langit), there’s a bulilit. For a TV commercial that targets kids, the classic “Makulay Ang Buhay sa Sinabawang Gulay” campaign for example, there’s a bulilit.
For the children, some bulilits even became somewhat of their first teacher, teaching them how to read or count through the best-selling My First Lessons with Jollibee videos. When a parent with a kid learns that I write for the show, the first thing that they ask is “Can I audition my kid?” Early Sunday nights are so synonymous with the show that some families either go to church early in the afternoon or late in the evening, just to catch it.
Personally, Goin Bulilit gave me a lot to be thankful for. It gave me a second family for life. I’ve found my best friend in our P.A. Camille Mortiz. For us, the kids we guide from five years old to their teens become our friends, and their parents, become our kumpare and kumare. My first ever airplane trip was during an out of town shoot in Davao. And my first out of the country trip was when we shot in Hong Kong. The show brought me to different places I could only dream of, from zip-lining in Palawan and rough riding in the sand dunes of Paoay to trekking the Great of Wall of China in Beijing to eating street food in the streets of Myeongdong in Seoul. Goin’ Bulilit showed me the world.
As a theater and movie musical fan, writing the musicals in the show is another dream come true. Recreating musical numbers inspired by everything from Dreamgirls and Phantom of the Opera to The Greatest Showman and La La Land to Glee to K-Pop to Pinoy girlbands, feed my artistic cravings. Oftentimes I had to rewrite lyrics for them. Sometimes, I even got to choreograph the routines.
On August 5, a day after our last episode aired, we had a thanksgiving party. Cast members from Alfred Labatos, the first one who graduated, to Jordan and Carlo, the youngest among our current cast, were there. Production staff you’ve never seen for years came. It’s like a big family reunion over pizza and pasta.
I co-hosted the event, and I asked everyone to recount their favorite Bulilit moment. Stories flooded everyone like bottomless iced tea. Tears, both happy and sad, fell.
Having worked here for 14 years, I can’t pinpoint a favorite memory. But they were all special to me.