'Mang Lalakbay' takes kids to exciting journeys with two adorable puppets in tow

Edwin P. Galvez

Posted at Aug 28 2022 05:33 PM

Handout photo.
Handout photo.

“Mang Lalakbay,” the country’s first educational travel program for children, will start airing on ABS-CBN Kapamilya Network this September.

Produced by creative production agency The Jumpcat Experiment, the pioneering half-hour “travel and explore” show will bring kids to different scenic places across the country every Sunday beginning September 18 at 9:30 a.m.

Aside from enjoying picturesque vistas and attractions during the show’s 11-episode first season, kids will also learn from their fun encounters, interactions and curiosities—all while being accompanied by two adorable puppets.

"Mang Lalakbay" will be seen on A2Z Channel 11 and streamed live on Kapamilya Channel, Kapamilya Online Live and iWantTFC. It will also be aired every Monday at 4 p.m. on Light TV.

The National Council for Children's Television's (NCCT) National Endowment Fund for Children's Television program awarded last year a grant to the show, which marked The Jumpcat Experiment's first foray into television production.

“We saw the need for an educational travel show on free television today,” Mang Lalakbay’s executive producer and co-director Joan Lopez-Flores told ABS-CBN News on how the concept for the show came about.

“We wanted a show that balances the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic, which has trapped our children in their homes and limited their journeys outside,” she said.

Together with three industry peers, including Mang Lalakbay co-director Froi Fabella and co-producer Jocelyn Maclang Garcia, Flores co-founded The Jumpcat Experiment in 2014.

Flores has produced, written and directed several TV and digital commercials, series and short films. She won the Gawad CCP Para sa Alternatibong Pelikula at Video or Gawad Alternatibo for her documentary film “Respite” in 2003.

She has also completed her first full-length feature, the independent film “Subscribe,” at the height of the pandemic last year as its writer, director and co-producer.

LOVE KIDS, WILL TRAVEL

Leading the kids to exciting journeys in the show is the prolific film, theater and commercial actor and singer Vic Robinson, the main host of Mang Lalakbay.

Both Flores and Fabella were impressed by Robinson’s performance in the show, finding the perfect Kuya ‘Bay in him.

As Kuya ‘Bay, Robinson guides the kids in appreciating and nurturing the country’s natural and man-made wonders as he speaks with stewards and protectors of the environment and its creatures.

“His very Pinoy features work very well and register warmly on camera,” Flores said.

“He has a ‘teacher vibe’ within him, but he is also fun and engaging. His joy leaps out of the screen. On top of these, he’s very talented too in singing and performing,” she said.

Fabella has nothing but praise as well for Robinson.

“Vic is a very intelligent person,” he said. “He is very quick in executing instructions and understands our direction well. He looks very friendly onscreen and we like how he delivers his lines and how he talks to the camera.”

Robinson has hosted a number of children’s shows in the past, including “MathDali,” a Knowledge Channel program that teaches kids concepts and skills in mathematics.

The 31-year-old thespian began his career in the theater more than a decade ago.

He played the male lead in “Sa Wakas the Musical” and was in the cast of “Ang Huling El Bimbo: The Musical,” and “Himala: Isang Musikal.”

He also played parts in Cinemalaya’s “Dagitab,” QCinema's “Kapatiran,” and the 2020 Metro Manila Film Festival’s 2nd best picture winner, “The Boy Foretold by the Stars,” and a number of television drama series on ABS-CBN.

DREAM COME TRUE

“It has been my dream to host a travel show,” the youthful Robinson told ABS-CBN News. “Mang Lalakbay is a dream a come true for me,” he said, “as the show’s fascinating aspects ignite the fire within me.”

What excites him is being able to go out of the studio and traveling to the great outdoors and places filled with culture and heritage while doing a job he loves.

“I love traveling and learning every single day. That is why playing Kuya ‘Bay is not and will never be a chore. It is, in fact, an honor. Kuya ‘Bay and I are close to becoming one and the same person,” he said.

In playing the part of a warm, caring and dynamic older brother and traveler, Robinson is inspired by the Filipino children.

“I really love kids,” he said. “Even if it entails a lot of energy performing for them, their smiles are priceless.”

He believes that Filipino children deserve the best form of “edutainment,” which combines the best elements of education and entertainment.

“This way, they can learn and grow up to be great and fun-loving shapers of tomorrow for our country and the next generation of Filipinos,” he said.

Wearing his weather-proof jacket and hat, Robinson bids the kids to come along with him on his journeys in the show.

In each episode, his character Kuya ‘Bay will take the children aboard different vehicles that are uniquely Pinoy.

He can sail the seas on the “balangay” (inspired by the large boats built by prehispanic Filipinos for interisland trade), explore the city riding the dyipni (jeepney) with “Lakbayers” painted on its side and enjoy the countryside aboard the traysikel (tricycle).

Sometimes he would fly to faraway places using his magical “eroplano” (airplane).

Robinson said that kids should watch Mang Lalakbay to appreciate life more.

“There are more fun things to do than simply staring at a screen the whole day. They must experience something than just watching it. If they want a guide or pointers on where their next destination should be, Mang Lalakbay will do the job for them.”

FOR THE YOUNG AND THE YOUNG AT HEART

"Mang Lalakbay," a play on the Filipino word manlalakbay or traveler, combines many elements that would pique the interest of its target audience—toddlers and school-aged kids up to 12 years old.

The show, however, also caters to the young at heart, the kids’ parents and older members of the family, as it brings back memories of “Batibot,” the longest-running local children’s educational program.

Batibot was patterned after the seminal American children’s series, “Sesame Street,” which was first shown in the country in 1970.

“The challenge for us is to present to children good role models on television, teachers to look up to, and characters to love who exhibit time-honored Filipino values while also educating them,” Flores said.

To ensure that today’s children can see the world, starting with their beautiful home country, and learn many things as they do so, Mang Lalakbay has made traveling and learning fun and engaging.

In each episode, the show’s travel scenes present mostly on-the-go lessons, while a portion shows snappy, television commercial-like spots teaching the kids basic lessons in a fun way.

The scenes take place in visually colorful sets that exude fun, freshness and excitement with their playful textures and elements.

There will be song-and-dance segments that will engage the kids to enjoy the scenic sights during their visit with Kuya ‘Bay.

Supernatural scenes like flying on a magic airplane or sailing across the mighty seas are captured through animation, visual effects and motion graphics.

“We even have pocket segments with ‘Bugtungan’ (riddle-solving) and ‘Mga Kasabihan’ (Filipino sayings) to remind the kids of their Filipino culture; travel tips for families and kids, and other engaging portions,” Flores said.

Fabella added, “The elements of fun, humor, learning, traveling, helping Mother Earth, and beautiful illustrations, among others, make the show a complete package not only for kids but for the whole family.”

ADORABLE PUPPETS, TALENTED PERFORMERS

“Mang Lalakbay makes learning more fun and engaging when the kids visit different places together with intelligent and funny companions,” Fabella said.

Joining Kuya ‘Bay on his adventures are two adorable puppets performed by veteran puppeteers Priscilla Rose Nalundasan and Manny Urbano.

The two have previously worked in Batibot, “ATBP” (Awit, Titik, at Bilang na Pambata) and “Sineskwela” (School on Air).

In Batibot, Nalundasan performed the consonant-chanting fortuneteller Manang Bola and the inquisitive GingGing that, with her Ate NingNing, form a sisters’ duo, while Urbano played the magic book-wielding Kapitan Basa.

Urbano also operated the alien puppet Kokey in the ABS-CBN-produced fantasy drama series by the same name.

In "Mang Lalakbay," Urbano performs the techie puppy named Bespren Tuts, who loves science, discoveries, searching the internet in his tablet computer and geared with the latest gadgets and gizmos.

“Bespren Tuts gives voice to the children’s thoughts and curiosities,” Flores said.

“He mirrors children today who turn to social media to get the information they need. He is the show’s source of child-like wonder, which never changes for children whether they had lived in the 90’s or are living in the present time,” she said.

Meanwhile, Nalundasan lends her puppetry skills to dispense the wisdom and values of the older generation.

She plays the Philippine eagle named Manang Agi, who shares timeless pieces of advice, particularly old Filipino family values and traditions.

“They represent two generations,” Fabella said. “Bespren Tuts represents the generation that is eager to learn, while the experienced Manang Agi shares hard-earned life lessons.”

SUPPORT FROM SPONSORS, PARTNERS

Producing the show under a tight budget, which also had to consider observing health protocols during lockdown periods last year, was challenging enough for a skeletal crew of eight people.

“A production such as ours that uses different elements, including actual travels, puppets, set design and even animation presented several challenges,” Flores said.

“But we remain hopeful our advocacy would get support from government, private companies and benevolent institutions as we also make the show look good by spending on creatives and postproduction, including animation and original music. We are not cutting corners or shortchanging things,” she said.

Before making the show’s pilot episode, Flores and her team consulted Toots Javellana, a pioneer creative of Batibot who assisted Sammy Badon in performing the beloved puppet Kiko Matsing.

Javellana, who shared his own experiences to the production team on how to make children respond or retain their attention, offered valuable advice on puppet design.

He was the puppet fabricator for both Bespren Tuts and Manang Agi.

They also sought the advice of entertainment pillars Ronnie and Ida Henares, who shared pointers on handling a production in relation to the networks, and were actually their bridge to landing a timeslot in the Kapamilya Network.

Flores also conferred with media, advertising and events practitioner Verna Payawal and thespian Kite Lopez, who was part of the children’s theater of the government-run People’s Television Network and the Philippine Information Agency in the 90’s.

HOP ON BOARD AND LEARN

“We want to inspire everyone to hop on board our travels and lessons,” Flores said as she shared what the children and their families could expect in the show’s episode lineup.

She said the pilot and the second episodes will focus on animals and the importance of sanctuaries and zoos.

The next one with Animal Kingdom Foundation in Concepcion, Tarlac tackles the need to adopt and care for rescue animals as pets instead of buying.

Recycling and reuse of plastic waste will feature Green Antz Builders, a company that produces eco-bricks to reduce plastic waste pollution in Luzon.

Episode five tackles the importance of planting trees to protect the country’s watersheds and make the process of “from forest to faucets” possible.

It also highlights the important role played by the Million Trees Foundation Inc. led by Melandrew Velasco, president and executive director, who oversees the operations of a nursery and eco-learning center at the five-hectare La Mesa Watershed.

The foundation is supported by the Metropolitan Waterworks and Sewerage Systems, Maynilad and Manila Water, San Miguel Corporation through Bulacan Bulk Water, Bantay Kalikasan and other organizations.

Children will also get to explore nearby cities for their unique sights and cultures, starting with Calamba City in Laguna to visit historical places for its episode on heroes.

At the Las Piñas-Bacoor city border, the show looks at how the Villar SIPAG Foundation promotes sustainability by teaching backyard farming to parents and their kids, while it drops by Parañaque City to learn more about its bird sanctuary and unique customs such as the “Bulungan.”

There will also be episodes on sports, nutrition, literature, different water forms, preserving underwater marine life and a coastal cleanup of Subic Bay and Olongapo City in Zambales.

THE FAMILY THAT TRAVELS TOGETHER

Asked how their own family travels helped them make the show feel more authentic and sincere, Flores said that “even if we had few travels as a family, they were all happily spent as these became a time of bonding for us.”

“It helped to recall the travels filled with happy memories and love. This influenced me to shape our show in such a way that it also radiates with love, warmth and happy memories,” she said.

For Fabella, traveling meant “enjoying every moment of the journey, being curious about everything new and learning values from my parents.”

“These are some of the important elements I infused in the show to make it authentic. Seeing the connection with each other as a family is very important,” he said.

“Ultimately, we would like the youngsters and their families to go on their own travels, bond and learn outside instead of remaining cooped up at home. As we travel more safely now, we want Mang Lalakbay to be their gateway to those family travels,” Flores said.

To support this advocacy program, like what Chickey's Inasal, Bang Bang Bangus and Yakal Coffee did for its shoots, Mang Lalakbay is open to brand partnership and sponsorship. Please call Sarah Geocadin at 0927-0775048 or email sarah.thejumpcatexperiment@gmail.com for a presentation.

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