Executives from TAPE Inc., the producer of Eat Bulaga!, broke their silence on its hosts' departure—despite their ongoing negotiations on how the longest-running noontime variety show will keep up with the ever-changing media landscape amid financial losses.
In a video interview with PEP.ph uploaded on YouTube on June 4, TAPE president Romeo "Jon-Jon" Jalosjos Jr. and his brother, chief finance officer Seth Frederick "Bullet" Jalosjos, said they're saddened and at a loss when Tito Sotto, Vic Sotto, and Joey De Leon made the announcement last May 31.
Jon-Jon said they've since been negotiating back and forth on how Eat Bulaga! can become sustainable during this period of uncertainty. He dismissed claims that they wanted TVJ out, especially that they're the faces of the show.
Instead, they were suggesting changes in the show, like the introduction of new artists and new segments in hopes of boosting ratings and attracting advertisers.
"Ang nakasanayan natin, pwede nating dagdagan pa para mag-improve. Iyon naman ang layunin ng kumpanya," Jon-Jon said.
"We worked so hard together to come to an understanding what we can move on to," he said. "Lahat naman ng kumpanya, nagpaplano para maka-survive."
TVJ agreed though only to "95% to 99%" of the suggestions, according to Jon-Jon.
Jon-Jon noted they've even talked about the upcoming 50th anniversary of Eat Bulaga! in 2029, when the three also supposedly plan to announce their retirement on-air as hosts.
"Pero ang sabi ko lang naman, mag-prepare tayo. Maglagay tayo ng mga pagbabago," he said.
The trio, however, dropped the bombshell on May 31, which a retrospective Jon-Jon claimed to be "planned," nevermind their ongoing negotiations.
Jon-Jon said ahead of the move, he got word that TVJ will "do something" live. He also said one of the hosts' wife posted a cryptic "Watch out" message on social media.
That day, Tito wasn't also supposed to be present on set but was there for some reason.
"My sister (Lana Jalosjos) heard a lot of murmuring from the staff," he said, adding she wasn't allowed to go inside the dressing room.
Romeo, feeling what was about to happen, decided to not air that day's episode on live television. A replay aired instead, while that day's episode streamed online. "For one reason and one reason only. I want to continue the negotiation, if ever we can salvage it," he said. "I was really saddened. I was working for the negotiations. Sayang ang pagod, sayang ang sana na-continue namin ito."
Bullet, meanwhile, said he had interviewed TVJ about their plans moving forward in light of the company's mounting financial losses, noting he had no malicious intent. "We were scared because it's the advertisers who were questioning."
But TVJ, he said, weren't keen on working with them.
"Up to now, di pa rin namin maintindihan. Ano ba talaga ang puno't dulo nito? What is it that you wanted us to do?," Bullet said, addressing Tito. "Why would you leave something you had for 44 years? For what, nainsulto ba namin kayo?"
Bullet was also looking forward to Eat Bulaga!'s 50th anniversary and is okay with TVJ's would-be retirement during that time. From a business perspective, however, he was curious about how the show will move forward.
"Ang sa amin naman, sige, magre-retire kayo ng 50. But what about the company? Paano naman mga nagtatrabaho at anak nila?" he said.
Bullet also clarified how his response to Boy Abunda's Fast Talk last April was misconstrued. He was asked if the trio will be retained, to which he said, "Definitely."
Tito since took offense at Bullet's answer, saying it suggested that they can get kicked out any time.
He said Tito took it out of context and read it wrong. "How do you answer that question? It's a yes or no. Kasi ang tanong ni Tito Boy, 'Ire-retain niyo ba ang TVJ?' The only answer to that is 'Yes.'"
"Parang pamilya na ang turing ko sa kanila," Jon-Jon also said of TVJ. "'Di ko lang alam kung ang turing nila sa amin ay iba."
Rumors of an Eat Bulaga! rebranding—and the trio getting fired—broke out in April.
After TVJ's announcement, Eat Bulaga! staff members, including hosts, writers, sales, production, and cameramen, tendered their resignation. The trio is reportedly transferring to TV5.
Eat Bulaga! episodes, meanwhile, are still accessible on its official Facebook page, while TVJ said they are continuing the show "in whatever form."
TAPE Inc. in a statement said the show will have a new set of hosts so it can continue serving Dabarkads.