On their own, radio and books represent traditionally powerful forms of media for Filipinos. Put them together, and you have a potent mix indeed.
To begin with, FM radio’s most iconic personalities exert a strong pull on a desirable audience: the young, mobile Filipinos. Take for example, the juggernaut that is Chico and Delamar. From its first show in 1996, the funny, catchy exchanges between hosts Chico Garcia and Delamar Arias on their Monster Radio RX 93.1 show “The Morning Rush” (TMR) captured the attention of loyal listeners—nicknamed “The Rushers”—and their main weapon, the Top 10, was couldn’t-be-missed appointment radio. Over the last 16-plus years, the show dominated their timeslot even as the hosts grew up, changed lineups, changed stations and went back to its original settings. They were hosts, not just disc jockeys, and a generation grew up with them as default background sounds.
The show took on a new manifestation when Summit Books, the book-publishing arm of Summit Media, published “The Best of Chico and Delamar’s The Morning Rush Top 10” in 2011, when it zoomed to number one on National Book Store’s Philippine publications best-seller list and stayed there for six months. Reflecting the establishment of Gino Quillamor as a permanent co-host, “The Best of Chico, Delamar, and Gino’s The Morning Rush Top 10 Book 2” was last year, was greeted by a mob and similarly topped the NBS list anew. Combined, the two books have 135,000 copies in print.
Christine Ko, Team Publisher for Summit Books, admits to being one of those daily listeners. “I listen to TMR every day while driving to work. I love the show and would find myself laughing alone,” she says. “So when Lisa (Gokongwei-Cheng, Summit Media president) asked us to contribute ideas on what books we can publish, I suggested it.”
Ko says that Chico and Delamar remain popular because they stay relevant. “They always talk about current issues,” she says. “They themselves are smart and well informed. They know a lot of about everything. And they don’t come off as know-it-alls.” Ko says working on the TMR books was difficult, as the show had already been running for 15 years, and had so much material available, with Chico himself having more than 10 notebooks with their Top 10 lists. “And he reviewed every single answer to narrow it down and make sure that the best answers would indeed land on the Top 10 list,” Ko recalls. “Because if you listen to their show, they usually come up with numerous batches of Top 10 answers within their four-hour program.” The addition of Gino, she says, “brought sexy back with his shameless flirting.” The trio’s effortless rapport and easy banter make their four-hour show fly by and this accessibility is reflected in the TMR books’ content.
Via text message, Chico says the books’ appeal lies in the fact that “you can enjoy it even if you don’t listen to the show. The humor is not exclusive to The Morning Rush. It’s very Pinoy.” Gino adds: “There are different kinds of humor in it for everyone and you can’t ever go wrong with something funny.”
Summit Books then upped the ante by releasing “Everything I Need to Know About Love I Learned from Papa Jack: 356 Quotes Para sa Single, in Love, Problemado sa Relasyon at Sawi sa Pag-ibig” earlier this year. Papa Jack, whose real name is John Gemperle, has two wildly popular advice shows called “True Love Conversations” and “Wild Confessions” on 90.7 Love Radio, and is known for dishing out tough love late at night, a particular staple of taxi or FX drivers and their passengers. The book compiles the most memorable quotes from Papa Jack’s show.
“I think Papa Jack is the Joe D’ Mango of this generation. He is very wise and objective. His advice may not be what the callers want to hear but it’s definitely what they should do. He doesn’t sugarcoat things, he tells it like it is,” Ko says of Papa Jack’s popularity. “And speaking of love, it’s such a powerful, popular and relatable topic among us Filipinos. Everyone has a story to tell, whether it’s falling in love, having a broken heart or moving on. Everyone is so interested in this topic and honestly, we’re so tsismosa about other people’s love lives.”
Ko says that radio remains a very effective medium, the signal still strong: “I think a lot of people still listen to the radio, especially when they’re in transit. TMR is from 6 to 10 a.m. People get to work or school at this time. Papa Jack airs from 9 p.m.. to 2 a.m. when people are on their way home.” That pretty much defines radio books’ built-in audience.
One would think that in this age of aggressive expansion by social media, radio would become steadily obsolete, but Gwenn Galvez, Marketing Manager for Anvil Publishing, says it’s the other way around. “Internet radio has given radio a new life. Mobile devices enable people to listen to radio even outside the confines of their homes and offices. People in buses, on the street even in the malls are plugged onto their smart phones and I suspect they’re not just listening to their play-lists, which can get boring after a while.” Ko adds that many TMR listeners use Twitter to send in their entries while Papa Jack has fan pages on Facebook. “I think social media complements those two shows,” Ko says.
Reflecting their radio audience, the target market for the TMR books is basically everybody from kids to adults while Ko describes the Papa Jack readers as being “more masa.” Galvez is “sure their radio stations have surveys to verify who their listeners are but I would think that their readers are a broad cross section of the 18-30 market who follow their program and read for entertainment and leisure.”
Radio had invaded the bookshelves elsewhere. The medium figured big in three previous titles from PSICOM Publishing, Tado Jimenez’s “All About Myself, Not Yours” and “Nag-iisa Lang Ako,” as well as Ramon Bautista’s “Bakit Hindi Ka Crush ng Crush Mo?” with Jimenez and Bautista, both better known for their various TV antics, but were also co-hosts of the talk show “The BrewRATS!,” first on Hit 99.5 and then MTV Philippines’ affiliate station U92 before landing at Internet station DIG Radio. Their trademark humor is all over these titles.
As the second TMR book and “Everything I Know” inexorably climb the best-seller chart, there will probably be more radio books coming in the future. Ko says Summit Books is trying out different genres. One sublime example is poet/frontman/eclectic weatherman Lourd de Veyra’s “The Best of This is a Crazy Planets,” a compilation of his SPOT.ph columns and possibly the funniest book in recent memory. Ko adds that they hope to do a TMR and Papa Jack book every year. Galvez says “books on humor and love are always best-sellers. The nationwide reach of radio certainly helps to attract new readers.” In that cool, creative process, radio met print, and now you can hear these distinctive voices with the touch of a dial, or the turn of a page. •