Love-advice radio program inspires Ballet Manila pieces | Lifestyle.INQ

OCTOBER 27, 2022

ADVICE guru “Papa Jack” (left) of the radio program “TLC,” with Lisa Macuja-Elizalde and Ballet Manila co-artistic director Osias Barroso
THE MANY facets of love are explored in the ballet pieces based on the radio advice program “TLC:” Francis Jaena’s “Pangarap,” Jonathan Janolo’s “Musika’t Pagibig,” Gerardo Francisco’s “Barkada” and Michael Divinagracia’s “Handog.”
ADVICE guru “Papa Jack” (left) of the radio program “TLC,” with Lisa Macuja-Elizalde and Ballet Manila co-artistic director Osias Barroso

The man behind the long-selling love counseling radio program is unapologetically brutal. But it is this frankness and no-frills approach to giving out advice on love and life that has endeared him to listeners of “True Love Conversations” (TLC) through the years.


Indeed, radio audiences worldwide tune in to Love Radio’s Papa Jack—John Gemperle in real life—to  listen to him berate, scold and diss callers, or humor, console and empathize with the lovelorn or someone just needing to let something out.


Ballet Manila co-artistic director Osias Barroso broached the idea of developing a ballet based on “TLC” to prima ballerina Lisa Macuja-Elizalde, who readily agreed to it.


For Ballet Manila’s (BM) 19th-season opener, “Kay Ganda ng Ating Musika: An OPM Festival,” the second half introduces a pioneering tie-up of radio and ballet as “TLC” enters the world of dance.


No, Papa Jack won’t be dancing but he will be very much a part of this segment where he ties in the different stories of love transformed into four choreographic pieces by BM dancers Gerardo Francisco, Jonathan Janolo, Michael Divinagracia and Francis Jaena.


“It’s a challenging collaboration, but that’s what Ballet Manila thrives on,” says Macuja-Elizalde.


“The challenge is how not to make the ‘TLC’ series a variety show,” Janolo says. “We assigned particular segments to each choreographer. We just had to make sure somebody tied them all together.”


Francisco notes that they attacked each segment in different ways because of the uniqueness of  their personalities. All of them were conscious that it was a group effort.


“We have to consider a lot of things, like the comments of co-dancers, the audience, our colleagues, artistic directors and the music,” he says. “It’s gratifying to see that everything jelled.”


Romantic dances


Janolo’s “Musika’t Pag-ibig” is a search for love. Jaena’s “Pangarap” has a love triangle slant. Divinagracia’s “Handog” is about making the ultimate sacrifice for a loved one. Francisco’s “Barkada” tackles friendship, love and happy endings.


CHOREOGRAPHERS (clockwise from left, foreground) Gerardo Francisco, Jonathan Janolo, Michael Divinagracia and Francis Jaena, with “Papa Jack” (seated, foreground)

All the choreographers, except Janolo, are proud Ilonggos who started honing their talents in creating dance routines from the many school programs and festivals in the province of Iloilo.


The three Ilonggos believe the vibrant culture of the Western Visayan province greatly enhanced their skills. It was also in Iloilo where they learned the basics of ballet under Agnes Locsin.


The in-house choreographers of Ballet Manila have varied methods of getting inspired.


Jaena, for instance, goes to a mall or a park to allow his mind and eyes to explore. He confesses to watching his favorite cable channels such as National Geographic and Discovery Channel to further explore animal movements and sometimes incorporate these on his ballet scenes, especially for abstract pieces.


Mass appeal


Just like Papa Jack, the choreographers say they are excited about how audiences will receive the ballet version of “TLC.”


Macuja-Elizalde says she is confident the stories will connect with viewers, more so those who tune in for the nightly dose of relationship problems and advice from the popular love guru.


“What I can say is that the mass appeal of this highly popular program and its host, Papa Jack, ties in with our continuing mission to bring people to the ballet and ballet to the people,” she says.


“Kay Ganda ng Ating Musika: An OPM Festival” will have its gala night on Aug. 22, 7:30 p.m., at Aliw Theater, Cultural Center of the Philippines Complex, Pasay City.

Other performances are slated on Aug. 23-24, 29-31.

The first half of the program features the “Luzviminda” Ballet Suite consisting of numbers representative of Luzon (choreographed by Jojo Lucila), Visayas (Rudy de Dios) and Mindanao (Francisco).


Ballet Manila’s 19th performance season is co-presented by Manila Broadcasting Company.


For tickets and other inquiries, contact Ballet Manila at tel. 5255967 or 4000292, via e-mail at or through the website; or Ticketworld at tel. 8919999 or There is an ongoing season-subscription promotion for BPI credit-cardholders via Ticketworld.


Papa Jack will have a meet-and-greet session on Aug. 29, after the 1 p.m. show. Tickets to this show are discounted at P350 each, available at Ticketworld and the Ballet Manila office.