MANILA, November 1, 2003  (STAR) Philippine television has just marked its 50th anniversary.

As historic as the birth of this powerful medium, the momentous celebration on Oct. 17 began a new chapter in local television history, with ABS-CBN Broadcasting Corp. re-establishing its position as the country’s first and largest television network.

The broadcasting giant capped its 50th anniversary with a spectacular extravaganza dubbed Kapamilya: ABS-CBN at 50, held at the Philippine International Convention Center (PICC) in Pasay City. It was hailed as one of the biggest media events of the year. Two months earlier, the network held its Kapamilya Homecoming, which gathered over 4,000 former employees and talents for a grand reunion at ABS-CBN’s compound in Bohol Avenue, Quezon City.

The Lopez-led network rolled out the red carpet to welcome its high-profile guests from the business, advertising and media sectors, politics, members of the diplomatic community, with many of the society’s luminaries and glitterati. Valued friends and supporters of the network throughout the five decades also attended the grand affair.

ABS-CBN earmarked a whopping P20 million to occupy the two main venues of PICC namely, The Forum, for the pre and post cocktail events, and the Plenary Hall for the extravaganza presentation. About 3,000 invitations were sent out.

ABS-CBN, which was founded in 1953, threw its grandest bash ever befitting of a business enterprise that has prevailed over the most daunting challenges, thrived in many vigorous competition and outlasted upheavals from different quarters, economic, political, national, even global, throughout the last five decades.

Family Business Redefined

The affair highlighted the many achievements and milestones of the network from the time the Lopezes (Eugenio "Eñing" Lopez Sr.) acquired the Alto Broadcasting System (ABS) from James Lindenberg and Judge Antonio Quirino and merged it with the family-owned Chronicle Broadcasting Network (CBN), to the Golden Age of Philippine television sired by Eugenio "Geny" Lopez Jr. to the evolution of ABS-CBN as the country’s multi-media conglomerate under the leadership of its present chairman and CEO, Eugenio "Gabby" Lopez III.

Using ABS-CBN as a model of a family business, Lopez III challenged the perception of the term family business as an environment that is less than professional by saying that the Asian business model is strewn with family conglomerates.

"We are told by all the leading business consultants that we must shed assets, focus on core competence and globalize in order to survive. We must spread our wings beyond our shores to survive but we will not leave behind the values that got us here," he said.

But more than a business, Lopez III said the network is a family at its core. "Kapamilya is about shared values. In times of crisis it is the family that we run to. It nurtures and protects us. It is about unity and the greater good where there is no doubt on purpose and resolve."

Night Of Paying Tributes

Amidst the celebration of its triumphs, the event also paid tribute to the men and women (both executives and stars) who have contributed to the success of ABS-CBN led by its Chairman Emeritus "Geny" Lopez Jr., whom ‘the values that drive ABS-CBN emanated from,’ according to Lopez III. The other network pioneers who were honored were Arcadio Carandang, Elvira Manahan, Mitos Villareal, Tony Santos, Diomedes Maturan, Panchito Alba, Ading Fernando, Nida Blanca, Pancho Magalona, Ike Lozada, Rolly Cruz and Rico Yan, among others.

The network’s living pillars and pioneers such as James Lindenberg, Fr. James Reuter and comedy king Rodolfo "Dolphy" Quizon were likewise honored during the night, with Federico M. Garcia who is on his last year as ABS-CBN’s president and COO.

Dolphy received a plaque of recognition from Lopez III, assisted by movie-TV actress Maricel Soriano who had been Dolphy’s on-screen daughter in the popular comedy TV program, "John en Marsha." Upon accepting the recognition, Dolphy said it was the "most important and unforgettable award" he has ever received in his lifetime. Legendary comedy triumvirate Tito, Vic and Joey paid tribute to the comedy king onstage through a couple of song numbers. The trio exchanged jokes with him that sent the audience roaring in laughter.

Meanwhile, after honoring Garcia with a video tribute and plaque of recognition, the retiring network president said, "Of all the recognitions I have received in my life, this is the most meaningful to me because it comes from my family – the ABS-CBN family."

Garcia served as ABS-CBN’s president for six years, since 1997. He was the network’s executive vice-president and general manager since 1987. "I fell in love with television," he said. " It was a fatal attraction and a lifetime passion. That is why my work is my life and my life is my work."

Before he finished his acceptance speech, Garcia gave his "mini tribute" to the network by thanking the Lopezes – Geny, Gabby and Jake Almeda-Lopez (ABS-CBN’s vice-chairman), Rolly Cruz (former general manager), Charo Santos-Concio (executive vice-president and head for entertainment group), Johnny Manahan (senior vice-president for Talent Center), Mother Lily Monteverde (Regal Films patriarch) and the ABS-CBN family.

"ABS-CBN will always be my family. As I prepare myself to sail into the sunset, I will take with me all the lessons learned and a lifetime of beautiful memories. If I would recall each and everyone of them, it would take me another lifetime. It is my honor to have you all as Kapamilya," Garcia said.

Grandest Production Show

The night’s show was breathtaking in scale as it was riveting in color. A musical grandeur it was, with an unprecedented gathering of the country’s best talents who showcased powerful numbers from mellow acoustics, inspirational ballads to dance spectacles that meld trance and classical music.

The star-studded presentation included the network’s homegrown stars and former talents who have not been seen for the better part of a generation. Stage performances were supported by a corps of more than 150 dancers while the musical arrangements were interpreted by the San Miguel Philharmonic Orchestra under the musical direction of Maestro Ryan Cayabyab, also known as Mr. C.

Box-office star comedian Ai-Ai de las Alas did the opening number Yan ang Kapamilya, written by Mr. C, while Lipad ng Pangarap was rendered by megastar Sharon Cuneta, who later on led the all-star cast in singing the finale, "Put a Little Love in Your Heart."

The spectacle was indeed a celebration of the best of Philippine television. At the helm of the production team was multi-awarded director Johnny Manahan, with Charo Santos-Concio as executive in-charge of production and Chit Guerrero as supervising producer.

As the whole ABS-CBN family, both past and present generations, basked in the glory of the network’s golden moment and relished the camaraderie among them until the wee hours, a new day dawned on Philippine television, and ABS-CBN welcomed the first day of its next 50 or more years.

Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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