Eddie Ilarde: Yesterday, today and tomorrow
HIS is the voice that has traveled through the decades and, literally, across space. Well, there is a science to this.
According to Lightyear.FM, “Radio broadcasts leave Earth at the speed of light. The farther away you get, the longer the waves take to travel there—and thus, the older music you’ll hear.” Thus, the Beatles top hit “Hey Jude,” first aired over the radio in 1968, can be heard as far out as 50 light-years from Earth. And what is the distance of a light-year? About 9.46 trillion kilometers.
Now, imagine if you were Eddie Ilarde, who made his first radio broadcast in 1953: “This is MBC, the Manila Broadcasting Company, DZRH, the voice of the Philippines. The time at the tone brought to you by RCA is…12 high noon.”
Today, that broadcast would be traveling through space and could be heard as far as 65.7 light-years away, all the way to the bright star Alpha Caeli, found in one of the smallest and faintest constellations in the night sky, the Caelum star constellation.
And exciting as the science is, the actual experience of a first broadcast for this then 19-year-old Bicolano was just as thrilling. Especially since it came after 31 failed auditions.
“I felt like a king. Sitting down in front of the microphone, with the big clock, inside the studio of DZRH-MBC. And I was sitting down at the announcer’s booth,” Ilarde said.
He added that he was so gung ho about the work he would arrive at the station at seven in the morning and periodically gazed at the clock until it approached 12 high noon. “Nandoon ako sa studio, nakatingin sa relo [I was at the studio, watching the clock].”
Discovered by veteran DZRH announcer Ray Oliver (a.k.a., Ramon Oliveros Decolongon), Ilarde first worked part-time in the station, undergoing a sort of initiation from the other announcers who were a bit miffed that Ilarde, a newbie, was already an announcer at DZRH, the flagship station of MBC.
Tall and gangly, with a thick Bicolano accent that became obvious every time he spoke Tagalog, Ilarde came to work wearing faded maong pants, a t-shirt and old sneakers handed down from his older brother.
“I would wipe the floor and pick up the cigarette butts they [announcers] left on the floor. Talagang ganun ang buhay [That was life]. That was how it was back then. And at that time, if you wore maong pants and sneakers, it meant you were poor,” he said.
Born on August 25, 1934, Ilarde was the smallest among three boys born to a widowed public-school teacher, whose teacher-husband was killed during the Second World War.
He graduated with honors from the Iriga Central High School, and later, as a part-time working student, finished a degree in journalism at the Far Eastern University, where he was voted “Outstanding Alumni” in 1957.
In between school and broadcast work, Ilarde brushed up on his Tagalog by reading Bulaklak and Liwayway, two magazines which he sold at Central Market while shining shoes on the side.
He got his break when he became a regular guest at Tayo’y Mag-aliw of famous 50s radio announcer Paeng Yabut. It was the first live show on radio, Ilarde recalled, complete with a live audience and guests.
Still, his biggest break came in 1955, with the radio program Kahapon Lamang, a dramatization of true-to-life stories annotated by Ilarde.
“At first, I played old songs. But then I received many letters from listeners telling me about their love problems and asking for advice. A listener would write, ‘Alam ’nyo Kuya Eddie, iniwan ako ng aking kasintahan. Ano ang dapat kong gawin [You know, Kuya Eddie, my girlfriend left me. What should I do]?’ Without prodding, they would write and ask for my advice. And so I gave them homespun advice, nothing highfalutin. I speak their language,” he said.
Animated, detailed and precise—this is how Ilarde talks about choice scenes in his past, going to the extent of mimicking the voices and intonation of people he remembered with fondness and respect. He does not forget the dialogue that transpired, even the streets and walkways that accompanied each memory.
“In those days, if you walk in a callejón, that narrow passageway adjacent to the main road, if you walk a hundred meters, you will be able to finish Kahapon Lamang without missing a dialogue. Because all the houses you will pass, all the way to the end of the street are listening to the program,” he said.
The next stop was the movies. In 1959, Ilarde made a film, Dear Kuya Eddie, starring dramatic actress Charito Solis and beauty queen-turned-movie star Lalaine Bennet. He was only 23 at that time.
That same year, Ilarde married Sylvia Berenguer Arrastia, and over the years, they were blessed with seven children, all professionals.
The mid-1950s to the mid-80s were banner years for Ilarde. He was first in introducing the following television and radio programs: The Eddie Ilarde Show, the country’s first musical variety program (1959-1962); Kahapon Lamang, the first TV drama anthology and public service-oriented program (started in 1955; 1976-1986); Yagit, the first TV soap opera, about the twists and turns in the lives of child scavengers (mid-80s); and Student Canteen, the first student/youth talent search (1958-1965; 1975-1986).
He was also the creator of Kapwa ko, Mahal ko in 1975 and produced Napakasakit, Kuya Eddie (1986-1988). Ilarde likewise received the Philippine Movie Press Club Star Awards for Lifetime Achievement for Radio and Television.
In 1991, he supported the creation of DWIZ, a radio network under the leadership of the late Ambassador Antonio L. Cabangon Chua. It was here where Ilarde had a morning program in tandem with former Sen. Nikki Coseteng, and later with former Miss International Gemma Cruz.
He discovered radio and TV talents who became big names in the entertainment industry, citing the likes of Pilita Corrales, Coney Reyes, Janet Basco, Marco Sison, and even Tito, Vic and Joey.
Ilarde was the first radio-TV personality to straddle the entertainment and political firmaments.
Ten years after a successful radio and TV career, Ilarde entered politics as an independent and won as the top councilor of Pasay City in 1963.
Two years later, he won again as congressman in the First District of Rizal. In Congress, he was known as the “Father of the Police Reform Act” (1966).
He was also the first to expose the deleterious effects of air and water pollution, investigating 27 inland waterways and exposing factories dumping toxic effluents in the Pasig River and Laguna Lake.
His biodata says it all: creator of the National Telecommunications Commission, father of the “rent control law.”
In 1971, Ilarde was elected senator, after surviving the Plaza Miranda Bombing. He ranked No. 4 in the Senate slate even without campaigning, as a result of the damage of the carnage to his leg.
When martial law was declared and Congress abolished in 1972, Ilarde ran and became assemblyman of the National Capital Region in 1978. There, he authored the “Ilarde-De Vera Hospital Deposit law,” which prohibited hospitals from demanding cash deposits for emergency cases.
Elderly renewal, revival
At 84, Ilarde is far from giving up on the things he loves the most. Like legendary Beatle Paul McCartney, he remains deeply involved with life and is busy accomplishing new things.
He is active as founding chairman of the Maharlika Movement, a values-oriented movement that seeks to replace the name of the country, “Philippines,” with “Maharlika.”
This gentleman farmer in Cavite has seven children, 13 grandchildren and one great-granddaughter named Kieran, aged seven.
In 2009, Ilarde revived his 1955 program, Kahapon Lamang, now the longest-running radio drama in the country. This time it is aired over DZBB (594 kHz on the AM band), and listeners can tune in every Saturday and Sunday from 1:30 to 2:30 p.m.
Staying relevant, Ilarde has taken as his all-enduring advocacy the 10,000-strong elderly sector in the Philippines.
Author of The Book of Seniors, Ilarde founded the Golden Eagles Society International, said to be the biggest organization of senior citizens in the country with at least 3,000 members. The group is pushing for the creation of the Commission for the Elderly to address the dignity and welfare of senior citizens.
Ilarde said applications for interested elderly folk are available at the Golden Eagles office, Rm 203 FBT Building, Jupiter, Bel-Air, Makati City.
This October 24, Ilarde will lead the outstanding awardees in the 2018 Dakilang Adhikain ng Ating Lahi, or Dangal, Awards for Elderly Care.
This annual awards is a partnership between the BusinessMirror and Unilab, with the support of United Bayanihan Foundation and Ritemed.
In truth, Eddie Ilarde may be 84, but his 19-year-old voice is still rocking and rolling across the universe. Just as his active self continues to defy aging.