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Mel Tiangco

Young at Heart

Words By Marah Ruiz

Interview by Marah Ruiz and Aaron Brennt Eusebio

Photos by Michael Paunlagui, Denzel Cusi, and Magpakailanman
Mobirise
Mel Tiangco is an award-winning broadcaster, with a career spanning over 30 years. She is also the founder of GMA Kapuso Foundation, the socio-civic arm of GMA Network. Now, she can add an unlikely feather to her cap—a meme queen.

The younger generation does know her—she is one of the anchors of primetime news program 24 Oras after all. However, they really took notice of her after she was featured in simulation graphics of real catastrophes like floods or volcanic eruptions.
Viewers took to the internet to share their reactions to the simulations from 24 Oras featuring the veteran newscaster.

These reactions stemmed from a combination of admiration for the program's impressive graphics as well as affection for a familiar figure. Thus a meme was born.
Mel proved to be a good sport and took her viral fame in stride.

"Ito 'yung worried na worried sila sa akin? Ang feeling ko noon, they love me. They care for me. They're so concerned about me," she says in an exclusive interview with GMANetwork.com.

"Although, of course it's just a meme ‘no? Pero 'yun ang pumasok sa utak ko. I really love that. I really love those memes. Talagang na-lift ako. Imagine, takot na takot sila na baka [mapahamak] ako," she continues.

When Mel first heard that she went viral because of the simulations, she had a good laugh. She even shared the posts with other people who seemed to appreciate the humor behind them.

"I was in a bus, I was abroad noong time na pumutok ito. Somebody sent it to me from our staff. Tawa 'ko nang tawa. The cellphone (which showed the posts) was passed around and they were so happy inside the bus. It became a topic the whole day, 'yang mga memes na 'yan. I would like to thank these people, these millennials who made me so happy because of these memes," she shared.

The Tita Tag

Mobirise
Mel Tiangco has long been called "Tita Mel" by those who work closely with her. But now, more people are calling her "tita."

Perhaps it is because she is a constant presence for many people through her daily reports in 24 Oras or maybe because she is like a trusted confidant in the long-running real life drama anthology Magpakailanman.

She that says she doesn't mind the "tita" tag.

"Oh, I like that! 'Tita.' There is a ring of respect. Tinitingala ka nila, parang you are full of wisdom," she muses.

She doesn't mind being called "tita" as she claims that she is in good company.

Oh, I like that! 'Tita.' There is a ring of respect. Tinitingala ka nila, parang you are full of wisdom.

"Sino ba ang pinaka sikat na tinawag na 'tita' ng buong bansa? Si Tita Cory (Aquino)! Tignan mo si Tita Cory, biruin mo. Si Tita Cory tinawag na 'tita.' Ako tatawagin ding 'tita,' malaking bagay sa akin 'yun 'di ba?" she explains.

One thing that people might find surprising about her is her playful side. As one of the most respected newscasters in the country, most are used to seeing her being very formal and serious.

"Sa totoong buhay, yes, I can be very serious. I can be very formal depending on the situation, depending on what I am doing at that moment. When it is work, I am serious, I am formal," she says.

Another side of her emerges when she is off the clock.

"I've worked with Vicky [Morales] only recently sa 24 Oras. Hindi naman kami nagkakatrabaho so she didn't know me then. Pero after a couple of years, sabi niya. 'Tita Mel, who would have thought that you are such a funny person?' That's how people view me—serious. Pero I have my crazy time. I think over and above my being formal, I'm really crazy. Loka-loka din ako," she says with a laugh.

Telling Stories

Mobirise
This youthful playfulness ties in with the new goal of Magpakailanman, which has been rebranded as #MPK. It now aims to present stories to which younger audiences can relate.

"Gusto namin ng kwento na relevant to the young people. Gusto namin 'yung young people maabot din ng mga values ng show because they are the ones who are now taking over. 

“We want stories na may magagandang aral para sa mga kabataan, 'yung mga millennials, para kapulutan nila ng aral na gagabay sa kanila hanggang sa pagtanda nila

“We will look for more stories like that. We have already done a lot in the past but we'd like more stories like that," she says.

The show has been aiming for more variety in how the stories are treated and presented.

"We want to vary the stories more. Para sa ganoon mas maraming manood, mas maraming ma-appreciate 'yung aming ginagawa for them," she explains.

Tita Mel has been the host and storyteller for Magpakailanman since its inception in 2002, up until it ended in 2008. She was again tapped to be the host when it relaunched in 2012 and remains so until the present.
Mobirise
Asked time and again if she would be willing to share her life story in the show, Mel remains adamant that she doesn't want to be the focus of any episode. She prefers to remain the storyteller.

"Ayaw ko kasi very clear ang role ko sa Magpakailanman. Ako 'yung storyteller. That's what I do best. I am a storyteller. I want to remain in that position because I enjoy that position. I think I have already gathered enough supporters in that role. Tama na 'ko doon," she says.

Instead of her own life story, Tita Mel is more interested in featuring other controversial figures.

If given a chance, she would like to have an episode featuring the life of President Rodrigo Duterte. She thinks getting to know how he grew up can make people understand his mercurial nature.

"I've said this before, gusto ko [ma-feature] si Duterte. Gusto kong makita how his mind works. Kung ifi-feature ko siya, gusto ko 'yung totoo. Lahat totoo. 'Yung totoong buhay ni Duterte, 'yun ang gusto kong makuha because he is an interesting mind to read. 

Ang personality niya nag-iiba. Hindi mo alam kung ano ba siya, saan ba siya, mabait ba siya? Biglang magmumura, mamayang konti awang-awa na siya sa mga kababayan niya. Pupuntahan niya pa, bibisitahin niya, mamayang konti iba na naman. I'm wondering, ano kaya ang laman ng utak ng taong ito?" she shares.

That's how people view me—serious. Pero I have my crazy time. I think over and above my being formal, I'm really crazy. Loka-loka din ako.

Tita Mel says even with the rebrand, #MPK will surely stick to what it does best—bringing real stories of real people to the fore.

"We have always taken pride in saying na totoong kwento kami. Hindi magbabago 'yun. It will always be totoong kuwento. Hindi kami magfa-fabricate tapos sasabihin namin totoong kuwento," she says with conviction.

She guarantees that these stories are real and will remain real.

"Why can I say it straight to your face na totoong kuwento lang? Nakakausap ko, nakikita ko 'yung tao. I interact with the person so alam ko

Ini-interview ko, nalalaman ko 'yung buhay niya. Ako 'yung nag-gagarantiya sa televiewers natin na totoo talaga 'yung nakikita ko, nakakausap ko," she explains.

Being the host of #MPK is a constant learning experience for Tita Mel.

"In Magpakailanman, I learn about the lives of people and that sort of fortifies a few of your values, your principles, your beliefs. Sa pakikining sa mga kuwento nila, nakakahugot ka ng mga dapat at hindi dapat. Natututo ako sa kanilang lahat eh. Sa mga istorya nila, natututo rin ako," she says. 

Getting a glimpse of other people's lives fuels her desire to learn more.

"I never stopped yearning, longing and trying to learn. New things, old things, going back and relearning or refining or gathering more—I will never stop. 

“There is no single thing that I can tell you now na gusto kong matutunan kasi gusto kong matutunan lahat. I want to learn. I don't think I will ever ever stop wanting to learn," she concludes.

There is no single thing that I can tell you now na gusto kong matutunan kasi gusto kong matutunan lahat. I want to learn. I don't think I will ever ever stop wanting to learn.

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