He will not be called the country’s King of Talk for nothing. He is so adroit at stringing his words together that he never fails to enthrall and mesmerize his audience whenever he speaks, which, kind of, sounds like poetry. Talent Manager and TV Host Boy Abunda may be among the favorite sketches of budding comedians, with his signature eye glasses, fashionable trench coats and thick Waray accent but is certainly unmatched when it comes to engaging people to the most interesting conversations. He is surely someone that is looked up to when it comes to what he does best—talking.
For this reason, he has become the go-to person of beauty pageant organizations who wish to ensure their ladies won’t embarrass themselves on-cam, with millions of people watching, come Q-and-A time. He’s been seen as a regular figure, an in-house consultant almost, for the country’s biggest beauty and brains competitions, coaching Filipinas, including Catriona Gray, who have made it big in international pageants with their memorable answers and quotable quotes.
Since the skill to answer questions well and talk about important topics extensively is surely not unique to pageantry, Boy Abunda has also been, of late, the favorite communications coach of some of the country’s politicians and political parties.
With the recent conclusion of most local pageants and preparations now underway for international competitions and yes, even a national election forthcoming, Mr. Abunda is, once again, hot property. Not only is he playing the role of coach, he is also actively endorsing a group that he claims to have a soft spot for.
The Thrillmaker recently had the chance to do a communications Q-and-A with the King, who gamely answered our queries.
THRILLMAKER: How would you compare and contrast the way beauty contestants and politicians should answer questions thrown at them?
BOY ABUNDA: Sa America, sa ibang bansa, may Q and A training. May debate training. May public speaking training ang mga kandidato. Pamilyar sila na ang talumpati ay may simula, may gitna at may ending. Ang Q and A, may tinatawag na context clues, may tinatawag na core answering. Pareho yun sa pulitika at sa mga beauty queen. Sa pulitika, go to your message house. Sa America, this is very familiar. Ano ang message house? Ang bubong is your main message. Halimbawa, edukasyon. Ang bahay ay dalawa: health and taxation. Wag ka na lumabas dun. In your debate, paikutin man yan, dun ka lang iikot. Ang beauty queen, ang training mo, ang message house mo—anak ka ba sa labas, hindi ka ba nakapag-aral, go to your story, go to your truth. Kahit anong tanong, ang frame mo ang lente mo will always go back to your core story.
THRILLMAKER: Try to answer this question the way a beauty queen and a politician should answer it. “If you had the power to eliminate one of these problems: poverty and hunger; corruption in government; and environmental issues, which one would you choose and why?”
BOY ABUNDA: Ang training namin sa mga beauty queens ay, lalo na kung may 30 seconds ka, go to your intuition. So, ang pinag-uusapan natin, letter A: kahirapan; pangalawa, corruption: pangatlo, environment. What resonates to your core? Halimbawa ikaw ay kandidata at nanggaling ka sa napakahirap na pamilya, go there. Kasi wala namang tama at wala namang mali yun eh. Go to your story. Halimbawa ang kwento ko ay napakahirap, I would say, I would choose the first one, hunger and poverty because hunger and poverty are not concepts to me, they’re real. I came from there. And when you’re not hungry and when you’re not poor, you have chances to fight corruption and to take care of the environment. So ang take off point mo, is an answer that is connected to what is real to you.
Ang pulitiko, go directly to your message house. Ano ba nasa ulo ng message house mo? Halimbawa ay good governance. Eh, pumunta ka na sa corruption at dun ka na umikot. I choose letter B and then go on your discourse about corruption.
That’s how we attack it from an academic public speaking and Q and A point of view. Wag kang lumayo. Malawak yung core mo eh. Your core includes the story of your mother, etc.
Being the Thrillmaker that I am, I figured this could be the perfect segue to asking Mr. Abunda the more difficult questions that may resonate with him in a more personal way.
THRILLMAKER: After endorsing Ang Waray Party List in the past, and then Tingog Party List last time, why did you now opt to endorse yet another party-list group?
BOY ABUNDA: My core is probinsyano. I will always be proudly waray. I’ll always go back to it. Bahagi ito ng core ko eh, bahagi ng istorya ko. Aligned yung kwento namin. Pinag-uusapan dito bubong, pinag-uusapan dito sisilungan, pagkain, pag-aaral, edukasyon, kalusugan. Itong mga issues na ito hindi didactic, hindi academic para sa akin. Totoo ito. That’s the reason why.
THRILLMAKER: That’s quite a controversial choice. The party list’s first nominee (Alfred delos Santos), who is now a congressman, was involved in a scuffle in Bicol. Doesn’t that bother you? Don’t you think an association with the group might affect your own reputation?
BOY ABUNDA: In the words of Apid, he is not proud about what happened. Pinagsisihan nya. Hindi tama, kaya inako nya ang kanyang kasalanan at nagustuhan ko yun. He reached out to the guy and his family. Sa aking pagkaka-alam, patuloy ang engagement nung mga parties involved. Naniniwala ako na yung incident na yun should not define the party, it will be a disservice to the Ang Probinsyano Party List kung ang singular na pangyayaring yun ang magbibigay ng kabuuang kulay sa Partido. Importante sa akin yung may atonement, may retribution, pinagsisihan niya. He owned up to what happened.
Now given his answers to my questions, I’d say “Tito Boy” Abunda really knows what he’s talking about. Not only does he speak from the heart, he has convictions to really convince any judging panel he’s on the right. Since he can’t probably be a beauty queen in this lifetime (but who knows), I’m pretty sure opportunities for him to be in politics will come knocking in sooner or later, hopefully, sooner.