GMA Network

GMA’s ‘Sumasapuso’: Why radio is still alive in the Philippines

Isagani de Castro Jr.

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GMA’s ‘Sumasapuso’: Why radio is still alive in the Philippines

KAPUSO. Radio DJ Toni Aquino accepts the award for the drama show, Sumasapuso, which won Best Radio Drama Program in the 45th Catholic Mass Media Awards (CMMA) on November 24, 2023.

DJ Toni Aquino Facebook

Good drama content that touches the heart, interactivity on social media, and the airing of radio shows simultaneously on digital television are keeping radio alive in the Philippines

MANILA, Philippines – “Nakatutok na po habang nag-babalot ng turon [friend banana rolls] na paninda (I’m already listening while wrapping turon that’s on sale),” said Gallardo Rosalinda, a regular listener of GMA Network’s radio DZBB’s drama program, Sumasapuso: Kasama si Toni Aquino (Heart touching: With Toni Aquino).

“Nakalagay na po sa bulsa habang naglilinis (My phone is already in my pocket while cleaning),” wrote “Mah Yah,” another “top fan” of the show on Sumasapuso host DJ Toni Aquino’s Facebook page. 

Good drama content, interactive radio, and radio shown simultaneously on television are the main factors why radio is still alive in the Philippines. 

Radio today is far different from radio of yesteryears. It’s now “interactive radio,” since many radio shows are also streamed on social media, in particular, Facebook, which allows listeners to interact with the show’s host and post comments.

Sumasapuso’s well-written drama scripts take up a wide range of topics and concerns – from infidelity (by both sexes), poverty, family conflicts (abusive parents or parents-in-laws, disrespectful children), social cost of long-distance relationships, disasters (drama arising from fire, typhoons, floods). It has even presented tragic stories about the drug war of the previous administration. 

Some of its dramas that tackle relationships are also racier compared to those of yesteryears. Many listeners prefer love stories and family dramas with “happy endings.” 

Sumasapuso, which combines drama and oldies music, is now the most popular radio program of GMA Network, the Philippines’ largest media conglomerate. The drama show is on 594 kilohertz on the AM band and audio streamed by GMA on its streaming site on Mondays to Fridays from 12:30 pm to 2 pm, with replays from 12 noon to 3 pm on Saturdays and Sundays, or a total of 13.5 hours a week. It’s also streamed and can be played back on DJ Toni Aquino’s Facebook.

Since demand for the show has gone up, it’s now also replayed during the graveyard time slot which the late DJ Richard Enriquez, who used to play love songs and classics, occupied from midnight to 3 pm. The replay is mainly for Filipinos overseas in other time zones. 

‘DJ Richard’ dies at 59

‘DJ Richard’ dies at 59

Last year, Sumasapuso won as Best Drama Program in the 45th Catholic Mass Media Awards (CMMA), an annual accolade of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines in predominantly Catholic Philippines.

“I am greatly honored for Sumasapuso’s recognition as Best Radio Drama at this year’s the Catholic Mass Media Awards. I am more energized and charged to take this to the next level,” Aquino said in a post after the ceremony on November 24, 2023.

Sumasapuso won over drama programs such as The Life of Jesus Christ (Bombo Radyo Legaspi/People’s Broadcasting Inc.), The Messiah (DYMX – 95.5 Star FM Cebu/Bombo Radyo Philippines), Barangay Love Stories (Barangay LS 97.1 GMA Network Inc.), May Pangako Ang Bukas: “Bakit Kailangan Pa Akong Isiliang?” (DZRH AM 666 Khz/Manila Broadcasting Company). 

“Congratulations DJ Toni Aquino, your listener dito sa [here in] Bahrain, Middle East,” said Rose Serna Polia Cariaga, after the program won, indicating the reach of the show overseas via streaming.

The 45th edition of the CMMA, with the theme “Speaking with the Heart the Truth in Love,” supports Pope Francis’ message for the 57th World Day of Social Communications. 

According to the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Manila (RCAM), last year’s theme urged the media “to take on the duty of conveying truth to the public, while also embracing kindness and benevolence.” 

“Conveying truth with love and compassion poses an additional challenge to the already difficult pursuit of truth. For more than 45 years, CMMA has been crucial in recognizing and applauding media projects that display authenticity, inspiration, and emotional depth. By recognizing these endeavors, CMMA aims to contribute to a media environment that is not only transformative and constructive but also unwaveringly genuine,” the RCAM said about the 45th CMMA. 

Aquino, a former Kapamilya radio talent, moved from ABS-CBN’s DZMM TeleRadyo to GMA’s radio DZBB in April 2020 as the Lopez-led media conglomerate was set to lose its broadcast franchise in May 2020.

Samasapuso has gained many followers from Aquino’s soothing voice and pretty looks.

Aquino worked for many years as a disc jockey in ABS-CBN’s FM radio station, MOR 101.9. She has been a radio personality for three decades since she began as a student jock on Pinoy Radio DM 95.5. 

Not dead

Radio hasn’t died with the rise of streaming platforms and social media. A survey by polling firm Pulse Asia in September 2021 found that radio was still next to television in terms of how Filipinos got their news. 

When asked “Alin-alin sa mga sumusunod ang pinagkukunan ninyo ng mga balita sa ating pamahalaan at pulitika? Bukod dito, ano pa po? Mayroon pa po ba?”, 91% said television, 49% cited radio, 48% said internet, 37% said family/relatives, and 3% said newspapers. 

(Which of these are your sources of news about the government and politics? Aside from these, what else? Any others?) 

Radio’s importance as a source of news was higher among the lower income groups (D=50%; E=55% compared to 34% among ABC).

Radio got higher ratings from those who lived in Visayas (67%) and Mindanao (64%) compared to those in Metro Manila (29%) and rest of Luzon (40%). 

According to the Association of Accredited Advertising Agencies of the Philippines’ Media Factbook 2007, radio penetration in the Philippines was 72% in 2006, with television getting the highest penetration at 97%. Radio listenership has generally been on a decline, but it still has substantial following.

A more recent study by the Reuters Institute/University of Oxford on the media situation in the Philippines which compared traditional media and digital media, “TV and radio news remain important for those who are not online.” 

Reuters/Oxford’s Digital News Report 2023 said 53% used GMA Network’s 24 Oras, Saksi, GTV to get their news, while 41% cited ABS-CBN’s TV Patrol/ANC and its Kapamilya channel on cable television. 

GMA’s Super Radyo DZBB (Super Balita) got a reach of 13%. 

“Online and social media remain the most popular sources of news in the Philippines with our more urban sample, while TV and radio news remain important for those who are not online. TikTok has grown the fastest among the social media platforms, accessed for news now by 21% compared with only 2% in 2020,” said Philippine Digital News 2023 report writer Yvonne Chua.

GMA Network’s third quarter of 2023 earnings disclosure said that excluding the effect of election-related placements in 2022, an election year, “[GMA] radio recorded a 6% improvement versus recurring sales of last year.”

World Radio Day

Last Tuesday, February 13, the world celebrated World Radio Day as proclaimed in 2011 by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) and adopted by the UN General Assembly in 2012. 

“Radio is a powerful medium for celebrating humanity in all its diversity and constitutes a platform for democratic discourse. At the global level, radio remains the most widely consumed medium. This unique ability to reach out the widest audience means radio can shape a society’s experience of diversity, stand as an arena for all voices to speak out, be represented and heard,” UNESCO said about World Radio Day 2024. 

“Radio continues to be one of the most trusted and used media in the world, according to different international reports.” 

UNESCO said what sets radio apart from other media is that it is a “low-cost means of communication, not only especially suited to hard-to-reach communities and groups of society but also tremendously endeared to listeners worldwide for in-car listening, for real time weather or sports updates, for company deep into the night, and much other.” 

“Furthermore, radio also is essential in emergency situations for access to trusted information even today since disasters may hit infrastructure or electricity and thereby bring to a halt other communications systems, such as Internet provision,” UNESCO added. –

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Isagani de Castro Jr.

Before he joined Rappler as senior desk editor, Isagani de Castro Jr. was longest-serving editor in chief of ABS-CBN News online. He had reported for the investigative magazine Newsbreak, Asahi Shimbun Manila, and Business Day. He has written chapters for books on politics, international relations, and civil society.