overseas Filipinos

Ruby Rodriguez chose family over celebrity life in the Philippines

Jannelle So Productions

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Ruby Rodriguez chose family over celebrity life in the Philippines
Former 'Eat Bulaga!' host Ruby Rodriguez opens up about her relocation to the United States, one of the reasons being her son's medical needs

This story is published in partnership with SoJannelleTV, a magazine show about Filipinos in North America

Back home in the Philippines, Ruby Rodriguez had a life that many could only dream of. From 1991 to 2021, she appeared as one of the hosts for Eat Bulaga!, a variety show that put her in front of millions of eyes each weekday. It was a comfortable existence, but one she envisioned leaving behind. But why?

Rodriguez sat down to speak with Filipino-American media pioneer Jannelle So-Perkins in an interview with So Jannelle TV to discuss why she uprooted her life, family, and career for a more low profile one in Los Angeles.

“It was planned. It takes years to uproot yourself, you don’t just do that on a whim. I’m not single, if I was single I can do that… but if you’re carrying baggages and you have your family, you can’t do that in a snap. This has been planned for years,” said Rodriguez in a recent episode of So Jannelle TV, a Filipino-American lifestyle magazine show which airs US-wide on cable channels The Filipino Channel (TFC) and ANC; as well as on local Southern CA digital channel KNET 25.1; and is also available on social media platforms.

Ruby Rodriguez chose family over celebrity life in the Philippines

There were many factors to take into account. Her husband, Mark Aquino, wasn’t keen on the idea, but her daughter Toni was all for it. The plan would have to wait after Toni was accepted to University of the Philippines. But the main factor for her was her son AJ, a special education student who lives with chronic Henoch-Schönlein purpura, an autoimmune condition that can cause damage to the kidneys. 

Ruby and her son would often fly to the United States for treatments, but even with her substantial income, the costs were exorbitant. After realizing that his medical costs would be covered by insurance in the United States, she decided it was time to permanently relocate abroad. But before she would leave, Rodriguez knew she’d need to find a new career. That’s when she inquired at Malacañang Palace about a job at the Philippine Consulate General in Los Angeles.

“I grew up being independent. I don’t like burdening others because I know how hard it is here. You don’t have your maids, I have to do the laundry. In the Philippines you just take off your clothes and somebody will get it. I know how hard it is. That’s why I looked for a job first. I said, since I know how to get in there and they have presence there already, let’s try. There’s no harm in trying,” said Rodriguez.

After submitting her requirements and taking a test, she received an email informing her that she had been accepted. She went to Los Angeles in December of 2019 for an interview with former Consul General Adelio Cruz, keeping her plans secret to all in her industry except for her best friend, Pauleen Luna.

The extent of her secrecy was made clear when Cruz asked if she could start on January 1.

“I said, ‘I didn’t let them know.’ Then he started laughing and I said, ‘Sir, I have to notify my producer formally, they don’t want to be put in a spot if I go AWOL,’” remembers Rodriguez.

Ruby Rodriguez chose family over celebrity life in the Philippines

Her flight was booked for April 5, 2020, allowing her son to complete his classes on March 31. And then the world shut down due to the COVID-19 pandemic, putting those plans on hold. The consulate didn’t pressure her to begin immediately, understanding the complicated situation involving international travel, and knowing that they had limited their days of operation and were working with a skeleton force.

The following year, they asked if she could begin in May of 2021. She traveled to Los Angeles with her daughter first, while her husband stayed back home with their son until he finished classes in June of 2021. After ten days of quarantining, Rodriguez began at the consulate.

Rodriguez says her job entails processing dual citizenships, a process which she says can be hectic because there are two oath takings planned per day. Still, she doesn’t look at her career shift as a form of turning her back on the life she lived for decades. She jokes that she’s just in “hibernation” from show business.

“I enjoy what I’m doing because finally whatever I learned I’m using. I’m learning everything new again. This I tell you, my job here, it’s like I’m still in showbiz. Because when I’m in front it’s like, ‘Hi Ruby!’ And then when I brief them on the important things it’s like I’m still entertaining people because that’s the way I speak. The people like it, they laugh. I don’t mean for them to laugh,” said Rodriguez, who also hosts events for the consulate.

Still, she says she can’t bring herself to watch her former show, because she has to be at peace with her choices.

“I don’t want to be envious like, that should have been me. Take jealousy out so I don’t watch because I don’t want to be jealous. If I stayed, would I be doing this? Like I said, trust yourself. Everybody has their own way to cope with it, so like me, I don’t watch,” said Rodriguez.

The immigration process brings many challenges for all Filipinos, even those who are celebrities. Many Filipinos, including Rodriguez, find that they have to adapt to new careers as part of their relocation, which is something she says that transplants should embrace.

“Whatever you’re doing, love it. So whatever your job is, maintenance, whatever, be proud of what you’re doing. Because they chose you so that means you’re the best for it,” said Rodriguez.

“For all us Filipinos, this is not where we were born. We all have struggles, whether it’s friendship, family, work, finances and housing, immigration. I always believe in this… laughter is the best medicine. But number one is your faith. Do not ever forget that everything is in His hands. It’s God’s will.” – Jannelle So Productions | Rappler.com

Rappler is partnering with Jannelle So Productions Inc (JSP), founded by Filipino-American pioneer and Los Angeles-based journalist Jannelle So, to publish video and written stories from SoJannelleTV about the journeys, successes, and challenges of Filipinos living in America.

Check out So Jannelle TV daily for stories that make you pause, reflect, and appreciate who we are and what we are as a people. 

Sundays, 4:30pm PT / 7:30pm ET on The Filipino Channel (TFC)
Mondays, 6:00pm on KNET Channel 25.1 Southern California
Replay on Saturdays, 7:30pm PT / 10:30pm ET on ANC North America
Any time on YouTube.com/SoJannelleTV

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