WAY before Vicky Morales started granting wishes, before Mel Tiangco began her nightly appeals for help, and prior to all those medical talk shows, there were the lines—the long lines— that led to Kapwa Ko, Mahal Ko.
It’s hard to believe that what started out as a show that brought out the generosity in people 35 years ago has now become the longest-running public affairs program on Philippine TV. And yet Ambassador Orly Mercado recounts their stories as if it just happened yesterday.
“Kapwa Ko, Mahal Ko was created with the simple intention of tapping private donors to help our indigent citizens,” says Mercado. “Channel 7 was the first network to respond to the call for a regular public service program. Back then, when people needed help, our one-hour television programs was their only venue,” he added.
Kapwa was founded by Mernardo Jimenez, with Dr. Antonio Talusan as president and medical director, and Orly Mercado and Rosa Rosal hosting the show. Through the years, Boots Anson Roa, Rosemarie Gil, Toni Rose Gayda, Susan Valdez, Nonoy Zuniga, Cielito del Mundo and Connie Angeles all became part of the roster of hosts.
Angeles, the former Quezon City vice mayor has been part of the show since 1983. “I remember starting out as a pinch hitter whenever the hosts were absent, but as they became involved with other things and their absences became more frequent, I eventually ended up hosting Kapwa, full time,” she narrates.
“During those days, the lines would extend all the way around the block, and despite the heat and rain, the people stood in line patiently waiting for their turn. That was when I realized that it was what I wanted to do, and even though I dabbled in politics, and worked in the private sector, my heart will always be with Kapwa Ko, Mahal Ko. That’s why after all these years, I am still here. Helping other people gives you a different sense of fulfilment; it’s something you can’t explain. It is an honor to be part of the show,” she adds.
“Kapwa started as a clinic on air, and we did it every day,” Mercado says. “We had very few doctors so I had to read medical books to prepare myself. As the patient load increased, there also became a need to develop specific programs that would address common problems. In time, several organizations committed to send their resident doctors to serve patients from all over the country.
“From there, Kapwa started to change, to morph, and we found other things to do, like disaster response and psycho-social intervention. We’d link up with partners and that’s where I gained the expertise when I became the Ssecretary of Defense. So even, when Connie and I entered politics, we used what we’ve learned from Kapwa to help an even bigger number of people,” he added.
Kapwa has always maintained the same format over the years, which several other shows have even come to adopt. But the show has moved beyond clinical work for individuals in need of medical assistance.
It now serves groups and communities with specific needs and has joined the ranks of other nongovernment organizations that undertake development work through primary health care and community-based health programs. Today, aside from continuing to assist individuals, Kapwa has trained health workers and volunteers in Central Luzon, the Visayas and Mindanao.
As they celebrate their 35th year, Mercado announced that Kapwa is going to strengthen its presence on the Internet to keep up with the changing times. The first thing they plan to do, he said, is to do is recast their web page to make it look young, fresh, and more interactive. “We will be updating it more regularly, and we will use blogs, Facebook, Twitter, podcasts and anything else to make Kapwa more accessible to the people.
“You know when you reach 35, you come to realize that you are not young anymore—but you are not that old either. There are still a lot of things you can do if you just focus and push yourself to do it. That is why I believe we can still come up with something new. We are going to utilize social media and social networks as our base. Of course, we are thankful we have our airtime, but we will have to think of new ways to stay current. Our generation might have our own experience, but we live in a different media environment. Those who survive in this business are those who realize that technology really is leap frogging. The most important thing is to remain as effective as possible, despite being in a different milieu—in a different set up,” Mercado explained.
Currently, GMA 7 Network President and Chief Executive Officer lawyer Felipe Gozon serves as the Chairman of the Kapwa Ko, Mahal Ko Foundation. The show airs every Saturday, from 5:30 to 6 a.m.