Tiya Dely, a national treasure

dely

For almost seven decades since 1940,
Fidela Mendoza Magpayo aka Tiya Dely has been gracing every
Filipino home through the radio on a daily basis.  And for the past 67 years, her honeyed voice remains
as the most recognizable among radio listeners. In fact, so great is her influence
and contribution to Philippine culture, she is considered a national treasure.

As the country’s most trusted
confidante, Tiya Dely is a straight-shooter.
“I talk to my letter- senders as if they are my relations,” she says. “Hindi ba, minsan kinakagalitan ko pa? Even
to our friends na naloloka, hindi ba ganun tayo? Ang tingin ko
sa problema,
if you can solve it, then by all means solve it. But if not,
just leave it to God.”

“In giving advice, I always put
premium on Filipino values,” she explains. “Yun
sana ang gusto kong manatili sa atin.
There are new ways that we have to
accommodate, but our foundation as a people should always be anchored on our
intrinsic values.”

Like any successful franchise or
enterprise, Tiya Dely, the national
shoulder-to- cry-on, didn’t just happen. She is a product of a careful planning
by a lot of smart people, including herself.

“Our program director, Rey Oliver thought
of transforming me as the radio counterpart of the famous advice columnist in
the U.S, Dorothy Dix,” she relates. “But being inexperienced, I was hesitant. ‘Ano ang ipapayo ko?’.  Then he said, ‘Alam mo,  bawat tao, may
kanya-kanyang
 opinion. Just give
your opinion, and they can take it or leave it.”  And that was how, on October 6, 1953, the
landmark program “Mga Liham Kay Tiya Dely
was born in DZRH.

The moniker Tiya Dely was, of course, her own invention.  Mr. Oliver had thought of Ate Dely as her radio alias but she
suggested that she’d rather be called Tiya
Dely despite her youth.  “Sabi ko, ‘ang alam ko sa Filipino, mas
pinapakinggan yung
auntie eh”.

Sure, she’s happy that she stuck to
her instinct, especially now that she’s 86. “Imagine if I will be called an ate at this point, hindi ba?”

Even her famous opening and closing
spiels were carefully designed. “It was Rey who thought of my program extro, ‘Sa ‘yoo, sa iyoo, at sa iyooo.’ I think
he copied the style from an American program”, she says.  However, the intro, ‘Itong inyooong Tiya Dely’, which she delivers in a sing-song
manner to open each show was another of her concoctions.

Tiya
Dely gained confidence as soon as the program started because of its instant
prominence. “The listeners loved it because it was different. Nang kwela na, ayan dumami na ang tagapayo”,
she says.

Among her mentors in broadcasting
was Lope K. Santos. “Number one critic ko
yan  sa Balarila,  sa pananagalog.
He would immediately call
to correct me when I made a mistake”, she
continues.

“When I was starting on radio,
I had no idea about fade-in and fade-out, but Ben Pangan who gave me the break
in radio drama, was so patient with me. I listen to authority.”

Her early directors also included Mervin
Samson and Fred Gonzales. “Fred coached me into voice acting. Mahigpit sila kapag mali ang sambit
mo
”, she says. “I’m proud that the first leading lady of our soap, Esther
Chavez in ‘Ilaw ng Tahanan’, is still
with me. The veterans might be old but they can make at least five voices. Magagaling.”

Of course, it was a period when the
radio was hailed as the number one form of entertainment. “The standard then
was so strict,” she remarks. “Yung 15-
minute drama noon, terible  ang rehearsal. Iba noon.

Until now, Tiya Dely does not compromise the craft that she learned from her
mentors. “Sa pakikisama, magaling ako
kung magaling ding makisama sa akin.
I’m a disciplinarian. If our recording
was set at one o clock, I expect that they would be there at twelve, to read
the scripts.”

However, no successful career is not
without heartaches. And even Tiya
Dely wasn’t spared. “When Geny Lopez regained the ownership of ABS-CBN in 1986,
I rejoined his company. He sat as the Chairman while the management was left to
the younger executives. To me, it seemed that the people around Gabby Lopez
didn’t have much faith in senior broadcasters. I truly felt that I was being
eased out. In fairness, Geny, who pirated me from DZRH in 1957, tried to stop
me. Pero sabi ko, “Kung baga sa
nakaupo sa bangko eh inuusog  ka na
.
I don’t want to fall. So, I resigned from DZMM. That was in 1990.”

“I cried the day I left ABS CBN,”
she continues. “Paano ka namang hindi
iiyak
, I help built the station. I was there for twenty years. Ang naisip ko nga, when I heard that a
post in their studio bears my picture, baka
ako pa ang nakapagtayo nung poste na yun eh
. When I left, I couldn’t
control my tears because all my former colleagues in ABS CBN were waiting for
me at the foot of the stairs. And they were crying.

However
Rey Langit, who was then at DZRH, was quick to her rescue. “The very next day, I
had lunch with Rey and that’s how I was able to go back to my roots here in
DZRH. I am grateful that Fred Elizalde accepted me. He didn’t know me because
my boss in 1957 was his uncle, Don Federico Elizalde”, she says.

Ang
nangyari pa, nung lumipat ako, lahat ng mainam na
awards that year napunta sa DZRH. Even Geny was a listener in my 4 to 5 morning broadcast. Maagang nagigising yun eh.”

Tiya
Dely  is certainly one of the
country’s most admired icons.  She was a
KBP Lifetime Achievement awardee. She also received the Pama-As Gintong Bai
award from the National Commission on Culture and the Arts.  Her alma
mater
(Far Eastern University)
during its 75th anniversary also chose her as one of its 75 outstanding alumni.
She was also honored by the University of the Philippines with the Gawad Plaridel
(2006), and recognized by the Feminist Movement as its Centennial Awardee for
Broadcast.

However, deep in Tiya Dely’s heart, no accolade can ever
compete with the patronage of her devoted listeners. “Siguro, achievement na ‘tong
kinalalagyan ko ngayon,
” she muses. “I’m glad that I lasted this long. At saka,
ang
feeling ko, habang
tumatanda ako, parang pinaniniwalaan ako lalo.
Sabi ko nga, ba’t ganon, kung kelan ako tumanda eh…. That’s why  I’m very,
very careful with what I say.”

Through the decades, she has managed
to be credible and unblemished. More importantly, despite her unparalleled
success, she remains humble. “Palagay ko,
habang tumataas tayo, dapat matutong magpakumbaba,”
says Tiya Dely, the gorgeous First Lady of
Philippine Radio.  (For comments, send e-mail to gypsybaldovino@yahoo.com)

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