Of Kalurkey Love and the Many Levelations of Laughter
(as published in ZEN Health Magazine August-October 2009)
She has halted a few suicide attempts; has managed to revive a dying marriage; and has been an ardent advocate of eradicating “mass starvation”—or its homonym, depending on how closely you listen to her pronunciation.
Emmy Gaite, or more popularly known as Nicolehiyala of 90.7 Love Radio, is no god, yet she holds this great power that could transform a person’s life; the same power that almost everyone in this world has, but is usually taken for granted: laughter.
Laugh level no. 1: The origins
For the last six years, Emmy gradually became a sensation by making our bellies ache and our eyes water because of her zany antics and kalurkey punch lines on air. However, despite the jolly vibe her career has, the station’s namesake was also the reason why she chose to leave the corporate world for the often-chaotic world of media and broadcasting.
A “matendacious to the maximum levelacious” heartbreak prompted this business management major from Assumption College to undergo a career shift from banking to broadcasting. The pain was unbearable for her, so much so that she tried her luck as a disc jockey for Love Radio.
As with all other career firsts in this world, Emmy’s was not an exemption.
“’Yung first year ko sa Love Radio was more of a training for me kasi ’yung shift ko is night time, 8 pm to 12 midnight. That time, talagang lahat ng panghahamak natanggap ko, dahil hindi daw ako marunong tumawa” (My first year with Love Radio was more of a training for me since I was in the night shift that runs from 8 pm to 12 midnight. That time, I received almost all spiteful words and belittlement because, they said, I didn’t know how to laugh), she recalls.
One of Love Radio’s trademarks is the distinct and sometimes disturbing laughter of each of its DJs. “Developing your own personal laugh is the first lesson that you have to learn if you want to be a DJ, otherwise you are deemed unworthy of the spot for Love Radio,” Emmy shares.
“Nung una ang daming naiinis sa tawa ko pero ngayon ’yung laughter ko na ’yun, ’yun na ’yung binabayaran” (A lot of listeners were irritated by my laughter at first, but that same laughter is the one that gets me paid today), quips the ever-bubbly DJ. “So, it was difficult for me to adjust kasi iba ’yung [mundong pinanggalingan ko]. Assumptionista ako at [galing] sa corporate setting and then biglang mapupunta ka sa Love Radio kung saan pinag-uusapan ang talong ni mister” (At first it was difficult for me to adjust since I came from a different world. I came from Assumption College [an all-girl Catholic school] and I came from a corporate setting and then in an instant I became a part of a radio station where we talk about the husband’s package).
With little baby kalurkey steps, Emmy eventually learned the ropes of being a DJ for Love Radio. Well, with the help of her past loves. Joke- and humor-filled, yet tamed, bitch-fits on air are often inspired by her past heartbreaks and catastrophic boylet encounters.
“The very reason why people love me—hindi ko inaangat ’yung bangko ko, ha? (I’m not boasting)—is because they can relate to me and because I tell them a part of my life,” she explains. “If I find my exes worthless, I really relay my feelings on air. But not so much that I curse and violate the code of ethics while on air.”
For the past five years with Tambalan (her morning radio show with Chris Tsuper), she didn’t do anything except to tell her listeners about herself. The listeners have even memorized her whirlwind of a love life that almost everyone cried when she announced that she was going to get married.
Laugh level no. 2: The job
Life, the way she speaks of it, is one huge, precious clock. Tick-tocking, tick-tocking with no plan to stop. And she advises, “Don’t take life seriously. Bakit mo seseryosohin ang buhay kung wala namang makakalabas d’yan ng buhay? Saka nakaka-stroke—ang stress nakaka-stroke at ang stroke nakakamatay. Pag namatay ka, paano na yung mga utang mo? Life is too short to waste it.” (Don’t take life seriously, why would you do it when no one’s gone out of it alive? And it causes stroke—stress causes stroke and stroke leads to death. If you die, what about your unsettled debts?)
To counter the stress-that-causes-stroke-that-causes-death, she makes sure that she spends her weekends with her family and her fiancé.
“I try to find time kasi baka mabaliw ako” (I might go crazy), she says. “I make other people happy, and then I, myself, am not happy? That cannot be!”
While others make their jobs the focal point of their lives, taking them too seriously that they do not even have time for themselves and their own lives, Emmy is their complete and total opposite.
“I don’t consider my show or my being a DJ as work. Think about it, you go to the office to laugh and to make other people laugh,” she shares. “Our edge over other jobs is that even if we have problems, it seems to lighten our burden because we, ourselves, laugh.”
Her signature giggle might have led her to where she is now, but in reality, she’s more on the tamed side and a little less balahura, she says.
“Hindi naman ako sobrang balahura sa personal” (I am not that loud in person), she claims. “Kasi ang laging thinking ng mga tao si Nicolehiyala ay isang matabang babae na naka-tube na parang labandera, pero hindi ako maingay. Yung sa radio na maingay, hindi ako ganun talaga.” (Listeners think that Nicolehiyala is a plump lady in a tube top who looks like a washerwoman. That lady you hear on the radio is different from who I really am.)
“Pero hindi rin ako quiet!” (But I’m not quiet as well!), this often risqué DJ is quick to add.
Laugh level no. 3: The healer
A good day for Emmy is finding herself wholeheartedly laughing because of her ad-libs, in addition to finishing everything that needs to be done and be able to go home early to her family.
“Kapag nabalanse ko lahat ng oras ko, nasabi ko lahat ng gusto kong sabihin on air at maganda ’yung ad-lib ko at nagkaroon pa ako ng time for myself and for my family. Bihira mangyari yun!” (If I was able to balance my time, have said everything I want and need to say on air with fantastic ad-libs, and still have time for myself and for my family. It doesn’t happen every day! ), she says.
Aside from the happiness she has given herself, nothing beats the happiness that she gave to the many listeners of Love Radio whose lives she has touched.
At one point, food was delivered to their station from an anonymous sender. Emmy checked the note attached to it that said: “I was about to commit suicide and crash my car against a wall when, for some reason, I tuned in to 90.7.”
“We were laughing and we were actually talking about laughter and he listened,” recalls Emmy. “He reversed gears and went to buy some breakfast and sent it to us. Now we’re friends and we’re the godparents of his child.”
“You don’t know how happy I am when someone texts me and says that I’ve prevented his suicide because of my laughter,” she vividly shares.
There was also one time that she was in Glorietta when a woman screamed “Nicolehiyala!” and hugged her tight. When the woman started crying, the dumbfounded DJ asked why.
The woman said her dad suffered from Alzheimer’s disease and for many years her dad never reacted to any kind of stimulus. Then one morning, she turned on the radio and Nicolehiyala was coincidentally guffawing on air.
Surprisingly, the woman’s father moved a bit. The family thought it was just a coincidence, so they tried tuning in to Love Radio for days on end, until such time that the Alzheimer-stricken father was able to talk once more.
“’Yung first word daw ng dad nila was somewhat like ‘tado talaga ’tong si Nicole!’” (Nicole is such a kidder), she recalls. “So the woman said that she owed it to me that her dad was able to talk. Hindi ko naman sinadya (It was purely unintentional). I’m just being myself and being funny and I’m just doing my job.”
Laugh level no. 4: The pana-panahong panacea
Among the anecdotes mentioned, laughter is obviously the panacea that plays hero in this telenovela kind of life.
“With the stories that I told you, laughter really does wonders,” she says. “They say that my program helps the Philippine economy because it reduces ‘mass starvation’ [obviously a double entendre, though its homonym may apply as well]. They’ve studied it in sociology: when a person is actively laughing, he’s full, if he’s full, then he’s not hungry. Funny as it may seem but it’s true. If a person is flatulent [presumably due to excessive laughing], then he’s full and, thus, our answer to ‘mass starvation’…That’s what Chris Tsuper and I are aiming for: to create that smile even to one person, because that smile will create a ripple of laughter.”