19 OCTOBER 2006
i R E P O R T — G O T C H A !
SO IT came to be that this confidence man took a cab conveniently parked in front of my office. The driver possessed a large nose, big glasses, and the kind of thick Tagalog accent one usually associates with Leo Martinez characters in sitcoms. The driver seemed to recognize me from the rearview mirror and immediately started up a conversation. Oh no, I told myself, another talk-filled ride when I'd rather be alone with my thoughts. But TV is like politics — as every stranger is a potential vote, he is also a potential viewer of my show. So any last hopes for solitude went out the window.
"'Di ba artista ka (Aren't you in showbiz)?" the driver asked. I laughed, before he blurted out his punchline, "Sa Star Stroke?" Ooh, very funny.
Then he said he saw a recent documentary I did on humpback whales. Oh a late-night viewer, our constituency. I suddenly paid closer attention. Then he dropped his first bombshell: "Alam mo, ang sarap ng lasa ng balyena (You know, whales are delicious)."
"Hah, saan ka na nakatikim (where did you get to taste one)?" I replied.
"Sa probinsiya pa (In the province)."
"Anong lasa (What did it taste like)?"
"Parang baboy (Like pork)."
This conversation went on about the various endangered animals he had devoured in his lifetime, including breast of eagle that he said was available in Arranque Market, which is notorious for selling wild-game meat.
By this time, I was getting increasingly shocked at the gall of this man who seemed to know about my work as an environmental journalist. But I kept mental notes about the sources of his rare diet, for possible future investigation. He seemed delighted to be catering to my curiosity.
It was a short ride. When we got to my destination, he found a place to park and, strangely enough, got out himself. As I exited his cab, he took off his exaggerated nose to reveal his true identity: the comedian and impersonator Michael V! Directly behind, a van that had apparently been following us also parked. A cameraman got out to record my flustered reaction. Michael V's long-time collaborator, director Uro dela Cruz, was not far behind; he shook my hand as he stepped up.
An assistant then asked me to sign a waiver, giving the TV show "Bitoy's Funniest Videos" permission to use the recording from a hidden camera inside the cab.
I signed. How could I not, after years of secretly recording others without even a thought of getting them to sign a waiver? And Michael V at least voluntarily revealed his identity right at the end of the con, something I could not do for my high school chum Jimmy, who never did get a chance to exact revenge.
Except maybe through my total trust in a fake taxi-driving carnivore.
As a GMA7 reporter known for shooting his own video, Howie Severino usually uses cameras that are not hidden.
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