As we walked to the start of the line, the guides started calling out to all the tour participants: "Come on, run!" And so we ran, from one dark studio to another, through one dark hallway to another, seeing nothing of interest.
"No wonder this is free," I thought to myself. "This is the suckiest tour ever." The tour guides, all long-time ABS-CBN employees currently not working on shows, were tasked to handle tours by management as an effort to bring the station closer to the public.
Then they put us on a bus driven by a cameraman. He said we were going to the ABS-CBN village behind the compound. The station had built a village for shoot locations and also for temporary residences for all station employees and talents when they were working on projects.
As we drove around the village, which actually just had two streets, we passed by a TV reporter interviewing Boboy Garovillo and Ian Veneracion on the sidewalk. We also caught a glimpse of another actor, one whose name I could never recall, closing a house gate. He didn't look happy to be there, and I wondered if the celebrity sightings were staged for our tour.
Then we passed a Balinese-inspired house that had a sign that said, "Chat's Resort." It had a big yard and a pool. "I have been here before," I said to no one in particular. The memory was hazy, but I just knew it wasn't my first time in the place.
Then I remembered: Once upon a time, I worked for ABS-CBN and our team wanted to hold a "team-building activity." We went to Chat's Resort. We arrived so early that I had to buy coffee from the nearby café. I was even dressed for an outing -- neon sundress, beach shorts, flip-flops -- and I was convinced that Chat's Resort was in Batangas.
We parked in front of the café beside Chat's Resort. The driver told us we were going to walk around the village and instructed us to wait at the café for our guide for this leg of the tour.
The café, more like a canteen actually, was self-service, being run by another off-duty tech guy. One of the tour participants ordered two full meals for himself. As someone took his order, the tech guy chatted with me about the tour.
"Too bad Lucky and Bea just left," he said, "Bad timing. But Popoy is still around, and I think you will be interviewing Popoy."
Popoy who? I wanted to ask. Of course I had an idea, but I didn't want to break the spell! But --
The tour participant paid for his order and the cashier didn't have enough change. Instead, he offered the guy free hopia. The guy helped himself to seven pieces, but they could no longer fit his plate. So he handed me one.
I was biting into the hopia and thinking of what question to ask John Lloyd Cruz -- "Did you ever dream of being in a festival like Berlinale?" -- when I woke up.