Askal wandered into the AVS-TVN compound. He wondered what the long queues were so he stationed himself at the end of a queue. The people jumped up at the sight of the filthy mutt.
“Shoo! Shoo!” They tried to drive him away while they kept their distance.
“Grrr…” Askal bared his sharp teeth as he stepped a few feet back.
As Roy Aranda was leaving the compound, he noticed the poor dog all alone under the blistering heat. He was then struck by an idea.
When the mutt proved quite friendly, Roy took Askal home, cleaned him up and fed him while his mind worked overtime. While the dog feasted on canned corned beef, Roy was on the phone pitching his idea to Madame Ciara Sanchez.
The next day Askal was in Madame Ciara’s office regaling her with his, “Bow-wow-wow!!!” No matter how she looked or listened to Askal, she could not find anything extraordinary about him. He was nothing but an ordinary street dog with no talent at all, but she trusted the talent-managing abilities of Roy Aranda who assured her that he can make this ordinary mutt famous in no time, given the right publicity and promotion.
She agreed to give Askal a chance and left it to Roy to turn him into a star. Roy executed his plans. First stop was the vet to give Askal his distemper shots. Askal had to flesh out his skinny frame so the next destination was the dietician who provided the dog with a daily diet, the amount of which could feed a family of four for a month or two if they stuck to their one-pack-of-noodle per meal.
An appointment with Riki Yello followed where she enumerated what the mutt needed, “A bath for cleansing, a luxurious shampoo to make his fur soft and shiny and aromatherapy to relax and calm his nerves.”
A day at the spa
“See? Now he could pass for a pedigreed dog,” Riki said proudly when Roy came to pick Askal up.
Roy noticed that Askal’s paws were trimmed to perfection. He took a sniff and said, ”Hmm...he smells so good.”
Yep… with the imported shampoo used on him, he would surely smell better than the children selling sampaguitas, menthol candies and gums on the streets of Manila.
Next stop was the dentist. One session at the dental clinic and he came out looking less threatening with his teeth straightened and whitened. He even got all his cavities filled.
To refine him further, Askal was sent to workshops to teach him the skills needed to impress the public. He was taught to follow simple commands such as “Sit”, “Play Dead” and “Freeze”.
His acting coach taught him the regimen of the performing arts. At the end of the week, he happily reported Askal’s accomplishments. “He can smile on cam, wag his tail and show emotions through his eyes.”
The voice coach gleefully recounted how he successfully changed Askal’s street-dog vocabulary of “Bow-wow-wow” to the more classy “Woof, woof, woof, bark, bark, bark.”
Roy Aranda was ecstatic at the improvement done on his protégé.
It was now time for Askal to be introduced to the public. A press conference was called and Askal was fed to the members of the media who were relentless in their assault on the innocent dog whose only intention was to fill his stomach and never go hungry again but Roy, his manager, had other ideas.
To get the right cooperation from the media, envelopes were passed and the press conference took a 180-degree turn. The next day’s tabloids carried Askal’s pictures with articles praising him to high heavens and promoted as the most talented dog on the face of the earth.
The Askal Mania Begins
So the Askal mania began. Askal’s face was everywhere and the public had no chance. His grinning face was on every magazine owned by AVS-TVN, he was on every tabloid, he was on the radio “woof-woofing”. He was on every show at AVS-TVN from morning till night. He was on variety shows as guest, he was on the news programs supporting the anchors, he was a guest on every sitcom from drama to comedy and he was on celebrity talk shows during the weekends. And for every appearance, Askal got a big applause from the audience which, of course, was pre-recorded. He had shrieking fans which, of course, were paid to carry “We-Love-you-Askal” placards, to scream when he came out and to hang leis on his neck.
Then Roy had another money-making idea. “Let’s record Askal’s “Woof-woof.” He got Dino Palmo on the phone. “I need a song for Askal.”
“No problem, “ Dino replied. In 30 minutes the song was done. It doesn’t really take long to write the lyrics “Woof, woof, woof, bark, bark.”
It was no surprise when Askal paw-marked an exclusive contract with AVS-TVN. He was to tape a teleserye for prime TV with his Dino-Palmo-song as the theme song. The writers at the TV network hurriedly scribbled a story for Askal. There was actually no need to brainstorm for long because they were sure that whatever rubbish Askal starred in would surely get a good rating, given his popularity.
Even before Askal’s teleserye aired the pilot episode, his song had climbed up the charts. It was played on the radio every 30 minutes as OPM. The Filipino masses lapped up the “Woof-woof Song” and wasted their money to buy Askal’s records. It would have been less expensive to listen to the dog barking on the streets.
And wonder of wonders, a new dance was invented and promoted at the AVS-TVN noontime show “Bow-Wow-Wee”. It was called the “Woof-Woof-Dance" which became a national craze. Even the guys at Good Morning America were talking about it and learning the steps.
In no time, cell phone "Woof-Woof" ringtones became available. A day would never pass without being bombarded with Askal’s “Woof-woof-woof”… from the radios to the cell phone ringtones which permeated the markets, the malls and the school grounds. Not to be left behind, the jeeps, the buses, even private cars blew their horns to the tune of “woof-woof”.
When Askal’s teleserye ratings went through the roof, Askal’s name became a household word and he could no longer go out without being mobbed. His handlers did not need to pay fans to scream for him. He got real fans now who shriek at the sight of Askal and would fork-out their hard-earned peso to buy Askal’s posters and magazines featuring him.
Due to Askal’s overwhelming popularity, he needed to give back something in return to his loyal throngs of fans. His manager announced that Askal just inked a movie deal with Moon Cinema.
Needless to say, the movie was shot and finished in no time because there’s not much exploration to be done in a story where a dog is the hero. The movie was acclaimed as the movie of the year. The Filipino masses trooped to the movie houses ready to spend their money on Askal. The money which could have gone to a kilo of rice plus “ulam” would be spent to see a dog who, only a year ago, they shooed away.
Needless to say again...the movie was a big hit, a blockbuster! Askal made several movies after his first which were all mega hits. And he was nominated and won in the Onion Awards, the Pamas and the Academy Awards as best animal actor.
The Next Step
Next election, Askal, the Asong Kalye would run as a senator. Maybe he would win, maybe not… because accordingly, the Filipino voters are now intelligent.
But the problem is, whatever the TV networks shove down their throats, the Filipino masses swallow… hook, line and sinker!
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