Following a hiatus of over three years, the University of the Philippines (UP) conferred the Gawad Plaridel on actor, satirist, and advertising creative Manuel “Jun” Urbano Jr. or “Mr. Shooli” in a ceremony at the UP Cine Adarna, October 11.

Urbano was recognized “for directing well-made and memorable television ads, which highlighted typical Filipino characters and situations; propounded positive values like love of country… concern for indigenous peoples and our brothers in the regions; and featured Filipino personalities who made the country proud through their international achievements.”

He was also cited “for creating the TV series ‘Mongolian Barbecue’, which became a conduit for enlightening and conscientizing the public, and giving them a critical understanding of current urgent social issues through interviews with known government officials.”

In his welcome remarks, UP College of Mass Communication (CMC) Dean Fernando Paragas said he considers Urbano’s contributions to Philippine media and society a ‘gift.’

“We present to you our gift of an event that honors Mr. Manuel Urbano Jr. whose lifelong work of speaking truth to power through humor is in itself a gift to all of us.”

UP President Angelo Jimenez expressed his admiration for Urbano, saying that “his continuing commitment to the highest levels of excellence and professionalism, and his precious contributions to Philippine media spanning decades… make him worthy of the recognition.”

Instead of a traditional lecture, Urbano went as his character Mr. Shooli who provided a poignant commentary on the Philippines’ historical and current sociopolitical landscape.

“Ang main problem ninyo politiko. Ang politiko ninyo hindi na public service. Self-service na. [Ang mga] politiko ninyo pagkatapos maging presidente, tatakbo pang mayor. Ayaw mawalan ng puwesto,” he said.

(Your main problem is politicians. Your politicians are no longer doing public service. They are self-serving. Your politicians, after becoming president, will even run for mayor. They do not want to lose their position.)

“Ngayon, mga politiko ninyo hindi kagalang-galang—kagulang-gulang! Ano nangyari? ‘Di ba kayo pumipili sa tao? What happened to you? Wala nang marunong pumili ng kandidato sa inyo? Alam mo [pagkakaiba ng] ordinary thief sa political thief? Iyong ordinary thief, siya pipili. Ikaw pagnanakawan niya. Ang political thief, kayo ang pumipili.”

(Now, your politicians are not honorable—they are utterly exploitative! What happened? Don’t you choose them? What happened to you? Is there no one among you who knows how to choose a candidate? Do you know the difference between an ordinary thief and a political thief? The ordinary thief chooses. He chooses you when he robs. But with the political thief, you are the ones who choose.)

Drawing inspiration from his father, National Artist Manuel Conde, Urbano said there is value in using humor to communicate serious messages. He recounted his father’s advice: “If you want the patient to get well because he is very sick and he doesn’t want to take the bitter medicine for him to get well, give him a joke. Patawanin mo. ‘Pag bukás na iyong kaniyang bibig sakâ mo ipasok iyong gamot.”

(If you want the patient to get well because he is very sick and he doesn’t want to take the bitter medicine for him to get well, give him a joke. Make him laugh. Once his mouth is open, that is when you administer the medicine.)

“And that’s what I’m doing to you,” Urbano added.

“When I tell you your faults through comedy, tatawa ka. Iyan ang formula ko.”

(When I tell you your faults through comedy, you’ll laugh. That’s my formula.)

He then urged the youth to play an instrumental role in the nation’s future. “This country is your country. The future of this country is your future. Try to work on it,” he said.

He also emphasized the significant influence media holds in society, highlighting its impact on shaping public perception. “Iyang course na iyan, ang laki ng influence niyan sa pag-iisip ng tao. Nagiging [writer sa] newspaper kayo; nagiging announcer kayo. Huwag kayong magpa-troll. Use your knowledge to improve the country.”

(That course has a significant influence on people’s way of thinking. You can become writers for newspapers; you can become announcers. Don’t let yourselves be trolled. Use your knowledge to improve the country.)

Even at the age of 84, Urbano continues to leverage Mr. Shooli’s character on his digital platforms, actively combating misinformation through satire and interviews.

Aside from Jimenez and Paragas, this year’s UP Gawad Plaridel awarding ceremony was attended by other University officials, including Vice President for Public Affairs Roland Tolentino, UP Diliman Chancellor Edgardo Carlo Vistan II, UP Cebu Chancellor Leo Malagar, UP Visayas Chancellor Clement Camposano, UP Diliman Vice Chancellor for Community Affairs Roehl Jamon, and UP CMC officials.

The Gawad Plaridel is UP’s highest award for outstanding practitioners, paying tribute to exemplary media practitioners who embody both integrity and excellence across varied fields. The award is named in honor of propagandist Marcelo H. del Pilar, also known by his pseudonym “Plaridel.”

Past recipients include Eugenia Apostol (2004), Vilma Santos-Recto (2005), Fidela Magpayo (2006), Cheche Lazaro (2007), Pachico Seares (2008), Kidlat Tahimik (2009), Eloisa Cruz Canlas (2011), Rosa Rosal (2012), Jose Lacaba (2013), Nora Aunor (2014), Ricky Lee (2015), Francisca Custodio (2016), Tina Monzon-Palma (2017), Jessica Soho (2018), and Bonifacio Ilagan (2019). — With reports from Rex Espiritu, Samir Liao, and Max Salvador

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