AS the mainstays of the 44-year-old noontime show Eat Bulaga — Vicente “Tito” Sotto III, his brother Marvic Valentin “Vic” Sotto, and Jose Maria “Joey” de Leon (collectively known as Tito, Vic, and Joey or TVJ) — bade farewell yesterday after a bitter breakup with production company Television and Production Exponents, Inc. (TAPE), signs point to the very name of the show likely going with them.

The Intellectual Property Office of the Philippines’ (IPOPHL) registration of the Eat Bulaga name reveals that TAPE has control over it for the next 13 days, until June 14, 2023. However, this trademark only covers merchandise like clothing and printed materials.

Meanwhile, there’s a pending application for the Eat Bulaga trademark that covers entertainment services as well as merchandise, filed by TAPE co-founder Antonio Tuviera and TVJ back in Feb. 27 this year, showing there may be plans to bring the Eat Bulaga brand elsewhere.

According to a statement issued a day after TVJ announced their departure, TAPE is “saddened by the turn of events” but respects the decision of the hosts.

Abangan ninyo ang mga bagong magpapasaya at magpapatibok ng ating mga puso. Aasahan ninyo ang mas masaya, mas nakakaaliw at higit pa sa isang libo’t isang tuwa na Eat Bulaga (Stay tuned for more enjoyable and exciting things ahead. Expect a more fun, more entertaining Eat Bulaga, with more than a thousand and one joys),” read the statement signed by Romeo Jalosjos, Sr., and shared on Instagram by Bullet Jalosjos, the company’s chief finance officer.

On May 31st, the program’s iconic triumvirate of hosts said online that they would be parting ways with TAPE, this as the show was halted just as it was about to go on air on its usual timeslot on GMA. The announcement, according to an insider, was supposed to have been made live on air.

Later that day, GMA Network released a statement saying that they still have a block time agreement with TAPE until the end of 2024.

“We are saddened by the unexpected turn of events,” said GMA, which has been the home of Eat Bulaga for the last 28 years. “Together with all the Filipino fans, we pray for a smooth and swift resolution of their issues.”

It is unclear if only TVJ will be leaving the show or if some of the show’s many co-hosts will be joining them. This as rumors swirl online that the trio will be moving to a rival network.

Last month, the trio said that TAPE owed Vic Sotto and Joey De Leon at least P30 million each for 2022. Following the media buzz on the issue, Mr. Vic Sotto informed members of the press after a briefing for his upcoming sitcom Open 24/7 that TAPE had settled the debt.

Salamat at na-media at nabayaran (I’m thankful that it was reported by the media and we were paid),” he said.

Relations between the three hosts and TAPE chairman Romeo Jalosjos, Sr. have reportedly been strained since Mr. Tuviera stepped down from the helm of the production company in early 2023, and the Jalosjos family started to make changes in the show.

BusinessWorld tried to contact TAPE, Inc. for comment but was told by the office secretary that only TAPE, Inc. president Jalosjos is authorized to comment on the issues and that “packed schedule po siya ngayon kasi ang dami niyang meetings.” — Brontë H. Lacsamana