Kim Atienza

Year with the Tigers

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By Arian Anderson R. Rabino; Photo by Paul Allyson R. Quiambao

AtienzaHE MAY not be your prototypical teacher, but Alejandro “Kuya Kim” Atienza makes sure his viewers learn from him.

From exploring wild animals, facts, places and events in Matanglawin, to reporting weather forecasts in the primetime news block and hosting daily noontime show Showtime, Kuya Kim has virtually made trivia and wildlife discoveries look like a walk in the park.

“My career goal is to be credible as a news person but at the same time to entertain,” he told the Varsitarian. “Gone are the days when news or important information is relayed very formally. Pinoy tayo eh, we want color, we want music, and we want dance.”

Making of a ‘Tiger’

After studying in a seminary, Kuya Kim took up Education in UST in 1983 to pursue his fondness for discovering and sharing knowledge. Although Kuya Kim’s UST days were short, he made the most out of them, spending countless hours in the University’s libraries and museum.

“My one year in UST was very exciting. It was filled with explorations and learning, both formal knowledge in the classrooms and informal knowledge through self-discovery and goofing around with my friends,” he said. “It was also the first time that I met so many beautiful girls.”

Owing to his drive for learning and studying, Kuya Kim excelled in his studies. He was a dean’s lister in his only two semesters in UST. He was also the president of his batch.

Kuya Kim also immersed himself in extra-curricular activities. He became the declaimer in the College of Education, competing in inter-collegiate declamation contests. He was also active in theater and ballet with the Philippine Ballet Theater and Pamela Alejandros Studios, respectively.

To satisfy his inclination for visual arts, he frequented the Roque Ruaño Building, which housed the then College of Architecture and Fine Arts and the Faculty of Engineering back then.

“I enjoyed watching how the students of Fine Arts and Architecture drew their plates. Their hand movements were very delicate and their designs were very intricate. Despite not taking up Architecture in college, watching them was more than enough to satisfy my cravings for the arts,” Kuya Kim said.

As a son of Thomasian architect and former Manila mayor Lito Atienza, he was initially prodded to take Architecture in college.

“My father really wanted me to take up Architecture because he’s an alumnus of UST Architecture, but he never forced me to study what I did not want to study,” he said.

However, just as Kuya Kim was starting to fall in with UST, his love for the performing arts got the better of him. Since UST did not have any course specifically catering to theatrical exhilarations and film, he transferred to the University of the Philippines (UP), majoring in Film at UP Film Institute.

Crossroads

For a politician-turned-TV-personality like “Kuya Kim,” the road to TV success was a bumpy ride.

After graduation, Kuya Kim had different jobs, taking on various roles in theatrical plays until he started dubbing for the Filipino-language version of hit Japanese shows, such as Maskman and Ultraman.

After his theater and TV stints, Kuya Kim entered politics.

“Politics for me was an option, not a passion. My dad’s political career was on the bloom since he was already an assembly man at that time (the Martial Law years). It would have been stupid for me not to try it because I might have liked it,” he said.

Kuya Kim served as a councilor in Manila’s fifth district (Intramuros, Ermita, Malate, and Paco) from 1995 to 2004, receiving the most votes for his position during the three elections. After his second term, however, he realized that his political job was starting to feel like a hard man’s “work.”

“I realized I am in it for a good reason—because I love my family and I wanted someone to take my father’s position when his term ends. But it’s not lofty enough to be passionate about,” he said.

He confessed that he originally joined television in 2004 to get media exposure in preparation for his plan to succeed his father, who was in his last term as Manila mayor.

But he had to make a choice: run for mayor or pursue his first love, theater and the arts.

He chose the latter.

Freed from the clutches of politics, Kuya Kim embraced broadcasting, pitching as a weatherman and an animal expert on TV.

“In politics, I used to drag myself to work. But in broadcasting, I am energized even if I have to wake up 3:30 in the morning,” he said.

Kuya Kim’s weather forecasting started in Magandang Umaga Bayan, where he had a segment called “Animalandia.” The king of Philippine weather reporting and trivia, the late Ernie Baron, was impressed by Kuya Kim’s work and declared that he will someday take his place.

“Even before Ka Ernie passed away, he told me that I was the rightful heir to his work as a weather reporter and trivia master. He even told me ‘puwede na akong magpahinga’ (I can now rest in peace),” he said.

True enough, Kuya Kim has established an image of credibility and affinity as a household name known for his Steve Irwin-look-a-like outfits accentuated by an “adventure” hat. He appears in daily shows Showtime and TV Patrol World, and weekly show Matanglawin.

“Our mission is to educate people with an advocacy, and at the same time, entertain them to catch their attention. This is what I have learned in UST, education rooted with principles,” he said.

Even with only a year spent at the Dominican-run University, Kuya Kim remains a true-blooded Thomasian.

“UST became very instrumental in making me learn many things. Because what I do now, although it utilizes the principles of film and communication, also uses the principles of education,” he said. Tomasino