Apr 20
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For Kuya Kim: Life is just ‘weather-weather’

Author: Deni Rose M. Afinidad
Column: Life & Entertainment

A failed bid to be a legislator led this politician’s son to seek his comfort zone. And he found it at ABS-CBN.

Today, Kim Atienza is everybody’s favorite Weather and Trivia Man.

Early risers see him in the newly revamped ABS-CBN morning show now going under the title Umagang Kay Ganda as Kuya Kim who tells us all about the weather in key cities across the archipelago, traffic situations in Metro Manila, and trivia on anything under the sun, but particularly more about animals.

The son of former Manila Mayor Lito Atienza, Kim followed in his dad’s footsteps and had politics in his consciousness more than a decade. As a city councilor, he invited controversy when he authored a city ordinance declaring Hollywood actress Claire Danes persona non grata after the star of Romeo + Juliet in an interview with American magazines (Vogue, Premiere, Entertainment Weekly, among others) was quoted describing Manila as filthy and miserable. Kim, not Claire, got the goat of some Filipinos for reacting rather unreasonably to the star’s pronouncements that were based actually on what she saw on the set of the film Brokedown Palace. He failed to understand that Claire’s description of Manila was the handiwork of the film’s art department (in order to recreate the prison in Bangkok where the film was supposedly happening).

Now that he is in broadcasting (although he has a bachelor’s degree in mass communications from the College of Mass Communication of the University of the Philippines in Diliman), he would have a broader understanding of how media can create a different reality for the cameras.

Broadcasting, not politics

“Broadcasting is my real passion,” confesses Kim, who majored in Film and Audio-Visual Communications. Kim’s first job is with the Kapamilya network as a dubber. He provided the voice to ’90s superhero Ultraman Magmaman.

When the show ended, Atienza moved on to other networks. He hosted the defunct aerobics TV show Muscles and Motions on RPN-9, and did sports review on ABC-5.

After that, his fondness for broadcasting took the backseat as he enmeshed himself in politics. He admits that even his return to TV three years ago was politically motivated.

“I initially planned to use TV to boost my political career,” he says. “That’s why I went back to ABS-CBN, hoping to get exposure for my plan to run as mayor of Manila last elections.”

But the winds of change seemed to have driven Atienza away from his original agenda. From doing canned features on animals, his show became a three-to-four live feature every morning.

“There’s so much work in the morning, my passion for broadcasting [was] revived,” he declares.

Accidental advocacy

“Bata, halika dito (Come here, child),” Ernie Baron greeted Kim during the latter’s visit to the very popular weatherman and trivia guy weeks before he succumbed to a lingering illness.

Baron added, “Ang buhay may hangganan, pati na rin ako... pero pwede na ko mamatay kasi may kapalit na ko... At ikaw ’yun (Life has an end, even I... but I can already die because I already have a replacement... you).”

Those words struck Kim, who was surprised why the old man was speaking to him in such a manner since he was still so much alive and kicking at that moment.

“Mahalin mo ’yung trabahong minahal ko, dahil ’yan ang buhay ko (Love the work I loved because that is my life).”

Kim received Baron’s last will with tears welling in his eyes. Those words were to become the key that opened the succeeding chapter in his life: as TV Patrol’s next weatherman. But while he has Baron’s blessings, he didn’t realize that he was causing trouble for ABS-CBN News and Current Affairs head Maria Ressa.

“We want you because you’re good, but you’re going against my code of ethics,” he remembers Ressa saying. The head of the network’s news also asked him to choose between politics and broadcasting.

“That time, I was in the middle of a life-changing decision,” he relates. “I asked a sign from God, a miracle from heaven so I can choose prudently.”

On Jan. 24 last year, Kim’s birthday, Baron died. To the young weatherman wannabe, it seemed like it was the sign he was looking for.

“Finally, I went back to Ressa and told her, ‘I’m ready,’” he recalls.

That was the start of what Kim calls his “accidental advocacy” as a weatherman.

Life is just ‘weather-weather’

After deciding he wanted to be in broadcasting for good, Kim faced a second challenge: telling his father that he was quitting politics.

“I felt like jumping off an airplane without a parachute,” he says. “But more than a politician, my father is a father and a friend, so I know he would understand me.”

After totally turning his back from his dreams of being in the legislature, Kim revamped his image to suit his new life. He made a little twist to distinguish himself from his predecessors in weather reporting. That twist, of course, is the explorer’s hat, which he never fails to wear as a prop when going on the air. He borrowed the idea from one of his most favorite broadcasters, the late Steve Irwin, also known as Animal Planet’s “Crocodile Hunter,” to whom he also shares his passion for animals.

“Nakakatawa, lahat ng idol ko namamatay (It’s funny because all of my idols die),” he quips, pertaining to Baron and Irwin.

He knows that by wearing a hat every day, he makes a fool of himself.

“I face many embarrassing situations every day, at least twice in a day,” he says.

True enough, when he checks what people say about him in their blogs, there is a handful that say they don’t like his face or his hat.

“But what concerns me more is giving wrong information,” he says. “I can’t ad lib the weather because it’s very dependent on numbers. Many people would die if for example, I have mistakenly said 50 km. per hour instead of 20.”

In particular, he faced a real “life and death situation” at the height of super-typhoon Milenyo.

“I know many people depended on me at that moment. But at the middle of the spiel, my teleprompter collapsed,” he narrates. “I was very scared. There was no hard copy as a backup.”

Nonetheless, Kim was able to pull himself through the situation because he did his homework.

“My goal in broadcasting is to be always accurate especially in extreme weather [conditions],” he says. “That’s why I prepare my everyday report by studying, researching, and working closely with the nameless, unsung heroes of Pagasa (Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration).”

A typical day for Kim is waking up at 3 a.m.; gathering information and writing scripts for his segments; giving a two-hour visit to his kids in the kindergarten school after his MUB taping; having a “mandatory” one-hour sleep after lunch; taping a live weather report and a three-to-four-minute feature for TV Patrol World; going back home at 7 p.m.; watching TV with his family; and going to bed at 9 p.m. Every weekend, he spends time with friends or plays sports with his family. Sometimes his schedule changes when he has out-of-town coverage, or when he has to shoot episodes for Y Speak.

“The work is hard but if you work with passion, it becomes so easy,” he says. “My aim is to make the weather understandable to five-year-old kids, like Sesame Street, without insulting those in the 50s.”

Pinoy Crocodile Hunter

Kim’s passion for animals started when he was a young boy.

“My house is an ecosystem,” he relates. “There are birds flying around; bats greeting us at night; tortoises walking freely; and turtles and a hundred koi swimming in the pond. All of them are legally registered and are coexisting [among each other] peacefully inside our house.”

Among his pets, tortoises are his favorite. Nonetheless, he says he keeps animals not for vanity but for education. As he adds: “Everything I say and do should be of value. This is my contribution to media.”

For his shows, he gets his daily supply of animals from animal lovers and zookeepers.

“I’ve become very close to them that every animal I need is just a text away,” he says.

To tie something with value to the weather and to make his reports more interesting, Kim infuses his love for animals in his daily feature for TV Patrol World. With a vision to show the positive side of news, he aims to bring National Geographic Channel and Animal Planet to poor kids.

“I am fortunate for having been given the opportunity to share my passion for animals on TV, through which I can also mold minds,” he says. “Most poor children have no access to cable (TV). Those who live in slums do not know any animal except bird, cat, and dog.”

One time, when Atienza was in a coastal town in Visayas, a fisherman’s son approached him and asked information about animals and nature.

“Sobrang nakakataba ng puso (It’s so heart-warming),” he says. “I don’t see how [I have such an] impact [on] people in real life, so I feel so appreciated, I don’t get this in politics. In politics, people hate me. Now, they even appreciate me.”

According to him, as long as moms and kids believe him, he will be forever indebted to provide them with real and accurate data other than what can be searched from the Internet. He aspires to be the same old Kuya Kim for the rest of his life, but one who always play with data presentation and reinvents his manner of reporting.

“As long as you give out quality information you’ll never go out of style,” he says with determination. Then he adds that there is a power he is getting from broadcasting that is bigger than what he got from politics, and that is the power to educate.

“I want to grow old in this kind of profession and do this as long as I can,” he says. “When I was still a politician, I prayed to God to give me an advocacy to die for, and this is it.”

Source: Manila Standard Today