Musñgi says there is still a lot more to learn about his craft. He listens to new commercials and watch videos on Youtube all the time. Photo from ABS-CBN Entertainment
Culture Spotlight

‘The voice of ABS-CBN’ recalls the first time he saw the station shut down

How can Peter Musñgi forget? He had just started his first job as radio announcer with the network—and then Martial Law happened. By BAM ABELLON
ANCX | May 11 2020

Last May 5, before TV sets tuned in to ABS-CBN turned dead silent following the network shutdown, a familiar voice was heard again by Kapamilya fans around the country. It was saying farewell to audiences on behalf of a network that has been part of their lives for decades. “Ito po ang kuwento ng ating ABS-CBN,” it said. The words led to a tribute video for the station. The voice was crisp, brilliant, cool, musky, soothing, and age-defying. It sounded the way it sounded the first time you remember hearing it.

Indeed if there was one voice the channel’s fans expected to hear that last night, it was none other than Peter Musñgi’s. His measured, unwavering tone that strengthens a words’ emotional resonance, whether he’s voicing a plug for It’s Showtime, or reading a teaser for the latest MMK, or telling the stories of the country surviving the worst of times. 

 

The Accountant

Growing up, Musñgi’s father, Dominador, a manager at the Rice and Corn Administration, moonlighted as a kristo on weekends in one of the cockfighting arenas in Santiago City, Isabela. But while he may have inherited his father’s big booming voice, the Musñgi patriarch had different dreams for his son. 

You may also like:

In college, at the behest of his father, the young Musñgi took up Business Administration, Major in Accounting, at University of the East in Manila (he later became a certified public accountant). He wanted to earn money by working at the same time. Coincidentally, he had a college friend who was, as he describes it, “obsessed with becoming a broadcaster.” Together, they applied for part-time positions in different broadcasting companies. 

Musñgi is also known as "Peter Rabbit." He got the nickname because he once sang the nursery rhyme "Little Peter Rabbit," while he was unknowingly on-air. Photo from ABS-CBN News

But before broadcasting beckoned, Musñgi was drawn to the religious life. The youngest of eight children, he was once influenced by his cousins — a priest and a nun — to join the La Sallete Seminary in Isabela for his last two years in high school. But after much discernment, the boy decided the seminary life wasn’t the right fit. “If you go into a religious life, you must have a calling,” he tells ANCX. “I didn’t hear the call at the time.”

Around this time, his sister and her husband were managing a radio station, at the time one of only two in Isabela. During summer breaks, Peter’s sister would ask him to hang out with her at the deejay’s booth. They allowed him to play music, which was a thrill, just as long as he didn’t talk. “Kulang sila ng announcers, wala din silang pambayad,” Peter recalls. “Ako pancit lang ang katapat. I liked that gig. That was my passion. I was really into music. Imagine, you’re able to play your favorite tunes, and you get paid for it. That’s the perfect job.”

 

Martial Law 

In 1972, Musñgi was on his first job as an announcer at the ABS-CBN station, 101.0 DZYK FM. (He says they were called announcers then and not DJs because they mostly played music and rarely talked.) There, he learned how to play a prepared and approved list of songs. He did time check and voice overs for the station ID. He played music for three hours daily. It was a dream come true for a guy from a small town. 

Then, dark skies loomed over his goals. In the same year, then Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos declared martial law and ordered ABS-CBN closed. Musñgi and his colleagues were left jobless.

“I saw the most popular radio announcers and personalities actually lose their jobs,” he says, remembering that horrible moment. “If you can imagine na sikat na sikat ka, ’tapos biglang na-realize mo, ‘Oh my God, mukhang hindi na babalik talaga.’” He saw some of his friends sell personal properties during those desperate times.

Eventually, Musñgi had to look for another source of livelihood, and moved from one AM station to another. His talent and skills molded him into becoming a news writer, a newscaster, and a DJ. The multi-tasking optimist not only worked his way up, but worked many jobs.

At five o’clock in the morning he would already be at an AM station in Makati. After lunch, he’d rush to an FM station in Quezon City. Then, he’d be back in Makati by dusk to do voice overs for Channel 13–after which he would drive to San Sebastian College in Manila to teach accounting. On weekends and late weekday nights, he would tend to an auditing firm he ran with his brother-in-law and a good friend from UE.

A few years later, however, he would decide to dedicate all his time on his broadcasting career. The auditing gig was proving to be more than he can handle. “As auditors or bookkeepers, they would pay us 3,000 to 5,000 pesos a month,” he explains. “That time, one voicing gig would earn you 3,000 pesos. Hindi na nga kami natutulog sa pag-a-audit, ’tapos pag may malpractices, kami pa ’yong witness. I had to choose.”

His first real voice-over gig was for a car commercial—except there was no talent fee. But it opened new doors. “I’m glad I took the job because that was my break,” he says. People started telling him he could do this gig more often, and he continued to get job offers. 

 

Happy days 

When ABS-CBN went back on air in 1986, he was one of the first few people who were hired. He hasn’t left the network since. He has, through the years, become the head of ABS-CBN’s Manila Radio, the managing director of ABS-CBN News Channel (ANC), and the head of ABS-CBN Sports, just to name a few of his posts. Still the most integral of all his jobs is being the network’s voice — through joyous and most harrowing times.

"I am problably the person who has said 'in the service of the Filipino' the most," Musñgi tells ANCX. "You imbibe it, not only in your speaking voice but in how you feel. " Photo from ABS-CBN News

He never thought he’d see his station shut down a second time. 

“The shut down is like a recurring nightmare,” he says, his voice stable over the phone. “Bumabalik ang bangungot because while I was very young in 1972 and I was supported by my parents, that traumatic shift in the order of things hit me really hard. It’s double whammy now because we are going through a terrible health crisis, sinabayan pa nito. It’s a very deep hole to dig out from.

The AM station DZMM, where Musñgi still works as host, has been accessible again through Channel 26, Youtube, Facebook, and the ABS-CBN news website. But it doesn’t feel like business as usual, he says.

Still, Musñgi sounds optimistic. Much like the way his, “Hanggang sa muli, Kapamilya” sounded that fateful Tuesday night last week. Warm and reassuring. History has taught him there will be better days ahead. “Because I went through martial law, nakakayanig talaga ’to,” he says. “But also because we went through that, I know babalik ang ABS-CBN. You may be able to silence us for sometime, but we will come back.”