Before there were Asianovelas on the big networks, and before the news invaded RPN-9 (now 9TV), there was ‘Sunday Chinese Theater’.
During the 1990s, RPN-9 aired the said program block at around 9:00 a.m. on Sunday mornings. As the title suggests, the program featured Chinese drama series that were undubbed and with little edits.
‘Sunday Chinese Theater’ primarily catered to the Chinese Filipino community, considered as one of the largest ethnic groups in the country.
One of the more popular Chinese dramas aired on ‘Sunday Chinese Theater’ happen to be ‘Justice Bao’, whose title sequence was iconic among older television viewers.
The series focused on the legend of Bao Zheng, a Chinese government official during the Song Dynasty. Bao was instrumental in upholding justice and honesty in ancient China, while punishing various erring citizens for their troublesome deeds.
‘Justice Bao’ lasted 236 episodes in total, and ran for much of 1993 in Taiwan. RPN would later air the series during the mid-to-late 90s, after which ABC-5 (now TV5) picked up the series (as ‘Judge Bao’) and aired it from 2007-08, albeit dubbed in Filipino.
In addition to ‘Justice Bao’ and other Chinese dramas, ‘Sunday Drama Theater’ also aired a cooking show hosted by the legendary Fu Pei-mei. Older viewers should recall the famous banner written in Chinese characters as part of its set.
Fu’s cooking show was aired to close out ‘Sunday Drama Theater’ for several years. And along the way, thousands of dishes were featured and created thanks large part of Fu’s iconic wok.
After its initial run on RPN-9, ABS-CBN picked up the series and aired them after ‘Honey, Watch Out’ on Saturday mornings. Both Fu’s cooking show and ‘Honey, Watch Out’, like ABC-5’s airing of ‘Justice Bao’, were dubbed in Filipino (see example of a Tagalized version of Fu’s cooking show above).
Today, undubbed Chinese programs are now seen on the Chinese Entertainment Channel (CEC), which is exclusive to SkyCable subscribers.
Gone but not forgotten, ‘Sunday Chinese Theater’ will always be identified among RPN-9’s best shows. For any kid who used to channel surf in the 90s, looking at a bearded Chinese judge wielding a stick and a chef tossing her ingredients in a steel wok for a few moments will always be remembered in their minds, and in their hearts forever.