The first and only dedicated Filipino radio channel in the UAE is already receiving critical acclaim after reaching out to the Pinoy community to make them feel ‘at home’.
Arabian Radio Network (ARN) station Tag91.1, which went live in March, whisked the ‘Best Radio Station in Dubai’ award away from competitors including Virgin Radio Dubai, Dubai 92, City 101.6 and Radio 1. The station received more than 50,000 votes just seven months after its launch.
Mahmoud Al Rasheed, general manager of ARN, told 7DAYS the recognition is testament to the power of the Pinoy community, as well as a team that has built a strong connection with the station’s audience. But the channel hasn’t just brought together listeners in the UAE.
Tag91.1 hosts Louie da Costa and BlueBird revealed that the multi-platform channel – broadcast 24 hours a day on 91.1FM, online at Tag911.ae and with dedicated iPhone, Android, Nokia and BlackBerry apps – has bonded with Filipinos across global airwaves. Da Costa said: “Even from the beginning, before we started the project, we knew that Filipinos would be full of support when it comes to something that will remind them and make them feel like home. But we didn’t expect this much of a response. We even get calls from the US, Canada, Taiwan, Saudi Arabia, Qatar and other neighbouring GCC countries. Plus we also help new expats who tune in feel like they’re not alone.”
She added: “Sometimes we get calls from people who are new to Dubai and they don’t know anyone, and they’re really homesick. So we’re like one of their first few friends. It’s nice to be able to make them feel at home.”
The former Virgin Radio presenter added that her move to 91.1FM has also helped her feel closer to her home town.
“I’m very in touch with my roots now. I feel so much a part of the Filipino community. And the support they give me now, compared to before, is different. Now I belong!” she said. Da Costa added jokingly: “I think I’ve actually forgotten how to speak in English.” BlueBird, from Filipino Rhythm on Dubai Eye 103.8, said the broadcasts also support expat Filipinos by responding to their queries.
“Most of our listeners love to ask questions – whether it’s current events, what’s happenings in town or music – and even questions that are supposed to be answered by the Filipino consulate… They find it more convenient to call us than to call the consulate!”
The duo shared that they also receive amusing questions, including random curious matters such as “Why are car tyres black?” Da Costa said: “We have a segment called ‘Express Katanungan’ (Express Question) – listeners can ask anything they want and we’ll try our best to answer it. One time, a female listener got personal and asked: ‘What are the requirements to get Bluebird’s number?’”
To which BlueBird responded, ‘You have to buy a bunch of flowers and chocolates for Louie!’” The station has also united the community through sporting events. More than 1,600 Filipino teen and adult basketball and volleyball enthusiasts gathered to play a part in a Filipino sports league (pictured left) during the summer.
But the music is the most important thing for every Filipino, BlueBird insists. “It’s even our tagline, ‘Mahal Ko Music Ko’ (I love my music). Mostly they call in with dedications and song requests,” he said. The most requested song so far has been the one BlueBird jokingly calls “the national anthem of lovebirds”.
“It’s called ‘Posum batu’ (Heart of stone). It’s a sad song – a ballad about this guy singing about this girl who’s got a heart of stone,” he said. And they hope listeners will stay tuned. “I think we’ve shown people in Dubai what we can all do together as Filipinos – that we can keep showing them the good things that Filipinos are capable of,” Da Costa said.
BlueBird added: “I just want to thank all our listeners for believing in us. Don’t stop!”