What made you decide to be or do Bogart the Explorer from Davao City? What inspired the concept? Did you think you'd be such a hit?
I guess it all started when I worked as a production assistant on this little known TV show on RPN a couple of years back. The executive producer was Jako de Leon, the son of Joey de Leon. The TV show had a radio show that went along with it, and one night when my friends and I, all PAs for the show, were at home enjoying a couple of drinks, we decided to prank call the radio show by pretending to be an Aussie listening in on the online stream. Long story short, Jako found out I was already his employee and had found the right guy for a concept he had been developing for a while. It was about a Steve Irwin type of character who hunts "creatures" in the urban jungle. We shot it over lunch the next shooting day and aired it as a small segment in the show. It got a little attention. It wasn't until the show ended and Jako uploaded the Bogart the Explorer segment on YouTube that things began to take off.
As for the name, well, "Bogart" is a funny sounding name if said with a Bisaya accent, so we chose that. "The Explorer" was added because that was what Steve Irwin was, and Dora was a hit then. Finally, we put "from Davao City" because I am darn proud to be a Dabaweño.
If your real name isn't "Bogart," what is it?
My real name is Marco Antonio Ho.
A lot of your videos are about the Philippines or the Filipinos. Is there anything specific you want to say/show about the country or the people?
We generally just let people find their own meaning in our videos. Humor is just one of the tools we use to get these messages across.
What makes you passionate about what you do?
It's a good way to make a living. Growing up, I didn't know what I wanted to be. To be honest, even up to now I still don't know. All I know is that I love what I'm doing now. I'm making people happy. I get letters from teachers from special kids schools telling me that their students love watching Bogart videos on YouTube and on TV! I don't know if what I'm doing now is truly my passion, but the love from the fans makes me do it passionately anyway.
How do you come up with new "acts," so to speak? Now we have Bogart the Unboxer, Bogart Meets So and So.
The unboxings, the Hollywood interviews, the TV show, the traveling—none of it was ever planned. I didn't know I could interview people until I actually did it. Agents contacted us through our social media accounts and presented us with these amazing opportunities. And we were never one to say no or back down from a challenge. Luckily, they've all worked out well and we've been getting offers to do things we've never done before ever since. These people somehow think we can do it. The fun part is proving them right!
How's life been like since you've become famous AND have interviewed foreign celebrities?
Life is still the same. I still live in the same house. I hang out with the same people. I do things the same way. I have a very generic Pinoy face, and without the costume, nobody ever notices me except for a handful. So I don't get mobbed in public. I am able to enjoy a "private" life. Which is good because off-character, I am very very shy and awkward. It comes from my introvertedness. I guess the only thing that's truly changed is that I'm more financially secure and I eat a lot better.
A number of people are very vocal nowadays because of the social media culture that allows and encourages them to speak their minds. That said, did you ever worry about offending people like the conyos and getting some backlash? Or say, worry about some of your jokes not being understood because of the jargon used?
The fact that I mostly speak English in our videos and English with an accent means that there will always be people who won't be able to understand what I'm saying, let alone understand the jokes. Misunderstandings are common but that never stopped us from doing what we want. See, we started our channel to entertain ourselves. When millions of other people saw and liked what we were doing, the "ourselves" part just got a lot bigger but the goal was still the same: to entertain.
The beauty of YouTube is that no one is forced to watch your videos (except if it's one of those ads that you can't skip) so generally, if people don't like our stuff, they they just don't watch us. But we found our audience and our audience found us. Simple as that. We never mean to offend, and fortunately, even with the misunderstandings, people know that we mean well, that it's all in the name of fun.
Some YouTube users have pointed out that some of your videos have turned to advertisements, but they're still funny. Do you have anything to say about the "complaints"?
Feedback is always good, and with regard to ads we appreciate that many of our viewers still like them just as much. Branded content is necessary for us to produce other videos.
Just because we're on YouTube doesn't mean we don't want to raise the quality of our content. And that takes both time and resources. At the end of the day, most if not all of those ads are done by our team and we make sure that ad or not, people get the best of what we have to offer. Besides, we've always done a lot of branded videos, except back then, we also put out an equal, if not greater, number of non-branded videos as well so people hardly noticed the ads. We've been very fortunate that all these amazing brands put their faith in us and we couldn't be more grateful.
However, between The Bogart Case Files show on CNN Philippines, the expansion of our Hoy Panga! restaurants, and my going home to my family in Mindanao, we really haven't had any time to create more videos like before. But that doesn't mean we don't want to or that we never will again. Once things start to settle a bit and we get a good foothold on things, we'll be back. The output of videos may have slowed down, but not the influx of ideas.