“Daddy Butch”—Remembering the soft-spoken titan of motoring

He’s been called the Elvis Presley of Philippine motoring for his signature hairstyle and physique that resembles the King of Rock and Roll. For more than 30 years, Motoring Today/Auto Focus creator and host Ray Butch Gamboa has been the face of motoring television, giving you the lowdown on the local auto industry, the word on the newest cars in the market, and expert opinion about anything automotive.

“Sir Butch” suffered a stroke in early 2019. He was paired with a wheelchair since then but even that didn’t deter him from doing his job. He still attended events whenever he could and continued hosting his two shows – Motoring Today and Auto Focus, together with his children Wee and Tin Gamboa. He remained dedicated to the beat he pioneered back in 1987 until his passing on November 15, 2023. 

Having only entered the beat in 2016, I haven’t really had the chance to mingle with him for an extended period of time. But behind the camera, only those closest to him, particularly his colleagues and production crew (even former staff) at Sunshine Television Ventures (STV), know what Ray Butch Gamboa (or Sir Butch) is in real life. They are the ones who have worked the longest with the legendary motoring columnist and commentator, some since the early days of Motoring Today, and through STV’s ups and downs. The Philippine STAR got a hold of their individual stories — some of which will be told for the first time — and pieced together a portrait of the man behind the legend.

A strict, perfectionist boss

“Broadcasting has been in his blood since he started his career in radio. He would always tell that he never gets tired of taping or working because this is his passion. Secondly, he is a worker. I admire how he worked hard as an entrepreneur. He went into different businesses from carpet cleaning, export trading, real estate and to putting up STV, it only shows how resilient he was in withstanding the different challenges that came his way,” says former STV supervising producer Mackie Maquiraya, who started in STV in 2007 as a production assistant.

A bit of background: Butch started in the media industry at a fresh age of 16 as a disc jockey for radio stations DZBM and DZLM of Mareco Broadcasting Corp. His career on radio also included DJing for Uncle Bob Stuart’s musical show in DZXX and before capping it with his disc jockeying tenure at ABS-CBN’s DZYL and DZQL stations. His early exposure and enduring career on radio are a testament to his passion for broadcasting and hosting.

A benevolent mentor

STV’s VP for Production Jenny Bleza-Pineda also started out in the company as a production assistant for Motoring Today during its early days in 1988. The newly-minted lady professional worked for the show while working for another TV program, Beauty Secrets by the late Philip Daffon. After 29 years, she has climbed up the ladder to become the invisible hand behind the show’s production and execution.

“I can consider him a perfectionist because that’s what he always tells me. Do your best and not just yung pwede na (what is acceptable). But I must say that his being a perfectionist has taught me to be on my toes all the time. He was a good teacher, in fact, he considers me his protégé. In some ways, I have now imbibed his way of thinking,” Bleza-Pineda explains.

Being one of the few people still around to recall the early days of STV, Bleza-Pineda described to us what the working environment was at that time.

“We were so compact at that time: a cameraman, a driver, a utility personnel, a production assistant, a writer, a director and a manual teleprompter operator. We would do everything in just one day, meaning, interview government agencies concerning traffic management for our Motoring Review and Forum segments in the morning, then off to shoot a vintage car for our Showcase portion, do the scripts immediately after lunch, and then we tape the on-cam of Sir Butch and the late Jose ‘Pocholo’ Ramirez around 4PM which would end at 9PM. Saturdays were for program editing then for delivery to Channel 4 in the evening in time for Sunday afternoon airing,” Bleza says.

One can only assume from these statements how tedious and challenging the task of working for a perfectionist like Sir Butch was. As with any profession, there were moments when mistakes and errors were committed, and Sir Butch wasn’t the kind of boss to take it lightly. Bleza-Pineda was no stranger to her boss’ wrath. She just laughs when asked about her blunders.

In his latter years, however, his years of experience and wisdom have changed Sir Butch, from being the perfectionist to a kinder, more sympathetic boss.

“Through the years, he has changed a lot, he’s very considerate now. Our new set of production assistants has benefited the change. He is more sober now when it comes to reprimanding his employees; he doesn’t get mad right away if anyone of them commits mistakes. He allows room for blunders now,” Bleza-Pineda shares.

A word of encouragement

There are other facets as well to Sir Butch’s personality aside from his perfectionism. Cameraman Raul Promeda, who has been working for RBG since 1977, has seen how dedicated and passionate his boss is to the things he does.

Wala po akong masabi kundi mabait at matulungin si Sir Butch. Ayaw niya ng tatamad-tamad sa trabaho, umiinit po ang ulo niya. Nagagalit siya kapag mali ang ginagawa, hindi nagcoconcentrate, gusto niya trabaho kung trabaho (I have nothing else to say other than he is kind and helpful. Employees who lack focus, commit errors or are lazy infuriate him. What he wants is for everyone to concentrate on their job),” says Promeda.

While he served the longest as cameraman for Motoring Today, he started out as a production staff during the early days of the show, setting up equipment and assisting during taping.

Natuto akong humawak ng kamera dahil minsan ay walang available. In-encourage ako ni Sir Butch na mag-aral humawak ng kamera para madagdagan ang kaalaman ko. Mabait po si Sir Butch, binibigyan niya kami ng chance matuto sa production (I learned how to operate a camera because sometimes I had to fill in when there’s none available. Sir Butch encouraged me to study how to operate it so that I could learn more about it. He’s given us the chance to enrich our knowledge about TV production), Promeda states.

An amiable friend

STV VP for Administration and Finance Eva Gamboa-Reyes, who has been working for the TV host since 1977, agrees with Promeda’s testimony regarding Sir Butch’s kindness and generosity, but adds more.

“He is a very hardworking person, very meticulous, pays a lot of attention to details and seeks perfection in doing my work. As for his weakness, he is a person who finds it difficult to say no whenever I ask for help,” Gamboa-Reyes exclaims, adding that her boss is one of a kind, thoughtful, optimistic and would give her advice and guidance in things she’s not aware of.

She adds: “He has gained a lot of friends in the automotive industry because of his congeniality. Sir Butch works hard to make sure things go as planned; he ensures that there is always quality in the output, which makes clients love him that much.”

One of the many friends he’s gained in the motoring industry is no other than his former co-host, Sir Pocholo. During the heyday of Philippine racing events in the ‘70s, Pocholo and Butch were already the dynamic duo of the Philippine motoring scene, with the latter covering the races of the former. 

It was only logical that they paired for Motoring Today when it first aired in 1987. From then on, they were inseparable, even covering international racing events together on a tight budget, alternating as a cameraman to each other.

“They were very good friends, they were together during Pocholo’s racing days, this may be the reason why both of them made it as perfect hosts for Motoring Today. Both are lively and jolly on and off camera,” Eva recalls.

Butch and Pocholo established such a good rapport both on and off air that when the latter died in 2009, Butch gave tribute to his long-time partner through a special episode. He’s the type of person who doesn’t let his friends down, which is why he’s found such a great following within the automotive industry.

Behind the celebrity in front of the cameras is a human being with admirable qualities. From the eyes of his employees and colleagues, we’ve come to know Sir Butch as a hardworking perfectionist who strived to serve the Philippine motoring industry by producing only top-notch programming and focused the spotlight on the diversity of motoring issues and events. 

His passing late last year definitely left a hole in the industry he helped spur. That hole is certainly bigger in the hearts of the people he has touched over the years. 

Now, Motoring Today is in its 37th year while Auto Focus is in its 26th. His children Wee and Tin Gamboa have shared hosting duties for the flagship show Motoring Today, while Wee suits up alone for Auto Focus

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