By Lee V. Villanueva

SHE’S a mainstay on ABS-CBN’s morning show, Magandang Umaga Bayan, often seen interviewing people on the streets of Metro Manila and giving them gift packs.  But not long ago, this bubbly radio and TV personality was conducting simple science experiments in Sineskwela and cracking jokes with the child stars of Ang TV.
But lately, Thomasian Winnie Cordero has reinvented herself. Although the antics and wit remain, she has started ito tackle ssues and events as they come with a journalistic air.

Since high school, Cordero has been interested in the performing arts.  After graduating from the Immaculate Heart of Mary College in Quezon City, she took Communication Arts at UST in 1983.  Hoping to hone her dancing skills, Cordero auditioned for the Artistang Artlets (AA), a local theater organization of the Faculty of Arts and Letters, and eventually became a member of its dance group in her freshman year.
When AA’s dance group was dissolved as the organization concentrated on theater performance, Cordero continued to be active in AA, eventually becoming its secretary in her sophomore year and its artistic director in her third year.
Cordero recalled playing in a cause-oriented multiple-character play during her first year.
“There were no props, only pure improvisation and yet we delivered the message—proper waste disposal, poverty, and dealing with politico-social problems of the country—very effectively,” she told the Varsitarian.  “The play was even staged in a professional setting outside UST.”
Even as a student, Cordero’s performing skills crossed beyond the walls of the school: she became a talent in the children’s show, Batibot, during her junior year.  She said that at first the role was difficult for her, as she had to talk with a puppet.  But when the managing crew liked her performance, she was eventually given more than two acts per episode.
“I had to make sure that I focused on looking at the puppets and the camera and not be distracted by the person under the set,” she recounted.
After graduating in 1987, Cordero worked as an accounts executive of Lawin Tours.  She also worked as a receptionist and Human Resources staff at the Punongbayan and Araullo accounting firm in 1988, and telemarketing staff at the Monterey Meatshop in 1989.
In 1992, she was endorsed by fellow Thomasian Cocoy Jimenez, director of Batibot, to be part of the revival of the gag show, Executive Champoy, on ABS-CBN.  Her acting potential was seen by Johnny Manahan, who replaced Jimenez as director of the sitcom.  She eventually earned roles in youth-oriented programs like Sineskwela, Ang TV, Tabing Ilog, G-mik and Berks.  Cordero considers her stint in the socially-oriented sitcom, Abangan ang Susunod na Kabanata, as her biggest acting break. There, she worked with veteran actors Noel Trinidad, Tessie Tomas, Roderick Paulate, Nova Villa, and Carmi Martin.
“It really inspired me to improve my craft and practice discipline because my co-actors were big names in the industry like Noel Trinidad and Tessie Tomas,” Cordero said.  “Once we began reading the script, I should have memorized all my lines.  Ad-libs were avoided because the scriptwriter was the good but strict Joey Reyes.”
Because of her energetic spirit, Cordero received an offer from radio personality Joey Galvez to host with him his DZMM 63.0 entertainment magazine program, Showbiz Today with Joey Galvez.  “Broadcasting was really not part of my dream,” Cordero said.  “It just so happened that Joey Galvez talked to me and told me that they were looking for a ‘babaeng bakla’ to be included in their show.”
After her first break in radio broadcasting, Cordero became an anchor of the later AM radio programs, Teka Muna with Galvez and Giselle Sanchez, Barangay Showdown, and Todo Todo Walang Preno with Ariel Ureta.  She also ventured into television broadcasting when she was included in the cast of the morning news magazine program, Magandang Umaga Bayan, along with news personalities Julius Babao and Christine Bersola.
Despite having a stable media career, Cordero opted to engage in business with her husband, Dalmie Erquieza, in the family-run Meating Place Trading, which distributes Monterey Meatshop wholesale products in several markets and restaurants in the country.
Cordero also writes entertainment news for Buzz Magazine. She said she wants to write human interest articles on parenting and health.

‘Palengke Queen’
Cordero’s witty interviews, as well as her adaptive and naturally accommodating approach with ordinary people in her radio-variety programs, earned her the title, “Palengke Queen.:  In 2003, she received the Golden Dove Awards for Best Variety Show Host for Manila Radio for Barangay Showdown on DZMM.  Last year, she was awarded the same honor, this time for Todo Todo Walang Preno.
According to Cordero, her educational and extra-curricular experiences at UST greatly shaped her career.  Being a member of AA for four years developed her versatility and discipline.
“Actually, what the theater group taught me was discipline and versatility among all things because if you are a part of AA, you will handle props, costumes, make-up, script, and other things that make you an all-around person,” she said.
Despite her demanding job, Cordero makes sure that she allots time for her personal and family life.
“My family is the source of my principles in life, especially in presenting the truth and resisting temptations in media practice,” she said.  “Without their support, I won’t be holding on to this job.”
Armed with discipline and responsibility she imbibed from her Thomasian upbringing, Cordero said that her work is a lot more than doing funny antics.  It also requires having the good spirit to be flexible but firm in delivering the truth.