What’s cookin’, Juday?

Judy Ann Santos

Viber beeps a message: “Can you take a call?”

I reply: “Who is this, please?”

A few minutes later, Viber beeps again: “Hello, Mr. Farmer. Can 

I call?”

I realize who it is. 

Ext. Seashore. Early morning.

The scene opens with a man preparing to cast a fishing net into the sea. Another man is seen doing so, while yet another walks around with a paddle board. 

A blood-curdling scream is heard, and a woman rushes through the forest.

Ryan Agoncillo explains the shots for the day: “We want to show an idyllic scene disturbed by that scream. The audience will think this is a thriller. Or a horror film. We are doing three installments of the teaser, and in the third it will be revealed that the scream came from someone pricked by a sea cucumber—and Juday is preparing uni (sea cucumber) in her kitchen.”

The whole sequence shot for an entire day at the Agoncillo rest house in San Juan, Batangas, was a teaser for the return of Juday—or Judy Ann Santos-Agoncillo—to “Judy Ann’s Kitchen,” her cooking show on YouTube.

The Agoncillo couple had decided to stop producing the cooking show a few months into the pandemic, saying it just felt insensitive to feature sumptuous meals while everyone else was anxious and struggling to survive. 

With things having normalized, Judy Ann was aching to get back. Ryan suggested adding ingredients of glitz—meaning a better-produced show, like “you’re watching a television show,” the ever-supportive husband said. “The audience is looking for good content.” 

The teaser was an appetizer, served in three small portions.

Judy Ann said she had been away for so long, and therefore her return needed a bit of oomph: “Ang tagal ko kasing nawala, kaya dapat pagbalik, may konting pabongga.” She explained that the teaser was meant to entice the audience to watch each episode.

The full trailer—with award-winning cinematographer Odyssey Flores doing the camera work—was dropped Easter Sunday on Judy Ann’s Instagram, showing the actors Jojit Lorenzo, DM Boongaling and this writer in light banter after the scream, while Judy Ann prepared the uni in the kitchen. 

‘JAK is back’

The kitchen is the centerpiece of the Agoncillo rest house. Upon entering the gate, guests are welcomed into a huge structure housing four—yes, four—kitchens, not including the coffee station. 

The biggest kitchen will be the set of the cooking show, although Judy Ann said it was not intended for that purpose when it was built. The three small ones are regularly used for cooking simple meals when there are no guests.

The kitchens were there long before Judy Ann thought of doing a cooking show. “I really love to cook, you know that. I have always wanted a big kitchen. I love inviting friends and cooking for them,” she said.

Indeed, she is known for her food. She once owned a restaurant in Quezon City, and currently operates Angry Adobo on Taft Avenue in Manila, near De La Salle University. When she’s at work shooting a film or TV drama, there’s a pop-up kitchen in her tent, and she cooks for everyone, including the crew. 

Judy Ann’s YouTube show is known for her random adlibs delivered while she cooks. The episodes are spiced by her trademark humor as she describes the ingredients and procedures, mixed with social commentary and a few curse words here and there. She is at her best self when cooking, she said. “It is important to be happy, feel happy, when cooking. The emotions affect the taste of the food.”

In the coming episodes, she said, “I am inviting friends over to either cook with me or just eat as we talk about our lives—on and off camera.”  

The revived cooking show is produced by Ethel Espiritu, a veteran TV executive producer, and directed by Ryan. Every now and then, expect the Agoncillo children—Yohan, Lucho and Luna—to appear as assistant cooks. 

Judy Ann’s return to YouTube coincides with her comeback on TV. After a brief appearance in “Batang Quiapo,” she is now filming the third season of the series “Bagman” opposite Arjo Atayde, directed by Shugo Praco. 

Oh, the “Mr. Farmer” bit? It’s a private joke, and naturally has something to do with food.

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