* this article was written for Pinoy Times, published in the September 2011 issue
|Darren Espanto, Pinoy Singing Sensation 3 Champion|
The Pinoy Singing Sensation (PSS) had its Season 3 Finals Night last August 20 at the Gateway Alliance Church in Edmonton. With contestants from Edmonton, Calgary and Saskatchewan, the young singers went through vigorous rounds - American Idol style, singing Billboard Top 100 and OPM (original pilipino music) songs, complete with judges’ comments and scoring, and audience and web voting.
The PSS was established by Tony Surtida of Le Tigre Entertainment Productions to discover the untapped talent pool in the Filipino community in different cities. It is open to anyone who is of Filipino descent and has attracted these past years both citizens, permanent residents and temporary foreign workers. The annual competition has slowly extended its scope through the years: by conducting auditions in areas outside of Edmonton and even out of province; by launching a Junior edition; and by adding web voting, thereby allowing anyone from anywhere in the world to cast their votes. Future plans are to add a Masters’ edition for ‘mature’ singers, extending the geographic scope of the competition, an online competition and raising the financial awards for contestants.
This year’s crop of contestants unexpectedly whittled down from 27 contestants to 13 due to health reasons, logistics and inability to secure leave from work, particularly those from outside of Alberta. The age range was from 8 to 35 years old. I had the privilege of hearing the singing prowess of all 13 contestants since they requested that all be allowed to sing in the Finals, rather than the originally planned Top 12. The evening had the American Idol like atmosphere - what with the crowd cheering for their own candidates and applauding for every sustained and high note sang by each contestant. It was incredible to witness unassuming, shy and at times awkward young people walk on stage only to transform in a matter of seconds, as soon as they open their mouths to sing. Gleaning from the judges’ comments, the contestants have taken to heart the critiques they have received in the previous rounds and have over all improved their performances. But in general, these young performers will benefit from more singing opportunities and voice coaching in the future to overcome nerves, develop audience rapport and improve performance technique.
|the 6 finalists|
After the first tally of audience and judges’ votes, the contestants were pared down to the 6 finalists and with another round of voting, the winners were announced:
- Darren Espanto - a 10 year old who made PSS history by scoring a perfect score from all judges during the previous round and whose angelic voice, boyish charm and strong stage presence earned him the Championship
- 15 year old Alexandra Villamar, a powerhouse of a girl who landed in 2nd place
- Charmayne Javier - a new immigrant from Davao, with a very good voice quality (3rd)
- Jade Pearl Dancel - who exudes a maturity and confidence beyond her age (4th)
- Sunshine Bautista - an English teacher who was tone deaf but was able to overcome this through determination and hard work; she is the contestant who understands most about imaging and packaging herself in accordance with her choice of songs (5th)
- Rofelle Antonio - a winsome girl with a captivating voice and expressive face (6th)
Prizes at stake were: $ 3000 (1st Place), $ 1000 (2nd Place), $ 500 (3rd Place) and $ 150 (4th-6th Places). It was interesting to watch the final round and witness one singer after another stepping up to the plate, singing their hearts out and thereby heating up the competition and erasing all previous notions that a particular candidate had the win in the bag.
It was admittedly a long evening (4 hours) but taking into account that it allowed one to share in somebody else’s shining moment of fame made it worth it. There were some moments when I got the goosebumps when faced with what was apparently God-given talent. I remember an instance way way back in my past when I was so impressed with a singer in an amateur show. So much so that I did not forget her name. She was Chona Velasquez who later on changed her name to Regine Velasquez. And so with these young singers, who joined the competition either for fun, for a learning experience or as a stepping stone for a professional career, there is the hope that they realize and develop their potential.
The Pinoy Singing Sensation then serves its purpose of being a platform for young talents to indulge in their vocal prowess for whatever purpose they will decide on. It is now up to the organizers to develop a format that would make this more interesting and marketable to the general public. One that would create an audience who would view the show for its program content and not just for relatives and friends who would come to vote for their respective candidates. Undoubtedly, the Filipinos are a talented race and something that we should always showcase and continually be proud of. And seeing how this competition has improved in its 3 years of existence, it is anticipated that the organizers would find a way to meld the artistic and commercial aspects of this endeavor.