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Marlsa Punzalan
Marlisa Punzalan

Filipinos in X Factor TV Talent Show

Marlsa PunzalanWhat’s going on in this year’s X-Factor? Well, the reality singing contest has been invaded by Filipino con-testants, that’s what. Seven Filipinos have now gone through the boot camp in just the show’s second week on air. To top this feat, all seven contestants got a standing ovation from the four judges. Unbelievable talents from the Filipino community!

1. When Mary Ann Van der Horst sang Beyonce’s hit ‘Halo’, the judges couldn’t believe their ears. Ronan Keating didn’t expect to hear such amazing talent from a contestant he quickly  dis-missed as flippant and not-at-all serious. He knew he made a mistake the moment Mary Ann let her vocal skills soar in her rendition of Halo.

Mary Ann, of course, is no stranger to taking the stage. She was a singer even before migrating to Australia to marry a man she met on Facebook. In Manila, she once sang with a sister-band of Aegis. Aegis is that all-female group renowned for singers who can beltout gut-wrenching songs in the rock genre. Mary Ann’s vocal range is of the same calibre as that of Julia Sunot or Mercy Sunot of Aegis.  Many Filipinos share Redfoo’s belief that Mary Ann has got what it takes to win this contest. Her easy-going disposition as revealed by her candid replies to questions endeared her to the Filipino viewers. Currently her Youtube has more than a million views. If these views were translated into votes, Redfoo might be spot on in his prediction.

2.   Marlisa Punzalan is only 14 years old but she wowed the judges with her soulful version of Mc Cartney’s Yesterday. Like Mary Ann van der Horst, the judges were taken by surprise with this girl’s vocal prowess. It is easy to dismiss young and inexperienced singers in a contest like this, especially if the contestant is extremely shy and nervous.

However Marlisa is born to sing at a microphone. She reminds me of artists like Michael Jackson, who are extremely shy offstage but transform into great performers once onstage. Redfoo was very impressed with Marlisa’s voice, even saying that her voice is the biggest voice he’s heard from a 14 year-old.  This praise was only topped by Ronan who was so moved by Marlisa’s rendition that he compared here to the show’s previous winners like Samantha Jade, Reece Mastin and Dami Im.\

3. Justin Vasquez is not tall even by Filipino standards, but what he lacks in height is more than compensated for by an undeniable charm and congeniality.

This adorable 15 year-old sang a happy-tempoed song and every judge’s head was swaying to the beat. There were no vocal calisthenics to leave the audience gaping, but there were certainly feel-good vibes. The audience fell in love with this boy and when he smiled, everyone’s heart melted.

Justin has a soothing voice; one wouldn’t tire listening to it, over and over again. To me, his version of Maroon 5’s Sunday Morning is far better than the original. “But of course, I’m not biased. I’m not his mom.”  Incidentally, Justin placed second in last year’s DZMM Global Pinoy Singing Idol.

4.Then there’s Erin Miranda. One is at a loss for words in describing the immense talent this Sydney girl possesses. She’s only 15 but she can definitely outsing everyone else in the competition. This girl has chosen a most difficult song to sing, And I’m Telling You, which  probably only Jennifer Hudson could sing with conviction. Last year’s winner Dami Im sang this song and secured the title. This year Erin dreams of following in Dami’s footsteps and she chose to belt out the same song.  A very brave song choice by Erin, but she nailed it to the last note.

This girl has got the pipes and if the contest was about soaring to high notes and sustaining the performance at this level, then Erin would win hands down. At least, Ronan thinks so. According to him, he has already found the X-factor winner in Erin. 

5. Jal Joshua does not typify the current crop of Filipino auditioners. This 17 year old is confident, self-absorbed and totally non-shy.  He goes onstage devoid of an iota of shyness and the judges love him for this. Nat even wants to put him in her pocket to accompany her to discos. Now that’s an ultimate proof of his likeability onstage. Jal has a winning personality, sometimes bordering on the comic, complete with voice distortions and mannerisms.

He certainly entertained the crowd and if he continues to do so, this might take him further in the contest. But this is not to say that Jal doesn’t have great singing talent. He has heaps. He was a runner up in Australia’s Got Talent in 2009 at age 12. He hasn’t been heard since because his voice has changed. Tonight, however, he has proved that he still possesses a remarkable voice. He sang Journey’s Open Arms and halfway through the song, the audience gave him a standing ovation. This has not happened in the competition yet.  Jal must have known this would happen. “The contest needed a Jal Joshua”.

6. The last two Filipinos who breezed through the audition belong to a trio of amazingly talented teenage girls with swagger – the right kind of attitude for hip-hop music. The trio donned girly bands, ribbons, caps, thick lipsticks and flashed a bit of their midsection.  If the judges’ comments were to be taken seriously, this group is the best group that auditioned this season.  When 14 year-old Angel Tairua and 15 year-old Sheralyn May Hill who are old friends on Facebook got together with 14 year-old Jessica Jade Sta Maria, they decided to form a group. Angel, the only one who is not of Filipino descent in the group is a veteran in singing contests having made it to the grand finals in Australia’s Got Talent last year. The group called their band Trill because according to them ‘they are true and real’, that sort of word-coining only girls this age group can come up with. But the true and real thing about Trill is the musical harmony of their voices.

Singing Super Bass by Nicki Minaj, the girls alternately sang and rapped onstage in voices that Redfoo compared to TLC, only better. This is the ultimate compliment to these girls who were trying to emulate this band in the first place. Well done, girls.

With so many talented singers, the question now boils down to who among them will get your support?