“Da Best” Pinoy talents shine in TFC’s worldwide talent competition

TFCkat sets the stage for nine hopefuls’ international stardom
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Feb. 4, 2013 - PRLog -- TFC finally unveiled the global winners in its monumental talent competition – TFCkat at the Welcome Night recently held at the ABS-CBN Restaurant 9501 in Quezon City.  TFC, in partnership with Western Union, welcomed the winners from 9 countries across the globe : Gail Belmonte from Singapore; Cris Bernardo from Dubai; Joy Carbonell from Hong Kong; Russel Figueroa from Canada; Maverick Silang Gomez from Switzerland; Sean Hutton from Australia; Remar Kenji Ippo from Japan; Pamela Morton from Guam and Daryl Ogalino from the United States of America.

After going through a volume of submissions online and months of arduous auditions in TFC events worldwide, TFCkat had finally set the stage for these performers to shine.

While these champions vary in demeanor, musicality and age, these winners’ world-class talents cut across. Joy Carbonell is a domestic helper from Hong Kong who is blessed to be employed by a Swiss national who in fact, encourages her love for music and even shares his talent with her at performances for free.   Joy wants to extend the talent to her fellowmen as well.  “Since season one sinubaybayan ko na ang mga contests sa Pilipinas. Iniisip ko na sana makasali rin ako. Pero mahirap para sa aming mga  Pilipinong nagtatrabaho sa abroad.  Nung nagkaroon ng TFCkat, sabi ko heto na. This is the moment.”  (I have long watched competitions in the Philippines.  I have also wanted to join but it seemed difficult for distant Filipinos like me.  When TFCkat was launched, I said to myself this is it.  This is the moment).”  

Cris Bernardo agrees.  “Porke’t nasa ibang bansa eh hindi ibig sahin na okay ang buhay.  Pag nagkakataon na may competition tulad ng TFCkat, it’s time for us to enjoy as well.  Dahil nga nasa labas kami ng bansa, nagkakaroon kami ng pagkakataon na ipakita ang talent namin pati na rin sa ibang lahi sa ibang bansa.” (Life overseas is not necessarily easy.  When TFCkat was launched, it gave us the chance to enjoy and to show our talents to our fellowmen and other cultures). Cris used to join competitions in the Philippines but stopped when she joined her husband in Dubai.  
The couple lives with fellow Filipinos in a barracks type of unit and it was her housemates who encouraged her to pursue her dream via TFCkat. As fate would have it, Cris replaced the original winner in the Middle East finals who was not allowed to join the rest of the winners in the Philippines.

TFCkat winner for Australia Sean Hutton says that while TFCkat is an avenue for some of his fellow contestants to showcase their talents, it is not just a competition for him.  “I want to be a musician throughout my life from now until I die.  Hopefully with this life experience, coming to the Philippines and doing this whole TFCkat thing, I will learn more about myself and as a Filipino.  What I want is to continue to be a musician later in life and do music as a professional here or in Australia.”  According to his mother Beth Hutton, this search for identity is expected of migrant children. “When you’re a mother nurturing your child outside your home culture, it’s difficult.  How are you going to pass on that culture? So I showed him how to do kulintang etc.  You see it’s always a struggle but I thank TFCkat because this has become a conduit for me,” Hutton ends.

One TFCkat winner has already been into music back in the Philippines.  Russel Figueroa, a migrant based now in Canada, tried his luck with a local recording company.  Life overseas came calling and Russel left his dreams for a while, that is until TFCkat came.  Russel could not say no to the opportunity and the TFCkat team could not be happier.

Gail Belmonte, the youngest contestant at 17 years old said that TFCkat is the first competition she joined after a long while.  “My parents and friends encouraged me to join,” Gail said.  Like Gail, Pam was born and raised outside the Philippines.  What makes Pam’s story unique is that her sister Jamie Tam flew in from Guam through her own means to support her sister.  Jamie specifically wanted to be with her sister since she is leaving Guam soon to migrate with her husband who works in the U.S.  “I’m always going to be proud of her,” Jamie said amidst tears.

Remar Kenji Ippo and Maverick Silang Gomez won the nod of the judges in their respective regional finals through dance.  Kenji, Japan’s bet, heard of TFCkat at a Filipino get-together.  Her mom Rizza Sakunaga who is a TFC subscriber, nudged him to join.  His agreement turned out to be the best decision he ever made.  He auditioned twice – one in Nagoya and the other in Gifu.  Two auditions were no guarantee to get in but Kenji did win the unanimous vote of the TFC team in Japan.

At first glance, Maverick looks every inch a European.  But once he tells his parents’ story and opens his heart, he appears to be very Pinoy, talking mildly and in a sing-song manner.  He brings this type of rhythm in the way he moves and this definitely earned him a TFCkat slot.  

Daryl Ogalino has a different story.  While he looks Filipino, he only speaks a few lines but could croon an entire OPM.  He said it is an effort to learn Tagalog but he tries.  Daryl said “It feels great because coming from the U.S. where a lot lose their culture, for me that culture is something we need to keep alive. That’s why I love to sing Filipino music. I really can’t speak that well but it means a lot to me because I feel the emotion.”

Edson Aguiflor, ABS-CBN Global Ltd. Country Manager could not believe his eyes at the richness of Filipino talent across the world.  “You cannot imagine how pleasantly surprised we are to discover that we seem to have a boundless stream of talent everywhere.  I could just imagine how difficult it was for the regional judges to sift through the entries and contestants.”

Jojo Ines, ABS-CBN Global Ltd. Chief Marketing Officer said TFCkat started as a regional program in Canada.  When TFCkat rolled out across the world where there was TFC, he was surprised at the large turnout of good performers.  To the winners and their future endeavors, Ines has one piece of advice. “Find something unique in you whether from your heritage or yourself and seize the opportunity to live your dreams!”

For these TFCkat winners, the chance to have represented their region, aside from the chance to come home to their motherland with a family or friend (courtesy of TFC), is already a huge reward in itself.  But to inspire these outstanding talents further, Western Union threw in an additional Php 20,000 to arm each contestant them as they pursue another journey into Philippine show business.

From song to dance, the Filipino is perhaps one of the most talented people in the world.  While claiming to be the best is arguable given the number of performers around the world, the passion for music and their Filipinoness is clearly undeniable.  TFCkat launched the contest in 2012 with this in mind.   While the competition may have already finished, TFC will continue to support this fervor and connect fellow Filipinos across the world through their music and culture.
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