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Biliran lass named ‘Pinoy Idol’

August 18, 2008

MANILA, Philippines—(UPDATE) Gretchen Espina, a 20-year-old Biliran native, bested two other hopefuls and was declared winner of GMA-7 and Fremantle Media’s “Pinoy Idol” Sunday at the SMX Convention Center in Pasay City.

Espina, who gave impressive renditions of “For Your Eyes Only,” “Stand Up for Love” and “Ngayon” during the Final Performance Night Saturday, will receive P1 million, a condominium unit, a brand new car (Mitsubishi Lancer LXi 2008 series), a P1-million recording contract with Sony BMG Music Philippines, and a television contract with GMA 7 worth P500,000.

Her closest competitor was Jayann Bautista, 24, a Pampanga native and a former Viva recording artist. Ram Chaves, 25, of Cagayan de Oro, placed third.

"Show biz can be really nasty. I'm ready for it. It's not any different from politics," said Espina, daughter of Biliran governor Rogelio J. Espina.

Espina, a former member of the UP Singing Ambassadors, said she would share her winnings with her co-finalists. "I will share a portion of my winnings to the two other finalists. Napagkasunduan na namin ito," Espina on Sunday told the Inquirer shortly after the Final Results Show at the SMX Convention Center of the Mall of Asia in Pasay City.

Bautista and Chaves will receive P100,000 from Espina.

On Saturday, "Idol" fans started queuing at the 8,000-seater SMX Convention Center as early as noontime to watch Bautista, Chaves and Espina compete for the last time.

The opening number featured the Final 3 along with contestants Daryl Celis, Kid Camaya, Warren Antig, Penelope, Toffer Rei, Sue Ellen, Robby Navarro, Mae Flores, and Jeni Rawolle singing "Salamat Musika" with the UP Chorus Chorale and the Magnificat.

Videos of the finalists' homecoming were shown prior to each of their performances. Bautista represented Central Luzon. Espina, Eastern Visayas and Chaves, Mindanao Region.

The "Idol" hopefuls competed in three rounds—the first set of songs was picked for them by the three judges, the second, by their favorite mentors and the third, by themselves.

Bautista first sang "I'll Never Love This Way Again," a song chosen for her by judge Tracy. Alcasid picked "Bridge Over Troubled Water" for finalist Chaves, while Magdangal selected "For Your Eyes Only" for Espina.

The second round featured Bautista singing "You'll Never Walk Alone," a song picked for her by mentor Regine Velasquez. Chaves performed "I Don't Wanna Miss A Thing" and Espina, "Stand Up For Love" for their favorite mentor Jaya Ramsey.

For the third round, Espina chose to sing the Basil Valdez original "Ngayon" with the UP Chorus Chorale. Chaves did his version of Florante's "Handog" alongside guitarists Noel Mendez and Tats Suzara.

Bautista concluded the program with her interpretation of the Tina Turner song "Proud Mary" with the Speed Dancers.

The finalists also joined Valdez in a production number that featured his hit song "Let The Pain Remain." Near the end of the hour-long show, they sang the inspirational song "Go The Distance" with Velasquez. Local bands South Border, Itchyworms, Freestyle and Cushe showed support by singing their own tunes.

While on a break, hosts Gutierrez, Karylle and Ramos asked the judges on how they thought the finalists fared. Alcasid replied on the positive: "They're much better now, unlike last week when they all sang so blandly, as if they're not in competition. Tracy, too, was impressed. He commented: "Hindi sila magaling... dahil saksakan sila ng galing."

When the show got back on air and it was time for the judges to say their parting shots, Tracy commented that Bautista had a "powerful voice." He added, however, that it was obvious in her first two songs that the "Idol" hopeful had been nervous. She failed to hit the right notes, he added. "But with your third song, you proved you're not only a good singer but also a good performer," Tracy declared.

Magdangal said Chaves was "suave" in all of his performances, but added that Tracy had expected more from the rock singer. "In general, you did a very good job," she concluded.

According to Alcasid, Espina's performance was that of a "real champion." He said Tracy regarded it as a "revelation." "Last week, I was disappointed with your performance because I felt you were too emotional. But tonight, you're a champion. You deserve to be where you are now," the judge said.

"Pinoy Idol," which debuted on April 5 on the Kapuso network, is a Filipino interactive reality-based singing competition. It seeks to discover the best singer or "idol" in the country through a series of nationwide auditions and live performances, which is determined by public voting through SMS.

From over a thousand aspirants, 179 passed through the next round of auditions. Try-outs were held in key cities like Cagayan de Oro, Batangas, Iloilo, Cebu, Davao, Pasay, Dagupan, and Angeles. For the Pasay auditions, Ida Henares, head of the GMA Artist Center (the talent arm of GMA Network), took over Magdangal's seat in the judges' panel. Magdangal had left for the United States. Danny Tan is the show's musical director.

This is the second "Idol" franchise in the country, after "Philippine Idol" that was shown in ABC 5 (now TV5) in 2006. GMA 7 does not recognize "Philippine Idol" and its winner Mau Marcelo.

With Gerry Plaza, INQUIRER.net

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