'On Their Way To Stardom'

A lot has been said about success being the result of talent, perseverance and luck. In the case of Star for a Night winner Sarah Geronimo, however, it was more than that. 

Indeed, technology -- mobile-phone technology, in particular -- played a huge part in her journey toward that P1-million worth ticket to fame, courtesy of Viva Television’s talent search program that concluded its first year of broadcast recently. 
She bested 10 other outstanding contestants who came from all over the archipelago for the much-coveted plum through a “three-step judging system” employed by the show: 30 percent from pre-finals judging; 40-percent finals night judging; and a whopping 30 percent from votes cast through SMS, popularly known around these parts as texting. 
The last in the judging system incurred mixed reactions from both critics and the TV public as being too high a percentage that seemingly diminished the actual performance and the singing abilities of the contestants. A Viva representative assured me, though, that it was part of the show’s concept from the onset. He said that allowing a huge chunk of the TV public’s text votes in determining the winner made it possible for the multimedia behemoth to gauge “who the people wanted.” 

The show is being aired regularly on IBC and hosted by singer Regine Velasquez. In its first year, it consistently gained good ratings, eventually culminating in the more-than-four-hour spectacle that was the finals night held on March 1 and broadcast live from the Philippine Sports Arena (formerly Ultra). 

Besides Geronimo, the other finalists included Mark Bautista, Jason Velasquez, Musica Cristobal, Florie Mae Lucido, Mailyn Yu, Angeli Mae Flores, Roxanne Castro, Carlo San Jose, Angeline Quinto and Maureen Marcelo. 

The colossal spectacle was well attended by the local entertainment gliterati, with the board of judges including the likes of multiawarded composer George Canseco and popular TV host Boy Abunda. The judges’ chairman was none other than the megastar herself, Sharon Cuneta. 

The show opened with a slew of performances from guest artists that included Jaya, Freestyle frontliners Jinky Vidal and Top Suzara and Side A’s Joey Generoso. Together with the contestants, they also did a couple of grand production numbers, featuring a medley of hit tunes from the ’70s and the ’80s. 

Young and inexperienced as they were -- the average age of the contestants was 18 -- the contestants admirably held their own with the seasoned professionals. Besides their already excellent singing, they also looked splendid and very “star-like” in their glamorous evening wear designed by top Filipino designers like Rhett Eala, Larry Espinosa and Frederick Peralta, among others. 

All of the contestants sang their hearts out for the desired prize. Among the notable performances were Maureen Marcelo’s incandescent rendition of “Better Days”; Roxanne Castro’s engaging cover of “Fallin’”; and Mark Bautista’s Peabo Bryson-like-sounding “Ngayon at Kailanman.” 

The contest proper became quite predictably dramatic, especially when the winner was announced. The reaction was varied. 

Some were ecstatic, while others were disappointed. However, most everyone -- including Jaya and Sharon Cuneta -- weren’t able to contain their elation as they openly wept for the winsome lass’s triumph. Geronimo herself burst into tears amid the loving embrace of her relatives as she sang anew Celine Dion’s “To Love You More,” her winning piece.
The fourteen-year-old high-school student from the University of Santo Tomas never really expected to win the award as she herself thought that she was too nervous and excited during her performance. Apparently, the texters proved her wrong. Indeed, though she was the last to perform, she was clearly their favorite, boosting her chances over the good-looking Cagayan de Oro native, Mark Bautista, who before her performance had garnered the most resounding approval from the crowd. He eventually finished as second favorite in the final tally of the text votes. 

Though not everyone could be picked a winner, most of the other finalists still went home happy with minor awards. Some, including Mark Bautista, nabbed a management contract with Viva Records. Also, the other finalists are included in the Star for a Night album, which was launched recently by Viva. The album also features two songs from Regine Velasquez. 

Now it can be said that, just like it was during EDSA 2, Filipinos can not only oust presidents but also make winners through texting. Heaven forbid that SMS should be taxed.


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