AMERICA – 11 February 2010, so close to the day of hearts, to Charice In Concert at the Philippine International Convention Center, PICC, with Music Maestro Ryan Cayabyab. But I must go back first, 64 years ago, when America was in the heart of the Filipino but the Filipino was not in the heart of America. He who forgets the past is bound to report it.
In 1946, when he was 35, Filipino poet Carlos Bulosan published his autobiographical novel, America Is In The Heart (University of Washington Press, washington.edu), which became his most famous book (American Passages, learner.org). In that book, if I may put it in black & white, he described his boyhood in the Philippines as happy and his manhood in the United States as unhappy. In his New York Times review of the book, Carlos P Romulo, a Pulitzer Prize-winning Filipino writer, said that Bulosan “learned that while America could be cruel, it could also be immeasurably kind” (UW Press). The real America is in the heart.
At 35, Bulosan had become a well-known artist of words, writing of the pains and pleasures of being a Filipino in America. At 17, Filipino performer Charice has become an international phenomenon of an artist of voice and body language, singing of the hurts of being a Filipino in the Philippines and the happiness of being a Filipino in America. Bulosan had been discriminated upon in America, his adopted country, and that´s what he wrote of; Charice has been discriminated upon in the Philippines, her own country, and that´s what she sings of. We Filipinos still have to find the real Philippines in the heart. I’m assuming we have a heart.
Overall, Charice´s story is the opposite of Bulosan´s. But both are haunting and true stories. The difference is that Bulosan is more in the head and Charice is more in the heart.
More of the heart. She is promising that we will see also a new Charice in her Valentine´s Day concert (Eve, 05 February 2010 charicemania.com). You will appreciate more how different she is now if you heard her in her 1st major solo concert, The Journey Begins, at the SMX Convention Center at the Mall of Asia along Manila Bay 27 June 2009 (see my “Journeys. Charice sings, Nestor Torre screams!,” Pinoy Cinderella, blogspot.com), and her 1st Solo Concert in America at the Big E on 18 September 2009 (you´re reading about it now). That´s 2 firsts in 1 year, in the Third World and the First World; among the Filipinos, only Charice has done that. Charice did her 1st first in her country, her 2nd first in America. Her heart is in the right place.
Charice has come a long way from competing nights such as in a basketball court in Cabuyao, Laguna in Southern Luzon in the Philippines where she was born (in Cabuyao, not in the court), 10 May 1992, singing for her family. It has been a story of losing and winning, of hurts and hearts.
Competing at 12 years of age in the 1 million-peso singing contest called Little Big Star of ABS-CBN, the largest TV network in the Philippines, people told Charice to her face – and behind her back, even as they were laughing – that she had no future in entertainment because she had no star quality; she didn´t look pretty enough; and she lacked talent in her singing. Loser! (For more details, see “Charice – My Interview With FalseVoice” and “The Soaring Spirit of Charice Pempengco” by Phil Bolsta, Triumph of the Spirit. Visit also my blog dedicated to Charice, Pinoy Cinderella, blogspot.com; you can start with “Pinoy Cinderella, 1: Sky falls on Little Big Star Charice.”) If you can’t beat them, jeer them.
Loser! At Little Big Star, she was eliminated after her first song. She did her best, and she was shocked when the judges gave their votes to the other contestant – who was himself jolted (you can watch the video here where Charice sings “Shine,” alduezajay, youtube.com). Her score 91; his score 92. So close, and yet so far! I did my best, she said; she knew too. The judges are not always right. Sometimes what they see is what you get.
She took that defeat so hard – wouldn´t anyone! – that she was on a stupor for more than a week that not even her mother could get through that little girl who just kept on strumming her guitar, unmindful of anything else (see Boy Abunda´s interview, “Charice – SNN Interview UNCUT Part 5,” theNH3, youtube.com). It was a descent to despair that has not been noted except in that interview; nevertheless it happened, and it wasn´t a minor incident. Charice had lost heart inside her own self. Would she ever find herself again?
With that in mind, you can appreciate much more the ascent of Charice from despair to determination, from doubt to hope – surrounded by the embrace of love by her little brother Carl and her Mommy Raquel, if by no one else. When all you have is family, that’s good enough.
Later, for some unexplained reason, Little Big Star reinstated Charice as a “wild card,” meaning “who knows?” And really! She proved that she was much better than she looked. She placed consistently first in the eliminations month after month. It was time to dream again of winning the grand prize. Until she reached the finals and, lightning struck the same place twice – she placed 3rd. Not 2nd, not 1st – 3rd! That was hard, very hard. Charice knew she was the winner; her mother Raquel knew too – but they were told she lost because she had the lowest total of text votes among the 3 finalists. Those who have loads, prepare to text them now! Why do they exchange the votes from the cell phones for the votes from the judges who should know better? This is where the votes of the people are the votes of goof.
And then they went to Quiapo Church to pray. And then Falsevoice happened. And then Ten Songs Production, Sweden. And then Star King, Korea. And then Star King again. And then Ellen DeGeneres, New York. And then Paul O’Grady, London. And then Oprah, Chicago and, along with her, David Foster & Friends. And then Celine Dion in Madison Square Garden. The little girl who they said didn´t have star quality had become a star, an international star. She was still little, but now they had to look up to see her.
And then Charice came back to the Philippines to hold her first major solo concert, at the SMX Convention Center at the Mall of Asia along Roxas Boulevard near Manila Bay, where you can watch the most beautiful sunset in the world. But it was no sunset for Charice; it was the dawn of a new day. “This is where the journey begins,” she said (see also my “Journeys. Charice sings, Nestor Torre screams!” Pinoy Cinderella). “Her musical journey,” wrote Crispina Martinez-Belen (27 June 2009, mb.com.ph), “so to speak, towards the hearts of her kababayans (countrymen) will start just tonight.” Charice is in Crispina´s heart, bless her.
That concert was very successful despite the glitches and the hitches, but the mass media did not celebrate that milestone along with her; they did not cheer along with the thousands of fans attending the SMX concert (some 6,000, according to Bert B Sulat Jr, 30 June 2009, inquirer.net). Charice wasn´t in their hearts. Where is the musical heart of the mass media in the Philippines? I didn´t know they have a heart!
Months after the fact, on 29 January 2010, I called it “a whole journey into the hearts of the Filipinos” (Pinoy Cinderella). I would have celebrated that moment in my own way but I didn´t know Charice from Eve until September 2009, when began my writer´s interest in her; it was probably an Oprah episode that introduced me to the little wonder that was Charice.
Like the rest of the Filipinos, I must have been slow to learn about Charice. And so, I didn´t know that her journey of hearts started in the Philippines and continued in America. And since this is a journey of hearts for me too, here I am. The heart knows what the head doesn´t.
It is 18 September 2009 at the Comcast Arena Stage and Charice is having her 1st Solo Concert in America at the Big E in this City in Massachusetts, USA. Her Mommy Raquel is in the trailer, too nervous to watch. Since little Charice is a big girl now, she understands her mother. Daughters have to forgive their mothers sometimes.
The Big E writes, introducing Charice to the fair-loving crowd at New England, at the Eastern States Exposition 2009 in West Springfield, Massachusetts (Peter F, “Charice: The Big E Outdoor Concert,” charicemania.com), that Charice “opens the season´s entertainment as the first top name to perform at the Comcast Arena Stage for the 2009 Fair.” Charice is in America´s heart, really! The Americans know what we Filipinos don´t, really.
The Big E is the largest fair in the northeast United States. Charice being the little big “true diamond on the rough,” the Big E says, she is “a natural and momentous choice to kick off the fair on Opening Day” (Peter F). “We are honored,” the announcer at the Comcast Arena Stage says. So are we Filipinos – I’m assuming we know what´s good for us.
Read the full article: California Chronicle
Written by Mr. Frank A. Hilario
Posted by Schoen