DAVAO CITY – Like many talented singers who never had the chance to shine, Steve Fernandez, 29 and Gilda Joy Togonon, 19, almost gave up on their dream of touching people’s hearts with their songs.
Last April 15, a pleasant surprise came for Steve and Gilda Joy after they emerged as the top two semi-finalists during the OPM@PAGCOR talent search in Davao City. They were picked as the Mindanao region’s representatives to the “OPM@PAGCOR, A Nationwide Search for the Total OPM Performer” from among 167 auditionees from various parts of Mindanao.
Steve, a former member of a local band got the jurors’ vote with his heartfelt rendition of “Pag-Uwi” by Martin Nievera. He said he wasn’t expecting victory given the many talented singers who joined the OPM@PAGCOR auditions. “Kahit nga consolation prize lang, magiging masaya na ako kasi malaki ang maitutulong nito sa pamilya ko,” he said.
The Marketing graduate from the University of Mindanao tried a marketing-related job after earning his college degree. But Steve’s heart led him to something he wanted to do most: to sing. When he joined a local band a few years back, he had high hopes that their group could find the much-needed break overseas. As the years passed and no overseas employment contract came, his hope waned until he had to settle being a wedding singer and performing during special occasions like birthday parties and corporate events.
Steve says singing has been his sole source of income for nearly a decade now. But being a father to a one-year old baby, he needs better opportunities to sustain the growing needs of his family. He is grateful he can once more pursue his dream of making it big in the music industry through the OPM@PAGCOR talent search,. “Pangarap ko talagang sumikat…magkaroon ng album at makilala,” he said.
Steve confessed he is a big fan of Filipino music and said the contest will help many Filipinos appreciate Original Pilipino Music once more. “Maganda po itong naisip nila. Yung OPM kasi parang nawawala na at mas appreciated ng Pinoy ang foreign music. Pero sa pamamagitan nito, muling nabigyang buhay ang OPM,” he observed.
The other winner, Gilda Joy Togonon, is an incoming fourth year Computer Science student with a penchant for joining several singing contests since she was a young girl. She shared that being rejected in several auditions had been a normal thing for her.
One of her biggest frustrations came when she failed to make it to the finals round of a nationwide talent search organized by a reality TV show. “Umiyak po talaga ako ‘nun kasi malaking bagay para sa akin yung talent search na yun,” she said.
Though it took her a while before deciding to join another singing contest, Gilda Joy was grateful she did not give up on her dreams just yet. “My biggest dream is to be successful and become a professional singer. Salamat sa PAGCOR at OPM kasi malaki yung chance ng mga kagaya kong amateur singers na matupad ang aming mga pangarap,” she said.
According to Gilda Joy, she wasn’t expecting to win in the competition. She expressed hope that other aspiring singers like her would never let go of the thing they want the most despite the many setbacks they encounter. “Never surrender. I’m really glad I didn’t,” she beamed.
According to OPM artist and comedienne Nanette Inventor, who was the Chairman of the Board of Judges during the OPM@PAGCOR talent search in Davao, all of the 12 semi-finalists are already winners.
“As far as I’m concerned, you are all winners because you made it this far,” she told the Davao semi-finalists. “My advice to those who did not make it to the grand finals round: never stop singing. The Philippines is a singing country and in your own way, you can help showcase the best in our culture. Just remember, there will always be a chance for you to shine, in God’s perfect time,” she advised.
Steve and Gilda Joy will soon join other grand finalists from Luzon and Visayas in a performance workshop from May 28 to June 4. Some of the country’s OPM music luminaries, artists, and directors will spearhead the workshop sessions to give the grand finalists tips on professional singing and other performance preparations.
The OPM@PAGCOR Grand Finals will be held on June 10 at the PAGCOR Grand Theater in Airport Casino Filipino, Paranaque City. The top three winners will receive cash prizes of P300,000 (1st prize), P200,000 (2nd prize) and P100,000 (3rd prize). The grand winner will also get a recording contract from a major music recording company and a performance contract from PAGCOR.