The Kapampangan’s natural affinity and talent for music becomes apparent the moment you turn on the TV, where, chances are, you’ll find a Kapampangan singer-contestant belting his heart out in those popular star searches. Here is a list of Kapampangans who sang their way into the hearts of audiences in national and international song competitions through the years.
1. CENON LAGMAN, Grand Champion, Tawag ng Tanghalan 1959
“Tawag ng Tanghalan” was the first true national talent search conducted in 1954 by manufacturing giant, Philippine Marketing Company, producer of such staple 1950s-60s products like Luto, Perla Soap, Dari Crème, Star Margarine and its banner brand, Purico. The show, which was used by PMC as a promotional platform, spawned nationally famous singers like Pepe Pimentel, Diomedes Maturan, and in later years, Nora Aunor. In 1959, Cenon Punla Lagman, a high schooler and a fisherman’s son from Masantol copped the grand title with the kundiman, “Ikaw Lang ang Iibigin Ko”. Part of his prize included appearances at the Manila Grand Opera House. Lagman also starred in the movie “Maturan and Lagman” along with his successor, Diomedes Maturan. Known as the “Prinsipe ng Kundiman”, he recorded hits like “Pandora”, “Bakas ng Lumipas”, ”Bakit Di Kita Malimot” and “Salamat sa Ala-ala”. He settled in Las Piñas with his family and died on 25 May 2013.
2. JUN PEÑA, Grand Champion, Tawag ng Tanghalan, Grand Champion 1965
Rosendo “Jun” Peña, the 1965 Grand Champion, is listed in the “Tawag”record books as having represented Northern Luzon at the national finals. Actually, Peña comes from Barangay Batang 2nd, in Sasmuan, Pampanga. It so happened that while he was paying a visit to his girlfriend Helen in Dagupan, the “Tawag” auditions were also being held there. He signed up, won the Dagupan regionals and was whisked off to Manila for the finals. A Bachelor of Arts student at Letran, Peña was also a champion orator and choir soloist. He sang “Autumn Leaves” during the Gran Finals, and romped off with the top prize, earning a singing engagement at Clover Theater in the process. His soothing voice earned him the monicker, “Johnny Mathis of the Philippines”. Peña still resides in Pangasinan today.
3. SARAH GERONIMO, Grand Champion, Star for a Night 2002-2003
“Star for a Night”, first staged in 2002, was a local adaptation of the British show of the same title and produced by Viva Television. The popular TV show aired on IBC 13, was hosted by Regine Velasquez. One of the contestants was a 14 year-old singer from Balutu, Concepcion, Tarlac—Sarah Asher Tua Geronimo. During the grand finals, Geronimo—who performed last—sang Celine Dion’s “To Love You More”, and won the judges’ vote, winning over future famous singers as Mark Bautista, Angelique Quinto and Mau Marcelo. She won the ₱1 million cash prize and a managerial contract under Viva Artists Agency. Geronimo, dubbed as Popstar Royalty, would go on to bigger acclaim as actress-singer, TV celebrity, record producer, songwriter and dancer.
4. RAYMOND MANALO, 2nd Place, Search for a Star 2004
Raymond Manaloto Manalo was an artistic scholar of Holy Angel University and was a Financial Accounting junior when he decided to join the “Search for a Star” in 2004. The talent search was a project of Viva Television aired on GMA 7. The homegrown Angeles lad was practically self-taught in music, honed by years of participation in his school’s activities—as an Angelite Musical Ambassador, and as founding president of Holy Angel Music Club. It was no surprise that he became one of the 10 finalists in the nationwide star search. Manalo, who sang “Kailangan Kita”, was pipped in the finals by eventual winner, Rachelle Ann Go, but his second place finish paved the way for a recording career capped by the release of his CD, “Faithfully”. He also managed to finish his business administration degree from the Asian Institute for Distance Education in Makati.
5. RONNIE LIANG, 3rd Place, Pinoy Dream Academy 2006
Ronnie Liang grew up in Angeles City, the youngest of 7 children. While studying for an Education degree at Holy Angel University, he worked in a fast food restaurant and moonlit as a ramp model--until his manager found out he could carry a tune. Liang was encouraged to join Pinoy Pop Superstar where he became a top contender, but the controversy over his having a manager prompted him to leave the show. His next stop was at “Pinoy Dream Academy” a new talent search on Channel 2 that required contestants to live in an academy for 4 months. Liang qualified as one of the 20 “scholars”—and then made it to the Honor’s List of Six. In the finals, he sang the OPM song “Ngiti” and placed third behind Jay-R Siaboc and champion, Yeng Constantino. Liang became Department of Education spokesperson for Brigada Eskuwela 2008-2010 that aimed encourage the youth to stay in school and finish their studies. He mae TV and movie appearances, became a mainstay of the Sunday show ASAP 08, and today, continues to perform here and abroad.
6. THIA MEGIA, 11th place, American Idol 2012
In the 10th season of American Idol 2012 , a fifteener, Thia Megia (born Thialorei Lising Megia) , a Fil-Am with Kapampangan roots, barged into the group of 12 finalists. Megia was born in Hayward, California to parents Cynthia Lising and Loreto Megia, originally from Brgy. Sta. Teresita , Angeles City. The couple had emigrated to America in 1968, where they had their ‘Mejia’ surname, change to “Megia”. Thia has been joining and winning song contests as a kid, and has appeared on TV’s “Kid Star of Tomorrow” before joining American Idol. She eventually placed 11th, with her performance of the Elton John song, “Daniel”.
7. SASSA DAGDAG, 4th Place, The Voice Kids 2015
The guitar-playing Sassa Dagdag of Angeles City was just 13 when she joined the second season of “The Voice Kids”. Coached by her father, the Holy Angel grade school student passed the audition to thunderous acclaim when she sang Sia’s “Chandelier”. Under Bamboo Mañalac’s mentorship, Dagdag reached the final 4 of the contest with her unique vocal styling. In the finals, she sang “Ikaw” (duet with Sharon Cuneta”, “Starships”, and the power ballad “Next in Line”. When all the votes came in, Dagdag found herself in 4th place, behind winner Elha Nympha. Dagdag later moved to Manila to pursue her studies and singing career,
Photo/ Info: Tawag ng Tanghalan Story, http://www.philstar.com/entertainment/2016/12/08/1651302/tawag-ng-tanghalan-story
Photo: Sarah Geronimo, the Philippines’ Queen of Pop: http://sarahgeronimoknights.blogspot.com/2016/01/flashback-sarah-geronimos-winning.html
Info/Search for a Star: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Star_for_a_Night_(Philippine_TV_series)
Pinoy Dream Academy:
The Voice Kids Philippines Blind Auditions: https://i.ytimg.com/vi/t3DkEmNRASY/hqdefault.jpg