Thursday, November 11, 2010

Jeepney Press 2010 November-December Centerfold

UTAWIT GRAND FINALS 2010 by Chris Santos

"Boy! Boy!" The audience was responding loudly to the emcee’s provoking question whether the winner will be a boy or a girl for this year. It was an intimate frenzy of excitement and anticipation that is expected to build up from the usual rapport of the Filipino audience with its favorite master of ceremony - Dennis Sun, Editor-in-Chief & Creative Director of Jeepney Press, the brain parent of UTAWIT, and prime Filipino show host. The event flourished from one competitive performance to the next. Then it was just moments before the grand winner of UTAWIT 2010 was to be announced. With the opening of the envelope, you were either silent with baited breath or preempting your winning bet at the top of your lungs. The time finally came. Mr. Sun teases, "Drum roll, please..."

It was October 10, 2010. The Akasaka Kumin Center was packed even with its 420-seat capacity. Even before the show started, the reception hall was already flooded with music enthusiasts, supporters, photographers, sponsors and the likes. Amidst of it all, one would definitely realize they're in the annual UTAWIT grand finals event.

The rain was pouring seriously hard that morning. Not a good way to start a day trip. People were forecasting some unfounded news about a global internet collapse because of the date 10-10-10. Trying hard to get a good sleep the night before for his voice, he could not prevent the anxieties from creeping in. He cannot afford to be grumpy. Not that day. He fought the negative vibes to reduce it to just wondering as he got the 13th row on his train ride to Tokyo. Bad sign? He just shrugged his shoulders.

Anyway, if numerology were to collect its toll, he would be the first one to pay as the assigned 13th contestant. Can a day that started the way it did end up getting worse? Well, they say that the only way to go when you're down is up. For one guy, it was about to zoom up. 13. Again, a number that's not usually related to good fortune. Usually but not always. Probably but not if you have NAIS KO, one of Basil Valdez's most challenging signature songs, for a contest piece to match a powerful vocal timbre and an unintimidated performance. That night talent won. The dreaded numeric symbol simply dwindled down to nothing more than just a sequence number when love for music was more powerful than omens. That night when it was announced as the number of the contestant awarded as the newest grand champion of UTAWIT, 13 was the lucky number. And it was his. Dave Aguilar. Our UTAWIT 2010 crowned prince.

Dave is based in Osaka and represented Kyoto in this year's UTAWIT. One of the younger contestants at 27-years of age, he was also young in terms of Japanese residence. Being in Japan short of 3 years, this native of Hagonoy, Bulacan has a Bachelor of Science degree in Commerce major in Computer Science. Currently, he works as a managing grinder in Osaka. He was already a mainstay figure in competing at various amateur singing contests in his Philippine hometown. He used to just watch the contests but found challenging himself with the question "Am I capable to be like them?" At the beginning, just to gather the guts to be on the stage was already a challenge. Winning required more than guts, though. Fortunately, he got the music sense. Better yet, he got talent as later proven by the 10 wins out of 15 contests he joined. In Japan, his top hobby remains to be singing power ballads and R&B, followed by his love for cooking. He also loves surfing the net which was exactly what he was doing the night after he bagged the grand prize award. If he had trouble sleeping the night before with jitters, he had trouble sleeping the following night as well but as a singing champion responding to well wishes that poured into his Facebook wall. At the end of the day, he was happy. Not only as the emerging winner but because he was part of a cause he believed in. "I would like to help this organization. The intention of this foundation is very nice that's why I got encouraged to join," Dave said of UTAWIT. He adds, "I also would like to experience different singing contests here in Japan as I would like to establish trademarks." Dave is a loving husband to his very lovely wife. He considers his marriage as one of the most fulfilling challenges he has ever had that makes him face the disciplines of life for an ideal work-life balance.

In second place was Marlita Abangan-Ishioka. Singing enka songs is something that would require serious thought for any Filipino competing in a singing contest. Aside from the concentrated responsibility to retain its intense emotionality, enka demands credibility. It is, in the spirit of Japanese music, an art. In the night of the grand finals, representing Morioka dolled up in her golden kimono, Marlita gave a stellar performance delivering Amagi Goe, which is one of the defining songs of the enka genre. And with respectful guts and steady vocals, she nailed it. With a degree in Communications and an education work background, Marlita is now a dedicated wife and loving mother to three children. An advocate of the works and life of Gabriella Silang, Marlita is a humanitarian at heart with deep yet simple dream of providing a bright future for her children. She started her love for singing ever since she watched her father perform at a municipal fiesta. Aside from being an avid karaoke fan, it’s an endearing trivia to know that Marlita is a serious ramen lover.

Placing third was one of the most anticipated contestants of the event. Marianie Kondo's rendition of Bukas Na Lang Kita Mamahalin was both powerful and heart wrenching. Donned in her silk jade green gown, this year's representative of Fukuoka was a vocal force to be reckoned with. Yanie, as fondly known to friends, hailed from Davao and residing in Fukuoka for almost two years now. Yanie comes from a family of music lovers as she shares the love for singing with her 7 other siblings. Currently a band singer, she holds a degree in Marine Transportation. Very Filipino at heart, her priorities is providing for her family. Just as powerful as she can belt out a song, she has a strong sense of core when it comes to outlook in life and how she deals with everything if offers. "There is no security in life. Just opportunities," she affirms.

All in all, UTAWIT this year, as always but more specially so, was a great show with the collective efforts from all its supporters housed into one memorable event under the leadership of its Chairman and Jeepney Press publisher Ms. Irene Kaneko and the directorial flair of Ms. Glenda Tabata. The event boasts of being the initial public event in Japan this year to be graced by Honorable Belen F. Anota, the Philippine Embassy's Charge d'Affaires, a.i. in Japan. May Takahashi, president of Fil-Jap Association in Yamagata, accepted on behalf of her association the Best Charity Group Award for bringing in the most funds raised this year. The event had one of its firsts and most memorable moments as all leaders of the various UTAWIT regional organizations were in attendance and called on stage to give the trophies of appreciation to each of their respective representatives. Consequently, UTAWIT had the additional honor to have its Adviser, Minister & Consul-General Sulpicio M. Confiado with Madam Precie Confiado, present the Certificate of Appreciation to all the Regional Organizers nationwide and to the Executive Committee members.

As years pass and more champions are welcomed on its stage, UTAWIT is in essence a manifestation of a legacy and a history in the making about the Filipinos and our host friends in Japan. We congratulate all the people who gave relentless contributions in its continuing formation, from its leadership to supporters in and out of the annual productions. UTAWIT is popular as a grand music event but only as its platform. UTAWIT, in all its heart, is about helping children from poor families to enable them to study at Sibol School inside Felicity Village of Gawad Kalinga in Paranaque, Manila.

See you next year on UTAWIT 2011!

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