Thursday, March 8, 2012

CENTERFOLD March-April 2012

CENTERFOLD March-April 2012:
An Interview with:
Mark Warren de Luna, Utawit Champion 20122

by Dennis Sun

UTAWIT has captured many Filipino and Japanese hearts with abounding and unparalleled talented Filipino vocalists spread all around Japan. Japan, I think, is the only country outside the Philippines, which has the largest number of very talented Filipino singers.

UTAWIT, now on its 8th year, is the most awaited national singing competition for Filipinos and Japanese alike. From a simple competition in Kanto area, it has expanded its wings and has become a vehicle for showcasing the gems of Filipino talents all over Japan.

What does it take to be a champion? How does one become one? Let us hear it directly from the current champion of UTAWIT 2011, Mark Warren de Luna.

Tell us about your childhood. Mahilig ka na ba talagang kumanta when you were small?
Bata pa lang ako mahilig na akong kumanta, namulat kami ng kuya ko sa musika. Ang ama’t ina ko rin ay mahihilig kumanta. Natatandan ko pa noong nasa Saudi pa si tatay, nagpapadala kami ng recorded voice tape. Hindi pa uso ang skype noon. Kaya nag-settle kami sa ganoon. Lagi namin kinakantahan magkapatid ang tatay ko para kahit paano ay hindi siya malungkot. Hindi ko alam kung buhay pa yung mga tapes na yun.

Were you part of the school choir or glee club?
Opo. 4 years akong naging member ng college chorale group (Mapua Concert Singers). Maraming unforgettable experiences. Dahil sa choir na ito, ang dami kong natutunan na mga techniques in singing. Well, classically, we were trained. Maganda rin daw base yun for other singing styles. Masaya dahil nagkaroon ako ng chance na makapag- perform sa mga importanteng tao sa television programs. At isa pang hindi ko makakalimutan ay ang pagsali ng grupo namin sa 4th world choir games sa dalawang categories na sinalihan namin, parehas naming nakuha ang silver medals.

Where did you get your musical genes? Did your family influence you somehow?
Opo. Sila nanay at tatay. Meron din kasing collection ang tatay ko ng mga music albums. Halos pag umuuwi siya, lagi nagpapatugtog ng kahit anong music.

Tell us how you got into Japan?
When I graduated in college, naisip kong mag-aral ng Japanese language para magkaroon ng edge kahit paano when searching for a job abroad. Nag-aral ako ng Japanese sa Laguna at Makati. Siguro, 6 months inabot. Sabi ko, after that, para naman walang nangyayari. For a year, nag-work muna ko sa Pilipinas sa isang Japanese company. September 2008, while I was working in a Japanese company, I received a call from my former sensei in Japanese. I was asked to take an exam and interview for a job in Japan. 5 people were called and 2 people only came for the exam and interview, and they only needed one. I really thank God for giving me the opportunity to work here.

What do you do in Japan now? How long have you been here?
I am a Systems Engineer, and our company provides manpower to Toshiba. This coming March 28, mag 3 years na po ako dito sa Japan.

How do you see Japan? What do you like about Japan? What do you hate also?
Dito sa Japan, napakadali ng buhay. Everything is accessible at mabilis. Convenient ang lifestyle. Masarap mamuhay siguro dito ng permanente. Hate? Sino bang may gusto ng mayat-mayang paglindol?

Do you plan to stay longer here? Would you like to stay longer here?
Yes, I do. If the company wants to renew my contract, why not? I still have lots of things to discover and learn in Japan.

How did you know about UTAWIT?
2 years ago, my friend gave me a copy of Jeepney Press. I read about it and wished to join Utawit 2010. But it was not my time. I don't know how to join and I was really focused on my job. Siguro nung 2010, ang confidence ko sa sarili ko ay sobrang mababa pa. Kaya sabi ko next year na lang. Then came 2011, kahit anong mangyari, sasali na ako talaga.

You won at the first round in Tokyo. Did you even imagine you could get the 1st prize sa Grand Finals? What was in your mind during the day itself?
I never expected it. Sobrang nabigla ako at iniisip ko na madami rin na magagaling na singers na sumali. Nag-aim ako to win the first prize. Sa tingin ko naman, lahat ng sumali ganoon din ang
aim. Kung hindi naman ako nanalo sa Tokyo 1st Round, sasali ulit ako sa iba pang round eh, kasi focused naman ako sa pag-join sa Utawit.

What song did you sing during the grand finals and why did you choose it?
I sang the same song sa qualifying round at sa Grand finals. The song was "Ikaw." I chose the song because it depicts how one person can be so passionate to really express that love can rule one's entire life. And the melody of the song is very heartwarming, thus, making the song more truthful.

What did you do with your prize money? Have you used you prize round trip air ticket?
Well, I have not yet used the prize money and the ticket, at least not yet. I'm planning to use the money for a new lot under my name.

Who are your favorite singers? Who among the famous singers influenced your singing style?
My favorite singers would be Michael Buble, Boyz II Men, and Martin Nievera. They all influenced my singing style: a mixture of ballad and RnB. I hope that's the style I'm singing. Heheh

After winning the championship of UTAWIT 2011, tell us what happened afterwards. What have you been doing since then until now?
It has been a blast since then. I have been invited to sing at some big events and personal gatherings. Well, this time I'm not only enjoying to perform
to people and see their reactions. I'm also getting paid to perform! lol.

How did UTAWIT change your life so far?
It helped me regain my self-confidence. It became my network to meet good people, people who believe in my talent. Utawit also helped me to be a philanthropist. Utawit is one of the
best ways to help our fellow Filipinos, I could say.

How important is music in one’s life?
Music is incredibly important in one's life. Well, at least for me, especially in the toughest moments in my life. It's been there when I've had absolutely nothing and even when I have something, there's always a song to suit my mood. It's the one of the few things in this world that's constant and will always be there as an outlet for emotions. Without it, I think I'd lose my mind. lol.

How do you find Japanese music?
Japanese music has a wide variety of styles. I find it very romantic and real. I have been hearing my boss singing some beautiful Japanese songs and the message of most of the songs is always about love. Well, I think love is the universal concept in expressing music in any country.

How is your Japanese ability? Can you sing any Japanese songs? Which ones?
I’m still working on my Japanese. I need to really increase my Japanaese ability because I need it for my work. I can sing some Japanese songs like Michi by Exile, Sakura by Naotaro Moriyama, and Mou hitotsu no Doyoubi by Shogo Hamada.

Do you like enka? Can you sing enka?
I like enka, but I can't sing enka yet. I need to work on the emotion in covering enka music to make it work.

What are the 3 things you can’t live without?
1. My ipod/record player!
2. The internet (I’m an addict.)
3. My Phone (Galaxy Nexus)

Ten years from now you will be....
Doing exactly what I’m doing now, only BIGGER! or better! I see myself performing in different parts of Japan and in the Philippines and spreading a positive message with my music. I see myself having collaborated with other filipino artists that I admire and am inspired by. I see myself having opportunities to continue to be philanthropic as a result of my hard work. And…I see myself as a loving husband to my wife and a responsible father to my children.

If you were to put a CD album now, what would you name your album?
I have one in my mind. "You make me Sing.” A dedication to everyone especially to those whom I'm inspired by.

If you were to sing your last song in your life, what would it be and why?
If I were to sing my last song it would be "No More Night" by David Phelps. I really love this song and it touches my soul every time I listen to it. The lyrics says it all:
"No more night. No more pain.
No more tears. Never crying again. And praises to the great "I AM."
We will live in the light of the risen Lamb."

Would you sacrifice your job right now for a singing career?
I would. It's my dream.

Any mottos in life?
I've read these on the internet: "Every day is a new canvas on which to paint.” Also, “A setback is nothing but a setup for a comeback!"

What would you advice other people who would like to join the future UTAWIT competitions?
To those who want to join Utawit, self-belief is the most helpful tool. If you want your audience to believe in your performance, you must start believing in yourself first so that you can give your best. You must remember that joining Utawit is not only helping yourself but also our in-need fellow Filipinos.

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