VOICES OF HARMONY: Another Year of Amazing Talents
by Marie Defeo
Among the things that set this year's UTAWIT apart from the rest is the beginning rendition of Hajii Alejandro’s “Kay Ganda ng Ating Musika” by Mr. Warren de Luna accompanied by Maestro Hisayuki Yoshioka and his grand piano. Even at the early parts of the program, the audience was already moved not just by the opening performance but also by a creative video presented for UTAWIT by its beneficiaries, the Gawad Kalinga-Sibol. It is always inspiring to be in an event that not only entertains its audience, but also makes its participants aware, and be touched, of their simultaneous help to society. The joy that could be seen from the kid’s faces and the deep gratitude that the mother’s felt will keep the event alive. To warm up the audience and to welcome a more Filipino atmosphere, the Philippine Cultural Dance Groupe of Tokyo University of Foreign Studies performed the “Pastores de Talisay” (or the Flower Dance) with their bright and colorful dresses and lively dance movements.
Moving on to the main portion, this year’s Utawit Grand finals had fourteen (14) promising finalists who came from thirteen (13) different areas in Japan: Tokyo, Okayama, Kagawa, Hokkaido, Fukuoka, Ibaraki, Yamagata, Shizuoka, Oita, Nagano, Kyoto, Kanagawa, and Nagoya. Two of this year’s finalists are from Tokyo. The contest proper was emceed by Mr. Nestor Puno & Ms. Elena Sakai. The curtains were finally raised for the first contestant, Ms. Maricris Takamiya of Tokyo with a mind-blowing performance of “Paano” that matched perfectly with her elegant black dress. Setting a high standard, Ms. Takamiya’s performance was followed by Mr. Chaq Fuentes who came all the way from Okayama prefecture to Tokyo for the finals. He sang “Ikaw Ang Aking Pangarap,” by Martin Nievera. Third contestant was Mr. Antonino Mark Bangis, with the song “Magsimula Ka” had a big audience impact at the end of his soulful performance. Carrying a very cold and soothing voice from Hokkaido was Mr. Arnaldo Caballero Salazar, who sang Gary Valenciano’s “How Did You Know?” that definitely sent chills to the audience. Fukuoka finalist Ms. Donnafel Dela Cruz sang “Ako Ang Nagwagi, Ako Ang Nasawi” to deliver the message that people have the power to overcome any hardships we experience in life. Without a doubt, the audience received her message through her voice! A young artist from Ibaraki, Mr. Romeo Paala Jr., made a splendid performance of “Maging Sino Ka Man” that seems to express his message “To love undoubtedly” where some people from the audience appeared to be able to relate. Ms. Tomoe Takahashi of Yamagata prefecture ended the first half of the program with a very lively atmosphere by singing an upbeat Japanese song that blends together with her voice entitled “Believe”, which is about believing in the ones you love.
After presen-ting some commercials from Seven Bank and PNB and after acknowledging other major sponsors like PAL, JENET, Globe Kababayan, Vox TV, Global Filipino Classifieds during the intermission, the 8th contestant Ms. Carolyn Santiago-Fukuda, with full power and confidence to express her feelings about loving regardless of race, sang “Isang Lahi.” 9th contestant Ms. Janet Manalo from Oita, Kyushu, sang “Tunay Na Mahal,” where she poured her emotions into the song that reached the audience hearts. Fight until the last breath of your life! A message from Ms. Maria Fe Yamaguchi from Nagano Prefecture as she sang “Habang may buhay” that was truly overwhelming. Ms. Evengeline Hino, a diva from Kyoto with a red gown who appreciates respect and love for one another sang “Lupa.” Her performance was full of passion. Singing about the changes and possibilities in life, 12th contestant Mr. John Alejandro from Kanagawa prefecture, had a very dramatic and enthusiastic entrance as he started the song “Ngayon” facing back with one of his arms raised and kneeled down after facing the audience. The emotions can clearly be heard and seen by his performance. He ended the song with a powerful voice. Tokyo representative Mr. Kevin Ramos, 13th contestant, delivered a powerful, yet splendid performance with his outstanding voice and modulation control, where the emotion can truly be felt with the message of "two people in love at a wrong time" in the song “Bukas Na Lang Kita Mamahalin.” He ended the song with a long sweet falsetto and got a huge applause from the audience. Ms. Juvy Decierdo Kawai, the 14th and last contestant from Nagoya, had a big applause from her fans before her performance even started. Her version of “Kung Ako Na Lang Sana” was indeed fitting for closing the curtains. The great control and modulation of her sweet voice can definitely make an audience a fan.
While waiting for the results, Ms. Jena V and Mr. Ody Lotho humorously hosted the third part of the program where there were lively intermissions from Tokyo University of Foreign Studies (Karatong- Subli) and raffle draws brought by Seven Bank and UTAWIT with amazing prizes like two (2) roundtrip PAL tickets, iPad, hotel accommodations, and many more!
As for the grand finale performance, all the UTAWIT grand finalists 2012 gathered with Mr. Warren De Luna, last year’s UTAWIT winner and Maestro Hisayuki Yoshioka as the song’s pianist. Together, as they all shined on stage, sang “Isang Mundo,Isang Awit.” People from the audience too were caught in the harmony and joined the singing in one voice.
Finally for the awarding part, the hosts Mr. Dennis Sun from Jeepney Press and Ms. Susan P. Fujita, the president of Hokkaido’s Samahang Pilipino, had an entertaining talk about Hokkaido and introduced the Sapporo Snow Festival held every February.
Speeches were presented from the UTAWIT Executive Committee Chairman Ms. Irene Kaneko, UTAWIT’s Adviser, Minister and Consul General Marian Jocelyn R. Tirol-Ignacio. Ms. Irene expressed her gratitude to the guests and to those who contributed to UTAWIT’s path to success for eight years and how there were countless “first-times” for this year’s event as well. Afterwards, Consul General Joy sincerely congratulated UTAWIT for the successful event and delivered Ambassador Manuel Lopez’s message in his absence and a quoted “A fruit does not fall far from its tree.”
Consul Ryan Pondoc was called to take the floor and handed the awards to the organizers with recognitions starting to those who came from the top of the map. As the awarding was about to take place, there were some problems that caused a short delay, but it was smartly covered by the hosts by asking the group leaders of each prefectures to introduce the treasures and pride of their home that ended up to be very entertaining for all. "It was probably the cutest that has happened in UTAWIT," said by Ms. Irene. As the results were concluded, the winners were Ms. Donnafel Dela Cruz (3rd place), Ms. Juvy Decierdo Kawai (2nd place), and the one who won this year’s UTAWIT was Mr. Kevin Ramos. Mr. Ramos had been joining UTAWIT and finally climbed his way up to the throne that definitely wowed everyone at the event.
And for the event finale, everybody filled the stage with joy and laughter as some picture-taking took place together with the contestants, organizers, and special guests. The event was truly a success. Thanks to everyone’s active participation and support for UTAWIT!
The organizers wish to thank everyone who showed their continual support, to its sponsors and regional participants; and most especially to Seven Bank, for being the major sponsor of the event. The participation of all regions in Japan was highly commendable with regional supporters, from outside Tokyo, coming with their families to cheer on their stars. Truly, this year was filled with surprises which ultimately brought all of us in one harmonious voice. See you again next year!