Saturday, May 17, 2014


A Decade Of Musical Joy!

May - June 2014

Let's keep our music alive whichever part of the world we may be. Let's be proud of our heritage.

The year was 2005. It was a time when most Filipino competitions in Japan were all beauty pageants. Either it is a Binibining Pilipinas or a Ginang Pilipinas ng Japan. Not that we hate beauty pageants, Filipinos are famous for winning international beauty contests. And the Filipinos are proud of them.

However, we have another great Filipino talent. If in America, it is the black people who are known for their great singing voices; in Asia, it is the Filipinos who reign high in the talent for singing. We know that most singers in hotels, restaurants, music lounges and clubs around the world are mostly Filipinos.

The 80’s and 90’s were a generation when so many talented Filipino singers were brought to Japan. We were in demand in the entertainment industry. Those professional singers who weren’t making it in the Philippines came to Japan in huge numbers. I remember going to Philippine pubs listening to great Filipino bands all around Japan. And whenever I stayed at hotels, I am always definite that the Asian singer came from the Philippines. 

Most of these professional singers eventually got married to Japanese and became full-time housewives and mothers.  A small percentage of them were lucky to continue their work as singers in hotels or pubs. And the other big percentage? They gave up on their dream. But then, they don’t have to anymore.

In the summer of 2004, Jeepney Press, Samahang Pilipino and Teatro Kanto with the cooperation of the Philippine Embassy thru the Philippine Labor Office bonded together to create UTAWIT, a venue to wake these sleeping Filipino singers and watch their dreams come back to reality again. Eventually, the competition has broaden its scope to include Japanese in the competition to foster unity and cooperation between Filipinos and Japanese in Japan.

UTAWIT is a combination of 2 words: UTA and AWIT. Both words mean sing or song in English. UTAWIT is the only nationwide singing competition organized by Filipinos in Japan. It aims to promote Filipino talents on the mainstream level while enriching cross-cultural appreciation of Filipino and Japanese music. UTAWIT is also a charitable event that hopes to generate financial resources to charitable groups in the Philippines.

Every year, UTAWIT has been growing and trying to fit in the flow of events in the community. In UTAWIT 2005, during its infancy, only Filipino migrants were able to participate and sang only Original Pilipino Music (OPM). In UTAWIT 2006, to coincide with the 50th Anniversary of the diplomatic relations of the Philippines and Japan, Japanese songs were included in the repertoire of the contestants. In UTAWIT 2007, auditions were held outside of Kanto Area, and the scope of participants to include not only Filipino migrants but also Japanese with Filipino descent. UTAWIT BULILIT was also introduced for the talented kids. In UTAWIT 2008, the scope became even wider. Regional Qualifying Rounds were held not only in the Kanto Region but also in Hokkaido, Morioka, Nagano, Ibaraki, Shizuoka, Nagoya, Kyoto and Fukuoka. Participants were open to pure blooded Japanese.  

On its early years, UTAWIT contributed in building classrooms in the Philippines thru the CGMA Project (Classrooms Galing sa Mamamayang Pilipino Abroad). Some years later, it decided to take a regular part in supporting Gawad Kalinga to help unfortunate school children fund their education while helping build classrooms, as well, thru its SIBOL program. In times of crisis, UTAWIT also helped victims of natural calamities especially the victims of Typhoon Yolanda.

This year, the UTAWIT National Executive Committee comprises of its new set of officers headed by one of the prime movers within the Filipino communities in Japan, the publisher of the most dynamic & vibrant publication catered for Filipino readership in Japan, the Jeepney Press, Utawit Chairman Ms. Irene Kaneko; with Vice Chairman (Internal Affairs) Ms. Josie Nistal & Vice Chairman (External Affairs) Ms. Edith Bautista. The National Executive Committee is composed of the Jeepney Press, Sama-hang Pilipino, Teatro Kanto and Science and Technology Advisory Council-Japan (STAC-J).

UTAWIT is strongly supported by the Philippine Embassy in Tokyo with Minister and Consul-General Marian Jocelyn R. Tirol-Ignacio acting as its Adviser and Third Secretary and Vice-Consul Andrea B. Leycano as Utawit Co-Adviser. Utawit is also backed by a network of dynamic Filipino groups in Japan nationwide.

It has been a decade --- a decade of making dreams come true, a decade of bonding, a decade of sharing & loving, a decade of joy of being together working for a common purpose. This year, UTAWIT celebrates 
Grand Finals will be held on 16 November 2014 (Sun), 1-5pm at Shibuya Cultural Center Owada – Sakura Hall (渋谷区分か総合センター大和田さくらホール). Watch, listen and be amazed by each regional winner’s performance. Everyone is invited! FREE ADMISSION!

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