Singing champs and their stories of triumph

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Singing contest winners shine at ‘The Manila Times’ 119th anniversary celebration
With a long list of talented Filipino singers, standing out has always been a challenge for aspiring artists. Noven Belleza, Maricris Garcia and Gecca proved, however, that this can be done when they were named champions of “Tawag ng Tanghalan,” “Pinoy Pop Superstar 3” and “World Championships of Performing Arts,” respectively. These three singing champs, who gave special performances during The Manila Times’ 119th anniversary, gamely recalled their journey to championship and where they are heading in their careers.

Noven Belleza PHOTOS BY RENE DILAN

Noven Belleza continues to reach for his dreams
Seven months after winning the coveted “Tawag ng Tanghalan” grand championship in March, Noven Belleza’s eagerness, this time to thrive in the cutthroat music industry, did not falter a bit.

If anything, the 22-year-old is more eager to prove that he deserved the title, which he won after grueling rounds of competition since 2016.

Born to a farmer father, Belleza—who was the final act in The Manila Times’ event—grew up in Victorias City, Negros Occidental and at a young age, began to help out as one of the sugarcane farmers.


While he juggles school and farm work, Belleza realized his talent for singing.

“Since I entered elementary until I reached high school, I had been the representative of my school to singing competitions. At such a young age, I was already a regular of local singing contests,” Belleza told The Manila Times in Filipino after his performance at Maynila Ballroom of the Manila Hotel.

With the prodding of his father, who was a singer himself during his younger years, and the support of his whole family, Belleza took courage in auditioning for noontime show “It’s Showtime’s” singing competition after failing to pass “The Voice of the Philippines” and “Pilipinas Got Talent” auditions.

Belleza won the votes of judges and the audience for his ability to hit the highest notes and putting his heart in every performance. His finale piece, a three-song medley of Air Supply hits “The One That You Love,” “Now and Forever” and “Without You” earned him not only the title but also, among other prizes, a house and lot, P2-million cash, a business package and a recording contract with ABS-CBN’s recording company, Star Records.

“My life has completely changed for the better. Before I was simply a farmer who works to help my family. And then I got this opportunity to compete and I actually won,” Belleza recalled.

For now, the singer is busy continuously promoting his debut album “Ako’y Sa’Yo,” which carries originals “Tumahan Ka Na,” “Nais Kong Ibalik” and “Ako’y Sa’Yo” and revivals “Lupa,” “Kung Kailangan Mo Ako.” and “Sino Ako.”

All these allow Belleza to support his younger siblings and retire his father from laborious works in the farm.

Finally, when asked for tips to other young singers who look up to him, Belleza noted, “There is no such thing as an impossible dream. Even if you are disabled or poor, you can dream high and you can attain whatever your dreams are if you include prayers, action and perseverance.”

Maricris Garcia INSTAGRAM PHOTO

Maricris Garcia reigns as ‘Princess of Teleserye theme songs’
Maricris Garcia, one of GMA Network’s most treasured singers, is more than a month away from celebrating her first year of marriage with non-showbiz husband TJ Cruz.

Speaking to The Manila Times after her performance, Garcia shared that she’s enjoying the bliss of marriage.

“I enjoy it. I feel like I am destined to be a housewife. I love being a homemaker especially I have a partner who is really loving and understanding,” she said, adding that she and Cruz were sweethearts for four years before they decided to settle down.

Before becoming one of the most sought-after singers of this generation, Garcia was first a lounge singer for four years in hotels and bars starting at only 15 years old. She then tried her luck auditioning for “Pinoy Pop Superstar Season 3”—a talent search for amateur singers in GMA hosted by Velasquez—and won the grand title.

Ten years later, she is now tagged as the “Queen of GMA Teleserye Theme Songs.”

Reacting to the label afforded her by the public, with a chuckle she said, “Ever since my career started I have sang so many theme songs already. But I said, pwede bang princess lang? Queen sounds old.”

“But I am very happy and humbled. There is pressure because theme songs are supposed to be part of the success of teleseryes. On the brighter side, it’s overwhelming every time they choose me to sing the [theme]song,” she added.

Her most memorable theme song could be “Mahal Kita” for the first “Marimar” starring Marian Rivera and Dingdong Dantes.

“That is also the song that the people remember me. They still request me for that song especially in weddings. I think that became my trademark,” Garcia ended.

Right now, Garcia and other artists are working with GMA Records for a digital platform called Spotlight where they will record and cover songs that will eventually be posted on social media as well as YouTube.

Geca Morales

Geca Morales raps her way to WCOPA gold
Geca Morales has certainly made the country proud as she successfully reaped honors at the World Championships of Performing Arts (WCOPA) last year.

Annually held in Hollywood, California, WCOPA is often referred to as the “Olympics of the Performing Arts.” Competitors from 50 countries of every age are judged in different categories including acting, singing, dancing, modeling and instrument-playing.

Morales won the Gold in Female Vocal Rap category after singing her winning piece “Look At Me Now” originally performed by Chris Brown and Silver for the Female Vocal Rock category.

Prior to WCOPA she has already won some competitions including a first runner-up finish in the Center for Pop Music Philippines’ Voice Recording Excellence competition, and Outstanding Performer Award from Gawad Musika.

Morales told The Manila Times that she auditioned for the PH WCOPA team just to accompany a friend to the venue.

“I have a friend who saw the call for auditions online. I volunteered to accompany her but that time she also wanted someone to come with her inside but the room was just for auditionees, so I decided to join the line too,” she recalled.

“Ahead of me was a singer who’s a belter. She was really good but she wasn’t able pass. So after that I told myself I will just do [the audition]for fun,” Morales added.

As fun as she thought it was, the 24-year-old sang a less popular rap song “Hello” by Karmin.

“After I sang that, Sir Jed [Madela] told me, ‘You’re unique, we need someone like you in the team.’ And then another judge said, ‘I can see a performer in you. Do you have another song?’

“I decided to perform ‘Dear Future Husband’ by Meghan Trainor. They deliberated and then they announced those who passed through a piece of paper,” she shared.

Fortunately, she and her friend got in. Morales won the Rap and Rock category in WCOPA but her friend who represented the country for the Pop, Broadway and Open category did not.

“She didn’t win but what mattered to her the most was being able to perform with the country on her back. As for me, winning both categories validated that I am a good rapper. I can now agree with my friends that rapping is my forte.”

Morales also disclosed that joining singing contests was not among her plans as it’s the belters who always win.

“That’s what discouraged me. Although I can also belt, I really don’t go for it because I feel like it’s not what I do best. There are many belters out there and I feel like I will never stand out,” she said.

Morales stated that the landscape has changed, and people are more open to other styles of singing.

Finally, the young singer is hoping to release songs and hopefully an album containing OPM mixed with EDM (electronic dance music), “More on attracting millennials like me to listen to Tagalog songs.”

IZA IGLESIAS

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