Filipino shadow dance group El Gamma Penumbra now owns the title as Asia’s Got Talent first-ever grand champion after a sweet victory on May 14 at Marina Bay Sands in Singapore. Not only did they bring the Philippines extreme pride, but they also won themselves a total of $100,000 prize money, as well the opportunity to return to Singapore’s famous Marina Bay Sands to headline a solo performance.
In the midst of all this success, however, the world-class act from the province of Batangas finds no room for complacency. They pledge to be relentless in developing their unique act of shadow play in the hopes of inspiring more people around the globe.
El Gamma Penumbra shared this and more at a homecoming press conference in Bonifacio Global City, where they were joined by fellow Filipino finalists Gerphil Flores, who finished at the Top 3, Gwyneth Dorado, and Junior New System.
At the event’s question and answer with the press, The Manila Times asked if their next big performance would be in front of Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) delegates, after Presidential Spokesperson Abigail Valte recently expressed Mala-cañang’s interest in tapping the winning group for the leaders’ summit to be hosted by the Philippines in November.
El Gamma’s members replied that while they had heard about the possibility, an “official offer” has not been presented to them yet. Nevertheless, they said they would be honored to perform if given the opportunity and already have a theme in mind on how to showcase the varying cultures of Asia as one.
While still uncertain about APEC, the group has already received international invitations for performances, including one from AGT judge David Foster himself, who told the 12-member group that he wants to bring them to the United States.
Indeed, El Gamma has gone a long way from being a hip-hop dance group when they first got together. For all their success, they say they have one organization to thank: the Department of Tourism (DOT).
At their homecoming, El Gamma’s members acknowledged the government agency for trusting them to perform the “Choose Philippines” campaign video, which after going viral online, opened so many doors for the Batangueño performers.
“Ang El Gamma ay nakilala dahil sa ‘Choose Philippines.’ Nakalibot po kami sa buong Pilipinas dahil dito,” Marvin Marfa, the group leader, recalled.
Marfa then talked about the struggles that made them worthy winners of the international competition, as he and his 11 co-members endured 22 hours of rehearsals and only two hours of sleep in the lead up to the finals. They also had arguments brought about by the pressure and artists’ blocks along the way.
In the end, their passion for their craft and their fervent prayer to bring the nation honor thankfully got the better of them and led to their impressive win.
Faces behind the shadows
Asked about the best part of their AGT victory, Marfa humbly answered, “Siguro po ‘yong ganito. Yung nasa harap namin kayo. Hindi po kasi kami sanay na nakikita ‘yong mukha namin kasi sanay kami na nakikita niyo lang ang anino namin. Masarap pala.”
With that, Marfa proudly introduced the rest of the talented men of El Gamma Penumbra, Rowell Amano, Wahlid Bucana, Mark Tadia, Johndolf Bayer, Kenneth Arante, Carl de Guzman, Rey Andamon, Michael Sapin, Paolo Esteban, PJ Javier, Allen Latido and Arnel Cipriano. He also thanked their manager Dong Pilotos for supporting them every step of the way.
As the faces behind the shadows surfaced, so did their promise to conquer and inspire not just Asia in the days to come, but places as far as they can, in the name of their beloved and talented nation.