Anne Curtis can't wait to eat "some yummy Middle Eastern food" and is looking forward to discovering Dubai, a city she's never visited before.
But what the Philippines' biggest television celebrity is truly looking forward to is performing for her fellow Filipinos based in the UAE.
"It always gives us a sense of achievement," she says, "to make people happy no matter where we are around the world."
Curtis is arriving in Dubai today, along with her co-hosts in Showtime, the reality talent-search programme that took the south-east Asian nation by storm when it premiered in 2009.
Joining her are fellow Philippine celebrities Vhong Navarro, Vice Ganda, Billy Crawford, Karylle, Kuya Kim Atienza, Jugs Jugueta and Teddy Corpuz.
They will be performing tomorrow at 7pm at the East Hall of the Dubai Airport Expo in a show titled Kabayan, It's Showtime!, produced by ABS-CBN's The Filipino Channel (TFC), an international television network that broadcasts Philippine programmes all over the world.
TFC is particularly popular in the UAE, where there are more than 600,000 Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs). Showtime, which follows the format of reality searches like America's Got Talent, is the network's most watched show.
"Performing for my countrymen is special. For me, it's like coming to a family reunion," Navarro says. Dubbed as the Philippines' "prince of comedy", he shares main hosting duties with Curtis. "As an artist and performer, it's my little way of reaching out to them, which I consider a big privilege."
Co-host Atienza, who was a news weatherman before the Showtime gig, agrees. "The OFWs are the marvellous, faceless Pinoy heroes who keep our economy afloat. It is inspiring to be a source of joy to them," he says. "I am a big fan of them. I would like to bond with them even after our show."
Jugueta, another Showtime co-host, was in Dubai in 2009, when he played with his band Itchyworms for Rakrakan 2009, a Philippine rock music festival.
"The Pinoys in the UAE are really, really awesome. Last time we were there, more than 10,000 people watched. So this time I'm excited to see how they support the Showtime family," he says. "Sometimes I feel that Showtime is even more popular in other countries than in Manila. And that's because of TFC."
Kabayan, It's Showtime will not only be an entertainment platform for the celebrities, but also for some selected OFWs. Early this month, TFC Middle East launched an online competition open to groups of up to 15 members who can sing, dance, act or do a combination of any of the three. There were no limitations, except that everyone in the group must be of Filipino origin and residing in the UAE.
Groups posted their videos online, the judges made their selections and four finalists will be performing live on Friday's show, where the winners will be awarded a Dh10,000 prize.
"This unprecedented online talent search will showcase many of our kababayans [countrymen] who are talented yet remain undiscovered," says the ABS-CBN Middle East and Europe managing director Edgardo Garcia.
The competition was dominated by amateur hip-hop dance crews that recorded their videos outdoor, usually in empty public parks. There were also singing acts who recorded their entries inside their homes. Other aspirants were established groups such as the ballroom dancing Filipino Dancesport and Social Club and the Organization of Philippine Singers in Abu Dhabi.
All submitted entries can be viewed on YouTube.
The Showtime co-host Karylle believes Filipino talent will shine tomorrow night.
"I'm looking forward to watching their performances. I know they will make me feel proud to be Filipino. I was an OFW myself for months, so I know how it feels to be homesick. I know how it feels to release all that emotion on stage," says the singer, who was based in Singapore early this year to film the Asian musical drama series The Kitchen Musical.
"I'm thankful. It's amazing to do this for OFWs and see their warm smiles," the says co-host Teddy Corpuz, lead vocalist of the band Rocksteddy. "It will be a blast."
- VIP tickets for the show are already sold out, but there are still patron and general admission tickets available, priced at Dh100 and Dh75, respectively. A Dh25 discount is offered to TFC subscribers. For ticketing information, visit www.tfc-global.com
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