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Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 12 December 2018

Focus on the Philippines: Angelica Hale advances to quarterfinal of America’s Got Talent

Plus: Lea Salonga returns to Broadway for Once on This Island; 14-year-old Jona Soquite wins The Voice Teens Philippines; Lav Diaz and Brillante Mendoza join the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.

Judge Chris Hardwick hits the Golden Buzzer for 9-year-old Angelica Hale. Courtesy MBC
Judge Chris Hardwick hits the Golden Buzzer for 9-year-old Angelica Hale. Courtesy MBC

Nine-year-old Filipino-American contestant Angelica Hale has advanced to the Top 36 quarterfinal round of the reality talent competition America’s Got Talent.

After impressing the programme’s celebrity panel and live audience with a powerful rendition of Alicia Keys’s hit track Girl on Fire during the show’s first round of eliminations, Hale was awarded a Golden Buzzer by guest judge Chris Hardwick. The Golden Buzzer automatically sends a contestant to the live quarterfinal shows, which will begin airing on August 15 and 16.

“I’m so blown away. You open your mouth and it’s like — how do those pipes fit in that tiny body? You are unbelievable,” Hardwick told Hale. “Angelica, you are the chosen one.”

Later, on social media, Hale wrote: “I’m still crying too! I can’t believe this is happening!”

Prior to her appearance on America’s Got Talent, Hale battled serious illness, contracting a life-threatening infection at age four. In need of a kidney transplant, her Filipino mother Eva donated a kidney to save her daughter.

Hale’s audition video for the show, featuring her cover of Andra Day’s Rise Up, has garnered close to 16 millions on YouTube.

“I want to be the next Whitney Houston. I want to be a superstar,” Hale told the judges during her first appearance on the show.

America’s Got Talent, which is now on its 12th edition, features presenter Tyra Banks and judges Mel B, Heidi Klum, Simon Cowell and Howie Mandel.

Aside from Hale, the competition’s Top 36 acts include an a cappella group, a comic, a gospel choir, a hip-hop dance troupe, and another nine-year-old singing sensation, Celine Tam.

Lea Salonga returns to Broadway for Once on This Island

Filipino actress and singer Lea Salonga has joined the cast of the Broadway revival of the musical Once on This Island. The production will begin its preview performances in New York on November 9, in advance of a December 3 opening night.

Salonga, 46, will play the character of Erzulie, one of four gods that rule a tropical island where peasants worship them. She joins an ensemble that includes the actors Phillip Boykin, Alysha Deslorieux, Kenita Miller, Alex Newell, and Merle Dandridge.

“I have been keeping this for months!” Salonga posted on Twitter. “So excited to be returning to Broadway this fall in one of my favourite shows.”

Salonga catapulted into fame at age 18 when she starred in the lead role of Kim in the musical Miss Saigon, appearing in London’s West End and then on Broadway. For her performance, she became the first Asian woman to win a Tony Award.

In 2015, she returned to Broadway to star in a production of the musical Allegiance. She is currently a judge on the reality singing series The Voice Philippines.

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14-year-old Jona Soquite wins The Voice Teens Philippines

Speaking of The Voice, Jona Soquite, a 14-year-old contestant from the southern Philippine city of Davao, won the first edition of The Voice Teens Philippines.

Coached by pop superstar Sarah Geronimo, Soquite beat fellow finalists Isabella Vinzon, Mica Becerro and Jeremy Glinoga to win the title and a prize package that included a recording contract, a house and 1 million Philippine pesos (Dh72,500).

“My parents and I would still have to decide what to do with the money. What’s more important to me is the house,” said Soquite, who joined the competition to help her family’s financial struggles.

Soquite, the youngest contestant of the season, was an early favourite in the competition, impressing the judging panel with a cover of the classic Filipino folk track Anak ng Pasig (Child of Pasig) during her audition.

The Voice Teens Philippines also featured celebrity coaches Lea Salonga, Sharon Cuneta and Bamboo Mañalac.

Lav Diaz and Brillante Mendoza join the Academy

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences have invited Filipino filmmakers Lav Diaz and Brillante Mendoza to join their prestigious organisation, which awards the annual Oscars. They were among the 774 new members recently inducted in the Academy’s membership, which now numbers to 7,500.

Diaz and Mendoza are the first Filipinos to join the Academy.

“It is an acknowledgement that Philippine cinema and Southeast Asian filmmaking are finally a part of the Academy’s once-exclusive forum,” said Diaz, whose film Ang Babeng Humayo (The Woman Who Left) won the Golden Lion at the Venice Film Festival last year.

Mendoza, who became an international sensation after winning the Best Director prize at the Cannes Film Festival back in 2009 for his film Kinatay (Butchered), echoed Diaz’s sentiment to the Philippine Daily Inquirer: “I am glad that we now have representation in the Academy. I hope other Filipino filmmakers will continue our work of making positive contributions to the world of cinema.”