x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

Singing hearts out to ensure Filipino children are educated back home

Yan ang Boses is a fun event held to raise funds for the UAE chapter of the University of the Philippines Alumni Association.

Michelle Sophie Pudda, 10, beat seven others who competed at Marco Polo Hotel's Kitakits Bar in Dubai. Lee Hoagland / The National
Michelle Sophie Pudda, 10, beat seven others who competed at Marco Polo Hotel's Kitakits Bar in Dubai. Lee Hoagland / The National

DUBAI // Michelle Sophie Pudda admitted she was nervous on stage but sang her heart out, winning approval from the judges and the audience in the second Yan ang Boses (That's How a Voice Should Sound) videoke contest on Friday.

Michelle, 10, from St Mary's Catholic School in Dubai, beat seven others who competed at Marco Polo Hotel's Kitakits Bar in Dubai.

She decided to do things differently by showing off her new guitar skills and singing British-Irish boyband One Direction's What Makes You Beautiful.

"I had the confidence and I knew I would win," said Michelle, who learnt to play the guitar earlier this year. "It's one of the four songs I learnt on YouTube and it was easy to play on the guitar.

"If I lost, I'd still be happy. I wouldn't feel bad about losing. I actually feel good that I helped people out."

While waiting for the judges' decision, her mother and fellow contestant Tinette Pudda said the same thing: "Win or lose, we are contributing to a worthy cause."

Yan ang Boses is a fun event held to raise funds for the UAE chapter of the University of the Philippines Alumni Association.

It was first held in 2010 exclusively for members but this year organisers decided to also invite non-members.

Funds generated will be funnelled to the association's scholarship endowment fund.

The rest of the contestants were adults, including Uma Nassief, 29, a Syrian banker who came in second place.

Uma effortlessly sang a Tagalog song titled Ikaw Lamang (Only You) by Martin Nievera, a singer-songwriter best known as "the Philippines' concert king".

"I've been singing Tagalog songs since I was eight," he said. "It's a love song, a nice song for competitions."

The group also has an adopt-a-scholar programme for underprivileged students, which has been running since 2007.

It provides an annual university scholarship grant that covers the cost of school fees, books and other expenses.

"We're doing this to fulfil our self-imposed obligation," said Janice Ong, the association's president.

"We're also trying to generate awareness and support for our scholarship programme."

Oliver Conti Ramos, who helped to organise Yan ang Boses, said that the group's charity drive launched in September had also been a success.

A total of 53 boxes of school supplies and flip-flops have been collected for 3,188 pupils at two elementary schools in one of the country's poorest towns.

A non-profit organisation, Abu Dhabi Cause Connect, collected 1,738 pairs of flip-flops in its campaign to help the children, who walk barefoot to school.

"We've covered two years' worth of school supplies," Mr Ramos said.

"Many of the children lost their parents because of the deadly typhoons that hit our country.

"Now they are assured that next school year they will have flip-flops and school supplies."

rruiz@thenational.ae