Pinoy with Batangueño roots nation’s newest singing pride

 

MANILA–Arnel Pineda of Journey, Apl de Ap of the Black Eyed Peas, Jasmine Trias, Nicole Scherzinger of the Pussycat Dolls, Charice Pempengco, Jessica Sanchez. No matter the ratio of the Filipino blood for some of these celebrities, their 7,107-island homeland that’s some 7,000 miles away from the US had been proud of them. 

Duets' third placer Jason Farol, who traces his roots to Batangas (photo by ABC)

 

Add another Filipino with Batangueno roots, Jason Farol, to this mix of Pinoy talent. He’s the third-placer of a new reality singing show in the US, Duets, that’s shown on ABC.

There’s a difference, however, between this son of an architect-father (from Rosario, Batangas) and of a nurse-mother (born in Caloocan City) and the other Filipino singing sensations who had made their waves in the US. Farol’s passport to fame was a less-viewed show, whose concept was inspired from both American Idol (viewed on Fox) and another reality singing show, The Voice (shown on NBC). Duets has superstar judges and mentors like Farol’s partner Kelly Clarkson, John Legend, Robin Thicke and Jennifer Nettles.

When Farol was actually surviving the early episodes of Duets, and when he reached the final 3, the news hardly trended at home (except for some news reports by Metro Manila-based news media outfits). View his Facebook page: Only 2,802 likes as of July 22nd. His posts carrying pictures of the July 20 season finale? Only 202 likes and 19 comments. Not even global sensation Clarkson can hype up singing-crazed Filipinos? And any congratulatory word from Malacanang Palace, like what it did on American Idol season 11 runner-up Sanchez last May?

 

The singer, ‘unnoticed’

Farol, born in Torrance, California when his parents migrated to the US, is actually used to such situations that his performances almost go unnoticed, especially during the entire show until he reached the top 3.

Farol joined the audition for Duets without any public singing experience whatsoever, catching Clarkson’s attention and making her choose the Filipino. Not surprisingly, Farol was shy during his audition. But his voice made an impact to the Duets mentors, enough for Clarkson to believe that he can compete with other talented singers in America.

Most of Farol’s fans tag him as “the rebel underdog and a hot winner.” Literally he was an underdog, ending up in the bottom two during the first two weeks of the show. But he managed to survive the elimination face-off in those two episodes.

Kelly Clarkson, one of the celebrity judges of Duets, is Farol's singing partner during the show's first season (photo by ABC)

As the episodes went on, Farol then became one of the heavyweights of the competition, working hard to beat other contestants, including crowd favorite and five-week top-ranking contestant J Rome (Prior to the showing of Duets, J Rome was already offered a recording contract).

Viewers, especially the Filipino community, were allowed to vote for their favorite contestants starting on week five of the show. Leading the pack was a hometown association in the southern part of California, the Rosario Batangas Association of Southern California. That’s when Farol proved that he deserved to be among the top contenders.

Week after week, he impressed the audience and the judges with his transformation.

“He (Farol) has really come a long way, I thought he should have been eliminated early, but he really deserves to be in the final three,” Gord Craig of the Canada newspaper The Leader-Post wrote in a July 17 commentary. At this point, it was visible, Craig said, that the Filipino “has the confidence to go with his voice”.

Nettles, the partner of eventual winner J Rome and runner-up John Glosson, even predicted that Farol could actually win the title because he can easily win the hearts of viewers through his charming voice and projection.

True enough, Farol reached the season finale. Farol contended with 25-year-old J Rome of Laurel, Maryland and 32-year-old John Glosson of Douglas, Georgia.

 

Transformation

On the eighth week of the competition, Farol performed his solo piece, “Runaway Baby.” Votes for the finale winner were cast according to the top three’s solo performance on that episode last July 12. Farol, that time, conquered the stage and made the audience dance and clap to the beat of his rock performance –singing as if he was Bruno Mars. But the difference was that he made a new rock version of the song with his powerful voice and “screams”.

“No matter what place I get, I want to thank you all for the support! This has been an incredible journey and a dream come true!” Farol posted on July 15 on his Facebook fan page after his July 12 performance.

During the July 20 finale, Farol performed with “swagger confidence,” as what the show’s host Quddus described, given the Filipino’s his signature feet-stomp-and-dance moves. Singing “Heartbreak Hotel,” Clarkson and Farol just enjoyed their performance.

“(Farol) looks like really comfortable and having a good time (on stage),” Legend said. Nettles disclosed that “witnessing your (Farol’s) journey thus far is rewarding,” adding that Farol started with little confidence but blossomed into a confident singer.

However, J Rome, who performed “Signed, Sealed, Delivered” by Stevie Wonder, won the show’s first season. Jenn Lee of BuddyTV in the US earlier predicted that Rome will be crowned by the end of the show, saying he is “a complete package.”

“(J Rome’s) star quality is simply undeniable. J Rome is also extremely versatile: he can channel Usher, pull off a cheesy Grease number, do justice to a tender Whitney Houston favorite and slow things down with Billie Holiday,” Lee wrote in her pre-season finale prediction in BuddyTV.

But Farol did not just end the competition as a third placer. He finished his Duets journey as an underdog brimming with hope. As Clarkson said during the show’s finale, the competition will not be the end of the road for this new Filipino artist: “It is just the beginning of his wonderful career.”

Just like how Sanchez’ career is currently being built up by American managers who believe in Filipino talent, some believe that Farol’s career will blossom, especially that he had already won the hearts of some Americans as well, not just Filipinos.

That’s even if Duets, which had an average of 4.93 million viewers, isn’t as popular as American Idol and Sanchez’s feat there.

About Carissa Caraig

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