Two Filipino contestants have travelled from Manila to London to try out for the latest season of The X Factor UK, which premiered earlier this month. Both of their audition performances received standing ovations from the singing competition show's panel of judges – Simon Cowell, Ayda Field, Louis Tomlinson and Robbie Williams.
Contestant Maria Laroco, aged just 17, brought the house down with a rendition of Prince's classic hit Purple Rain.
“Since I was a little girl, I’ve always wanted to be an international superstar,” Laroco said. “I want to be big. So that’s why I’m doing this – because I love to do it and because this is my dream.”
Tomlinson, a member of boy band One Direction, told her: “That was absolutely incredible; incredible. To do what you’ve just done at 17, vocally, you absolutely blew me away.”
Field, an American actress, praised how Laroco “just bossed that stage”, giving the young singer “all the yeses I can possibly give you”.
Field’s husband, singer Robbie Williams, gestured to the cheering audience, saying: “Look, what you did to the audience, that hasn’t happened a lot. You’re amazing.”
Cowell, the show’s notoriously acerbic producer, was also impressed and told Laroco, “So, you are 17 years old and you’ve flown all the way here – which is a long trip. You’ve taken on probably one of the biggest songs in the world. And I’m going to give you infinity yeses.”
Laroco said to the judges: “I never gave up on my dream. A lot of times people have told me I’m not good enough, but I can’t do it; I can’t give up.”
With close to 800,000 views on YouTube, Laroco's audition is one of the most-viewed videos on the official channel of The X Factor UK.
Filipino singer Sephy Francisco also made an impression on the show after her rendition of Andrea Bocelli and Celine Dion's song The Prayer, performing both their vocal parts. "Everything I do, I feel I am guided by the Lord," Francisco said of her song choice.
Surprising the judges and live audience with her ability to shift from male and female vocal sections without showing strain, 27-year-old Francisco received a standing ovation.
“I’ve never judged a duo who is one person. This is incredible,” praised Cowell.
Field told Francisco: “Wow. Wow. Well, that was a surprise.”
Francisco recently appeared on the South Korean singing competition I Can See Your Voice, where she auditioned with the same cover performance.
Both Francisco and Laroco received a yes from every one of the judges on the panel and have advanced to the next stage of The X Factor UK competition, dubbed as "deliberations", a bootcamp round airing in early October where those successful in the auditions will be whittled down and divided into teams mentored by the judges – Cowell for the girls, Tomlinson for the boys, Field for the over-25 singers and Williams for the group acts. Sharon Osbourne will also join the judging panel during the live shows of The X Factor UK, which is hosted by presenter Dermot O'Leary.
The reality TV singing programme started accepting international contestants back in 2015. That year, Filipino girl group 4th Impact flew from the Philippines to try out for the show and went on to finish in fifth place overall. In 2016, Filipino singer and Dubai resident Ivy Grace Paredes joined the competition and reached the top 24 round. Last year, the show featured Filipino contestant Alisah Bonaobra, who finished in eleventh place.