His elimination from America’s Got Talent in the semi-finals left him “sad and confused”, but young Filipino singer Peter Rosalita says he’s returned to Abu Dhabi grateful that he got “a once-in-a-lifetime experience”.
“I was shocked because I gave it my all in every performance and I was getting great responses from all the judges and audiences and I was [still] eliminated,” he tells The National. "But I am still happy that I got to have that experience."
Peter, 10, became an internet sensation in June when his audition for the 16th season of reality TV show America’s Got Talent was posted on YouTube.
Dressed in a white suit paired with a blue shirt and tie, the youngster immediately charmed the show’s four judges as soon as he walked on to the stage.
“I was born in Abu Dhabi, UAE, but I am a Filipino citizen,” he said confidently.
Peter then performed a rendition of the 1975 Eric Carmen song All By Myself, also made famous by Celine Dion in 1996, which brought the judges and audience to their feet.
"You have an amazing voice, an amazing personality, an amazing energy. Everyone is going to fall in love with you after this audition," show creator Simon Cowell said.
The video has been viewed more than 8.3 million times, and even earned a thumbs up from Dion’s team who shared the clip on social media.
Peter then advanced to the quarter finals in the viewer-voted reality show, performing a rendition of I Have Nothing, Whitney Houston’s huge 1993 hit used in the soundtrack of her film The Bodyguard.
By the end of his performance, all four judges – including Cowell, Sofia Vergara, Heidi Klum and Howie Mandel – were on their feet, along with the show’s audience, at Hollywood’s Dolby Theatre.
“I can’t believe that voice is coming out of you,” Vergara exclaimed.
“I was the biggest fan of Whitney Houston, and you really did her proud. It was amazing," Klum added.
For the semi-finals, broadcast earlier this month, Peter opened the show to perform Mariah Carey’s Without You, yet again wowing the judges and live audience.
“I absolutely loved that performance,” Cowell said. “I was thinking about the lyric of the song and I was thinking about my little boy and I got all emotional.
“I really like you Peter," he added. "I think America is going to love you and they are going to love that performance. Good for you.”
But rave reviews from the judges could not ensure Peter’s place in the finals, as he was eliminated in the results show the following night.
“I felt sad and confused,” Peter recalls of the moment his name wasn’t announced in the final 10.
“After the show, I just went back to our hotel room and I played video games.”
But he says he was comforted by his aunt, Mary Jane Villegas, who has been accompanying him to the US since his audition in May.
His parents, who were watching the show from home in Abu Dhabi, also called to encourage him.
“They were all happy and told me that I am amazing and that giving my best in all my performance is the most important thing because that is how people are going to remember me,” Peter says.
Magician Dustin Tavella was named the winner of America’s Got Talent on September 15.
Peter, a Grade 5 student at Richmindale school in Abu Dhabi, says it’s now back to music classes and studies, but he will cherish his short journey on the reality show.
“AGT is a once-in-a-lifetime experience that has given me the chance to fulfil one of my dreams and taught me a lot of valuable lessons that I will be taking with me as I continue to pursue my singing,” he says.
“It is a dream come true to have been one of the contestants, being able to share my singing talent with the world and make a lot of people happy. I will always be grateful to AGT for the wonderful experience they have given me.”
His parents, dad Ruel Rosalita and mother Vilma Villegas, are fully supportive of his future career in music.
“We always [talk about it] and they assured me that they will support me every step of the way,” Peter, an only child, says.
Peter's mother, who spoke to The National right after Peter's elimination, said “God has a greater plan”.
“In our hearts, Peter is already a winner,” she said. “We are thankful and grateful to all who voted for Peter and to all the supporters.”
Aunt Mary Jane says life will not be the same for Peter after this experience.
“Peter has learned valuable life lessons while on AGT and these are what he will take with him as he grows up to be the kind and mature person we are already seeing him become,” she says.
“Singing is Peter’s passion and we as a family will always be here to support him, however he chooses to move forward with his pursuit of singing.”