Focus on Philippines: Cyrus Villanueva makes it to X Factor Australia’s final 5

Plus: Heneral Luna sequel confirmed; KC Concepcion continues work with UN; and Tim Atlas gets boot on The Voice.

Cyrus Villanueva. Courtesy: Seven West Media
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Cyrus Villanueva has advanced to next week's final five showdown of The X Factor Australia.

On Monday's live show, the 19-year-old Filipino-Australian student performed a cover of Bob Dylan's Knockin' on Heaven's Door. His performance received a standing ovation from the judging panel, which included his mentor Chris Isaak.

This week, the four celebrity judges swapped roles and chose songs for each other’s acts.

“Look, it’s no secret that I was jealous when Chris got the boys this year. And the reason is: Cyrus,” said Guy Sebastian, who chose Dylan’s classic track for Villanueva.

After the performance, Sebastian told him: “The thing I love about that song is the ability it gives you to dig and really sing that from the gut – and you really did that. It started of soft, subtle and beautiful and where you ended up just made me wanna get up off my chair and do a dance. It was amazing.”

James Blunt said: “Cyrus, the question is not what can you sing, but what can’t you sing. You knock it out of the park every night. I think I have caught the Cyrus virus.”

Dannii Minogue added: “Sometimes this show just catches people in their prime and all the stars align. Cyrus, just keep doing what you are ­doing.”

During rehearsals, Isaak was doubtful of Sebastian’s song choice, calling it “one of the worst songs you can give a contestant”. Later, impressed with Villanueva’s rendition, Isaak told him: “Guy had ideas for the arrangement of this song, I had ideas for the arrangement, then you came in the end – you stepped forward and said: ‘This is what I wanna do.’ And I love that. You’re growing as an artist. Fantastic.”

Villanueva posted on Twitter: “I am so blessed to be given the opportunity each week to stay here and do what I love.”

This week’s eliminated contestant was 33-year-old singer Natalie Conway.

Heneral Luna sequel confirmed

The producers of Heneral Luna announced this week that a sequel is in the works, following the film's critical and box-­office success.

Released in September, Heneral Luna is a historical biopic on General Antonio Luna and set during the Philippine-­American war of 1899. It was recently selected as the Philippines' entry to the Best Foreign Language Film category of the 2016 Academy Awards.

The sequel will focus on another major character in the film, Gregorio del Pilar, the youngest Filipino general during the war. Actor Paulo Avelino will reprise his role, while Jerrold Tarog will return to direct. The film is rumoured to be titled Goyong, taken from del Pilar's nickname.

Screenwriter-producer Eduardo Rocha said the project is expected to take two to three years to finish. "We are going to take our time and do our research, to give it the same feel and look as Luna," he told ­ABS-CBN.

Reflecting on the success of Heneral Luna, Avelino said: "It's heartening, because as an independently produced film, you don't expect it to earn big. Hopefully the people who supported the film will also support Gregorio del Pilar. I'm very excited to start shooting."

KC Concepcion continues work with UN

The Filipino actress K C Concepcion is back in New York to resume her duties as an ambassador for the United Nations World Food Programme.

On Monday, the 30-year-old film and television star posted on Instagram that she was recording voice-overs for a forthcoming climate change conference to be held in Paris. Last week, she recorded a song in celebration for the 70th anniversary of the UN.

As part of the World Food Programme, Concepcion recently travelled to Uganda and Nepal. “It really humbles you and it really makes you realise that there is more to life than what’s just in magazines and guide books,” she told CNN. “I would love to be doing this all my life.”

Tim Atlas gets boot on The Voice

Tim Atlas's journey has ended on the American version of The Voice.

The Filipino-American ­indie-pop musician was eliminated on Monday’s episode after losing to fellow aspirant Evan McKeel in the knockouts round, where contestants squared off one-on-one as they each performed a solo number.

Celebrity coach Pharrell Williams picked McKeel, who sung Switchfoot's Dare You to Move, over Atlas, who covered Ednaswap's Torn.

Atlas later posted on Twitter: "And that concludes my Voice journey! I'm the luckiest guy to have gone as far as I did. I hope my time on the show has sparked some inspiration for people who want to chase a dream that sometimes feels ­unattainable."

Another contestant with a Filipino connection, Amy Vachal, has advanced to next week’s live top 20 show.

artslife@thenational.ae