Focus on the Philippines: Alisah Bonaobra brings judges to tears on X Factor UK

Lance Busa wins Michael Bolton’s talent search Bolt of Talent, while thriller Birdshot is Philippines’s bet for Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film.

Alisah Bonaobra. Courtesy ITV
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Alisah Bonaobra, the runner-up of The Voice of the Philippines in 2015, has advanced to the bootcamp round of The X Factor UK.

Auditioning with a cover of Beyonce's hit track Listen, the 22-year-old singer earned praises from the reality talent programme's judging panel, comprised of Nicole Scherzinger, Sharon Osbourne, Simon Cowell and Louis Walsh.

“I always think that a lot of people from where you’re from are amazing singers,” Cowell told her.

“This is not the best version of this song I’ve ever heard — I’m not gonna lie to you. But there’s something about you I really, really like.”

Walsh called Bonaobra “adorable” and “a great singer”, while Osbourne sat speechless after the contestant’s performance.

“I just want to cry. It’s a yes from me,” Osbourne said.

Bonabora was accompanied to the show by 20 Filipino supporters, including her mother, who cheered enthusiastically outside The X Factor UK’s audition room. Bonaobra said she and her mother flew to London with the financial assistance of a family friend from back home. One of eight children, Bonaobra helps her family through her singing gigs. Her parents work as sidewalk food vendors.

Scherzinger, whose father is Filipino, teared up during Bonaobra’s performance.

“I am crying because I come from very humble beginnings as well,” she said. “You’re just gorgeous. You’re just this tiny little thing with a voice given from God — this unbelievable gift blowing everybody away. I connect with you and everybody — and it’s a yes for you and all the Filipinos out there.”

Bonaobra's performance is currently the most-viewed audition video on The X Factor UK's YouTube channel, garnering close to three million views.

Bonaobra appeared on the second season of The Voice of the Philippines in 2015. Coached by The Black Eyed Peas's Filipino-American rapper, she finished as the competition's runner-up.

She is the fourth Filipino contestant in this edition of The X Factor UK. Boy group JBK, cafeteria lady Gaga Lord and singer-songwriter Elysa Villareal have also all advanced to the show's next round of competition, known as the bootcamp, where the roster of successful auditions will be whittled down to about 60 contenders.

The X Factor UK started accepting international contestants in 2015. That year, Filipino girl group 4th Impact flew from Manila to London to try out for the show, finishing in fifth place.

Lance Busa wins Michael Bolton’s talent search

Another Filipino has made headlines on an international talent programme. On Wednesday, Lance Busa won Bolt of Talent, a singing competition produced and hosted by American singer Michael Bolton.

The show, produced by Fox Network Group Asia and Star World, featured eight contenders from Asia, including Filipino singer Hans Dimayuga and runner-up Nawinda “Mild” Sittatikarnvech from Thailand. The competition also featured guest mentors from around the region, including Filipino singer Morisette Amon.

Busa, 22, has won a recording deal and the opportunity to perform with Bolton during his forthcoming world concert tour, which includes a show in Manila in November.

Bolton himself flew to the Philippines back in May to select two Filipino finalists from more than 300 contestants.

“The show has brought me back to Asia, where I have performed and toured for over 25 years,” Bolton said. “Now, I find myself deeply moved and inspired as I discover young singers with different cultural backgrounds and upbringing, but with one thing in common — pure love of singing.”

Birdshot is Philippines’s bet for Oscars

The coming-of-age drama Birdshot has been selected as the Philippines's entry to the Best Foreign Language Film category of the forthcoming 90th Academy Awards.

Directed by 25-year-old filmmaker Mikhail Red, Birdshot premiered at last year's Tokyo International Film Festival, winning the Best Picture prize in the festival's Asian Future Film section.

The film follows the story of a young girl who accidentally shoots a rare and endangered Philippine eagle.

“What a spectacular turn of events. I’m thankful to the Film Academy of the Philippines (the organisation that selects the Oscars entry) for giving us the opportunity to represent our country,” Red told the Philippine Daily Inquirer.

Countries from around the world get to select their entries for the Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film. Around 90 entries are then shortlisted to 10 films. The Academy then selects from five final nominees. No Filipino film has ever made the Academy’s shortlist.


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