SAN FRANCISCO—There may not be a prouder week for Pinay mothers of American pop entertainers. On the week of April 16th, four Filipino American offspring of Pinays were featured in the three highest-rated American network TV talent shows, surviving an elimination round of increasingly tough competition.
Perhaps the most famous of the survivors is 16-year old Jessica Sanchez who rebounded in one week from being eliminated — and then saved by the judges of American Idol — to receiving the highest number of votes in the following week.
The eldest of three siblings from Chula Vista, California, Jessica is the daughter of Gilbert Sanchez, a Mexican American Iraq War navy veteran from Texas, and Edita Bugay, the Pinay daughter of a retired U.S. Navy sailor from San Diego, California.
Another FilAm contestant who almost got the boot from TV viewers until she was saved by the judges — also unanimously — is 20-year old Cheesa Laureta, a transplant from Honolulu to Los Angeles who graduated from Hollywood High School. Unlike the other FilAm finalist survivors, Cheesa has Filipino parents on both sides, the mother from Cebu and the father from Manila.
Cheesa’s brother, Troy, worked with Charice Pempengco whose fans are eagerly voting for Cheesa. She and Troy form a singing duet called A2C. They previously auditioned for American Idol but didn’t make the cut as a duo.
Perhaps the least known as a FilAm is 21-year old Roshon Fegan, a finalist in Dancing with the Stars (DWTS) where he is paired with professional dancer Chelsie Hightower. Roshon is the son of a Pinay mama, Cion, and an African American actor producer, Roy. Roshon, like Cheesa also a graduate of Hollywood High School, hopes to succeed another FilAm DWTS former champion, Nicole Scherzinger.
The fourth FilAm also still in contention is the certainly most famous of all of them, Cheryl Burke, a two-time champion of Dancing with the Stars. A dance pro paired with Latin heartthrob William Levy, Cheryl hopes to be a 3-time DWTS champion. ABC’s 20/20 already proclaimed her this week as “Best Dancer Ever” on Dancing with the Stars.
Cheryl’s father, Steve, was an immigration attorney of Irish and Russian descent. Her mother, Sherry Bautista, was a Registered Nurse who set up her own successful nurse registry in the San Francisco Bay Area. Cheryl and DWTS champion Mark Ballast performed together at a San Francisco fund-raiser for Philippine victims of Typhoon Ondoy in December of 2009.
It was not only a glorious week for proud Pinay mamas of pop entertainers but also for proud Pinay mothers of classical performers.
On April 20 last week, the Oakland East Bay Symphony featured three FilAms in its program: cellist David Requiro, pianist-composer Victor Noriega, and composer Art Khu.
Performing to a near sell-out audience at the 2000 seat Paramount Theater in Oakland, the three FilAms each receiving standing ovations for their works.
David Requiro is already being touted as the next YoYo Ma. The First Prize Winner of the Naumberg International Violoncello Competition, he has placed first in other prestigious string competitions. His performance in Antonin Dvorak’s Cello Concerto in B minor, Op. 104 brought the orchestra and the audience to their feet prompting three curtain calls.
Art Khu is a prolific jazz pianist, composer, arranger and producer based in San Francisco. Art studied at Yale School of Music and earned a Bachelor’s of Music in Piano Performance at Oberlin Conservatory and is considered one of the top musicians in the jazz scene today. The April 20 concert also marked the world premiere of his original composition, “The Symphony of Souls”.
The first movement of his piece is influenced by Latin and African rhythms. The second movement entitled “Homeland” which Khu says “conveys a sense of loss and confusion”. The third movement borrows from the American spiritual repertoire, he notes. The fourth movement merges all the forms and motifs together including the influence of Hip Hop and modern R&B. The final embodiment is influence by Mozart’s Ode to Joy, what he describes as “triumphal conclusion ending the emotional and spiritual journey.”
Victor Noriega is a Vancouver-born FilAm resident of Seattle who is an award-winning pianist, composer and arranger whose compositions have been characterized as “layered, complex, interesting and rhythmic”. The April 20 symphony concert marked the world premiere of his original composition “Generations, Directions” which he describes as “the story of my family’s immigration from the Philippines to North America, exploring the process of maintaining the culture and traditions of the homeland while integrating into a new world.”
The autobiographical symphony features 7 movements – Harana, Arrival, the Bond, New Harana, Kuya, Children’s March and Harana Revisited.
The first movement, “Harana”, symbolizes the idea of the Philippines and represents the stories of “back home” that my parents’ generation brought with them, he writes. The second, “Arrival” represents “the beginnings of my family’s history in America.” The third, “The Bond,” signifies the strength and closeness of their generation in adapting to the new culture, he explains. The fourth, “New Harana”, shows the recurring influence of the old country harmonized with the new.
The fifth, “Kuya”, evokes the playfulness and wonder of his childhood in the 980s. The 6th movement, “Children’s March”, represents to Noriega “the newest generation” of his family and he asks: “What will being Filipino mean to them?” In the finale, “Harana Revisited”, he explains that “in our own ways, each generation remains connected to the original yet continually evolving idea of the Philippines and how it fits in our lives.”
In personal remarks to a select audience before the concert, Victor and Art described attending a party in the San Francisco Bay Area home of Vangie Buell, president of the Filipino American National Historical Society (FANHS), where they met Oakland Symphony Conductor Michael Morgan. An African-American conductor of a predominatly Caucasian orchestra, Morgan was described by the Oakland Tribune as “the Mad Hatter of symphony music directors…creating wildly imaginative concerts where other more tradition-rooted directors fear to go.”
In the program notes provided at the “Notes from the Philippines” concert, Morgan describes this meeting: “Two years ago, I met the organizers of San Francisco’s Filipino Jazz Festival in the home of community leader Vangie Buell. Until then, I had no idea of its existence, but was very impressed by what I learned about the history of jazz within our large Bay Area Filipino community. Through them, I met tonight’s composers Art Khu and Victor Noriega, both of whom have written extensively but never for an orchestra.”
Whether in pop or classical music, FilAms are making their distinctive marks and their mamas could not be any prouder.