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Artista bets: A day with OFWs in HK

MANILA, Philippines - TV5’s Artista Academy aspirants treated some 3,000 Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs) in Hong Kong to a day of entertainment, fun and prizes in a show last Sept. 9 at the Chater Garden. The show was jointly mounted by TV5 and PLDT-Smart with the support of the Philippine Consulate to celebrate the milestone reached by the latter’s Overseas Absentee Voting campaign, which drew 10,000 registered absentee voters in Hong Kong last month.

It was the first-ever public, non-studio live show of the contestants, also known as scholars, of the ongoing artista search of the Kapatid network, according to TV5 Talent Center head, director Mac Alejandre.

The scholars were practically new faces to the OFWs, but they managed to impress the crowd with song-and-dance segments, harnessed by weeks of training at the competition’s partner school, the Asian Academy of Television Arts, plus their weekly live exams.

Scholars opened their show by dancing to the current K-Pop hit Gangnam Style, then filled up the rest of the program with duets and solo numbers before culminating with the Tagalog song Doo Bi Doo, by the APO Hiking Society, which for sure reminded OFWs of home.

There were also crowd favorites among the scholars like Chanel Morales of Bacolod City, which pumped up the crowd with performances that obviously showcased her formal training before entering Artista Academy. She also said that an added motivation for her performance was seeing some familiar faces in the crowd from her hometown.

Another crowd hit was Brent Manzano of Bulacan with his R&B singing. He was among the three contestants, who despite being already “kicked out” from the contest, were still included in the trip.

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The Hong Kong trip-cum-show, a treat from PLDT-Smart and TV5 big boss Manny V. Pangilinan, also served as the kick-off of the Artista Academy road show that will soon roll off to other parts of the Philippines and abroad.

Nevertheless, the center of the spotlight were the OFWs in Hong Kong, several of whom, based on the interviews with the event’s hosts Valeen Montenegro and Mr. Fu, have been working in the former British colony for more than two decades. Through the show, PLDT-Smart gave away prizes such as tuition, even a rocking chair, cellphones, among other “wishes” of OFWs, not for themselves, but for their families back in the Philippines.

Some of the scholars are no strangers to the OFW life like Jon Orlando of Canada and Chris Leonardo of Laguna, who said that their mothers are OFWs.

Pangilinan himself, who attended the affair, can very well relate to OFWs. “I was an OFW myself (also in Hong Kong) for 22 continuous years. I knew how it felt to be lonely. There were times when I needed to spend Christmas and New Year’s away from my family because of work,” he told The STAR in a post-event interview. “We can understand why Filipinos have to work abroad. We really do. And they just accept their fate like that. I don’t think they’re necessarily happy. They just accept it and they do quite well abroad. But it’s a huge sacrifice for them.”

Meanwhile, coming up with Artista Academy illustrates how serious TV5 is in nurturing homegrown talents.

Referring to the crop of finalists, the number of which is now down to 12, Pangilinan said, “It’s refreshing … at least we have a future. Of course, not all of them have the same trajectory. Some will move faster than the others, but at least we gave them a chance.”

He added, “Now is the time to develop (our) own talents. Talents that are distinctly 5. Talents that will grow with the channel over time. I don’t want them to be a clone of (the talents of) 2 and 7.”

“I think it’s important that we have talents that are truly talents of TV5. That are loyal to us and will be known truly as talents of TV5. We want to create loyalty, dedication, commitment to the station in the long-term.”

Still in the running to be Best Actor and Best Actress, as the winners are called, are Chanel, Akihiro Blanco, Alberto Bruno, Vin Abrenica, Benjo Leoncio, Malak So Shdifat, Mark Neumann, Nicole Estrada, Sophie Albert, Stephanie Rowee, Shaira Mae and Marvelous Alejo. The winners, to be named in October, will equally split the P20M worth of winnings, the biggest prize pot in television history.

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