It takes two to tango
() - June 3, 2009 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines – If you listen to them without seeing their faces, you’d think AJ Tabaldo and Bernie Ann are 100 percent American. But the minute you meet them, you realize these owners of the thick American twang have Pinoy blood flowing in their veins.

Yes, AJ and Bernie Ann come from a mixed culture, a marriage of the East and West. Both were born and raised in the US but their roots are as Pinoy as halo-halo.

Bernie Ann’s parents are Filipino while AJ is the son of a Pinay mom and a half-Pinoy, half-Portuguese dad. Nothing unusual about that. The US is teeming with young people like them.

Bernie Ann and AJ have more to offer than their East-West heritage though. They stand out because the Pinoy in them has given AJ and Bernie the musical edge. Like many Pinoys, they have been singing since they were that tall. And now, they’re bringing their talent to a bigger stage. 

AJ and Bernie flew all the way from the US to the Philippines to promote their debut album Still I Miss You.

Disney Records executives liked what they heard when Bernie Ann sang before them. Thus, the giant recording outfit is producing two of Bernie Ann’s songs, Make Me Laugh Make Me Cry and Life of the Party and the title track, a duet with AJ.

Bernie Ann and AJ dropped what they were doing in the US and grabbed the chance to fly to Manila and promote their album here.

Bernie Ann, a full scholar at Mount Saint Mary’s College in Los Angeles, asked school authorities if she can continue her studies at the Ateneo de Manila, an affiliate school in the Philippines. 

“I explained to them why I had to stay in the Philippines for a while,” says Bernie Ann. “The school allowed me to go and take up some units at the Ateneo.”

This way, Bernie Ann hits two birds with one stone. She can hold on to her scholarship while promoting her album.

“I’m the first student in the Philippines on a full scholarship at Mount Saint Mary’s College,” reveals Bernie Ann. And the scholarship is no drop in the bucket. It is worth — hold your breath — $38,000. So no way will she waste this chance to shine. Bernie Ann is bent on taking up units in Cellular Molecular Biology (in connection with her nursing course) at the Ateneo.

In-between, she will juggle TV guestings with AJ for the album.

AJ himself is not to be outdone. The 24-year-old AJ placed 16th at the American Idol 6 search in Pasadena (Jordin Sparks topped the contest). 

AJ reports that acerbic judge Simon Cowell and the rest of the judges liked what they saw. So getting the boot at the semi-finals came as a shock to the excited Fil-Am artist.

In hindsight, AJ thinks he could have fared better had more people known he has Filipino blood (his mom hails from Pampanga). This way, more AI fans could have voted for him.

“The Pasadena crowd swelled to 20,000,” recalls AJ. “It helped that I didn’t give up joining the contest after I was turned down four times.”

His last AI stint was his fifth crack at the chance to reach stardom.

AJ’s never-say-die spirit is again driving him to forego precious sleep after his plane touched down at the NAIA to meet with the press hours after for his album.

With his father beside him, AJ proudly revealed that he and Bernie Ann sang at Manny Pacquiao’s victory party at Mandalay Bay after he beat Oscar dela Hoya a few years back. AJ has also performed at the Dolphy at 80 US tour.

If plans push through, AJ will be at the Boyz II Men show in the US next month.

Big dreams, high hopes. The stage is set for Bernie Ann and AJ, whose talents give them every reason to aim for the stars. The best part is, they have what most Filipinos can boast of as secret weapon: A family that will see them though come what may.

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