The OPM-loving foreigners
Leah C. Salterio (The Philippine Star) - February 21, 2016 - 9:00am

MANILA, Philippines – We are familiar with singing contests on TV, which signaled the entertainment careers of some of today’s music luminaries. The latest reality singing competition is I Love OPM, the newest TV program to share the story of a foreigner who can sing a native, Filipino song.

The singing search for OPM-loving foreigners debuted on ABS-CBN on Valentine’s weekend and airs twice weekly on Saturdays and Sundays. Anne Curtis hosts I Love OPM, the first show that she banners as main host, with comedian Eric Nicolas as her co-host.

The formidable panel of judges called the Himigration Officers is composed of Concert King Martin Nievera, Asia’s Nightingale Lani Misalucha and multi-media star Toni Gonzaga. They give their “stamp of approval” to the singers at the end of every performance.

The foreigners who joined are obviously all familiar with singing Filipino songs. Some are either married to Filipinos or have Filipino friends who influenced them to learn Tagalog songs. Others are working here in the Philippines or are related to Filipinos. No wonder, they can sing Tagalog songs with ease.

The judges were visibly surprised at the choice of Filipino songs of the foreign singers. The judges were also often impressed and delighted by the performance of the singers. Two “stamps of approval” from the judges will make the singer advance to the next round, while anything below that will immediately eliminate the performer.

On the first week, the contestants called Touristars, were given their respective 15 minutes of fame onstage. German-Irish teenager Jeena Dimaandal from San Francisco belted out her version of Sharon Cuneta’s Bituing Walang Ningning. Jeena was adopted and raised by a Filipino couple based in the US West Coast. She got a unanimous approval from all three judges.

American-born looker Ryan Gallagher crooned Kahit Isang Saglit, originally recorded respectively by Verni Varga and Martin Nievera. “That was one of the hardest songs to sing emotionally,” Martin remarked after Ryan’s performance. “I think you did a very good job for someone who doesn’t sing Tagalog every day.”

Young singer from South Korea, Soo Jin Lee, rendered Yeng Constantino’s Chinito, but was not lucky enough to get approval from the judges. Harris Dio Smith from Pakistan sang Joey “Pepe” Smith’s Beep, Beep and earned the nod of all three judges.

A five-member Korean group, J Morning, gave a perky, hip-hop twist to Yeng’s song, Ikaw. Addy Raj from India impressed the judges with his own version of Hinahanap-hanap Kita by Daniel Padilla. Both performers advanced to the next round.

Raza Saeed, a Pakistani based in Dubai, crooned Ronnie Liang’s Ngiti. He was vocal about his crush on Anne. To which Toni commented, “He doesn’t only admire Filipino music, but also Filipina beauty.” Raza, unfortunately, did not make the grade with the Himigration Officers.

A Russian model married to a Filipino, Anna Rabtsun, gamely rendered Gloc 9’s Sirena, complete with the rap part. Her performance sent her to the next round. Anna’s husband interestingly proposed to her underwater in Boracay. They’ve been married for eight years now.

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