Filipina ‘X Factor’ finalist shares 'kilig' moments with One Direction's Louis Tomlinson

Deni Rose M. Afinidad-Bernardo - Philstar.com
Filipina âX Factorâ finalist shares 'kilig' moments with One Direction's Louis Tomlinson
From left: One Direction member and "X Factor UK" judge Louis Tomlinson; Filipina "X Factor UK" finalist Maria Laroco
Instagram / Louis Tomlinson (left); Blue Ant Entertainment / Released

MANILA, Philippines — Maria Laroco’s “X Factor UK” journey might have ended, but the Filipina finalist of the hit reality TV contest already feels like a winner as she got to personally know the judges, particularly, One Direction member Louis Tomlinson.

“I think he is by far my most favorite, of all of them,” Maria said of Louis in an exclusive e-mail interview with Philstar.com.

“I’ve always listened to One Direction. I’ve always been a fan. My friends even got jealous of me because Louis loves to hug people. I got a hug from him backstage. That was during the Six Chair Challenge. After the Six Chair Challenge, he approached me and he told me that, ‘You deserve that seat babe.’ I was like, ‘Aw, thank you!’” Maria added.

Like Louis, who is the youngest who has ever been part of the judging panel, the 17-year-old Maria believes she is also the youngest Filipina who ever joined “X Factor UK.”

“For them I am a foreigner… Simon (Cowell) and the ‘X Factor UK’ gave me a lot of challenges throughout the entire competition. I think it is because they know Filipinos can do good on stage. That’s what I always noticed din sa mga Filipino singers—not only singers, but also Filipino talents around the globe—na they’re all so talented, na people expect ‘yung song na kakantahin nila, like style na they’re gonna do, like birit, because we’re all known sa birit. I think they challenged me this year since I’m a young girl and a Filipino. What they asked me nga, what’s with the Filipino people daw, bakit daw almost everyone in the Philippines knows how to sing. I said it was because of the water,” Maria giggled.

As for judge Simon, Maria said he is not terrifying at all. “In my live audition, after my performance he actually approached me backstage. I was in complete shock because it’s Simon Cowell in front of me, after I sang. I couldn’t exactly point out what I was feeling that time, I even told him na, ‘Oh my god I can’t believe that you’re in front of me,’ and then he told me that, ‘I couldn’t believe it myself either that you’re in front of me!’ That was my closest moment with him at the competition.”

She thinks that Simon only looks scary on TV because it is his role as judge. “They need to be honest. Sometimes he sounds rude but he’s just trying to be honest about the talent. I like his honesty and I like his humor. I think he’s funny.”

Although Maria was eliminated during the contest’s Judges House episode, Simon asked her to return to the competition next year. The episode was shot in US, but Maria was denied a US visa because she mistakenly applied for a visitor’s visa, not a performer’s visa. While she was still able to join the episode via a video recording in a London studio, she felt that being unable to perform live hurt her chances of moving forward in the contest.

“During the call, it was live, he (Simon) told me that I had a good song choice. That was all positive but then he said ‘no.’ At first, I felt like crying. It’s over. After that, I started thinking of so many things,” Maria recalled during a recent homecoming press conference in Manila. 

“Then he told me on the phone: ‘Promise me you’ll come back next year. And they cut it from the final episode but he also said, 'If not, I will be the one to fly to the Philippines to get you here in the competition.’ So I'm going back because I have no intention of breaking that promise."

For now, Maria hopes she could join local showbiz as a singer and share the stage with her idols, Sarah Geronimo and Morisette Amon.

Here is the rest of Philstar.com’s interview with Maria.

How does it feel to represent Filipinos in ‘X-Factor UK’?

“I felt proud of myself, kasi not everyone ang nabibigyan ng chance to be part of a competition like the X Factor UK. It’s a big one. Through the X Factor UK, it has opened a lot of doors, a lot of opportunities for me. And representing the Philippines is all worth it, because, I know, Filipinos are always proud, especially ‘pag may mga Filipinos na nakakarating internationally.”

Have you been in touch with the other Filipino contestant, Sephy Francisco? What can you say about her?

“I am friends with ate Sephy who is part of the ‘Girls’ category. All of the girls we all have a special bond, like we’re all sisters. We had the chance to talk and know each other more during the deliberations. I didn’t see it as a competition really, because I really enjoyed the company of my fellow dreamers—that’s what I like to call ourselves.”

In the round leading to you securing a seat in the Six Chair Challenge, it had been a rollercoaster ride of emotions, how did you cope with those challenges?

“People might judge younger girls like me that we cannot cope very well with situations like that. But I’m used to challenges. Since I was a girl, I’ve been joining competitions in barrio fiestas. Some people don’t like me, don’t like my voice, but it’s their opinion anyway. A lot have compared me to other singers, and I try to be different. I tried to find my own sound, my own song, get inspiration from others, but not gaya-gaya. I try to be unique as much as possible for me to stand out among the girls.”

What were your preparations?

“I don’t actually, because I’ve never been in a…like vocal coaching? Just my mom and me. I did some vocal coaching a few times, but not regularly. I do everything almost by myself. And I actually don’t…those high notes…during the live performances, that’s actually the first time I do those high notes because during practice, I couldn’t belt it out talaga. We live in condo. And in the UK, our house, ‘yung kapitbahay nila, laging nagre-report sa council na maingay daw. So I had to be quiet sa mga practice ko, kaya minsan ‘pag mismong performance, kinakabahan ako kasi first time ko ihi-hit yung notes.”

How do you know you can hit those notes?

“If I really had to belt it out, I sing it with a pillow on my face (laughs).”

How confident were you in winning it all in the competition?

“I actually felt ready and prepared, though I’m not really prepared (laughs). I mean, I’m confident, but not to the point na mayabang. I’m confident that I can do it, like if other girls can do it, I can too. I don’t listen to those people who tell me no, who tell me that I don’t have a good voice and that I’m not good enough. That’s their opinion. All I can say is that I will try my very best always and sing like it’s the last performance of my life.”

What will you do with your prizes if ever you became the grand champion? What are your plans after 'X Factor'? Do any of you at the contest know what the prize is? 

“I actually have no idea. They don’t tell. I think it’s a record deal of some sort. I think there’s cash as well. If ever I won the title, I would donate to the church. I want to build a foundation for the elderly and the kids. And I want to build my own home. Because ever since, we never had the chance to have our own home. We always rented kasi, and life wasn’t easy for us. We’re not that fortunate like the others. Life was hard sa amin. I can say na this is the happiest moment in our entire lives sa buong family, that we’re here sa Manila, and nakakakain pa rin naman three times a day.

We’re preparing something good and something very special to all the fans, and of course, it’s always dedicated to them because it’s them who’ve always been there for me, and have always supported me from the beginning. I am really hoping, praying, and looking forward sa mga darating na projects for me this coming 2019, because I’m turning 18 na. Debut na.”

Being a nation of singers, you already made us proud by qualifying for the Six Chair Challenge and the Judges’ House. Any message to your Filipino supporters?

“My only message to all the people who have always been supporting me ever since is thank you! Having so much faith in me and believing in what I can do in my talent means so much to me, it means everything to me. Not all people with talent are supported by their families, and I can say that I am one helluva lucky girl. That I have these people surrounding me, all my friends and my family, not just here but in the UK as well. And I am so blessed that I have them.”

“X Factor UK” airs first and exclusive, same day as the UK on Blue Ant Entertainment every Sunday and Monday at 7:55 p.m. Blue Ant Entertainment is available on SKYcable channels 53(SD) and 196(HD), SKYdirect channel 35, Destiny Cable channel 53, and Cablelink channels 37(SD) and 313(HD).

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