NOW that Jessica Sanchez is doing well on “American Idol,” local “AI” buffs are harking back to the tilt’s other Fil-Am finalists over the past decade. Most editions of the competition have featured a Pinoy bet, due in part to our innate musicality and love for vocal performance, and to Fil-Ams’ “vote-generating” involvement in the tilt.
Season 1’s Fil-Am finalist was Brad Estrin, born in San Francisco, California. Jordan Segundo, the first singer from Hawaii to make it as an “AI” finalist, competed in Season 2. After “Idol,” he performed for former President Bush at a prestigious banquet in Hawaii, with Kenny Loggins at his CD release party, and for the LA Lakers’ games.
Jasmine Trias made it to the finals in Season 3, along with Camille Velasco, and did so well that she ended up in third place. After “Idol,” her fanbase grew in the Philippines and other Asian countries.
In the Philippines, Jasmine did some commercials and performed on TV. Before “Idol,” she won the Brown Bags to Stardom state singing tilt in Hawaii, and the Road to Fame youth talent competition.
For her part, Camille Velasco released a single with Universal Motown and is reported to be completing an album. She has also performed extensively in concerts and on TV.
Season 4’s Fil-Am finalist was Melinda Lira, from Hanford, California. She began singing when she was only 5 years old, at her local church.
Jose “Sway” Penala was Season 5’s best Fil-Am bet. Before joining “AI,” he was a member of the 6th Day singing group.
Season 6’s A.J. Tabaldo had to settle for 18th place on “Idol.” However, he hasn’t given up music and is reported to be working on an album.
Season 7’s Fil-Am finalist, Ramiele Malubay, started singing for various functions in Florida, as well as opening for Filipino singers like Kuh Ledesma and Martin Nievera during their US tours. In Seasons 8 and 9, Jenisis Samoranos and Melissa Bitanga didn’t make it through Hollywood Week.
For her part, Thia Megia was our Fil-Am bet on Season 10—as was Clint Jun Gamboa, who made it to the Top 24. Prior to “Idol,” Thia made it to the semi-finals of “America’s Got Talent,” and was one of the singers tapped to record the collaboration YouTube video of “We Are the World for Haiti.”
Interestingly, and perhaps even prophetically, another singer on that benefit video edition was this year’s Fil-Am bet, Jessica Sanchez. The video’s participants were collectively recognized as “Persons of the Week” on “ABC World News with Diane Sawyer” on March 19, 2010.
As for Jessica, her mother is Filipino and her father is Mexican-American. She competed in the first season of “America’s Got Talent” when she was only 11. Sanchez was not chosen to be in the semi-finals, but during the Wildcard round, Brandy Norwood chose her to advance to the finals. Now, on “AI,” she’s clearly one of the judges’ top favorites—and the rest is (evolving) history!