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Those judges in red, hot seats

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FRANCISCO “Bamboo” Mañalac (left) and Sarah Geronimo are two of the coach-judges.

ABS-CBN may have just pulled off the most formidable lineup of judges for a reality talent show. Lea Salonga, Bamboo Mañalac, Sarah Geronimo and apl.de.ap are set to occupy the rotating red chairs for “The Voice of the Philippines,” which starts in June. This early, people are getting curious about these four industry bigshots’ judging and coaching styles.

If you follow Lea on social networking sites like Twitter (or her Backstory column in this section), you probably know that the internationally-acclaimed singer-actress can be brutally frank when expressing her opinions. She vows to be no different on the show. Expect no sugarcoating; Lea was molded by very exacting music mentors herself.

The ‘B’

In her own words at a recent press con: “I’m not going to insult or purposely hurt someone’s feelings just for effect or TV ratings. But the least I can do is be honest, point out what’s off and needs improving… That’s just the way I was coached when I was young. I know that if you can make it past a coach who was very hard on you, you’ll be strong enough when you go out into the real world.”

Asked if viewers should prepare to see her nasty side, Lea jested: “I’m already calling myself the bitch in the red chair!”

But in all seriousness, Lea said being sharp-tongued wasn’t the best way to mentor an aspiring singer. “But if they’re going to be unnecessarily conceited and arrogant, then they will get a talking, and they’re not going to like it,” she said.

“Miss Saigon” continued, unflinching: “They’re going to get it unfiltered and real. That’s what I can offer.”

True to his cool offstage demeanor, rocker Bamboo described himself a “benevolent dictator” who respects a fellow musician’s ideas. One of his strengths as an artist, he pointed out, is his ability to listen. “I’ll just see what direction the contestant wants to bring a particular song to, and I’ll be there to guide him/her. I will listen—that’s my rule,” he said.

The former Rivermaya frontman added that being a singer is not just about what happens onstage: “It’s not all about the music—it’s also about things that happen once the spotlights are off. You need to have discipline and virtues to live by.”

A game changer

Will he be partial to rock singers like himself? “No,” he said. “I listen to a wide range of music genres. I will look for the best. I’m not looking for a rock star; I’m looking for a game changer.”

The youngest of the bunch, Sarah admitted that she was hesitant at first to accept the project, feeling she wasn’t experienced enough, and doubting her credibility as a mentor. In the end, she decided to be a part of someone else’s journey towards his or her dream.

Said Sarah: “Being with the likes of Ms Lea, Bamboo and apl is intimidating. You have no idea how hard my heart is pounding right now. But I’ll just look at the bright side and see this as a way of sharing with fellow dreamers what I’ve learned in my 10 years in the industry.”

To try and brush off Sarah’s insecurity, Lea defended her from naysayers who summarily dismissed the 24-year-old Kapamilya star as unworthy of sitting in the same panel with music stalwarts. “Sarah started when she was 14, so she’s no neophyte,” Lea noted. “She’s been in the biz longer than many other people have, and there shouldn’t be any doubts about her credibility as a mentor.”

Sincere Sarah

She didn’t have Lea’s stunning resumé or apl’s album sales record, Sarah said, but she could offer her sincerity. “I am a product of a singing competition, so I know the process, and I will be able to relate to the contestants. I’m eager to share my experiences and learn from them as well,” she said.

Meanwhile, since The Black Eyed Peas is currently on a “creative hiatus,” its four members are free to mind their personal lives and pursue solo projects. Right now, for Fil-Am member Allan Pineda, a.k.a.  apl.de.ap, the focus is on a new album and being a coach on “The Voice PH.”

“It’s something new for me because I’ve never worked in television on a daily basis and I’m sure it’s going to be fun,” he said. “I’m excited to put my team together and start discovering amazing, up-and-coming Filipino talents. I may also find singers I can sign up with my own label, Jeepney Music.”

More than the signature swag he intends to bring onstage with every episode, apl promised to be truthful and constructive in giving criticisms. He’s not going to be just a music mentor, he said, but a life coach as well.

Living life

“I hope to explain how hard it is to make it in the music industry. The Black Eyed Peas wasn’t an overnight success; it took us a while to get to where we are. I’d like to share my experiences in doing shows, and the importance of saying no from time to time. I hope to be able to impart that it’s not just about the music, but also about life.”

Outside of this stint, is apl open to acting projects? The world-renowned hip-hop artist enthused: “Definitely! But I do need to get more Tagalog coaching. [If it happens] in the future, I want it to be in the Philippines.”

In “The Voice” blind auditions come June, the four coach-judges will duke it out in selecting contestants for their respective teams. Friendly competition is to be expected, they all agreed, but they’re all in the show for one reason: To give back by sharing all that they have learned.


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