Ellen’s new Filipino discoveries stay cool
LA Talonding and cousin James Water Bucong wow popular TV host and the world wide web
More News from Bayani San Diego Jr.
It took a little over a week but TV host Ellen DeGeneres is finally in touch with yet another Filipino web sensation.
On Wednesday, Ellen announced on her popular talk show that she was looking for a young Filipino singer, whose video of Luther Vandross’ “Dance With My Father” had gone viral on YouTube and Facebook in a week’s time.
At press time, the video has earned 1,379,304 hits on YouTube and over 80,000 likes on Facebook.
DeGeneres praised the pint-sized Internet star: “Amazing. Beautiful. Such soul in
that little boy.”
Who’s that kid?
His name is Aldrich Lloyd “LA” Talonding, 14, a high school student at the Mindanao State University (MSU) in General Santos City. In the video, LA is accompanied on the guitar by first cousin James Walter Bucong, 18, a college freshman, also at GenSan MSU. The duo is now making the rounds of local TV shows.
Unaffected by fuss
When Inquirer caught up with the boys last week, they seemed unaffected by all the fuss and frenzy. They were about to perform in a Christian youth camp at Camp Mariano, Koronadal City, when they gave us this phone interview.
LA recalled that his parents Alfonso and Tina, both Christian pastors, first noticed that he could sing when he was 4.
By the time he was in Grade 6, he had joined the Munting Tinig Children’s Choir, which took part in a chorale contest for the National Music Competitions for Young Artists (NAMCYA) in Manila.
He admires “American Idol” runner-up Jessica Sanchez and the group Hillsong Church, which produces Christian hymns. A favorite is “Steady My Heart,” a worship song.
At home, LA often listens to music or plays volleyball with friends. He seems to be a pretty ordinary kid with an extraordinary talent and a winning coolness about it.
An incoming junior student, LA hasn’t set his sights on a college course as of now. “I’m thinking of taking up medical technology and then proceed to medicine. Maybe I’d like to become a doctor. But I’m not sure yet,” he said.
He admitted that he would love to sing professionally, “if that is God’s will, but it’s best to have another job as fallback.”
LA is the youngest in a brood of four, but his eldest brother, AlJay, died of pneumonia at age 26 last December, he related casually.
They’re a pretty close-knit clan. LA and James are neighbors in Brgy. Labangal. James, who is taking up Agriculture and Business Management, first played the guitar at 9.
James recounted that their now-famous video was shot at the terrace of his home. It was a spur-of-the-moment thing, he said. “We did it for friends. We didn’t even prepare for it.” They could’ve done much better, he insisted. “You can hear a rooster crowing at the end.”
LA added, “We didn’t plan on it going viral. Trip-trip lang. In fact, we didn’t want to post it at first. But Ate Cherish (James’ sister) shared it online.”
The next day, it started trending, James related. “On the third day, it took off na.”
The video hit YouTube on April 22; on April 30 Ellen’s invitation was aired on her show.
James said their travel documents are currently being processed. “We hope we make it,” he said.
It would be the boys’ first time in Los Angeles—anywhere outside of the country, for that matter.
James said another “Ellen” discovery, Zendee, had led the show’s producers to them. “It was unexpected; she personally called me about it.”
Zendee told Inquirer that “Ellen” associate producer Brian Garrity had asked her to search for
the cousins. “I was all over Facebook and Twitter,” Zendee said. “Actually, Brian was surprised because I was not selfish about sharing my blessings. I am very proud of LA and
James. They are my kababayan.” Zendee is also from GenSan.”
Apart from being a de facto talent scout for “Ellen,” Zendee has taken it upon herself to give the cousins tips on cyber-celebrity. “LA and James say I’m their mentor. I hope to meet them when they visit Manila this week.”
Will Zendee accompany the boys to Los Angeles, Ca., should the guesting push through?
“No need,” Zendee quipped. “It’s their time to shine.”
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