You never forget the first | Inquirer Entertainment

You never forget the first

By: - Columnist
/ 09:59 PM October 02, 2013

Mitoy and Coach Lea, Coach Sarah and Klarisse de Guzman

On Sept. 29, Michael Yonting of Team Lea, more popularly known as Mitoy, became the very first “Voice of the Philippines.” In an epic showdown with the last men standing from Team Sarah, Team Apl and Team Bamboo (Klarisse de Guzman, Janice Javier and Myk Perez, respectively) on Saturday and Sunday nights, Mitoy emerged the people’s champion. To say that his coach, family, fans and friends were ecstatic would be an understatement.



Humble, generous

Throughout his journey from his Blind Audition to his victory in the Live Shows,


Mitoy was consistent, humble, attentive, generous. There were never any battles behind the scenes between the two of us in the coaching sessions, where the coach would pull one way and the artist another. The process was always collaborative. Add to the mix his songs’ arrangers, (to Gerard Salonga, Homer Flores, Mon Faustino and Cezar Aguas, I will always be grateful) who helped shape each performance. Each song along the way would be a stepping-stone closer to Mitoy’s victory.

A friend of mine (who happened to be one of the backup singers) said Mitoy and I made an unlikely couple, each one performing for very different audiences on very different stages. Taking a moment to think about that, I had to agree. However, because Mitoy and I are close in age—he’s only a year older—we come from the same generation that listened to a lot of 1980s bands (Queen, Styx, Bon Jovi, Whitesnake, Air Supply, Journey and many more whose frontmen possessed distinctive vocals with stratospheric top ends), the same ones that influenced his own vocal style. It’s a throwback to a beloved era for many in our generation—when the hair was big and clothes were questionable, but the music was undeniably awesome.

Mixed opinions

In social media, netizens had very mixed opinions of Mitoy and his style of singing. There were those who were turned off because they felt he was screaming or that his tone was strident. Others thought him “baduy.” One in particular was not very happy about his win on the show, saying he was the “next April Boy Regino.” (For the record, I really, really like the way April Boy sings: clean quality, precise intonation… however, I was never a fan of the mullet cum baseball cap.)

That’s the thing about “The Voice” that was so wonderful: We were presented at the end with four very distinctive singers, each with his/her own style filling a nice chunk of the marketplace. Each of them deserved to win (I love all four singers with all my heart) and I truly would’ve been happy if any of them was heralded as the victor. They each have my undying and full-force support as a fan. (And yes, you can all stop calling me “Coach” now.)


No sob story


If there’s anything I’m proud of, it’s that we didn’t use a sob story to help Mitoy win. You got to know his wife, Merly, and the members of the band that he fronts, The Draybers—that’s all. One thing I told my team was this: “I don’t want your personal stuff exposed to the public. They don’t need to know your business; that’s yours. Let them get to know you through your music and through your voice, nothing else.”

There is something about Mitoy taking home the title that says a lot about the public that elected him their champ. A throwaway remark from another contestant clued me in on what that might be.

Lee Grane Maranan of Kamp Kawayan, when she was still in the competition, said to me during one of Mitoy’s rehearsals on stage: “Have you ever seen FPJ sing?” She then pointed to him. I laughed about it at the time, but it left me something to think about, something that hit me in the hours that passed after the show was over.

Mitoy represents the masa, the most common denominator, the group that comprises the majority of our country’s population. That would be the men and women who toil in the heat, endure the daily humiliations of their lives and work themselves to the bone for a pittance of a salary. The Everyman we don’t always pay mind to as we go about our day. The almost invisible, ignored, marginalized Juan de la Cruz. These people see themselves in Mitoy, and there’s something inspiring in watching someone like him reach the top.

Spark of hope

In reality, the Everyman doesn’t always win. For many, being condemned to live a horrible life is the reality. Some are born in a garbage heap, and die in a garbage heap. Others are forced to leave their families in pursuit of a better life, only to find that “better” is unattainable, or that “somewhere else” is next door to hell.

For every Live Show that Mitoy hurdled, there was a spark of hope, a glimmer of possibility that this Everyman had a shot at triumph. That with each song he sang, full-throated and laser-precise, he came one step closer to the light. Every time he stepped out on that stage to sing, it meant that maybe, just maybe, out of the millions of Juans waiting for redemption, one would make it.

So the millions voted… spent their hard-earned cell phone loads to vote, and vote, and vote again. And in a country where the marginalized, ignored and invisible are pushed aside, to actually have a say in one arena—and know that it matters—means the world.

The voiceless actually let their voices be heard.

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TAGS: Lea Salonga, Music, Team Bamboo, Team Sarah, The Voice
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