What a Tony winner learned from ‘The Voice PH’ champ
Tony award-winning singer-actress Lea Salonga said she learned a thing or two from “The Voice of the Philippines” grand winner Michael “Mitoy” Yonting, whom she mentored for the 16-week Kapamilya talent search.
“Mitoy is a showman. That was something for me to learn—that I can have a little bit of Vegas, of panache, of flash,” Coach Lea told the Inquirer shortly after the finale on Sunday night at Newport Performing Arts Theater in Resorts World Manila (RWM).
“I hope I got to do a little bit of that in my number with him and (comedian) Vice Ganda, which was so fun to do,” she added.
Mitoy performed three songs that night, first of which was a comedic take on Bonnie Tyler’s “Total Eclipse of the Heart,” with Lea and Vice.
The 43-year-old rocker from Pangasinan, whose victory was spurred by viewers’ votes, bested three other finalists—Klarisse de Guzman, Janice Javier and Myk Perez. It was also a triumph for Lea, who beat fellow coaches Sarah Geronimo, Allan “apl.de.ap.” Pineda and Bamboo Mañalac.
Lea said she kept telling Mitoy, “Lead with your heart, and things will all be right.”
She elaborated, “He had gotten so used to performing in bars, where technique, rather than the heart, is the focus. I told Mitoy that this contest was different—that he didn’t conform to the audience; they conformed to him.”
Mitoy, front man for The Draybers, joined other talent searches in his youth. To raise his family, he then went to Japan to work as a band singer.
“Coach Lea’s advice was to enjoy what I was doing,” Mitoy shared with the Inquirer. “We didn’t discuss techniques too much. My guess was, she felt embarrassed about giving me advice since I am older. But I’m not stubborn; I do what I’m told.”
Different ball game
Of all her duties on the show, Lea said she enjoyed mentoring the most. “I became more confident as a coach. What I had to say actually had an effect on how another person performed. I had done mentoring before but this was a whole different ball game,” she pointed out. “Mitoy wasn’t hard to coach at all. He listened, followed instructions and was very respectful. He never gloated.”
Mitoy said, on the other hand, that the contest was the perfect opportunity to get to know his idol. “My whole family became close to Lea. We even got to visit her home. She and my wife are now ‘text mates.’ We got to know each other really well when choosing my songs.”
(Mitoy picked “Leaving on a Jet Plane” for the Top 4’s final performance.)
Lea said it was the production team that suggested Vice Ganda to be Mitoy’s guest performer. “Of course I said ‘Yes’ because Mr. M (Johnny Manahan) said he wanted the show to be fun,” Lea related. “However, I said I still wanted the singing to be straight and clean. When we were rehearsing (‘Total Eclipse of the Heart’), I realized that Vice was really good, too. Ang linis pala niya kumanta.”
Mitoy said he got the shock of his life when the popular gay comedian gave him a smack on the lips during their live performance. “We didn’t rehearse that! I was proud that he did; I just hoped I wouldn’t get in trouble with the wife,” he quipped.
Arguably, the best production number that night featured apl.de.ap, Janice and Lolita Carbon of the 1980’s iconic folk rock group Asin. Lolita and Janice started off with a duet of “Himig ng Pag-ibig,” then surprised the audience by joining apl.de.ap. sing the Black Eyed Peas’ version of “The Time of Your Life.”
Team Sarah invited theater actor-singer Robert Seña to perform with them the Elton John ballad “Your Song.” Myk did a duet with his mentor Bamboo of the latter’s original composition, “Morning Rose.”
Lea recounted: “Mitoy and I talked during the final minutes about how thankful we were for making it to the Top 2. We were no longer nervous because what would happen after that point was beyond us.”
Voting lines were once again opened for the Top 2 finalists. The previous scores of Mitoy and Klarisse were erased and the two performed a new song number each—Mitoy interpreted The Beatles’ “Help” and Klarisse did her take on the Leo Valdez signature song, “Magsimula Ka.”
“I was happy that Mitoy chose [‘Help’], something he was very comfortable with and didn’t have to learn,” Lea pointed out. “I’m happy now that the competition is over. Mitoy’s career can only get better from here. With his victory, I guess I felt what my mom felt whenever I accomplished something. It was like one of my children won.”
Mitoy said he was still undecided about what to do with his P2-million cash prize. He also bagged a four-year recording contract from MCA Universal, among others.
“I will keep the money [in the bank] for a while,” Mitoy said. “People have no idea how hard I worked to earn it. I’ll make sure it is spent on something really worthwhile.”
Mitoy was also convinced that the years he spent performing in bars had prepared him for the championship battle. “I’d like to believe that I was able to entertain enough people to make me win. I’m very thankful to those who spent their hard-earned cash on text votes.”
He clarified the rumor that RWM, where his band performs regularly, was one of his biggest benefactors. “I may be connected to the establishment because of my band, but they gave me no financing. More than my friends at Resorts World, I’d like to think that the viewers voted for me because they thought I deserved to win.”
Mitoy considered Klarisse a tough contender. “I really wanted to compete with a female contestant. Filipinos naturally favor belters—kung bumibirit ang babae kaya kong tapatan.”
Added the guy, a unique rock tenor, “Those who got to the Top 4 all deserved to win. Lahat dumaan sa butas ng karayom.”
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