Resto staffer stands tall with 2nd place win in int’l tilt
With average heights of 5’6” for males and 5’1” for females, many Filipinos do not literally stand out, yet from national hero Jose Rizal to national basketball team Gilas Pilipinas, they always find ways to maximize their talents and stand among giants.
Rocky Rosabal is the latest from a continuous flow of Filipinos to stake claim on the international stage. The 20-year-old crew member of McDonald’s Divisoria in Cagayan de Oro City, Misamis Oriental province, was hailed as global runner-up in the fifth season of Voice of McDonald’s (VOM). “They couldn’t even see me [from afar because I was small],” Rosabal, whose height is 5’4”, said in his homecoming press conference. He was among the few winners of a contest joined by 68,000 hopefuls from around the world.
Rosabal came second to global grand winner Lucila Ospitia of Colombia. Third place went to American Ashlae Nelms and Swiss Patrick Reis bagged fourth. The four bested representatives from other countries in the Top 16, including Argentina, Brazil, Mexico, Norway, South Africa, Canada and Australia.
VOM is an annual global competition open to 1.6 million crew members from 119 countries. “It is an example of employee engagement, which aims to energize the workplace,” said Chona Torre, McDonald’s Philippines vice president for human capital group.
McDonald’s Philippines started competing in VOM in 2010, its second season. That year, the Philippines immediately bagged a runner-up finish and the following year, the grand prize. “VOM is truly a great way to set the spotlight on the people who make magic happen in our restaurants,” said Kenneth Yang, McDonald’s Philippines CEO and president.
The 2014 grand finals was held on May 1 in Orlando, Florida, as part of the restaurant’s worldwide convention. Festivities kicked off with R&B singer Ne-Yo and culminated with pop rockers Adam Levine and Sting. Judging the championships were entertainment lawyer Ken Hertz and musicians Skylar Grey and David Foster.
“A judge in the regional round told me that it was a treat to watch me because I tell a story while singing,” said Rosabal. “When you’re in a competition, you don’t just sing … You have to make the audience feel and understand your song.”
Rosabal was the only contestant from the Asia Pacific, bringing along the title “fan favorite of the regional round.” Singing “Faithfully” (by his idols Journey and Arnel Pineda) in the championships, Rosabal was the first male representative of McDonald’s Philippines. “Rocky is special,” said McDonald’s Philippines public relations and communications manager Adi Timbol.
According to Timbol, the judging of the last round was neck and neck. She said global winner Ospitia sang a classical track and scoring boiled down to song choice. “It wasn’t really because Rocky didn’t sing well but it was probably just what the judges felt at that time,” Timbol said.
However, Rosabal is still thankful for his runner-up finish—and a second fan favorite award, now in the global round, wasn’t a bad consolation either. “I couldn’t believe it. Out of 68,000, I was second. This is a life-changing experience,” he said.
Coming home to the Rosabal household are $17,500 (approximately P763,787 as of press time) as global second place prize and $5,000 (P218,225) as global fan favorite prize. These are apart from the winnings Rosabal bagged in the local and regional rounds, including a digital recording contract with ABS-CBN’s Star Magic. Winning the Philippine finals also entailed talent training with Star Magic, where Rosabal underwent the same program as Kapamilya stars.
Rosabal’s audition piece in Davao province was Gary Valenciano’s “Take Me Out of the Dark,” a hopeful ballad that proved prophetic in hindsight. Rosabal’s mother is a housewife while his father is a driver for the municipal government. Two years ago, his father started having liver problems, which forced Rocky to stop his schooling. “My mother wanted me to continue no matter what but I told her I wished to ensure my father’s health first,” he said.
Before this, Rosabal was a working student and his earnings from being a McDonald’s crew member paid for his education. However, his father’s illness pushed him to divert the funds for his schooling toward medicine. Residing in a town outside the city proper, Rosabal commuted to and from Cagayan de Oro for two hours daily.
“My family is my inspiration,” said Rosabal, who clinched the Philippine crown with a rendition of The Script’s “The Man Who Can’t be Moved” last year at the SMX Convention Center in Pasay City.
With his winnings, Rosabal plans to complete his one year of college left in Capitol University in Cagayan de Oro. “My hope is to finish my schooling and then to help my family,” he said.
“I wish to record my own album, too,” added Rosabal.
On May 30, he will be the opening act in the debut concert of Morissette Amon, one of the finalists of ABS-CBN’s “The Voice of the Philippines.”
For those who want to follow in his footsteps, he advised: “As Journey said, ‘Don’t stop believing.’ Believe in yourself because it bears fruit.”
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