Suklay Diva Katrina Velarde anxious about first solo concert on Feb. 1
As her first solo concert draws near, Katrina Velarde, the singer dubbed by online fans as “Suklay Diva,” reflected on the hardships she has had to endure in life, including her battle with Bell’s palsy—which, she feared, would rob her of her ability
“It happened about three years ago, when I was seven months pregnant. My right eye swelled and my tongue felt tingly and numb. And eventually, the right side of my face drooped and I couldn’t move it,” she told reporters at a press conference for “siKat Ako,” which will be held on Feb. 1 at the New Frontier Theater (call 911-5555).
“Eating was difficult. When I drank, the liquid would spill from the sides of my mouth. And when I tried singing, my voice would sound muffled,” added Katrina, who was a product of such singing competitions on television as “Little Big Star” and “X Factor Philippines.”
Being afflicted with Bell’s palsy—which the medical website WebMD describes as a condition that causes weakening or paralysis of one side of the face—was easily the “most stressful” moment of her life.
“I was really scared that I might not be able to sing properly again,” Katrina admitted. “I was already thinking about the fact that I stopped my studies to pursue singing contests. I don’t have a degree, a fallback.”
Fortunately, a year of therapy and treatments restored most of her face’s mobility. “Things still aren’t the same as before. There’s still a bit of stiffness that’s noticeable when I smile. But the important thing is that I’m back singing,” she pointed out.
Katrina expects the upcoming concert to be an emotional night for her. As someone who once made a living by helping her mother weave Sampaguita wreaths, never did she think, she said, that she would one day hold a major show that she could call her own.
“I also sold pichi-pichi in Tondo, Manila, where I grew up. We’re a family of six, and we experienced sharing two packs of instant noodles among ourselves. And such experiences really motivated me to join contests and use my talent,” said Katrina, who was proud to say that she’s now able to pay for a new house.
“I don’t dream of becoming a big star … I just want to continue doing what I love to do, which is singing, and use my talent to give my family a more comfortable life,” she added.
Ironically, the title of her show seems to flirt with the idea of fame. “The concert is titled ‘siKat Ako’ simply because my name is Kat … I’m not claiming that I’m popular or anything,” she said. “It was actually supposed to be called ‘Sino Si Kat,’ but we realized later on that there’s already a band that goes by that name.”
Directed by Paolo Valenciano, the concert will feature songs that have become part of Katrina’s journey in the biz. She’s also expected to perform her new original song, “Kung Naging Tayong Dalawa,” which was written by the songwriting duo of Thyro Alfaro and Yumi Lacsamana.
“I also have a lot of gay fans, so I can’t not sing diva songs!” she said. “I try to make my renditions different by changing some notes or adding new runs. But when the melody of
a song is instantly recognizable, I simply sing it as it is, because some people prefer it that way.”
Truth be told, Katrina feels anxious about her concert’s attendance. “I told Boss Vic (del Rosario) that maybe it’s better to do the show in a smaller venue, like Music Museum and he told me that I can do it,” she related. “It still hasn’t sunk in fully. I feel like crying, just hearing the rough arrangements of my songs.”
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