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Stand-ins for Bruno Mars

/ 09:33 PM April 09, 2011

CEBU CITY, Philippines—Their performance on Thursday was especially staged for Filipino-American international singing sensation Bruno Mars, who had requested to see them perform live.

But the 25-year-old pop star was a no-show at the Cebu Provincial Detention and Rehabilitation Center (CPDRC) at Barangay Kalunasan in Cebu City, where the dancing inmates mounted a 40-minute presentation.

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BRUNO Mars’ sister Jamie (right) and mother Bernadette Bayot-Hernandez visit Cebu’s dancing inmates.CDN PHOTO/TONEE DESPOJO

Instead, his mother, a sister, three uncles and a grandmother turned up to watch the performance of the 800 jailbirds, whose production was capped by a dance number of Bruno’s hit song “Just the Way You Are.”

The inmates also danced to “Billionaire,” a hit song by Travie McCoy, which featured Bruno, whose real name is Peter Gene Bayot Hernandez.

The dancing inmates became an Internet sensation in 2007 after their version of Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” was posted on YouTube and got more than a million hits in less than a month.

Thursday’s performance came about after a representative of Bruno called up the governor’s office on Monday to ask if the singer-songwriter could see the CPDRC inmates perform.

AN INMATE performs a la Bruno Mars during the pop singer’s family’s visit to the maximum security prison in Cebu. CDN PHOTO/TONEE DESPOJO

Choreographer Vince Rosales said they had to work overtime to choreograph a dance number from Bruno’s song because they were informed about the visit only last Monday.

The inmates practiced all day Wednesday.

They waited as early as 7 a.m. Thursday although the pop star was expected to arrive at 9 a.m.

But Rosales was told at noon that Bruno could not watch the show because he had a grueling practice on Wednesday and had to rest for his Cebu concert on Thursday.

Disappointed, the inmates returned to their cells to rest. They were asked to come out at 12:30 p.m. after Bruno’s family arrived at 12:26 p.m.

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The pop singer’s Filipino mother, Bernadette Bayot Hernandez, was accompanied by her brothers Chris, Frank and John and Bruno’s older sister Jamie.

Grandmother Soledad San Pedro Bayot later joined the family. The program started at 12:40 p.m., with Bruno’s uncle John performing “Just The Way You Are.”

“I was the one who taught him how to sing. I was the big Elvis (Presley); he was the small Elvis,” John told the audience.

Bernadette sang “Dahil sa ’Yo” while Jaime sang “The Greatest Love of All.”

Bruno, the fourth among six siblings, was born in Honolulu, Hawaii, to a Puerto Rican father and a Filipino mother. His father, Peter Hernandez, was brought up in New York. He was raised with siblings Jamie, Eric, Tiara, Tahiti and Presley.

Bruno grew up with kare-kare, adobo, dinuguan and pinakbet as alternate Sunday fare prepared by their maternal grandmother Soledad, according to sister Jamie.

“We were also taught Filipino values like family first and respect for the elderly,” Jamie told the Inquirer. “Of course, we grew up in a music-loving environment. My mother is a professional singer and dances the hula, and my father is a conga player.”

Growing up, she said, they performed for the family band (Love Notes) six nights a week in Waikiki.

Bruno’s family was in Cebu to accompany him in his Philippine tour. He performed Thursday night inside the jam-packed Waterfront Cebu City Hotel and Casino.

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