Surigaonon singer wows Voice of Philippines judges with song from “Uwahig”

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews/07 July) – A 21-year old singer from Surigao City made all four judges of the Voice of the Philippines contest turn around Saturday night with her rendition of a song from the Mindanao theatre production, “Uwahig.”

Juvie Pelos, the 21-year old singer from Surigao City. Photo from her Facebook Fanpage
Juvie Pelos, the 21-year old singer from Surigao City. Photo from her Facebook Fanpage

Juvie Pelos, an employee of a shipping firm who finished AB Political Science while a member of the Integrated Performing Arts Guild (IPAG) of the Mindanao State University-Iligan Institute of Technology (MSU-IIT), sang the Prologue (Song of the Poet) from IPAG’s play, “Uwahig” (Bukidnon for water).

The play had its World Premiere as Philippine entry to the UNESCO-International Theatre Institute 31st Theatre Olympics of the Nations in Manila in May 2006 and represented the country in the 2007 Taipei International Arts Festival.

Steven Patrick C. Fernandez, IPAG founder and artistic director, wrote and directed the play with music  by Geejay Langlois.

“That was beautiful, that was beautiful. I’m blown away, I’m blown away. Wala akong masabi talaga,” said Bamboo, the first of four judges who turned around for Juvie Pelos during the blind auditions for Voice of the Philippines.

“Parang malayong narating namin dahil doon sa awit mo very, parang ano, very, very original. It’s not something na narinig ko ever. It took us a little while na maintindihan kung ano yung kanta pero you know what, this is too interesting to ignore,” said Lea Salonga, the second judge who turned around and who was chosen by Pelos to be her mentor.

Salonga, who has been singing in theatre productions since she was little and who gained international awards for Miss Saigon and Les Miserables, commended Pelos for her “originality” and for being “brave” in choosing that song during the audition.

Sarah Geronimo told Pelos, “dinala mo kami sa ibang dimensyon. Napaka-exceptional ng music mo. Ikaw yung perpektong magrepresent ng bansang Pilipinas, yung boses mo.”

Filipino-American rapper Allan Pineda or of the Grammy Award-winning group, The Black Eyed Peas,  said Pelos’ rendition of the song “took me way back home to my roots.”  He described Pelos as “my diwata.”

“Ay nakuha ko! Classically trained singer nakuha ko!,” Salonga gushed when Pelos chose her as mentor.

“Uwahig,” according to IPAG, is a “deconstruction of the Maguindanao Indarapatra epic and the Bukidnon water legend,” that “resets into the mythic realm of wars, violence, and the degradation of the environment in Mindanao’s postcolonial and postmodern landscape.”

“Weaving folklore in New Theatre, the play retells the story of two brothers who defend the land against darkness. Interspersed in the narrative are the flood legends. Images of contemporary representations of darkness (war, hunger, evacuation, and environmental destruction) are shaped through digital images, puppetry, masks, music, chants, chorus, and poetry.”

Fernandez, in a post on Facebook said  “Uwahig” is “Philippine Theatre’s most represented production in National and International festivals (for theater) and “Tales From Mindanao” (for dance).”

“More international performances await this ‘perplexing’ production, the latest was at the CCP (Cultural Center of the Philippines), and soon Vietnam for the UNESCO-ITI Asia Pacific Bureau,” wrote Fernandez.

Fernandez also clarified that the song was “not kundiman” and “it’s not even indigenous.”

“We ‘transcreated’ the chant quality into contemporary music. Truthfully, this was the first time I watched this program (Voice) although Juvy asked my permission several months ago.”

He said he has this “slant against TV contests that reward talent thru popularity rather than thru sheer talent.”

“I wouldn’t know what genres they’re dividing the singing into. But Juvy is not a kundiman singer. Kundiman is indigenous to the north where nationalism peaked in the last decades of the 1800s. In Mindanao, we have always been independent.”

Pelos had said she was a “kundiman singer” in college.

Another Mindanawon artist, Felimon Bonita Blanco of Pagadian City, who played Indarapatra in “Uwahig,” said, also on Facebook, “So proud of you Juvie. We worked together in the play…So proud to be part of this amazing production. Way to go gurl! Mindanao artists again conquered the limelight!”

“She’s a great singer. And Uwahig is one of my most interesting stage productions – a Mindanao production fusing Bukidnon flood legend with the Darangen stories of 2 brothers Indarapatra and Sulayman,” Blanco said.

Langlois of Davao City who did the music of Uwahig, thanked Fernandez “for taking my music to even greater heights with the remixes and all” and said Pelos was “brave to use that piece. I wouldn’t have, lol. But I guess that makes her stand out.”

To Fernandez, Langlois, now based in Florida, said, “You train them well, Tibs. Proud of you” and to Blanco, she wrote, “Thanks Mon, for the tag. Certainly made my day! I was waiting for signs as to where to take my music within the American context, this is probably it, LOL.”

Pelos was the second Mindanawon who got the nod of all four judges. The first was Thor Dulay of Panabo City in Davao del Norte who studied in Ateneo de Davao University. David Forster had featured the 32-year-old back-up singer to comedian Vice Ganda, in his concert “Hit Man Returns: David Foster and Friends” on October 25, 2011.

Pelos’ performance earned so many comments and likes on Facebook. Arnel Espenilla refered to her as “the girl version of Joey Ayala, the younger version of Grace Nono and Bayang Barrios.”

Ferdinand Kintanar Roa said Pelos “deserves to be the voice of the Philippines – original, fierce, daring, and most of all, uniquely talented!”

Deb Cirujales  wrote: “I could feel the judges’ ‘confusion’ here…The feeling that they were being enchanted by something they can’t understand and taken to a place that they haven’t been to…”

Fritz Geremia said, “This is what Filipino music is all about!”

Joshua Rey Saavedra Albarina believes Pelos “nailed it… and deserving to represent the country. I love the song so much!!! seems na mas maganda talaga ung folk and cultural music ng Pilipinas.”

For Odyssey Imbien, “heto ang totoong mga awit natin na tinanggal ng mga banyaga,,,salamat sa pagpapaalala sa buong PILIPINAS,,,na meron nga pala tayo sariling atin.”

Diane Romeral wrote “Wow!!! Filipino friends here in US are talking about this lady, she is so amazing… I can’t count how many times I watched the’s just so beautiful…”

Ronald Kagawad Anot Galendez said “it’s the VOICE of the Diwata…..ang galing ng boses…nakakabighani ang boses…”

Delma Mejos-Merza shared the judges’ feelings. “Dinala ng kanyang boses ang aking diwa sa isang napakagandang paraiso…,” she wrote. (Carolyn O. Arguillas/MindaNews)