Who make us proud to be Filipinos?

Published November 18, 2021, 12:12 AM

by Sonny Coloma


Sonny Coloma

When the Philippines hosted the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit in 2015, the country paraded the best and the brightest among its talented cultural artists.

They regaled the heads of state (called economic leaders in APEC) including, among others, President Barack Obama (US), President Xi Jinping (China), Prime Minister Justin Trudeau (Canada), Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev (Russia), and Prime Minister Shinzo Abe (Japan) with a scintillating performance that made every Filipino in the audience truly proud.

Classical pianist Cecile Licad and the Bayanihan dance troupe delivered the initial numbers. Charice Pempengco and the Madrigal Singers from the University of the Philippines sang Para sa Bayan.

El Gamma Penumbra, a shadow play group based in Tanauan City, Batangas demonstrated their unique light-and-shadow play depicting the Filipinos’ hard work ethos and hospitality that made them first grand champion of Asia’s Got Talent.

American Idol season 11 first runner-up Jessica Sanchez, Journey band lead singer Arnel Pineda and rapper Apl.de.ap (real name: Allan Pineda Lindo) who all made their mark as top-rate musical talents in the United States showed their distinctive Filipino flair. Joining Apl.de.ap in singing “Where is the Love” was The Voice Kids season 2 finalist Reynan Del-Anay.

Mr. Pure Energy Gary Valenciano and Concert King Martin Nievera delivered the finale numbers to the delight of the visiting dignitaries composed, too, of trade and economic ministers, senior Cabinet officials, and delegations of business leaders from the 21 APEC member-economies. The duo was preceded by emergent top balladeer Jed Madela.
Truly, Filipino musical artists have world-class talent. In retrospect, their journey to gaining global recognition was paved by someone who was conspicuously absent that night, singer-actress Lea Salonga, who had to beg off due to previous overseas commitments.

Lea Salonga’s breakthrough in the West End and Broadway editions of Miss Saigon earned her a Tony Award for Best Actress in 1971 when she was 20. She is the first Asian woman to win the distinction; later, she was also the first woman of Asian descent to perform lead roles in the Broadway musical Les Miserables.

Lea’s journey to global fame began when, at the age of seven, she performed in the King and I produced by Repertory Philippines. Two years later, she played the title role in the musical Annie that was presented at the Cultural Center of the Philippines followed by appearances in other productions that primed her for excelling on the global theater stage.
She is among the world renowned Filipinos in sports, culture and arts, technology, innovation and design, that the Philippine Postal Corporation (PhilPost) is honoring on the 254th anniversary of the Philippine Postal Service and the 75th year since the country’s first stamp was issued.

“Focus on the work and tell the story the best way you can,” says Lea on the commemorative stamp — truly a novel platform for honoring Filipino icons who made it big on the world stage.

In a real sense, Filipino musicians and singers are globally known talents. Ask any seasoned business executive or entrepreneur who has traveled extensively and they will attest that indeed, Filipinos are the most preferred and sought-after for delivering world-class entertainment. In their heyday, Bert Nievera, Jun Polistico and after them, Lani Misalucha, were headliners in the prime entertainment venues in Las Vegas, sharing the limelight and holding their own in terms of audience share with the likes of Barry Manilow, Paul Anka and Neil Sedaka.

According to PhilPost, “This first series includes Filipino icons whose great performance in art, fashion, science, sports, and business touched the world. These living legends have brought genuine pride and honor to our people.”

Joining Lea Salonga in the inaugural lineup of commemorative stamps issued by PhilPost last Nov. 13 were four sports heroes, namely: Four-time bowling world champion Rafael ‘Paeng’ Nepomuceno, world billiards king Efren ‘Bata’ Reyes, and Filipino-American NBA star Jordan Clarkson. Three highly innovative design artists are also featured, namely: International fashion designers Josie Cruz Natori and Monique Lhuiller and industrial designer Kenneth Cobonpue. Rounding the lineup were techno-preneur Conrado ‘Dado’ Banatao and the Jollibee mascot.

The PhilPost project injects a breath of fresh air just as Filipinos are bracing for what could be a highly contentious election season.

Political leaders and politicians who are elected to occupy positions in our three branches of government do not define our national character. Across many diverse fields, the breadth and depth of Filipino talent is palpable. The greatness of the Filipino nation is evinced through its icons in different fields of endeavor.