‘Voice PHL’: War almost over

MANILA, Philippines - And now, the end is here.

The end of the battle round of “The Voice of the Philippines,” that is, with the last 4 singing battles taking place on Saturday, August 17.

In its wake, 24 contestants (6 per team) remain, at the expense of 30 other contenders who had made it through the blind auditions but did not earn the coach-judges’ nod for the ensuing battle round.

(Curious note: None of the previous contender-duos, siblings Grace and Guji Lorenzana and the Cordovalez duo of Willy and his son Mark, made it past the battles — and this should suggest that future “Voice” contestants might be better off flying solo.)

The show’s August 17 episode featured the final set of battles — a merciful fact since the battle round was getting to be tedious, were this not being aided by the beer in the fridge.

Still, the quartet of duels aired that evening — comprising just about half the entire program’s 1.5-hour, ad-overloaded stretch — was in varying degrees interesting.

Anthemic ballad

The night’s opening competition was between two Apl.de.ap team members: Trece Martires-based sidewalk vendor Cora Dela Cruz and Tarlac-hailing singing waitress Jessica Corpuz, for the anthemic Sugarfree ballad “Makita Kang Muli.”

While both ladies gave their all, it was a no-brainer that Dela Cruz’s singing stood out, what with her Sampaguita-Aegis-raspy vocal that must have been honed out in Cavite’s streets.

Observers Lea Salonga and Sarah Geronimo deemed that the round belonged to Dela Cruz, as coach Apl eventually did — in effect, giving the Caviteña not just a continued shot on the show but also an advanced birthday gift. (She turns 28 on August 31.)

Watch Cora (in pink jacket) and Jessica with Sugarfree’s “Makita Kang Muli” (all YouTube videos by TheVoiceABSCBN):

Then came Team Bamboo’s final battle duet, between Palawan-born singer-guitarist Don Michael “Myk” Perez and Davao City radio DJ John “JP” Duka.

Perez and Duka’s battle piece was an assured rouser — a “muscular” (per guest adviser Joey Ayala) mashup of the Beatles’ “Hey Jude” and “Come Together.” Yet their aural mano a mano became quite a snoozer.

(Perhaps not coincidentally, Bamboo Mañalac had rendered the same medley with Journey vocalist/Team Apl guest adviser Arnel Pineda early this year over at another ABS-CBN show, “ASAP.”)

I had thought Duka the deejay, with his polished vocals, had this in the can.

Instead, Bamboo favored the softer-voiced, UST Conservatory of Music student Myk, his victory preceded by the twice-pointed-out fact that he was a 4-chair turner at his blind audition (i.e., all 4 coaches wanted to pick him until he went for Camp Kawayan).

Myk (in pink shirt) and John “Come Together” for a Beatles medley:

After a variety-show take on Demi Lovato’s “Heart Attack” by Gonzaga sisters Toni and Alex (the show’s host and co-“social media correspondent,” respectively), it was on to the last of the threesome battles, featuring Team Sarah youngsters Rouxette Swinton, 16, of Bulacan, and Klarisse De Guzman of Makati and Gabriel Ramos of Laguna, both 21.

The trio’s battle piece was the somber Goyte hit, “Somebody That I Used to Know,” and given their resulting cacophonous delivery, discriminating listeners just might opt to wash it all down with a reminder of the original.

To this viewer-listener, this particular battle came down mid-song to the two gals (though guest adviser Gary Valenciano preferred Ramos).

Ultimately, Coach Sarah was right to give her stay-on blessing to College of St. Benilde music production undergrad De Guzman, and not just because the Pop Star Princess happened to have bested Klarisse at a singing tilt years back.

Thanks to Klarisse (in mustard jacket), Gabriel and Rouxette are now “Somebody That I Used to Know”:

The final battle was hands down among the entire round’s best: between Team Lea’s Radha Tinsay and Marissa Sarroca, for a belt-out rendition of Aretha Franklin’s “Respect.”

As expected, the self-proclaimed “frenemies” were a joy to behold, though I believe they would have had more of a challenge had they been made to render instead a slow, quiet ballad by the Queen of Soul..

Still, their enjoyable give-and-take performance merited a standing ovation from all 4 coaches.

While Filipino-Australian Sarroca was a credible charmer who deserved to stay on, Salonga made the rather safe bet of letting Tinsay through, giving the latter a new lease on professional life post-Kulay

Marissa (in white) and Radha both earn the viewers’ “Respect”:

Now that “The Voice of the Philippines’” battle round has concluded, it’s (a.) bye-bye to guest advisers Ayala, Pineda, Valenciano and Gerard Salonga; (b.) on to the live round, where the contestants have to earn the coaches’ and the viewers’ votes in a series of live episodes; and (c.) bonding time among each team’s members and their coach, this being the subject of the show’s August 18 episode.

Geronimo went on a songs-of-our-lives videoke binge with her team members — Klarisse De Guzman, Morissette Amon, Yuki Ito, Junji Arias, Maki Ricafort and Eva De Los Santos.

While Sarah and company seemed to have enjoyed this bonding, Arias and Ricafort could be seen looking disinterested when it wasn’t their turn to sing — perhaps a sign of the exhausting whirlwind of being on the show.

Club Balai Isabel in Talisay, Batangas, was the designated venue for an “organic” bonding among Team Bamboo’s Myk Perez, Lee Grane Maranan, Angelique Alcantara, Paolo Onesa, Isabella Fabregas, and Talia Reyes.

Mañalac led his team in a series of open-up activities, including a “Dugtungan” singing game, much sharing of backgrounds and experiences, then a group composition that sounded like an inspirational Bamboo tune.

Impersonations 

The time-off by Team Lea — Radha Tinsay, Mitoy Yonting, Diday Garcellano, Kimpoy Mainit, Darryl Shy, and RJ Dela Fuente — proved to be the most fun to watch.

Salonga's main assignment to the group was to mimic a co-member’s blind audition or battle performance and Salonga herself.

This elicited comedic impersonations of Darryl by perennial funnyman Mitoy, and of Mitoy by high-pitched Kimpoy.

Toward the end came an educational segue from Salonga: that this exercise was a way for the team to better identify with any song and thus sing it better than usual.

Allan “apl.de.ap” Pineda treated his team — Cora Dela Cruz, Tristhan Perfecto, Thor Dulay, Penelope Matanguihan, Janice Javier, and Jessica Reynoso — to a big meal (cooked up by his mother, Cristina Pineda) over at his house in Pampanga.

Then, they were off to the province’s Sapang Bato National High School, where Apl had studied and most recently donated computers, and to whose pupils the team members made an impromptu vocal showcase.

Topped by a round of billiards and a long-talk dinner, this team’s bonding looked the most gratifying.

As to whether the 24 remaining Filipino “Voice” contenders’ live performances would be most gratifying, viewers won’t start to find out until Sunday, August 25, when the live round begins.

For now, it’s peacetime among the contestants: the calm of camaraderie before the storm of competition. - with Carla Camille L. Mendoza/Rappler.com

 

 

'The Voice of the Philippines' airs Saturdays, 9:00 p.m., and Sundays, 8:25 p.m. on ABS-CBN.