‘The Voice PH’: They’ve only just begun

Bert B. Sulat Jr.
'The Voice' now in battle round – or the beginning of adieu for several contestants

THE CHOICE. The Dan-Lee Grane match showed the judges can also be judged. Photo from the Facebook page of 'The Voice of the Philippines'

MANILA, Philippines – Week 7, or 14 episodes later, and “The Voice of the Philippines” has finally moved on from its interminable round of blind auditions and, in the process, the awkward lack of outfit changes among the coaches. 

Saturday night’s episode (July 27) began with a trickle-down conclusion of the blind auditions, with 3 under-30 hopefuls making it through, even as the four clusters – Team Lea (Salonga), Team apl (.de.ap), Team Sarah (Geronimo), and Team Bamboo (Mañalac) – already have a dozen or more contestants in their respective rosters. 

The last successful entrants were Bulakeña Rouxette Swinton, whose sweet-16 soul showed in her take on Taylor Swift’s “Safe and Sound,” and got her picked by Geronimo; Manila-based 18-year-old and erstwhile recording artist Emmanuelle Vera, who was chosen by the Black Eyed Peas’ Filipino member; and 22-year-old Sariaya resident Dave Jonathan Lamar, who wowed a gushing Sarah G. 3 seconds into his rendition of The Script’s “The Man Who Can’t Be Moved.”

This was Lamar’s rendition:

With the blind auditions finished, the remainder of Saturday’s episode was devoted to the initial pairings and rehearsals for the show’s so-called battle round, where a pair or trio of contestants in the same team fight for their “The Voice” lives while singing a pre-designated song together. En route to their respective battles, the competing pairs get mentored not just by their team leader but also by a guest adviser.

The guest advisers here were singer-songwriter Joey Ayala (for “Camp Kawayan”), ageless pop star Gary Valenciano (Team Sarah), Journey frontman Arnel Pineda (Team apl), and orchestra conductor-musical director Gerard Salonga (for the team of big sis Lea).

Of the four, it was the soft-spoken Ayala who was the most memorable in the featured rehearsals, what with his congratulatory, Pinoy Zen talk to Team Bamboo’s initial pair of battling belters: “Kayo ay nasa daloy ng inyong mga pangarap.” (An aside: Unlike the main coaches, none of the guest advisers have any product endorsements – at least not at the moment – in the fashion of former softdrink endorser Gary V.)

Ayala was directing his words toward bar-honed singers Lee Grane Maranan and Carlson Dan Billano, Team Bamboo’s maiden battle pair.

Stellar roster

Team Sarah’s initial competing duo were Sarah G.-lookalike Morissette Amon and beauty pageant alumna Lecelle Trinidad. Team apl pitted freelancer Tristhan Perfecto against the actor-sibling pair of Grace and Guzi Lorenzana.

Team Lea, perhaps the one “Voice” team with the most stellar roster of contenders, put forth blind-audition standout Mitoy Yonting and the Aegis-worthy Chien Berbana as its battle-round frontliners.

Sunday night’s episode officially kicked off battle round, replete with a boxing ring and an opening number that, in essence, was a triple-bill match among petite singers Yeng Constantino, KZ Tandingan and Charice Pempengco. (Will show director Johnny Manahan et al. push the cheesiness envelope and invite boxer and sometime Will Ferrell co-singer Manny Pacquiao to sing in this ring?)

To the contestants’ credit, the ensuing battle rounds were more interesting than that perfunctory opening number, even if the matchups were not all fascinating. 

Kicking off the battles of the week, in front of a live ABS-CBN Studio audience, were the Lorenzana siblings and Perfecto, with an “American Idol” staple: Stevie Wonder’s “Signed, Sealed, Delivered.”

Watch Tristhan Perfecto versus the brother-sister duo Grace and Guji Lorenzana here:

Despite the inherent experience of the 25-year-old Grace and 33-year-old Guzi, it was the 20-year-old Tristhan who emerged the more prominent and listenable vocalist, prompting apl.de.ap to make the right call of letting the Lorenzana siblings go.

Arguably the episode’s hardest-on-the-ears battle was that of Amon and Trinidad, who assumed the stilettos of Barbra Streisand and Donna Summer for an all-out take on “No More Tears (Enough Is Enough).”

Co-mentors Geronimo and Valenciano made the right call as well in “saving” the more effective and deserving Amon, in effect subliminally telling Trinidad that, as the song goes, enough is enough.

Watch Morrissette Amon and Lecelle Trinidad duke it out, disco style:

Perhaps the least predictable of these initial matchups was the Mitoy-Chien card. In co-rendering Heart’s “Alone” — his next rendition of a female-vocal tune following his blind-audition take on Didith Reyes’ “Bakit Ako Mahihiya” — Mitoy Yonting owned the moment,  overwhelming the otherwise unbowed 31-year-old Chien Berbana. (Viewer favorite Yonting is one of the show’s two oldest male contestants at age 43.)

Gerard Salonga, displaying brotherly playfulness toward Lea, left the picking to his elder sister, and Miss Saigon made the right call in keeping Mitoy in the competition.

Watch Mitoy Yonting versus Chien Berbana perform Heart’s hit-slash videoke staple:

It could have been no big deal, but the battle between Dan Billano and Lee Grane Maranan became the most gabbed about. The pair rendered the U2 ballad “One,” and it was quite clear that Lee struggled with the tune while Dan was The Man, his many years as an alternative rock singer shining through as an ersatz Bono. 

Ayala himself figured the battle was won by the 30-year-old Billano (who praised the 28-year-old Maranan for taking on the male-dominated rock genre).

But Bamboo made the “hard” decision of picking Maranan, as he shook hands with the exiting Billano and gave him a deep bow. 

Mañalac said he chose Grane for being “emotive.” But this choice prompted something of a backlash on social media among the viewers – even among some who were rooting for Lee, who said Bamboo made the wrong call.

Here is the much-discussed ‘battle’ between Lee Grane Maranan and Dan Billano:

That pretty much leaves a shaken Lee on the hot seat for her next battle. Critics of Bamboo’s decision may well be telling her this quotable quote from “Saving Private Ryan”: “Earn this.”—Rappler.com


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

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