The ‘Voice PHL’: Sunday, grabe, Sunday

Bert B. Sulat Jr.
5 contestants get the axe as the end of the show’s Battle Round draws near

NO CAUSE FOR JUVIE-LATION. Juvie Pelos, one of the show’s more unique contestants, is no longer in the running to be ‘The Voice of the Philippines.’ Photo from the show’s Facebook page

MANILA, Philippines — “The Voice of the Philippines” of Sunday night, August 11, was probably the toughest to stay tuned to yet.

That’s mainly because ongoing at the same time was the live coverage of the livewire FIBA finals, where Gilas Pilipinas fought hard against their pro-basketball counterparts from Iran.

But different strokes for different folks: In the case of the loved ones and friends of “TVOTP’s” latest casualties, the show’s August 11 episode was truly grabe.

(The title above is based on “Sunday Grabe Sunday,” a late-’90s, semi-weekly, multi-band gig at the now-defunct Manila bar Mayric’s, conceived by former band manager and now online tech editor Jing Garcia.)

It was coach’s turn to provide the Battle-Round opening number, and so he rendered an “Apl Medley” with “X Factor Philippines” alumna Jhelsea Maine Flores.

The mentor-judge gave a rousing rap-through of his and the Black Eyed Peas’ “Bebot” and “Where is the Love?” — but this was all nothing more than an intermission ahead of the program.

And it also begged the question: What if Apl were a contestant?


Not long thereafter, it was the actual contestants’ turn to rouse the show’s main event, Night 5 of the Battle Rounds.

First up was the duel-duet between the instrumentalist-singers of Team Sarah (Geronimo): keyboardist-South Border sessionist Maki Ricafort and guitarist-theater performer Hans Dimayuga.

The pair’s assigned battle song was “What About Love?” by English R&B singer-songwriter Lemar.

The ditty was right up the two gents’ alley and apparently more so in the case of the soulful pro, Ricafort.

Consequently, opinion-giving coaches Bamboo Mañalac and Lea Salonga and then Geronimo herself agreed that Maki, a clean-as-a-whistle crooner, did the better job.

Watch Maki and Hans with Lemar’s ‘What About Love?’:

A more evenly matched pair of battling singers followed suit via Team Apl’s Jessica Reynoso and Emmanuelle Vera.

The teenaged belles were entrusted with Pink’s hit with fun. (Editor’s note: “fun.” is really spelled that way) lead singer Nate Ruess’ “Just Give Me a Reason.”

The performance was a big-voiced brawl that escalated into “birit” proportions toward the song’s end, and it is to Vera’s credit that, despite the Beyonce-sounding Reynoso’s powerhouse vocal, she managed to sound and look radiant in a way that recalls actress Jennifer Lawrence.

The Jessica-Emman sing-off, its deafening din aside, is yet another epitome of how inequitable the “Voice’s” Battle Round can get — how considerable vocalists are obliged to leave the show so soon in the face of other exceptional competitors.

To wit: The Laguna-based Reynoso, who was deemed the loud round’s victor by Salonga, Geronimo, guest adviser Arnel Pineda, and ultimately by Apl himself, does deserve her Battle-Round win.

Yet Vera emerged the more considerable talent. A fruitful singing career, which she had a taste of as a recording artist before “The Voice,” is not far-off for this Manileña.

Jessica Reynoso and Emmanuelle Vera sing ‘Just Give Me a Reason’:

Eyes and ears were focused next on Team Bamboo’s latest battle duo, Talia Reyes and Denise Saguin, and their battle song was the Red Hot Chilli Peppers’ “Under the Bridge.”

While the tune is the Peppers’ most mainstream to date, it was still a curious, not-so-pop pick to render for Reyes the music student and Saguin the pre-school art teacher.

Counting the assessments in-studio, those online, and in my humble domestic kingdom, this round was a relative draw, with majority stating that Reyes deserved her eventual win.

What made this segment extra memorable is guest adviser Joey Ayala’s pointer about the importance of enunciating the first and last syllables of any given song line. Duly noted, folk-pop idol.

Denise Saguin and Talia Reyes go ‘Under the Bridge’:

Concluding the evening was a vocal 3-way among these Team Lea members: Bulakeño Rainier Acosta, the Surigao-born Juvie Pelos, and Filipino-American RJ Dela Fuente.

It was hands-down the episode’s most interesting bit.

For one thing, the trio rendered Marvin Gaye’s “What’s Going On?” This otherwise ponderous 1971 tune has withstood decades of musical trends.

There’s also the segment’s threesome quotient and the inclusion of Pelos. After all, the 21-year-old lass had wowed all 4 coach-judges with her blind-audition rendition of “Uwahig,” which is not a kundiman as reported elsewhere but a chant-like outtake from a Mindanaoan theatrical production of the same name.

On top of all that, all 3 claimed ignorance of the Gaye classic, yet you wouldn’t know it from their resulting belting bonanza.

All 3 clearly gave their all, if in varying degrees, perhaps Pelos all the more by accentuating her lines with growls as if to brush off her male competitors.

Her delivery prompted an awful-truth comment from guest adviser Gerard Salonga — that “you don’t try to open a candy with a sledgehammer.”

Lea wound up seconding his brother’s motion, picking the more restrained, smooth-singing Dela Fuente as the round’s winner for giving the song “no more than what it needs.”

This outcome has elicited a torrent of howls online among Pelos devotees, with some dealing the low-blow accusation that Salonga made her choice because Dela Fuente happens to be a nephew of Team Sarah guest adviser, Gary Valenciano.

Rainier Acosta, Juvie Pelos, and RJ Dela Fuente ask Marvin Gaye’s age-old question, ‘What’s Going On?’:

All told, Pelos’ departure has made her longtime and newer fans ad lib-sing, “What the Hell is Going On?”

And while Gaye had sung, “War is not the answer,” there are some more bouts (and ensuing off-show debates) up ahead as “The Voice” concludes its Battle Round and proceeds to the Live Round.

By then, who will stay and who will go?

More important, which stubborn contestant will keep using a vocal sledgehammer to unwrap musical candy? –

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

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