Open letter to Coach Bamboo

Here's another 'voice' to the controversy over Bamboo Mañalac's much gabbed about call in 'The Voice PH'

 HIS CHOICE. Bamboo is the coach in the spotlight. Photo by Roxanne Nebres from Bamboo's Facebook page

Editor’s Note: The following, as indicated by the title, is an open letter to ‘The Voice of the Philippines’ Coach Bamboo Mañalac, by Nalin Alonzo, a practicing lawyer who is also in academe and who fronts a band from time to time. The contributor assures Rappler that she is related to neither ‘The Voice’ contestants Lee Grane Maranan nor Dan Billano.


Dear Coach Bamboo, 

First off, I respect your decision to choose Lee Grane over Dan. You have the “eye” (even when your back is turned) and the “ears” to spot talent and potential in budding artists.

You are the one, and you are a mentor in “The Voice,” so I wish to make it clear that, between me and the people who may relate with this post, there is obviously a grain of wisdom in your decision, unfavorable it may be to most people.

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

Please do not be offended if ever you get to read this. I am just enjoying this gift bestowed by our beloved democracy and adding my voice, as it were, to this matter. 

I am a musician too and I know what you mean when you say that an artist is special. Real musical artistry has the capacity to elicit emotions and innermost feelings. It can bring back memories and recreate moments. It simply feeds the soul.

I would agree that Lee Grane has that ability. She is special – a raw artist. Someone who, with a mere gesture of the hand and a blink of the eye, can convey a song’s message to the audience, and the audience, in awe, will be receptive to that message in their own special way.

You have found a jewel in her, as guest mentor Joey Ayala affirmed when he said there is a definite spot for Lee Grane in the music industry.

She is really that special. That is the reason why she has been trending all over right after the Blind Auditions. 

As a mentor who, modesty aside, can count as something of an expert in the music industry, I believe you already know a “handful” from your team whom your eye is on – though I am not saying that you will not give your earnest support and effort to those on your team who are not part of that “handful.”

I think it’ safe to assume, beforehand, that Lee Grane belongs to that “handful” while Dan does not. Honestly, as a common fan of “The Voice of the Philippines,” I remember only few names after the conclusion of the Blind Auditions and I do not even remember Dan. That is until now…

Let me indulge briefly in legal parlance by way of analogy. I believe in the principle of prima facie evidence being true unless rebutted by strong and contrary evidence. This means “what is” remains unless the contrary is shown in a proper venue. This is also due process, which is everybody’s right, according to the basic principles of equity and fairness.

In a competition like “The Voice,” setting aside for the moment its commercial and financial aspects, the main thing is to celebrate the music.

Music is a gift from above, and, like God, it sets us all equally in its special place. Although we are different, music can unite us in a level playing field – an equal spectrum.

I believe that once a contestant has passed the Blind Auditions and has become part of a certain team, new challenges await him or her in which the contestant will be judged accordingly. One assumes they are all on equal footing.

Yes, Dear Coach, you are correct in pointing out that the battle is Lee vs. Lee and Dan vs. Dan. Each contestant struggles with his/her own issues and tries to overcome them.

Yet you seem to have ignored the fact this is not solely about Lee vs. Lee. The overall picture in the battle performance, for the whole world to see, is Lee vs. Dan. It is obvious who prevailed. It was Dan, at least in that particular battle. 

You said that you selected that song fit for a male singer in order to challenge Lee Grane – to see where that difficult song would bring her.

May I ask you, esteemed mentor, with all due respect, when you chose that song, how much did Dan figure in your process? Were you half thinking about how Dan would shine with the song? Or was the main reason for the song choice the “challenge” it was supposed to bring to Lee Grane, then the notion that Dan would also sing it well just came as an afterthought?

Lee Grane is special. We all know that. But she is also a part of a competition and is bound by the rules inside this “boxing ring,” or so the set of this production was designed that night.

In boxing, Pacquiao might be the World’s Best Fighter, but during the fight with Marquez, he was knocked down and was rightfully declared the loser. It doesn’t matter that he is special, the best, because he lost that particular fight.

That’s what happened between Dan and Lee Grane. The underdog prevailed, resulting to the downfall of a “should be rising star” in that competition.

I know that if Lee Grane had not been chosen early on in the competition, it would be devastating to a lot of her fans, yet I am confident that her musicality and persona as an artist would take her to greater heights.

Who knows? Maybe even before the Grand Finals, she might already be recording her own album. She will shine in her own time because her light is her own.

You should not have thought that deciding against her will stop her from being famous. Sometimes, losing these competitions is a blessing. Charice, Katherine McPhee, and David Archuleta, to name a few, know this story.

By choosing Lee Grane over Dan, when it was Dan who clearly knocked out Lee Grane in the battle, a negative mindset has been formed among the millions of viewers like me and also among the other contestants that a coach is not open to surprise – and to accepting and deciding based on that rare element.

I believe that, in a competition, contestants should always keep in their minds that they are on a zero level. No first and early impressions can secure the win. For this reason, each contestant shall be motivated to always bring out the best in themselves in every stage of the competition. The challenge is to work hard every step of the way and reach their best because there is always hope to win.

Your choosing Lee Grane, Coach Bamboo, leaves a dangerous precedent that no matter how a contestant strives to win and does enough to win the round – does actually win the round – he will still lose because he had no real chances of winning to begin with.

If the competitor is an artist, might even be the best even if she does not show her exceptional artistry in the battle, will she still win the battle? Your choice, dear Coach, sends the message that “what is before” cannot be replaced by “what is now.” Prima facie evidence remains despite the presentation of strong and contrary evidence in a proper venue.

This is really depressing. “The Voice” talks about working hard for you dreams, and the concept and theme as shown in the Blind Auditions are that you should do away with preconceived notions and judge the Voice instead.

That choice, for me, deserves a “Boo” instead of a “Bravo.”

I believe that Dan was denied something akin to due process in that competition. I understand that Lee Grane has so much to offer but she failed to show it in the crucial time. This is a competition and no excuses are accepted.

It cannot be said that the song was not right for her. An artist is an artist and can summon tears even with the alphabet song.

This is also a competition wherein a simple mistake in one round means defeat for the whole of the competition. You said that you looked at the Lee vs. Lee side of the story. So, what can you say now about the Dan vs. Dan side? Did you even bother to look at it too with the same attention to the Lee vs. Lee?

Obviously, you disregarded the Lee vs. Dan aspect. Coach Lea had observed to contestant Chien Berbana that concerns like debts, family problems – everything should be abandoned when you step on stage. The focus should be on the performance alone because the time of the performance is the time to shine. 

The performance in the Battle Rounds should carry with it all the talent, artistry, angst, and beauty of the artist and the music.

Lee Grane should have brought her entire artistry in the Battle Rounds and exuded it during the performance itself, because this competition cannot be seen not only from her point of view but also from Dan’s point of view, most especially in that particular battle.

What’s done is done and all we can do is respect your decision. I admire you, though, for sticking with your gut feeling, knowing that many people will disagree.

I only lament that, by upholding a special talent like Lee Grane, an injustice had been committed to Dan, who did not deserve this. He became a casualty.

I only hope that Lee Grane will do everything to show she is worthy of your trust. To the other contestants, and to Dan, strive to do your best. Sometimes, life plays us a bad card. But we carry on with hope. Because, in the end, we would all come home to music.

No matter who wins and who loses, the music will welcome us home. –

Here’s the much discussed song battle between Lee Grane and Dan: