Why Lyca Gairanod’s ‘The Voice Kids’ victory matters

Kristine Sydney

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Why Lyca Gairanod’s ‘The Voice Kids’ victory matters
'People who are unhappy with the results say that 'awa' (pity) explains why Lyca won, an argument that is not only moot but also reductive,' writes Kristine Sydney. What do you think?

I was rooting for Darren Espanto, the Filipino-Canadian from Calgary, Alberta, Canada, whose key changes gave me the goosebumps. My sister M., who lives in Michigan, USA, and I, on vacation in the Philippines, would watch his covers of Whitney Houston’s “One Moment in Time” and Basil Valdez’s “Ngayon” repeatedly on YouTube and tear up across 12 time zones.

If we were to go by the popularity of the hashtag #TVKDarrenTotalUltimatePerformer, then he was a shoo-in for The Voice Kids crown.

Darren placed second. His teammate and competitor Lyca Gairanod won – and I was still ecstatic. (READ: FULL RECAP: ‘The Voice Kids’ grand finale weekend)


People who are unhappy with the results say that “awa,” pity, explains why Lyca won, an argument that is not only moot but also reductive.

Yes, Lyca has a heartbreaking story (she and her mother scavenge for trash they can sell and her father is a fisherman), but I hate “pity” in this context because it suggests that her winning was only because of an outpouring of emotion and Filipino sentimentality.  


The word ignores that she impresses with her incredible voice (watch her “Halik,” “Dance With My Father,” and her encore performance of “Narito Ako”) and disarms us with her unstudied stage presence. Her performance with the all-female pop band Aegis blew away all competition. (READ: Lyca Gairanod’s triumphant ‘Voice Kids’ journey)

Her win is about more than just pity.

But first, a little bit of history: My parents both grew up poor in the Philippines but with an education, luck, and a leap of faith, they ended up living in Saudi Arabia where they spent close to 30 years. The majority of Overseas Foreign Workers (OFW’s) are separated from their families and send their money home, but my family sat down to dinner together every night. My childhood, as I remember it,  was like The Cosby Show with fart jokes.

My childhood dream was to go to boarding school and I headed to the States when I was 15. It’s with my parents’ encouragement and money and a couple connections like Mrs. W., my substitute history teacher, who introduced me to Mr. L. who got me into boarding school and, later, landed me my first job (he was the admissions director at my alma mater and the headmaster at my first job) that I am where I am.

I didn’t get here on my own. At 35, I know that if I needed help, I could call my parents. I’m often told that I was brave to go to the States where I had no family, but I don’t see going to boarding school as an act of courage. Risks, however scary they might seem initially, are easier to take when you’ve got a net to catch you.

Though I don’t know what Darren’s life is like in Canada, I can, at least, assume that my story is closer to his than to Lyca’s. He was going to be a student at St. Jude Elementary in Calgary when his parents flew him to the Philippines for The Voice Kids auditions, part of his dream. (READ:‘The Voice Kids’: Meet the final 4)



God, his voice makes me believe that the word “gift” is not hyperbole. He’s got it.  Someday soon, someone will offer him a recording contract and I will buy his album once it drops on iTunes. When he was asked what he would do with the house, which was part of the prize package, he said that he would give it to Lyca.

I would pay to watch Darren, who made me think of J.’s and my future children: how would I teach them to be bilingual so that when they visited the Philippines, they, too, could speak my family’s language and understand our Filipino pop hits? How would I raise them so that they are as kind as he?

I hope that Darren knows that Lyca’s winning the title doesn’t take away from his talent. He’ll be a household name someday soon and I can’t wait.


The first time I saw Lyca perform, I was struck by her voice – deep, mature. Then I noticed her height (she is tiny for a 9-year old) and her hair, which is so thin, the backlight reflected off her cheeks. Her eyes are bright and her wit, sharp.

I said to my mother, half-seriously, that if she lost the contest, I wanted to send her to school. What I saw was a young girl who could be great, if only she didn’t have to worry about where to get her next meal.

Though English is the second most widely spoken language in the Philippines, Lyca struggled with the English songs because she went to school irregularly. She has several siblings. The school system isn’t helping them. The Reproductive Health Bill, which could have helped them, took a devastatingly slow 13 years to pass. Our political system is so notoriously corrupt that we modify the word “public servant” with “honest,” as if an honest politician were an anomaly. (Three senators are currently in jail because they allegedly stole millions upon millions from the government.)

Our country is hit by tens of typhoons every year and our population has hit 100 million without enough space, resources, or jobs to take care of them. In short, the most powerful have failed the people they were elected to protect.

No, it’s not out of pity that Filipinos voted for Lyca. Nope, not pity — that’s too easy. They voted because, as symbolic and as cheesy as it sounds, it’s our civic duty. They wanted her to win because she is a child for whom we are responsible. We’re supposed to take care of the youngest and weakest members of our community.

They wanted her to win out of love. To vote for her and to celebrate her is recognizing that her talent won’t go anywhere without their votes. It’s understanding that, in the Philippines, her parents don’t have a voice.

We’re opening the door to let her in so she can let her voice grow. – Rappler.com

Editors’ note: An earlier version of this piece originally appeared on Kristine’s website

Kristine Sydney is a private high school English teacher in the USA where she has lived for 20 years. Born in the Philippines and raised in Saudi Arabia, she attended boarding school and college in the States where she practiced her Tagalog by reading Liwayway. She writes about immigration, Air Supply adoration, and her intercultural relationship on her blog kosheradobo.com. Follow her on Twitter @kosheradobo.

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