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Entertainment, music world increasingly occupied by Filipinos

Notable Filipinos like boxing great Manny Pacquiao and veteran actor Lou Diamond Phillips have helped show that the Philippines produces some of the best talents the world has to offer. And increasingly, Filipinos’ footprint on the public stage is spreading into the musical arena.

According to a recent feature published in The New York Times, tens of thousands of Filipinos have left their native countries to pursue a career in music overseas, enabling them to send money to their families back home on occasion and at the same time establish themselves in the entertainment business. In fact, in 2002 and 2004, more than 40,000 Filipinos in each year went overseas searching for the break they needed to make it big, with most of these individuals moving to Japan.

U.S., Philippines musical preferences similar
Since then, Filipinos have been bringing the world the sounds that are favored by locals, including hard rock, reggae, jazz and the blues. Some have gone on to make it big, while others decided to walk away from their aspirations because they needed money quickly.

Domingo Mercado, Jr., told the paper that he was one of those people who may have been able to make it in the entertainment industry, but economic realities forced his hand, taking a job that paid him the money he needed to support his family.

“I resigned from the band and took a job in Korea,” Mercado told the Times. “I gave up on my dream.”

He added that he hasn’t given up on his musical career entirely, though, as he has performed in public settings for nearly 20 years, primarily in Asia.

As difficult as it may be for Americans to make it into the entertainment world, the same is true for Filipinos – whether they display their talents in distant corners of the earth or in the U.S. POEA notes that 1.6 million people left the Philippines in 2011 to live and work overseas, with most of those leaving pursuing careers in household services.

“A hotel might need many waiters, cooks and housekeepers,” Ceslo Hernandez, head of the POEA’s operation division, told The New York Times. “But they only need one or two musicians.”

A combination of luck and skill may help explain how some Filipinos have been able to successfully break into the entertainment business. People like Charice Pempengco. According to her official website, Pempengco got her break in 2007, after posting a variety of web videos of her singing. Her talent got her noticed almost immediately among the Hollywood elite, earning appearances on television talk shows like “Ellen” and “Oprah.”

“You are a force to be reckoned with,” Oprah once said of Pempengco. “That voice comes from something bigger than yourself.”

Then there’s Lea Salonga, a singer and actress that may be best known for her work in the Broadway musical “Miss Saigon” and for serving as the voice of Jasmine in the 1994 animated film Aladdin. Salonga recently released a studio-produced album, “The Journey So Far,” and her website is constantly updated with details on where she will be appearing next to sing or perform on-stage.

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