When Rachel Nunez steps onto the stage on Nov. 9, she will have the chance to make her dreams come true.
“I have been singing all my life,” the 21-year-old store clerk says. “I would love for that to be my job.”
Nunez is one of the finalists in the Pinoy New Talent Singing Idol 2013 contest, taking place at the Kwanlin Dun Cultural Centre in Whitehorse. It’s a kind of Canadian Idol for the Filipino community. The national contest is holding its Yukon regional finals and selecting one person to head to the Canadian finals in February 2014.
Nunez would love to be that person. Her love of music started as a young girl in the Philippines, when her family enrolled her in singing school.
“We would do mall shows three times a week, practicing, building our confidence in front of audience,” Nunez says.
“Perky” is a good way to describe the 21-year-old, who actually stopped singing for a while, after moving to the Yukon in 2009.
“I lost three big competitions in the Philippines before coming here,” she says. “Now I want to prove something. I know I am strong. And I am going to try harder to make my dreams come true.”
It’s a high-pressure night, with six finalists being judged by celebrity guests. The show is being recorded for community television broadcast across the country and in the Philippines. Contestants will be singing in English, as well as Tagalog — one of the main languages in the Philippines. They’re judged on their presentation, pronunciation, and other technical points, as well as their artistic talent.
Theena Nerit is trying not to think too much about the big night. The 33-year-old restaurant manager really entered for a lark in May, and was surprised when she beat out two other contestants, who had formal singing training.
“I just sang with my father growing up, we had a small karaoke machine at home,” she says. “I told my family back home I was in the contest, and they said, ‘Oh, now you’re showing your talent, over there?'”
She’s says she’s really in this for fun, and is taking part for her community.
“I feel a social responsibility to take this seriously,” she says. “I am doing this for my friends, my family — to put into the community what it brings me.”
Local organizers of the talent contest say they’ve had an amazing response for a rookie event. While Singing Idol is in its sixth year on community television TV5 in Canada, this is the first year the Yukon is participating.
“All these people are gifted, they are really talented,” says Aileen Gayangos, who runs the Asian Central grocery and restaurant in Whitehorse. “But it’s also really hard for them just to be able to participate. Many have two or three jobs. Some work the graveyard shift. They all had to work around their schedules to take part in our competition.
“For them, though, it’s a real chance to live their dreams, to have success in the field they love.”
Success will bring the winner of the Canadian finals two round-trip tickets to the Philippines, 50,000 pesos (approximately $1,200) spending money, a condo in Manila, and opportunities to appear as a guest on national television programs back home.
Despite the glitz and glamour of a televised competition, Gayangos says Singing Idol really reflects the traditional family values of the Filipino community.
“Making music is a cultural value for us,” she says. “Karaoke is a special thing we are really fond of. When there are birthdays, parties, karaoke is part of the night. And we love to socialize.”
Gayangos says the event is also helping spread the word about the Yukon.
“I have friends in other parts of Canada who think we live in igloos, that we use dog sleds to get around,” says Gayangos. “This will really help raise awareness of the Yukon, put us on the map.
“This is a coming-of-age event for our community. This is an opportunity for us to show off our talent, give us a foot in the door to participate in other events in the south, in other parts of Canada. We won’t be outsiders any more. This says ‘We are here, we are alive.'”
It’s also an opportunity for Yukon Filipinos to make a splash in their hometown. From a handful of immigrants a decade ago, the community has grown to about 2,800 — one of the largest minorities in the territory. And it’s a community that wants to welcome in the larger society.
“This event’s open to all the public, that’s part of our goal,” says Gayangos. “We want to introduce our culture to everyone. It is a community and family event; kids are welcome. The more, the merrier.”
Pinoy New Talent Singing Idol 2013 takes place at 6 p.m. on Saturday, Nov. 9 at the Kwanlin Dun Cultural Centre on 1st Ave. in Whitehorse. Tickets are available at Asian Central on Ogilvie St. Children 12 and under are admitted free of charge. There’ll be a dance following the event, with special guest performer Ria Jade of Vancouver.