Tuesday, February 2, 2010

The power of Geronimo

Filipino pop princess Sarah Geronimo rocked last Sunday when she performed at Stadium Badminton Cheras, Kuala Lumpur.

Brought in by Celcom Axiata, many fans gathered at the venue long before the scheduled time of the concert in anticipation of seeing the beautiful and stylish Geronimo.

The 22-yearold singer/ actress was marked by many to be the next big thing in Asia, making waves in her native The Philippines as well as attracting a healthy following here in Malaysia.

Her debut performance in Malaysia was a testament to her reputation and talent as Geronimo had fans eating out of her hands as she belted out her own hits from

The Philippines as well as well-known international hits. Starting off at a little past 2pm, fans needed little coaxing to show how much they wanted to see their idol on stage when they squealed her name in unison.

Soon after, the Asian pop icon appeared, together with her sexy dancers. Kicking off the concert with the triple sexy hit London Bridge, Here I Come and De Ja Vu, the petite, sweet singer welcomed the audience along with her sexy troupe.

Geronimo proved that she not only had the voice but the moves to go along with it, proving that she is also an established dancer as well as actress and singer.

Speaking mostly in Tagalog and a little English, the entertainer frequently showed her excitement for being able to perform in front of her fans that afternoon.

"Hello Malaysia, I am so glad to be here," said Geronimo.

She also mentioned, in an interview later, that she would also love to collaborate with Malaysian artistes in the future. It was easy to understand the fans' appreciation of Geronimo.

She is a very experienced entertainer. Geronimo started singing when she was six. In 2002, she joined the talent competition 'Star Of The Night' and emerged as champion; launching her career in the Filipino entertainment industry.

She won an exclusive 10-year contract with the Viva Entertainment Group and recorded her first album, Popstar: A Dream Come True in 2003 and sold over 210,000 copies in her home country.

She continued to release nine more albums, the latest — Sarah Geronimo: Just Me in 2008. The singer, actress and dancer took a short break while her 'Star Of The Night' companion (he won second place) Mark Bautista kept the audience mesmerised with his rendition of Le Ann Rimes' I Need You and Filipino number Baliw.

Bautista's good looks and equally mesmerising voice got many female fans in the audience excited, who tried to get closer to the charming entertainer when he stepped off the stage and onto the arena.

However, tough security proved to be on their toes while Bautista gave the audience air kisses in support of their enthusiasm.

Together with Geronimo, the two combined their vocals in a few songs including Kasalanan Ko Ba, Please Don't Stop The Music and Michael Jackson's Wanna Be Starting Something.

The crowd, consisting mostly of Filipinos, lapped it up with a lot of excitement. "Are you having fun?", Geronimo asked the audience many times and they showed appreciation with shrieks of "I Love You".

Both Geronimo and Bautista engaged the audience throughout the show and had no qualms of showing how they, too, enjoyed entertaining the crowd.

After two hours of non-stop entertainment, the duo presented tickets to Manila to three lucky members of the audience. The duo also met lucky fans at a special meet and greet session after the concert ended.


Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Sarah G. & Joy B. are like two peas in a pod

It’s too early for it but if ever Joy Belmonte’s life story would be filmed, I’m sure she would pick only one actress to play the title role — Sarah Geronimo.

“She’s my favorite actress,” said Joy who...look at the picture closely...could be mistaken for Sarah’s twin sister. “She’s wholesome on and off camera, untainted by unsavory rumors. She’s an ideal daughter and that makes her a good role model for the youth.”

Empowering the youth is part of the platform of Joy who’s running for vice mayor in Quezon City in the May elections as incumbent Q.C. Vice Mayor Herbert Bautista’s running mate.

Like Sarah, Joy is a good role model. Born with the proverbial silver spoon in her mouth, she could have chosen an easy life after graduating from Ateneo de Manila (with a degree in AB Social Sciences, combination of Sociology, Anthropology and Political Science), the daughter of Q.C. Mayor Sonny Belmonte (who’s running for congressman in the fourth district of the same city, also in the May elections) and the late civic leader and this paper’s founding chairman Betty Go-Belmonte instead opted to work with NGOs that brought her to little communities in as far away as Bukidnon.

“The experience opened my eyes to the inequalities in our society,” said Joy who was a member of the Jesuit Volunteers Philippines (JVP) in school and, as a student, founded an organization with the grassroots youth in Libis, Quezon City. “There are some who are very wealthy and given so much in life and some with almost nothing.” (Actually, Joy’s dream was to be an archaeologist, largely influenced as she was by her parents’ love for culture, art and history. She’s married to Dr. Raymund Alimurong by whom she has a baby, Gael.)

Also involved in empowering women and an advocate of issues concerning violence against women, Joy as member of the Ilaw ng Bayan Foundation set up Husay Pinay which helps organizations with livelihood projects
market their products and conduct business-skills training.

Joy was a revelation when she met the movie
press Monday last week at a well-attended presscon held at the function room of the Imperial Palace Suites hosted by Regal Matriarch Mother Lily Monteverde who is believed to have a “Midas Touch” because candidates she endorses finish winners.

“I’m a friend of the Belmontes,” said Mother Lily in her welcome address, “I believe in the Belmontes.”

It’s understandable why Joy is having her “baptism of fire” with the movie press which is noted for its unmitigated style of asking questions — Joy has showbiz connections. Pioneers in journalism, the Belmontes also published the movie magazines
Moviestar, Movieland and Movieworld, aside from the Daily Star (forerunner of The Philippine STAR and Pilipino Star Ngayon) and Fookien Times (1926-1972, with Betty’s dad, Dr. Jimmy Go Puan Seng, as publisher). (Trivia: The surname of the late actor Ricky Belmonte, Jesus Cruz in real life, was taken from the Belmontes.)

Joy and her Poveda schoolmates used to write for Star Monthly, another Belmonte publication. One time, Joy and Kris Aquino (from Poveda, they would become schoolmates at Ateneo) were assigned to interview what Kris described as “an ordinary policeman,” who turned out to be Fred Lim (now Mayor of Manila) and when their picture came out in the papers, Joy was identified as “a friend of Kris Aquino.”

“That was my claim to fame,” said Joy at the presscon, eliciting laughter from the movie press.

Several actors are running for councilor in Q.C. including Glenda Garcia, Alfred Vargas, Ara Mina. Ricky Davao, Roderick Paulate, Arnel Ignacio and Maria Isabel Lopez.

“Actors and actresses have a very important role to play in our society,” said Joy, especially in Quezon City which is known as City of Stars.

Her answer to criticism that she doesn’t have “experience” in politics?

“Totoo po ‘yan,” Joy spoke in fluent Filipino, “wala akong karanasan bilang halal na politician, pero marami akong karanasan sa lingkod-bayan. Naging volunteer teacher ako sa Bukidnon at nagturo sa mga anak ng mga magsasaka. Dinanas ko ang hirap doon. Marami akong sinapiang organisasyon at foundation na ang layunin ay volunteerism at public service. Sa pagpasok ko sa pulitika, dadalhin ko ang paglilingkod nang walang kapalit at pang-sariling interest.”

Three days after the movie presscon, Joy had a merienda meeting with Sarah at the EDSA Shangri-La coffee shop. Also present were her brother, STAR president/CEO Miguel Belmonte, Viva boss Vic del Rosario Jr. and his son Vincent, and Sarah’s parents. Sarah is endorsing Joy’s candidacy.

The two did look like two peas in a pod, looks- and other-wise, from their shy smiles to their fine manners.

Sarah’s mom Divina took exception to a report on The Buzz that Sarah was leaving home to live alone...or to live-in with rumored suitor Rayver Cruz? Not true, according to Divina.

“When my sister, who lives in Negros, heard the news she almost suffered a mild stroke,” said Divina, who was offended by the story. “Our family has intact values and stories like that are shocking to us. To us, showbiz is just work. At home, we are like any family, katulad pa rin noon. Importante sa amin ang values,” adding that neither is it true that she’s meddling in Sarah’s love life. “Our relatives have been asking why I’m allowing Sarah to live by herself, because they were misled by the (Buzz) report and I told them, ‘Hindi totoo ‘yon. Hindi ko siya papayagan’,”

Turning 22 on July 25, Sarah said that she knows that showbiz is not forever, so she’s taking advantage of the opportunities coming her way, as in making hay while the sun shines. In short, to use a cliche, love can wait, never mind if the queue of “prospective suitors” is getting longer and longer. “Work nang work na lang muna,” she smiled.

She’s now shooting Hating Kapatid, her first movie with Judy Ann Santos, directed by Wenn Deramas for Star Cinema/Viva Films, with JC de Vera and Luis Manzano as leading men.

“It’s a dream come true,” said Sarah. “I’m a Juday fan.”


Thursday, December 31, 2009

Sarah Geronimo has a lot to thank for as the Year of the Ox draws to a close

After the phenomenal success at the box office of “A Very Special Love” in 2008, Sarah proved her pulling power by chalking up another record grosser with the sequel, “You Changed My Life” at the start of this year.

But it’s not only on the silver screen that Sarah has proved herself to be crowd drawer.

“Record Breaker,” her concert last month at the Araneta Coliseum, lived up to its name, topping her three previous packed shows at the Big Dome, and certifying her as the new, undisputed concert queen.

As a performer, Sarah is indefatigable. She was on road for the most the year, performing to Pinoy audiences in the US and Europe with The Next One Tour. Upon returning home, she hardly had time to unpack her bags before pushing off again for The Next One Philippine Tour.

In the recording scene, Sarah was also blazing new trails with chart-topping albums. Her “Sarah Geronimo’s Your Christmas Girl,” released just last month, is no. 1 among local Christmas albums.

Not only that, Sarah is on the A-list of the most sought-after commercial endorsers. TV ads and billboards show her promoting food products, cosmetics and computer schools.

“This year has been a truly fulfilling one for me. I have a lot to thank God for,” she admits.

“At this point in my career, I couldn’t ask for anything more. In fact, it makes me even more determined to improve myself because I don’t want to let my fans down. I owe a lot to them.”

Now that election season is approaching, many are wondering if Sarah will be endorsing any candidate. Three presidential bets are said to be after her, but it all depends on her boss, Vic del Rosario.


Wednesday, December 30, 2009

‘You Changed My Life’ is 2009’s top OPM song

The success of the movie redounded to its theme song: “You Changed My Life In A Moment” is MYX's overall number one OPM song in 2009.

The Sarah Geronimo-hit dominated the Pinoy MYX Countdown for two weeks, and stayed in the charts for a total of 18 weeks, making it her fourth number one song to top the countdown in the past years.

It is recalled that her first-ever single, “Forever’s Not Enough,” also topped the charts in 2003, followed by “How Could You Say You Love Me?” in 2004.

Four years later, the multi-talented performer reigned in the Pinoy MYX Countdown with “A Very Special Love,” which was the theme of her first box-office film with John Lloyd Cruz.

Her other hit, “Dahil Minahal Mo Ako,” sits on the second half of the chart at number 11.. It stayed for three weeks at number one and for 13 weeks in the entire countdown.

“You Changed My Life” is also the highest-charting OPM single in the MYX Hit Chart Year-end Countdown at number six, trailing behind the smash tunes of Taylor Swift, Justin Bieber, David Archuleta and Miley Cyrus.

While the MYX Hit Chart is foreign act-dominated, the Pinoy MYX Countdown is band-dominated. A total of eight OPM groups were declared to have had chart-magnetizing singles this year.

Hale, Sponge Cola, Pedicab and 6cyclemind each have two entries in the Top 20, while Chicosci, Hilera, Silent Sanctuary and Paraluman have one apiece.

“Antukin,” the third single off of former Rivermaya front man Rico Blanco’s first solo effort, is the highest entry from a male act at number three. Meanwhile, R&B Princess Kyla cemented two entries in the list namely her duet with R&B Prince Jay-R, “Back In Time,” and “Old Friend” at numbers two and 12, respectively.

Ely Buendia’s collaboration with the late Master Rapper, Francis Magalona, titled “Higante,” closes the countdown at number 20.

Here is the full list of Pinoy MYX Countdown’s Year-end list, aired last Dec. 26:

1. “You Changed My Life In A Moment” - Sarah Geronimo
2. “Back In Time” - Kyla feat.. Jay-R
3. “Antukin” - Rico Blanco
4. “Bahay Kubo” – Hale
5. “Di Na Mababawi” – Sponge Cola
6. “Diamond Shotgun” – Chicosci
7. “FX” – Pedicab
8. “Tell Me Your Name” - Christian Bautista
9. “Ayt!” – Sponge Cola feat. Gary Valenciano
10. “Sandali na Lang” – Hale
11. “Dahil Minahal Mo Ako” - Sarah Geronimo
12. “Old Friend” – Kyla
13. “Simulan Mo Na” – Pedicab
14. “Radical” – Hilera
15. “Kasalanan” - 6cyclemind feat. Gloc 9 and Wendell Garcia of Pupil
16. “Upuan” - Gloc 9 feat. Jeazell Grutas of Zelle
17. “Hiling” - Silent Sanctuary
18. “Tabi” - Paraluman feat. Kean Cipriano of Callalily
19. “Walang Iwanan” - 6Cyclemind
20. “Higante” - Ely Buendia and Francis Magalona


Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Sharon, Sarah take musical trip down memory lane

MANILA, Philippines — Sharon Cuneta and Sarah Geronimo represent different generations of stars who can act and sing well—even without the help of the recording industry’s vast technological innovations. Sadly, the duo’s musical careers always take a back seat to their more financially lucrative acting endeavors. So, their new recordings are always welcome treats to music buffs who are tired of listening to the growing number of “recording” artists who can’t really sing.

There’s a lot of good singing in Sharon and Sarah’s latest albums, “Musika at Pag-ibig” and “Music and Me,” respectively, in which they take their listeners on musical trips down memory lane. The Megastar’s refreshing 14-track repertoire is composed of reimagined OPM favorites, while Sarah’s 14-song lineup mostly consists of ’80s- and ’90s-era ballads, as well as a smattering of R&B tunes and movie theme songs.

Sass and sizzle

Sharon’s asset as a performer is her ability to sing any tune as if it were truly her own. For instance, listen to how she turns Gary Valenciano’s signature dance hit, “Eto Na Naman,” into a leisurely song with feminine sass and sizzle.

Another track that benefits from the Megastar’s empathetic rendering is Joel Navarro’s enduring Metropop classic, “Suwerte-Suwerte Lang.” Gary Granada’s “Saranggola Sa Ulan” is anchored by thoughtful, provocative lyrics and complex melodic shifts that take advantage of Sharon’s emotive gifts and full-bodied middle-voice register.

Dina Bonnevie’s “Bakit Ba Ganyan?,” Regine Velasquez’s “Paalam,” Agot Isidro’s “Sa Isip Ko,” Jay Durias’ “Habang Atin Ang Gabi” and Side A’s “Sana Naman” are judiciously reworked, deftly demonstrating Sharon’s seamless shifts from chest sounds to confident head tones.

The high notes in Nyoy Volante’s “You’re My You” and Ryan Cayabyab’s “Iniibig Kita” are beautifully realized, and Sharon’s bits of pianissimo singing in her revival of Mr. C’s “Magbalik Ka Na Mahal” (from the musical, “Rama Hari”) are too aurally sumptuous to miss.

Singing style

Sharon infuses a lot of catchy energy and a middle-of-the-road feel into her well-chosen selections for “Musika at Pag-ibig”—and, we’re happy to note that, this time, there’s none of the “straddled” singing style (bukaka) she has been resorting to of late when she aims for a fuller, note-perfect sound.

Another recent crutch that’s too obvious to ignore—too much whispery breathing in between her lyrics—is still evident in some songs (Ogie Alcasid’s “Nais Ko,” the Apo’s “Show Me A Smile”), but they’re no longer as conspicuous as they used to be.

Like Sharon, Sarah Geronimo also has “technical” crutches to hurdle—the Celine Dion-style vocal affectations, which hinder the versatile Pop Princess from truly finding her own voice and style. But, “Music and Me” is a step in the right direction.

Sarah, who released her Yuletide album, “Your Christmas Girl,” last month, is slowly but surely finding a middle ground that places her singing sensibilities in the pop-rock-R&B genre, a musical fusion she obviously thrives in, as evidenced by her confident revivals of Brandy’s “Have You Ever?,” Coco Lee’s “Before I Fall In Love,” Faith Evans’ “Never Gonna Let You Go” and Roxette’s “Listen To Your Heart.”

The 21-year-old actress-singer evinces considerable growth and maturity in her covers of Shanice’s “Fall For You” (which hints at longing and loneliness), Smokey Mountain’s “Can This Be Love?” (with very appropriate sentiments), and the theme songs from her blockbuster movie with John Lloyd Cruz, “A Very Special Love,” and the recent Vilma Santos-starrer, “In My Life,” as well as her gem of a duet with Christian Bautista, “Please Be Careful With My Heart.”

Some arrangements are sleek but derivative (Richard Marx’s “Right Here Waiting,” Debbie Gibson’s “Lost In Your Eyes”), and others tend to drown out Sarah’s otherwise powerful vocals (“Record Breaker”)—after all, volume isn’t really synonymous with lush musicality.

Down to earth

The Pop Princess’ sound may not seem all that original to uncompromising listeners, but we personally root for the soft-spoken songstress, because she has apparently remained down to earth in spite of her mounting fame and fortune. Would that other less talented stars could have Sarah’s integrity and humility.

Moreover, Sarah can sing circles around a lot of young celebrities who insist on “singing,” despite possessing less-than-serviceable pipes. It’s not like the country is wanting in world-class performers, so let’s leave the singing to real singers, please.


Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Sarah G. exceeds expectations in ‘Record Breaker’

To call Sarah Geronimo a star is an understatement. A record breaker – now, that drives home the point.

The Pop Princess lives up to the description with her annual habitation at the Araneta Coliseum getting bigger and bigger as time passes. Her “Record Breaker” concert at the venue last Nov. 7 was no exception.

Filled to the rafters, as the term goes, people came expecting another topnotch performance from the singer. Sarah did not disappoint.

The show began with music from a lone violin cutting through the din. The sound crescendos to pyrotechnic explosions that signaled the intro to the edgy dance number, “Record Breaker.” The countdown leading to it was rendered in 3D effect flashed on a giant screen. All around, hundreds of green luminous sticks illuminated excited faces.

Sarah was in step with her backup dance group, the G Force, as she segued through a non-stop medley of “Unstoppable,” “Love Game,” and “I Gotta Feeling.” As frenetic as that intro was, she opted to slow things down next with a cover of “Right Here Waiting for You.”

A highlight of the show was hearing Sarah rework her hit song, “Sa Iyo,” from her first album “Popstar: A Dream Come True.” The updated version saw a sexy Sarah singing and dancing to the strains of an R&B feel.

Her guests also shined that night. Christian Bautista (in full on Jose-Mari-Chan-mode) sang with Sarah on “Please Be Careful with My Heart.” Up and coming all-girl group Pop Girls, on the other hand, gave a phenomenal performance of “Nobody.” Brit-Pinoy and “Britain’s Got Talent” child star Charlie Green was superb, too.

Enter the Kanto Boys. Comprised by actors Luis Manzano, Billy Crawford, Vhong Navarro, and John Lloyd Cruz [who, curiously, wasn’t around that night], they shared hilarious moments with Sarah Geronimo during their spot.

Another peak was Sarah’s rendition of a Michael Jackson medley during which she executed the King of Pop’s signature moves to cheers from spectators.

Asia’s Songbird Regine Velasquez, who was one of many celebrities who watched “Record Breaker,” gave Sarah a pearl necklace when the latter sang “You Changed My Life.” Many saw the gesture as a symbolic ‘passing of the torch’ moment between two music royalties.

The show lasted three hours with a repertoire consisting of songs from Sarah’s previous albums as well as her current one, “Music & Me.”

Sarah closed “Record Breaker” with a medley of her biggest hits namely “Forever Is Not Enough,” “How Could You Say You Love Me,” and “To Love You More.” By then, everyone knew that another title for the concert would not have been apt.


Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Sarah Geronimo's Record Breaker concert lives up to its name

For Sarah Geronimo, there's no place like home. Proving anew her status as a certified crowd-drawer, the young singer performed her fourth concert Record Breaker before a jampacked crowd last night, November 7, at the Araneta Coliseum in Cubao, Quezon City.

Sarah endearingly calls the Big Dome "home"—a claim she can rightfully make as all of her major concerts since 2005 have been done at the historical indoor sports stadium.

Each year has seen a notable increase in audience size and last night's concert perhaps drew the biggest gate attendance of all of Sarah's major concerts.

Much, of course, has changed since Sarah's solo concert last year. Aside from the platinum selling records, the former Star of the Night big winner is now also a certified box office actress, as proven by the strong showing of her two romantic-comedy films opposite John Lloyd Cruz: A Very Special Love (2008) and You Changed My Life (2009).

REINVENTING SARAH. Now a blooming young lady at 21, the Pop Princess has chosen the right path—concerts like Record Breaker—to gradually distance herself from the cute teenybopper image she had nurtured since her first foray into the spotlight as a shy but determined 14-year-old.

Sarah opened the evening with the energy-driven dance number "Unstoppable" before changing gears to "Love Game."

Sarah's repertoire that evening meandered from dance to pop cover tunes. Her beautiful rendition of Beyonce Knowles' "Broken-Hearted Girl" was one of the most appreciated. But eager crowd reaction was reserved for her early hits, like "Sa Iyo" (given an R&B arrangement that evening) and "Dahil Minahal Mo Ako."

ASAP '09 and Champions colleague Christian Bautista appeared as Sarah's first guest. Christian performed a medley of hits originally popularized by balladeer and prolific songwriter Jose Mari Chan. Next, Sarah and Christian performed a duet of "Please Be Careful With My Heart." Incidentally, Asia's Songbird Regine Velasquez, who originally recorded the song with Jose Mari years ago, was in the audience that night.

Viva Records' new all-girl group, Pop Girls, joined Sarah in singing the infectious South Korean pop hit, "Nobody." Speaking of going international, Filipino-British Charlie Green of Britain's Got Talent performed "The Way You Looked Tonight" with his "Ate Sarah." As a new addition to Viva Records' growing list of young talents, Charlie brandished those extraordinary pipes fit for standard tunes through the songs "For Once in My Life," followed by the classic Filipino ballad, "Dahil Sa Iyo."

Sarah paid tribute to the legacy left by the King of Pop, Michael Jackson, by interpreting "One Day In My Life," "Ben," "I'll Be There," and the defiant "They Don't Care About Us."

Billy Crawford, Vhong Navarro and Luis Manzano teamed up with Sarah in dishing out the music of the popular American '90s boy band, Backstreet Boys.

REACHING NEW HEIGHTS. Sarah became very emotional while talking about her struggles when she was still a beginner trying to make it big in the industry inundated by talents and aspiring singers.

Though she has gradually moved away from the old signature hits that made her a household name, Sarah knew by heart the importance of the songs that propelled her to the top and the expectations of the fans to hear them. A medley of the songs "Forever's Not Enough," "How Could You Say You Love Me," and her winning piece, which was a cover of Celine Dion's "To Love You More," brought back memories of the old Sarah.

As expected, the concert was well-attended by celebrities and other key figures in the industry. Aside from Regine Velasquez, other personalities spotted by PEP (Philippine Entertainment Portal) inside the venue were Anne Curtis, Iya Villania, Denise Laurel, Rachelle Ann Go, Amber, Rayver Cruz (Sarah's rumored admirer), cosmetic surgeon Vicki Belo and daughter Cristalle Henares, ABS-CBN lady executives Cory Vidanes and Malou Santos, and Viva Entertainment boss Vic Del Rosario.

One of the evening's highlights was Sarah performing the theme songs of her two hit movies, "A Very Special Love" and "You Changed My Life," complete with film scenes playing on the background wall screen.

And just like in previous years during her concerts, the audience, most notably loyal supporters, were hoping for some major announcement from their idol regarding the true status of her romantic life.

Nothing earthshaking came as Sarah maintained that she remains single and unattached. However, it didn't mean she wasn't looking and hopeful. After singing the last line of the yearning ballad "Right Here Waiting," Sarah—with the strain of the poignantly familiar notes of the song still ringing from the coliseum speakers—beamingly announced: "Kung sino ka man, dumating ka na!"

The Pop Princess has grown up, indeed, in more ways than one.