Charice & Raquel. 2011, Mothers, love your Daughters & vice versa

Good H Charice cover blogMANILA - 2011, Year of the Rabbit. In Chinese horoscope, the Rabbit "signifies calm, diplomacy, sensitivity and consideration for others" ( Reading that, I think of 2010 backwards: mostly of Charice, mother Raquel, and brother Carl; the Pempengcos are mostly calm, diplomatic, sensitive, and considerate of others. Hey, nobody's perfect, no year either!

Charice and Mommy Raquel are the cover girls for the Christmas 2010 issue of Good Housekeeping Philippines. Jointly, their smiles are as radiant as any Christmas tree lit in New York's Rockefeller Center in any December. Good Housekeeping, you're perfect!

The GHP cover story is well-written, by Bubbles Salvador, and she is right in presenting it as a combined Charice & Raquel story, as you can’t have one without the other.

I thank Bubbles Salvador for telling us an old/new story that she tried to tell differently, and largely succeeded. Specifically, Frank H can thank her for these bits of information mostly new to him:

(1) Fame & fortune - Rich & famous? Mommy Raquel is the one who is keeping Charice’s head from rising above the clouds. Not that easy. She says, “Pinapaisip ko sa kanya na di siya sikat; kilala lang, parang natural lang, parang kilala ka lang sa Gulod, kung saan kami nakatira dati. Natural lang, di ilalagay sa ulo.” I keep her thinking that she is not famous, just known; just act naturally, just as you are known in humble Gulod, where we lived before. Just act naturally, not put it in your head. Mother knows best!

It’s the attitude. GH asks how Charice feels about being “super famous” anyway? Charice says, “Masaya!” Happy! And “Overwhelmed.” About Charice’s feet being firmly planted on the ground, “thanks to her mom Raquel,” Bubbles says. Frank H says, in great measure, we also ought to give “thanks to Oprah,” who as fairy godmother with her magic wand hovering above the little girl, has a standing advice to Charice: “Keep your feet on the ground, even when you’re wearing high-heeled shoes.” From one of the wealthiest women in America, that's very expensive advice, not to taken cheaply.

(2) Contests & mothers - Bubbles says Charice won about 80% of the 100 singing contests she joined. That's 4 out of 5. Frank H says, I suppose that's a very good record, but it must be nerve-wracking to join so many singing contests, and you're a tiny girl at that! I know she started when she was 7. Bubbles says Charice says, one reason she joined so many contests was because she didn't want her mother to work. Frank H says, I suppose Charice knew she would win enough of the contests to be able to support her little family. Think of winning, not losing. You call that self-confidence.

(3) Noodles & Samaritans - There was the time when someone stole all the money they had: PhP 3,000. In the meal that followed, they had 1 pack of ready-to-cook noodles, pancit canton - literally, noodles from Canton, China; popular in the Philippines, in cheap little packs - and along with rice, these noodles from 1 pack they shared among themselves: mother, daughter and son. Poor as a rat. (Scene's familiar; Frank H says, my own not-so-little family went through that noodle phase too, and not just once.) Then they heard of a singing contest in Batangas. Some kind soul lent them an expensive watch - not to tell the time or kill, but to pawn for whatever it was worth; Raquel got PhP 1,000 for that one, and off they went to the contest. That was a very expensive watch. 1 for the money, 2 for the show! Charice won this one, PhP 8,000. Debt paid immediately, along with gratitude paid profusely. Faith restored in Samaritans, faith restored in oneself. "Yan si Lord," Charice says, smiling. That's the Lord. That's how God works. Frank H says, that's how people should act.

(4) Character & sabotages - Bubbles thinks about what all those contests did to Charice and says, "Those singing contests were not just a source of income for the Pempengcos - one could say they were character-forming as well. How else would Charice emerge this strong-willed if it weren't for those who would try to sabotage her performances?" Well, Frank H the teacher says, if you're willing to learn, you will.

So, Charice tells GHP in so many words, as in show business, some people become your enemies. One time, someone complained that Charice was already 20 years old, not 14 as she had claimed. At another time, someone unplugged the microphone while Charice was singing - no, that didn't stop her. "Sing pa rin ako," Charice says. Never mind; sing is what I did. No one can stop Charice from singing! Singing is what she does. "She's a Walking Karaoke," FalseVoice told Frank H during an interview last year. The Philippines has The Walking Karaoke of the World!

(5) Time & things - When she didn't win the 1-million-peso Grand Prize of Little Big Star, Charice told her mother she never wanted to sing ever again. But Mommy Raquel told her, "Everything happens for a reason." Charice says she realizes that now, not before. There really is a "time for everything." Yes. "For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven" (Ecclesiastes 3: 1, NRSV Catholic Edition).

(6) Mothers & Daughters - Charice is willingly still under the influence of her mother Raquel. "In fact, may ipon po akong puwede ko nang galawin dahil 18 na ako, pero hindi ko pa rin po kinukuha kay Mommy," Charice says. In fact, I have savings that I can now touch because now I'm 18, but I have not taken it from Mommy. Mommy remains to be a treasurer Mommy as well as a treasured Best Friend.

(7) Charice & Raquel - Mommy Raquel says she had been busy with other things last year that she could not be with Charice for 2 months especially during the David Foster & Friends Asian Tour in October. Then there was that mild food poisoning in Singapore. Raquel says it could not have happened if she was with Charice. Frank H says, well, all manners of mothers will say that!

(8) Talking & singing - There was an audition for Glee that was unlike any other audition for any other TV series - Frank H says, well, because Charice is unlike any other performer. From Bubbles:

"Nung audition, sobrang serious and mukha nila. Natakot ako! Pero sobrang ready ako. May dala pa po akong laptop," Charice begins. "Pinakuwento nila sa akin ang buhay ko, tapos di nila ako pinakanta. Ako pa ang nag-offer, 'Can I sing?'" (Frank H's translation: At the audition, their faces were over-serious. I got scared! But I was over-ready. I even brought a laptop. They asked me to tell my life story, after which they did not bother to ask me to sing. I was the one who offered, "Can I sing?")

Frank H's interpretation of that scene is that those who were there already knew that Charice was "in" Glee if unofficially. They didn't bother to ask her to sing because they already saw and heard her in the Oprah show - and they already had listened to her 1st international album self-titled CHARICE - they just wanted to hear her talk in person. (Laptop noted.)

So: Thanks Good Housekeeping Philippines for the Charice & Mommy Raquel cover photo, and thanks Bubbles Salvador for the cover story "When Dreams Come True." That one is 2,455 words, just a handful of words longer than this one in text. The Chasters are much obliged.

Still, Frank H feels that Bubble's piece could have been double the value if it had been titled "How Dreams Come True" and/or written with that in mind. Emphasis on the process, on how Charice started singing at age 7 to help bring food to the table, on how she dreamed her little and big dreams, how Charice lost her father and almost lost her mother, how she took her loss in a 1-million-peso singing contest, and how her mother had always stood by her side.

Thinking all that, this Chaster has 2 little, specific complaints:

One, that Bubbles wrote "Having come from a painful past, Charice sometimes feels it's all a dream," but forgot the details of that personal story. I know now that part of that painful past is that her father Ricky, drug-induced, tried to kill her mother Raquel when Charice was only 3 years old; that was 15 years ago, and that little family has been broken ever since. Happy now, but still not whole. Not to forget the recent past, when her grandmother Tess Relucio in public cried wolf quite a few times, and in private tried to tell Oprah. There was no wolf, and she knew that.

Two, that Bubbles glossed over something crucial to the musical story of Charice by simply saying, "By a twist of fate thereafter, Charice found herself guesting on Ellen (DeGeneres) talk show, and then on Oprah." Saying that immediately after pointing out that Charice lost in Little Big Star is too big a jump in the story. Something is lost in the levitation.

As far as I'm concerned, that "twist of fate" must be told in no uncertain terms, in some detail. What's missing in the Bubbles Salvador piece Charice herself intimates in this quote from the GHP article:

Charice sometimes feels it’s all a dream. “Especially bago ako matulog, iniisip ko yung past, tapos natatawa ako kasi unexpected lahat. Dahil lang sa YouTube!” she says unbelievingly. (Frank H's translation: Especially before I sleep, I think of the past, then I laugh because it has been all unexpected. Just because of YouTube!)

Just because of YouTube. Having researched the life of Charice since September 2009, checked and rechecked, and now with my 250-page book on her ready to go to press, I know that the "twist of fate" happens to be FalseVoice and YouTube. This young man happened to have witnessed and recorded from television to personal computer the Little Big Star performances of Charice, and to have become an instant fan. On TV and on the PC, he had been awestruck that so tiny a girl had so big a voice, and how lovely!

Twist of fate. From my long interview with FalseVoice March 2010, I know that on 2006 January, his family finally was able to buy him a PC, as well as pay for an Internet connection. He was soon surfing the Web; he was soon into YouTube, this free video site that was new at that time. As FalseVoice was enamored with watching concerts live or on TV, he had been watching the ABS-CBN singing contest called Little Big Star. In 2006 April, the Grand Finals of Little Big Star was held, and Charice lost her dream of the Grand Prize of 1 million pesos - she was ranked #3, not #1, not even #2. FalseVoice had it all in his mind, if not on video. Encouraging as well as discouraging thoughts.

Frank H knows Charice's loss in Little Big Star was bigger than the cash prize: it was psychological. That this loss broke Mommy Raquel’s heart was bad enough; that this wish did not come true broke Charice’s spirit. She went on a depression, and these lasted hours that lasted into days that lasted into weeks that lasted into months. At some points, even Mommy Raquel could not reach her at where she was hiding herself from reality, strumming her guitar as if to drown the silent voices that kept whispering loudly into her ears:
You are ugly.
You don't have enough talent.
You don’t have star quality.
You don’t have a future in the entertainment industry.
And those words kept repeating themselves.
It was the beast of times; it was the worst of times.

Oblivious to all that but remembering the little girl with the big voice, in 2006 August, FalseVoice uploaded a music video with Charice singing “I Will Always Love You” in Little Big Star. He nurtured that upload of his by commenting on the video uploads of others and linking them to his YouTube channel, truly named FalseVoice. One day, he noticed YouTube comments comparing Filipino teenager Charice with American teenager Bianca Ryan who had sang "And I Am Telling You (I'm Not Going)" for her audition for that year's America's Got Talent search.

Conversant in music and suddenly infused with an insight, FalseVoice created probably the very first singing comparison video in the Web. He gave it the name "Face-Off: Bianca Vs Charice" and where Bianca sang "And I Am Telling You (I'm Not Going)" and Charice sang "I Will Always Love You." That was Loser (the Philippine's Little Big Star) Versus Winner (America's Got Talent). The video won. It became a YouTube hit right away, FalseVoice says. The YouTube viewers knew a winner when they saw one.

And that has made all the difference in the life of Charice, who never forgets she owes a deep debt to FalseVoice for her international - and sensational - music career. With YouTube came, over time, Star King, Ellen DeGeneres, Oprah, and David Foster; with that music career came last year the recurring role as Sunshine Corazon in the Fox hit TV series "Glee." Big dreams come true to little girls when they remain true to themselves - and can wait.

Charice's is the story of a mother who discovered her daughter could sing, and of the daughter who asked the mother if she could teach her how to sing, and of the mother who taught the daughter even as she began joining singing contests, so that by the time she had done 100 and won 80 competitions, she was ready for the big time - but the big time wasn’t ready for her, and rejected her mightily: She placed 3rd in the Grand Finals of the ABS-CBN’s 1-million-peso Little Big Star singing contest in April 2006. But all is well even if that didn't end well.

Charice today is the Pop Princess of American mainstream music, according to the New York Post; she is the Concert Princess of Asia according to the American Chronicle. And she is the one that brought more sparkle and more heart as Sunshine Corazon to the popular American TV series Glee. Watch the next episode! And the next, and the next.

Looking at those 2 hale & hearty lovely ladies on the cover of Good Housekeeping, I dream of food. 2011. I dream:

These are the yeast of times, the wurst of times.

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