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"The Voice Of The Philippines'" Judges Share Their Life Stories

Before they were singing sensations and international artists, "The Voice Of The Philippines'" Lea Salonga, Apl de Ap, Bamboo and Sarah Geronimo were ordinary people first.

They shared their life stories on "Mic Test: The Voice Of The Philippines Primer" aired last Saturday on ABS-CBN. It featured the challenges the four mentor-judges have to go through before they reached their statuses today.

Apl de Ap, the member of world-renowned Black Eyed Peas, told his extraordinary tale of triumphing against the odds when he was adopted by Filipino parents in Pampanga. There, he went into farming with his adoptive grandfather. He has always been proud of growing up poor, he said.

Apl de Ap, whose real name is Allan Pineda, was afflicted with Nystagnus when he was still a child. This ailment caused the rapid and involuntary movement of the eyes. Although it was hard for him to grow up with that, Pineda said it was never a hurdle to pursuing his dreams.

By the time he was 14 years old, Pineda went to the United States and was raised by an American lawyer. Growing up, music has become his comfort zone. He then met the remaining members of the band and together, submitted demo tapes to different recording studios.

However, things were not exactly smooth sailing for the band as they got rejected several times. But Pineda said they kept on pursuing their goals by practicing and writing more songs.

His main goal in mind is to help his family whom he left in the Philippines. Through "The Voice Of The Philippines," Pineda hopes to showcase the extraordinary talents of Filipino singers.

Sarah Geronimo joined several contests before finally landing her big one--a reality singing show in GMA-7. When she was still a child, she would always listen to music, especially songs from Michael Jackson.

In the end, it was her love for singing that enabled her to help the family and save them from financial doom. At that time, Geronimo said they barely have food to eat and they can't even afford to pay their school tuition.

Their financial problems have been her motivation to join GMA's "Star For A Night," which she eventually won.

When the role of a mentor-judge was first offered to her, Geronimo was apprehensive because she thought she doesn't have enough experience to teach young singers. However, the actress-singer realized how important it is to share your blessings and be an inspiration to others. She relented and finally became a mentor-judge for the new ABS-CBN show.

Bamboo Manalac, on the other hand, didn't have the same hardships as Pineda and Geronimo. He grew up in the United States and eventually came back here to join Rivermaya.

When that didn't work out for him, he went back to the States to study and to work. There, he became a shoe salesman. The challenge of having to work to help his family made him appreciate music more, he said.

Now, his whole life revolves around music. His mentality is just to keep everything fresh and interesting for the viewers.

Asked what he was looking for in a contestant, he said he wants someone who can be a "total artist." Manalac said he prefers an artist over someone who was merely there for fame and fortune.

Broadway star Lea Salonga also didn't have an easy life in the industry. But it was relatively smooth-sailing compared to the others.

She was taking pre-med course in college when the opportunity to be part of "Miss Saigon" arrived. Salonga grabbed that opportunity and never looked back.

Making it big in the international scene helped a lot for Salonga to also be noticed in the Philippines. Since the country does not have a big audience for Broadway musicals, Salonga found it hard to enter the Philippine music scene.

Now that she is a part of "The Voice," Salonga said it is another dream come true for her since she has always wanted to mentor aspiring singers.

"The Voice Of The Philippines" will start airing on June 15 (Saturday). It will be hosted by Toni Gonzaga, Robi Domingo and Alex Gonzaga.

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