REALITY SHOW CHRONICLES: Yeng Constantino recalls being rejected by Star In A Million, StarStruck

IMAGE Noel Orsal

Did you know that Yeng Constantino was supposed to be part of Search For A Star In A Million Season 3? Unfortunately, the show was cancelled. A few months later, Yeng joined Pinoy Dream Academy and became its first grand winner.


Yeng Constantino is celebrating her 12th year in the Philippine music industry this 2019.

On December 16, 2006, Yeng was announced as the First Grand Star Dreamer of ABS-CBN's Pinoy Dream Academy.

During the finals night, Yeng garnered 697,648 votes or 37.32% of the total votes, allowing her to win against Jay-R Siaboc and Ronnie Liang, who were part of the final three.

Before releasing numerous hits such as "Hawak Kamay," "Chinito," and "Ikaw," Yeng had to surpass a lot of struggles before making a name for herself in the industry.

The aspiring singer faced rejection several times as she joined televised competitions in both ABS-CBN and GMA-7.

In this exclusive interview with PEP.ph (Philippine Entertainment Portal), Yeng looks back on her journey when she was starting out in showbiz until she became one of ABS-CBN's homegrown singers.

YENG CONSTANTINO'S ABS-CBN AND GMA-7 AUDITIONS

Yeng became known for her stint in the first season of Pinoy Dream Academy, the Philippine version of Endemol's singing competition Operacion Triunfo.

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Endemol is also the producer of ABS-CBN's reality show franchise, Pinoy Big Brother.

But even before joining Pinoy Dream Academy, Yeng has been joining televised reality shows in various TV networks since 2002.

These include IBC-13 and VIVA's Star For A Night and GMA-7's StarStruck.

Yeng recalls, "Before Pinoy Dream Academy, actually, sumasali na ako sa maraming reality shows.

"Siguro hindi alam ng marami, nag-audition ako sa Star For A Night kung saan nanggaling si Miss Sarah Geronimo, Star In A Million kung saan galing si Erik Santos. StarStruck, Star Circle Quest.

"Kasi yung mom ko gusto niya talaga akong maging artista kasi feeling niya hindi profitable maging musikero, kasi nagba-banda ako and the music that I really like that time is pop rock or alternative music. 'Tapos naiisip niyang wala kang magiging pera diyan.

"Kung papasok ka sa entertainment, artista, kasi may impression na kapag artista, mas kumikita sila ng mas malaking pera, and I understand her. Siyempre, sino ba namang magulang ang gusto na maghikahos ang anak nila. Pero deep inside gusto ko talagang maging musikero, that's what I wanted."

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Yeng's auditions in those reality shows only resulted to rejections, until she was able to pass the auditions for the third season of Search for a Star In A Million.

Search for a Star In A Million is ABS-CBN's reformatted version of Star In A Million, which merged with VIVA's Search for a Star that previously aired on GMA-7.

However, there was an unfortunate incident that happened on the show.

"Before Pinoy Dream Academy, ang huli kong in-auditionan is Star In A Million. Natanggap na ako sa first two layers ng audition na yun 'tapos biglang na-cancel yung show.

"Talagang grabe yung spirit ko, bumaba talaga. Parang feeling ko lahat na ng pinto, nag-close na for me."

But after a few months, another opportunity opened up for Yeng.

She says, "May nakakita sa akin sa bar, tumutugtog, talent agent.

"'Tapos noong nakita niya ako, sabi niya, 'May bagong show yung ABS, baka gusto mong mag-audition.'

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"At that time, he didn't know na songwriter ako. Pero nakita niya ako mag-perform on stage, sa may Marikina yun, sa riverbanks.

"Ayun nag-audition ako. And noong time na nag-audition ako, I can remember yung time na nag-audition ako kasi puyat ako noon.

"Galing akong gig, 4 a.m. nakauwi ako ng bahay, and then I had to take a bath, go straight to Quezon City, nakatira pa ako sa Montalban, Rizal, para mag-audition.

"I think I'm wearing brown, brown top, brown skirt.

"Yung heart ko parang nag-sink kung gaano kagaganda yung mga nag-audition, and then naghintay kami ng matagal ng mom ko, 6 a.m., nandoon na kami, 6 p.m., hindi pa ako lumalabas, 'tapos medyo panghuli pa ako na nakasalang.

"Sobrang daming nag-audition no'n 'tapos feeling mo, hopeless ka kasi kapag nakakakita ka ng mas maganda sa 'yo, ewan, umaatake sa akin yung insecurity ko, parang wala yata akong lugar dito sa showbiz!

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"'Tapos kapag nakita mo kung gaano sila kakinis, gaano katangkad or kabalingkinitan, ang tatangos ng ilong, nakakawala ng pag-asa!"

Despite all these doubts, Yeng was chosen to be one of the Star Dreamers of Pinoy Dream Academy.

"Pero I was really glad kasi for some reason, siguro may nakita sila sa akin, kahit feeling ko mas magaganda sa akin yung mga nag-audition.

"And then, dire-diretso na, to the second layer ng audition, third, and then nakapasok ako sa loob ng academy."

YENG CONSTANTINO'S STAY IN PINOY DREAM ACADEMY

Yeng did not expect that she would stay long in Pinoy Dream Academy.

In the first week of the competition, Yeng already got the highest grade among the scholars.

But there were moments when she would be put under probation because she was one of the finalists who got a low score that week.

Yeng recalls her conversation with her father before entering the academy.

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"Ang deal namin ng tatay ko, kahit two weeks ka lang diyan, basta may makakita sa 'yong manager, baka makakuha ka ng recording deal.

"Kasi mahilig magbasa yung tatay ko ng history ng mga musicians, kasi nagtatrabaho yung tatay ko sa library ng Ateneo, so tinitignan niya kung paano kaya makakapasok yung anak ko sa industry.

"So, yun yung ginagawa niya ever since. Sinasabi niya sa akin, 'Mag-audition ka, tumugtog ka sa bar, sumali ka ng singing contest, you just need exposure kasi kung hindi ka pumunta out there, no one's gonna see you.'

"So sa kanya, nakapasok na, 'Sige 'nak, kahit two weeks lang.'

"Parang ang tatay ko, ganun, e. Wala siyang nilagay na pressure sa akin.

"'Enjoyin mo lang yung experience, anak, kahit two weeks lang. May makakita lang sa 'yo, magma-marka ka, kahit two weeks lang.

"And then, yun nga, nagulat ako, parang three and a half months, nandun pa rin ako and then in-announce na nga na ako nanalo and then yeah, the rest is history."

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Yeng Constantino

What does she consider as her most unforgettable moment inside Pinoy Dream Academy?

She answers with a laugh, "Yung nagka-crush ako kay RJ Jimenez, I must say!"

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RJ Jimenez is one of Yeng's classmates in the academy. He performed the songs "Miss Kita Pag Tuesday" and "It's All About Your Love."

Yeng and RJ also wrote and performed the song "If We Fall In Love" inside the academy, which eventually became one of the theme songs of Princess Hours. This Koreanovela was aired in ABS-CBN in 2006.

Yeng explains, "Kasi hindi ko pa na-feel yun ever. Hindi ko siya first crush pero yung nagkaroon ako ng crush na wala yung magulang ko, walang masyado nagba-bawal sa akin.

"Pero ang weird kasi I feel like I'm aware that the world is watching but at the same time, I feel like they're not gonna show this, everything na nangyayari sa akin.

"Pero sobrang hindi pala, sobrang exposure pala niya on TV, yung kilig ko, yung pagiging hopeless romantic ko!"

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"When I look back, I think about it na parang ang kulay lang nung mga naranasan ko do'n.

"Nagkaroon ako ng crush na matindi, nagkaroon ako ng chance na maging mentor yung mga batikan na musikero sa industriya such as Jim Paredes, The CompanY, yung teacher namin sa dance [Maribeth Bichara], ang dami.

"Nagkaroon ako ng workshop for free and what fascinated me is pwede akong kumain ng ganon kasarap araw-araw! Di ko talaga na-experience yun ever.

"Siyempre, di naman kami nanggaling sa mayamang pamilya, so everytime magla-lunch, magugulat ka, parang may piyesta sa loob ng Pinoy Dream Academy, wow."

Still, the scholars of Pinoy Dream Academy were taught to be more responsible, in exchange for the food they would eat each day.

Yeng recalls, "Kapag nakakalimutan mo ilagay yung lapel mo, parang may bawas sa 50, 100 pesos.

"Di pwedeng makalimutan pero makakalimutin ako so most of the time, wala akong budget for food.

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"Nanghihingi ako kela kuya Jay-R [Siaboc], sa mga kasama ko, wala inuuto ko sila! Hahaha! 'Kuya anong niluluto mo? Masarap ba yan?' 'Tapos nakaka-get away ako do'n. Mga ganong things.

"Kasi back then, hindi naman talaga nag-sink in sa 'yo na magbabago yung buhay mo, e, after a huge competition like that.

"And I think I was not mature enough para maintindihan kung ano yung nakalatag after. Kapag 18, sabi, fully grown na yan, with the person like me na medyo sheltered, nah!

"Sobrang baby ako mag-isip, hindi ko pa alam kung ano yung mangyayari after.

"So yun, medyo shocking and nakakapanibago yung pressure."

YENG CONSTANTINO AS PINOY DREAM ACADEMY WINNER

On the night of December 16, 2006, Josephine "Yeng" Constantino was announced as Pinoy Dream Academy season one grand winner.

She garnered the highest number of votes among the six grand finalists. The other five were: Jay-R Siaboc, Ronnie Liang, Irish Fullerton, Panky Trinidad, and Chad Peralta.

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Up to this day, Yeng can still recall the feeling when she was proclaimed winner of Pinoy Dream Academy.

She tells PEP.ph, "Ano yun, una kong hinanap tatay ko sa audience, 'tapos wala siyang reaksyon!

"'Tapos tinanong ko afterwards, 'Pa, bakit wala kang reaksyon?'

"Sabi niya, 'Mas mag-re-react ako kung di ka nanalo. Parang expected ko na.' Nakakakiyak di ba?!

"Gano'n siya katiwala sa akin, sobra akong… I get so emotional everytime kasi I think, yun yung hinahangad ng mga tao na kahit may isang tao na naniniwala sa kaya nilang gawin, pero hindi naman sipsip.

"Yung tatay ko, pinupukpok din ako no'n kung may attitude ako or kapag mediocre yung ginagawa ko. Pero binigay niya yung tiwala niya sa akin.

"Actually, kung film yun, parang feeling ko yung camera, spin lang ng spin.

"Para akong nahihilo na nasusuka na parang overwhelmed ako.

"Para kang mahihimatay na hindi mo maintindihan, tapos a few hours, hindi pa nagsi-sink in sa 'yo.

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"Actually, after ilang days, at saka mo palang masasabi na, 'Wow, nanalo pala ako, lalo na kapag nahawakan mo na yung cash! First time ko nakahawak ng ganun karaming pera. 'Wow! May pera tayo!'"

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For her prize, Yeng won a brand-new car, a condo unit, a recording contract, and one million pesos.

What was the first thing she did with the prize money?

She answers, with all honesty, "Binayaran namin lahat ng utang ng tatay ko.

"Kasi buong buhay ko, yung tatay ko, lagi siyang nangungutang.

"Alam mo yung hindi mo pa nakukuha yung sweldo mo, magbabayad ka na ng utang tapos mangungutang ka uli kasi ubos na ang sweldo mo, so it's a cycle.

"So ayun yung first rule ko, mabayaran yung utang kasi ayoko nang mamroblema siya."

Twelve years later, Yeng remains thankful for that day when she auditioned for Pinoy Dream Academy.

She has heart-to-heart conversations with Erik Santos, who won the 2003 ABS-CBN competition Star In A Million, regarding their good fortune. 

Both of them are now judges in It's Showtime's "Tawag ng Tanghalan" segment. They also top-billed the concert ExtraordinarY held last May 22 at Resorts World Manila.

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"Well, lagi ko ngang naiisip yun, e. From that moment na naka-brown ako ng t-shirt.

"Kami ni Erik, nagbibiruan kami niyan, e. 'Para sa isang nanggaling sa Malabon at isang nanggaling sa Montalban, nandito pa rin tayo, bro!'

"Alam mo yun, minsan, sa 'Tawag ng Tanghalan,' nag-uusap lang kami about it na there's nothing na dapat magpapa-down sa 'yo, kasi kaya siyang i-brush off with one thought na we have been blessed na ang trabaho namin is yung thing na sobrang love namin the most.

"If we feel so down, isa yun sa mga secret places na pupunta kami.

"Salamat, nandito pa rin kami.

"I remember, mukha akong puno pero nakapasok ako doon! May ganung feeling."

YENG CONSTANTINO ON LOYALTY TO ABS-CBN

For the past 12 years, Yeng has remained loyal to ABS-CBN, her home network.

According to the "Hawak Kamay" composer, she is very grateful to the Kapamilya network not only for giving her a break in showbiz, but for giving her tough love when she was still starting in the industry.

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"I'm grateful na pinanganak ako sa ABS bilang musician, bilang entertainer.

"Parang ang sarap noong feeling na dahil dito ako pinanganak, alam mo yung parang siyempre, sa pamilya, kapag sa ibang tao, mas mabait sila, yung parents mo, pero kapag sa anak nila, mas istrikto.

"I kind of felt that, lalo na noong nag-uumpisa ako, parang alam ko na lahat ng discipline na tinamo ko noong nag-uumpisa ako ay preparasyon lamang kung para sa kung sino ako naging ngayon."

Yeng admits that initially, the discipline was a hard pill to swallow, especially when network executives asked her to reinvent her music and explore other styles.

She continues, "Minsan, iisipin mo, ang hirap naman i-swallow noon, ganito ganyan, lalo na pag immature ka pa.

"Feeling ko dati, pop rock music lang yung cool. Wala nang ibang cool.

"Ayokong kumanta ng ganyan, ayokong mag-heels, ayokong mag-make-up, gusto ko ganito, ang peg ko si ganitong artist, why transform me into someone I'm not?

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"Pero hindi pala, bilang tao magu-grow ka pala talaga, and a lot of things, feeling mo, ayaw mo before, makakabuti pala sa 'yo and you will grow to like it.

"Like for example, make-up, sobrang importante niya bilang artist, di ba? Pero, at the same time, hindi ko na siya ginagawa ngayon dahil kailangan, pero dahil gusto ko na talaga siya.

"It's a craft na grateful ako na na-equip ako, hobby ko na talaga siya.

"Fashion, hindi naman pwedeng naka-jeans at naka-t-shirt ka lang, e. Papagalitan ka ng management because feeling nila, may mas mai-gaganda pa porma mo and deserve ng mga Kapamilya natin to see you in a more glamorous way.

"Dati, sobrang sakit no'n kasi nag-uumpisa ka, 'Di ko naman ginusto to, e! pero I needed that, e.

"So, I'm so grateful talaga sa ABS-CBN, sa lahat ng naging managers, handlers ko, sa lahat ng opportunities na binigay nila.

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"Masarap, e, masarap pagkatiwalaan. Kaya ganun ako sa tatay ko kasi yung trust na binigay niya sa akin, ibang klase, e. Even ng network, sobra."

Still, Yeng admits that there was also a time when she thought of exploring other career opportunities outside ABS-CBN.

She narrates, "I would be honest, siguro dati, na-consider ko kasi everyone's going over the bakod. Baka tama rin for me yun.

"Pero I'm glad I waited for my turn kasi when it happened, it was so glorious, napakaganda.

"Mahanay ka sa mga batikasng singers? Makita mo na, 'Ay, dumating na yung panahon ko, sinasabay na ako sa mga ganitong singers, mga iniidolo ko lang dati?' Wow!

"So minsan, sikreto lang sa career... I mean di ko naman masisisi yung iba, they made the decision kasi they felt that it will benefit them, so okay lang yun."

Yeng believes that based on her experience, patience truly pays off, especially in an industry where competition is very stiff.

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"For me, sa journey ko, waiting minsan, napaka-importante.

"You have to wait for your turn and everybody will get their turn.

"Basta ikaw, kung ano binigay sa 'yo, do your best. Two lines ng kanta, give it all. Meron kang 20 seconds na exposure sa TV, give it all, look your best and show the network that pinapapahalagahan mo yung opportunity na binibigay nila sa 'yo."


ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Enjoys life by binge-watching pinoy teleseryes.


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