Eight contenders sing creditably in "Celebrity Duets 2" pilot episode

by Bettina Sandiego
Aug 25, 2008
In the August 23 pilot episode of Celebrity Duets Season 2, viewers listened and watched the contenders for the first time: (top, from left) Bayani Fernando, Cory Quirino, Joey Marquez, and Melanie Marquez; (bottom, from left) JL Cang, Carlene Aguilar, Phil Younghusband, and JC Buendia.

Viewers can expect fun-filled nights once again on Saturday evenings as the much-anticipated second season of Celebrity Duets aired its pilot episode last weekend. Last Saturday, August 23, celebrities from different fields graced the concert stage and delivered spectacular duets with some of the country's esteemed music icons and singing superstars.

Celebrity Duets 2 has eight new contenders to jumpstart this electrifying season: Metro Manila and Development Authority (MMDA) chairman and secretary Bayani Fernando; actress and model Melanie Marquez; fashion designer JC Buendia; football player Phil Younghusband; beauty queen Carlene Aguilar; celebrity chef JL Cang; beauty and wellness guru Cory Quirino; and host-comedian Joey Marquez.

A fresh set of judges has also been selected to complement this new batch of contenders. Seated in the judges' panel this season are musical director, composer and arranger Danny Tan; stage and TV director Freddie Santos; and reigning Celebrity Duets champion Tessa Prieto-Valdes. Singers Ogie Alcasid and Regine Velasquez also reprise their roles as hosts.

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For the opening performance, season-one contenders Tim Yap, Wyngard Tracy, and Manny Calayan as well as grand champion turned judge Tessa Prieto-Valdes rocked the concert stage, singing VST & Company's "Awitin Mo" with season two's celebrity contestants.

After this exhilarating number, it was time for the eight celebrity contenders to show the judges their vocal prowess.

Beauty title-holder Carlene Aguilar was the first to perform with a karaoke favorite, Gloria Gaynor's "I Will Survive." For her duet, Carlene was paired with singer-actress Agot Isidro.

"I was surprised," admitted judge Danny Tan, after Carlene's performance. "Hindi ko in-e-expect na gano'n ka kagaling," he told Carlene. "Meron...may boses. Nag-duet kayo ni Agot, hindi ka nawala sa tono, and then yung facial expression mo parang professional singer. Nasira lang nung in-introduce mo si Agot," he laughed. "Pero otherwise, it was a good performance."

Tessa Prieto-Valdes seemed to have the same opinion. "This is the beginning, and you're like pa-buena mano," she observed. "I hope you last longer than the other beauty contestants that we had in season one."

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On Direk Freddie Santos' turn to speak, Ogie jokingly asked him to "be kind."

Freddie obliged and gave Carlene a good comment. "You're very beautiful," he told the beauty queen. "Carlene, you can spell your name with a K. May karapatan ka diyan."

Next to perform was actor-comedian Joey Marquez, who considers singing one of his frustrations in life. For his celebrity duet, he chose Mike Francis' "Let Me In," singing with balladeer Nonoy Zuñiga.

"I love that song, and you guys sounded so macho," commented Tessa. "Very nice. I love it. Parang ikaw yung main singer. Back-up mo si Nonoy," she jokingly told Joey.

As for Freddie Santos, "I'm speechless," he laughed. "I'm supposed kasi to comment on the presence, and the presence was present. 'Tsaka ang lamig ng boses mo...ang lamig talaga," he added.

"Joey, hindi ko akalain na maganda pala yung boses mo," praised Danny Tan. "Mag-enjoy ka lang, more pa." He added, "Medyo parang tensed ka. Pag ang notes mo [middleground] lang, okay. Pero nung tumaas ka, medyo nasira. I was also pleasantly surprised na magaling ka pala, he told the comedian."

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Beauty and wellness guru Cory Quirino went next with Abba's "Dancing Queen." She chose this song, she said, because she believes she's more of a dancer than a singer. For her duet, she was paired with the sultry diva, Vernie Varga.

"She has brought wellness to the show," laughed Freddie Santos. "Ang ganda ng chemistry niyo ni Vernie," added Danny Tan. "Kayang-kaya mong lumaban sa kaseksihan ni Vernie. The performance was very fantastic. Ang problema lang, na-o-off mic lang minsan. Just be conscious with your microphone," he advised.

"I love it," smiled Tessa. "Because may dancers sa likod and everything," she exclaimed. She told Cory, "You just have to enjoy the show, and I can feel that you're enjoying."

Next to perform was half-British, half-Filipino football player Phil Younghusband. Phil, who played for the Philippine national team in the 2007 and 2008 South East Asian games, admitted that it's easier for him to play football in front of thousands of people, than to actually sing in front of ten. He was partnered with Aicelle Santos and chose the popular R&B chart-topper, "Umbrella."

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"You have a distinct quality," observed Danny Tan pointed. "And it's good that you're singing current songs, which will really appeal to the young audiences," he added. "Just be conscious, because you can carry a tune definitely. And sustain."

"You're so cute!" exclaimed Tessa. "I can share my umbrella with you! But you have to remember, this is a duet, so you kind of have to interact with your partner a little bit. But you're just so cute. You can do no wrong," she teased.

Freddie Santos, however, went for hand movements to signify his comments. As he was citing his observations, he did some motions with his thumb, which slightly geared upward and downward as he gave one comment after another.

Finally, the formidable director remarked, "Not thumbs-up, not thumbs-down...thumbingi," he joked and pointed his thumb sideways. "But keep smiling," he added.

Beauty queen and actress Melanie Marquez said she wants to make people happy with her singing, and admitted her love for old songs. For her pilot performance, she chose a Whitney Houston classic, "Greatest Love of All," and sang it with R&B prince Jay-R.

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After her performance, Tessa shared, "I love the costume," referring to Melanie's all-white ensemble. "Lend me your wig and the korona, ha? Share after," she joked.

"You do not need the dress, you do not need the burloloy because you are so glowing entirely on your own," Freddie Santos told Melanie. "Kung presence lang ang pag-uusapan, go with the naked truth."

Danny Tan: "Gustong-gusto ko yung confidence ni Melanie onstage." But he advised, "Ang pagkanta kasi hindi kailangan lahat ng word may hand movement, so dahan-dahan lang, konting bawas lang. [But] I love the stage presence and the confidence."

"At isang bagay pa," added Direk Freddie. "She's the first contestant na hindi naka-pako sa teleprompter."

Next was designer JC Buendia, who joined the competition to "unleash his inner geisha." Unknown to some, JC is the designer of Pres. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and is also a member of his church choir. JC chose Robert Palmer's "Simply Irresistible," which he sang with singer Randy Santiago.

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"Ayon sa mahiwagang bolang kristal...," Direk Freddie paused, "may pupuntahan ka naman."

"Si JC, parang sinapian ngayong gabi," added Danny Tan, "kasi akala ko napaka-reserved ka na tao. Ngayon, I loved the energy. Ibang personality ka ngayon, so congratulations. Konting rapport pa with your ka-duet, medyo kulang. Mas interaction pa," he told the designer.

"Basta JC, may kasamang damit ‘to, ha, after?" joked Tessa. But on a serious note, she said, "Alam mo, I know how hard it is to be there. First episode pa lang ‘to. Next time, hasa ka na. Don't be nervous!" she told the designer. "Galing. We're all here having fun. That's the key."

Celebrity chef JL Cang went next with his duet of Brownman Revival's "Ikaw Lang Ang Aking Mahal," with Freestyle's Jinky Vidal. According to the chef, he joined Celebrity Duets 2 so that his friends can see him sing on television.

"Grabe ang confidence. Super grabe. Pinangatawanan talaga," remarked Danny Tan of JL's performance. "Energy, okay. Performance, okay. Talagang hindi ka nahihiya, that's good. Tip lang, huwag ka masyadong tumingin sa floor. Madalas ka kasing tumigin sa floor, e," he observed.

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"Parang I can feel myself," observed Tessa. "Sumayaw ka na lang, like me. Pero once in a while, mag-sing ka na rin."

Direk Freddie Santos opted to relate his comments to cooking. "Maybe a little undertime in the cooking. Another ten minutes at 350 degrees would have done it better. But otherwise, you're like comfort food. Enjoyable," he pointed out.

Last to perform was MMDA chairman Bayani Fernando, who considers singing an avenue to show his lighter side. He was paired with singer Renz Verano and chose Rico J. Puno's "Macho Guwapito."

After his performance, the MMDA chairman jokingly reminded the judges, "They have to be a little kind to me. Otherwise, baka paglabas nila, jaywalking kaagad sila." At this, everyone burst into laughter.

"Excuse me, siya ang pinaka-maraming audience. Grabe, sobrang dami!" observed Tessa. "And you can sing," she told the chairman. "Good job. Galing."

"I enjoyed it very much-o," said Freddie Santos in a clear reference to Bayani's song "Macho Guwapito." Direk Freddie gave an uncharacteristically short comment, which prompted Danny Tan to ask the director why he seemed so hesitant to comment. At this, the audience laughed.

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As for the Maestro's comment, he said, "Secretary, nag-enjoy ako. Medyo may konting mali lang ng U-Turn minsan," he laughed. "Pero maganda yung choreo niyo. May interaction kayo ni Renz. Maganda yung chemistry niyo. May gigil factor. Maganda." Then he interjected, "Huwag niyo na akong hulihin," laughed the Maestro.

Catch another exhilarating episode of Celebrity Duets 2 next week. The mechanics of voting shall be announced prior to the show. Like the previous edition, this singing competition is 100 percent based on text votes.

Celebrity Duets 2, directed by Louie Ignacio, airs every Saturday on GMA-7 after Pinoy Records.
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In the August 23 pilot episode of Celebrity Duets Season 2, viewers listened and watched the contenders for the first time: (top, from left) Bayani Fernando, Cory Quirino, Joey Marquez, and Melanie Marquez; (bottom, from left) JL Cang, Carlene Aguilar, Phil Younghusband, and JC Buendia.
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