It is a fact that Filipino singers are some of the best in the world. Musicians from other parts of the world are mesmerized by the kind of singers this small country from the Asia-Pacific region—composed of more than 7,000 islands—can produce.
When the producers of the musical play Miss Saigon failed to find a worthy Asian singer-actress in the United Kingdom, they scoured other countries to find the girl who would play the lead role of Kim for their West End production. They landed on Philippine soil and discovered an incredible pool of superb performers and Lea Salonga stood out among them. Lea's international career opened the doors for other Filipinos to perform abroad.
Even before and after Lea's conquest of the West End and Broadway, there have been other Filipino performers who proved their worth in different musical genres. The newest addition to that elite list is Vienna-based Vincent Bueno.
PINOY SUPERSTAR IN AUSTRIA. Vincent, a full-blooded Filipino born and raised in Vienna, Austria, was the grand winner in Musical! The Show—a reality-based talent competition in Austria much like the American Idol. But instead of pop songs, the contestants perform scenes from some of the world-renowned musicals.
The only Asian among the 10 contestants who made it on the show, Vincent finally beat two Austrians—Eva Klikovics and Gudrun Ihninger—in a landslide win. But before making it on the show, Vincent had to undergo rigorous auditions along with other 400 hopefuls.
Throughout the duration of the show, Vincent performed the following musical numbers: "Hair" from the musical of the same title, "Music of the Night" (Phantom of the Opera), "I Wanna Be Like You" (The Jungle Book), "Superstar" (Jesus Christ Superstar), "Why God Why?" (Miss Saigon), "Singin' in the Rain" from the musical of the same title, and the German version of "Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious!" from Mary Poppins.
During the finals, Vincent did "Greased Lightning" from Grease and an encore of "Music of The Night." In the final face-off, he sang a duet with Eva Klikovics, the "Boote in der Nacht" from Elisabeth.
Vincent's versatility as a performer wowed the judges and all of Europe.
After being declared Grand Champion, Vincent shouted "Philippines!" three times—signifying his pride as a Filipino. Indeed, that was one of the proudest moments for Filipinos captured on worldwide television.
What's more significant is that Vincent is the first Asian—or first Filipino for that matter—to win in a show like Musical!
Vincent's quest in Musical! The Show in Austria was able to reach the Philippines through news programs, newspapers, and, of course, the Internet. In fact, PEP (Philippine Entertainment Portal) was one of the first to break the news of Vincent's victory.
VINCENT'S FILIPINO ROOTS. It was also through the Net that PEP was able to contact Vincent for an online interview after a series of emails. Thanks to his uncle, King Bueno (who is also the Webmaster of digitalpinoy.org, a site that serves Filipinos living in Europe), we managed to interview Vincent online despite his very hectic schedule.
Vinz, as he is fondly called by his family and friends, turned 21 last December 10. His parents, Tony and Cora Bueno, met in Austria and started a family there.
Although Vinz was born and raised in Vienna, he doesn't ever forget his Filipino roots, especially since he is surrounded by almost 70 members of his family—all based in Austria who instilled in him all the positive Filipino values. With his family and relatives surrounding him, Vinz grew up full of love and affection.
Despite all the Deutsch that they speak in Austria, Vincent speaks Tagalog fluently.
And just like most Filipino families, Vinz's family in Austria is also close-knit. In fact, they actually see each other once a week for dinner, birthdays, and other special occasions.
Vinz is particularly close to his maternal grandmother, Leoning Mendoza, who is now based in New York. Lola Leoning is Vinz's number one fan and, in turn, the apo is crazy about his lola's adobo.
The young performer is also very close to all his cousins, especially the small ones. He makes it a point to share his spare time going out with them, watch movies or simply play around.
While he was growing up, the talented Vinz was very supportive of the Filipino community in Vienna. He obliged to sing at gatherings and celebrations without asking anything in return. Until now, Vinz assists children's dance groups, showing them his unique style and choreography.
Before Musical! The Show, Vinz was invited to some shows of local Filipino artists in Vienna. In fact, a few months before Vinz joined Musical!, he guested on Sarah Geronimo's concert there.
For those who are curious if Vinz has a girlfriend, sorry to disappoint you, ladies. Vinz is going out with a beautiful Austrian lady named Barbara. Vinz's girlfriend even came up on stage after he was declared winner in Musical! The Show.
Get to know more about Vincent through the following online interview with PEP:
PEP: How does it feel to be the grand winner of Musical! Die Show?
VINCENT: The word "happy" is too small to describe my real emotions. It makes me proud to be a Filipino. WE did it!
PEP: What were your most memorable experiences in the show?
VINCENT: Personally, the song "Singing in the Rain" is for me one of the most beautiful stories on stage. It felt like I was in a movie. That was great fun! "Music of the Night" (his last performance) from the Phantom of the Opera, ang hirap ng piece na ito. Pero I just imagined me being and living that figure. Yun ang pinaka-challenge para sa akin.
PEP: What's your favorite performance?
VINCENT:Hindi lang isa, e, pero "Hair" was on fire! ("Hair" was Vincent's first-ever performance).
PEP: Was it your personal choice to sing "Why God Why?" from Miss Saigon in one of your performances? Did Lea Salonga's portrayal of Miss Saigon influence your decision to sing that piece?
VINCENT: We didn't choose any of the songs, sila nagbigay. Pero I have my total respect for Miss Lea Salonga, because I knew her even before I started studying musical-theatre and she was one of my biggest inspirations in that genre. I enjoyed the song simply because of it's wonderful music and ang ganda ng Chinese partner ko, named Kun.
PEP: Did you find any difficulty or problem being the only Asian among the contestants? How were you able to cope?
VINCENT: Actually, I carried the thought in mind: I'm not gonna win this contest because I'm not white (puti). Kase dito sa Austria, there's a lot of discrimination. We cannot avoid that in the whole world. My point is, sa mga shows na nangyari dito, wala pang nanalo na Asian, African, basta ibang nationality. Kaya speechless ako sa nangyari sa akin!
PEP: What other music genres do you like? Why Broadway?
VINCENT: I compose my funk, soul music in German and in English. Why Broadway? It's not Broadway, it's the genre that we call here in Europa—musical. Lea Salonga was or is in Broadway. My biggest dream is to earn my money with Art and that means doing my own style of music, acting, and expressing my body with dance. My idols are the Streetboys—if they'll read this, Meynard (Marcellano) is my idol! LOL! Being an artist is not just to look good and pose on TV, it's deeper. I wanna change and move something in the human hearts.
PEP: Are there Filipino performers you also look up to?
VINCENT: I love Gary V. His energy reminds me of mine, ‘coz we also have the same intention in moving people... Regards sa kanya!
PEP: Have you been to the Philippines?
VINCENT: Siyempre! Well, my Mom and Dad are both Filipinos. Dito na sila (sa Austria) nagkakilala. Almost all of my mother's sisters are living abroad—except for one who is in Nueva Vizcaya. My relatives from Dad's side are in Manila. My last visit was I think in 2002, we had a family reunion.
PEP: What are your plans for the future? Is there are any chance Pinoys can watch you in Broadway?
VINCENT: As I've said, Broadway is another liga. Kase I'm not in the States or in London. But I look forward to work there someday. But my homepage is coming soon. Just Google my name, you'll find lots of details for the coming shows. I hope I get to come there through ABS-CBN—that would be one of my dreams also.
PEP: If there's an offer for you from the Philippines, like from ABS-CBN, would you accept it? Do you also have interest in acting on television or movies?
VINCENT: Siyempre! Pero dito nga sa Europe, madami pa rin akong gagawin. That means kung magagawa kong ganito na maybe a movie in the Philippines and hindi mag-conflict ang mga schedules ko sa Europe, I will do it, of course.
PEP: What's your message to the Filipinos all over the world?
VINCENT: Mga kababayan, you have to believe. That is our duty to be different. If you listen deep in your hearts, you'll realize that in silence, we all know what's right. Let us be proud to be Filipinos. I am! Be a change and keep reaching for greater things. That will keep us alive. Mabuhay!