Singing my Heart Out

I once joined an amateur singing contest when I was younger.

Much younger.

It was the summer of 1994 and I was a college freshman in UPLB. Walking along campus one day, two of my friends and myself, came upon a stray poster announcing an amateur singing contest to be held the coming weekend.

“Sali tayo!” said one of my buddies.

“Ano ka? Lasing!?” I retorted.

Now, I had a half-decent voice but certainly not good enough for competition. Besides, the prospect of humiliating myself in front of the local townsfolk was not something I savored. By this time however, my other friend has already warmed up to the idea and was egging me on as well.

“Sige na! It’s a once in a lifetime thing!”

“Damn right! I’m going to die once I go up on stage”

The guys had made up their minds to sign up and I was going along with the plan whether I wanted to or not.

After registering with the organizers, we spent the rest of the week (when we weren’t in class) planning what we were going to sing and wear.

I was nervous.

I had performed in public before having had a band in high school but this was the first time I was going to perform without a guitar. I never realized that I used my guitar as a sort of security blanket and the prospect of facing a group of people who was there to judge my singing skills without a shield of some sort was terrifying.

“Anu’ng kakantahin mo?” I asked my friend.

“Isa sa mga kanta ni Basil Valdez” he said which was a great idea since his songs were a staple of almost all of the amateur singing contest in the Philippines…unless all of the participants happened to be girls of course.

“Ikaw?” I asked my other buddy.

“Burt Bacharach stuff siguro.”

A bit unusual but a good choice.

What was I going to sing?

My band played mostly rock songs and I didn’t know any songs that would be fit for a singing contest.

“Sing what you know” was my friend’s sage advice.

“Puro rock alam ko. Lalo akong ‘di mananalo nito.”

“Whoever said anything about winning?”

The reason why we’re joining the contest, he explained, was not because we were trying to win (though this particular friend had a good chance with his smooth baritone). We we’re there to gain experience, push our luck, and most importantly have fun.

Winning will be just icing on the cake.

So I picked Will I Ever Survive by the Introvoys to sing.

The day of the contest came and we found ourselves among the throng of other contestants accompanied by their assistants and stage mothers. I felt like a fish out of water among with these full made up sirens in their sparkling dresses and graceful manners.

We were wearing our best long sleeved shirts, our rarely used slacks, and our borrowed leather shoes. My shirt was several sizes too big for me being a hand me down from my uncle (I was also quite thin back then).

I was really beginning to feel nervous and insecure by the time my friend was called on stage to perform for the crowd and the judges. He gave us a big smile, went up on stage, and sang his piece. My other buddy, glad he was not the first of us three to perform, soon followed after and did a decent number of a song whose title I now forget.

Soon it was my turn and the applause of the crowd was drowned out by the beating of my heart…or maybe the crowd wasn’t applauding that’s why I can hear my heartbeat.

Have fun.

Those were the words in my head as I took the mike and the band launched into the first few bars of the intro. And as soon as I started singing the first few lines that was exactly what I did…have fun.

I didn’t care anymore if I won or not.

Only that I loved this song (the Introvoys was one of my favorite bands as a teenager), I was having fun as I performed it, and that the crowd was singing along with me and apparently having fun as well (much to my pleasant surprise).

After singing the last line, I was much applauded and I stood there a few seconds longer than what was instructed to bask in the people’s adoration.

Suffice to say I didn’t win. Neither did my two buddies.

But I was glad we did join the contest (though you could never make me admit it to my two friends back then).

We gained experience, pushed our luck, and most importantly we had fun.

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