It started on a high note and ended with a bang. PhilPOP 2016 couldn’t scream the capacity of local songwriting louder than it did last July 23 at the KIA Theater in Quezon City. 12 finalists—all from different sides of the Filipino soundscape—came together to showcase their talents as songwriters and performers to a few thousand people and five judges for the title of this year’s PhilPOP Champion.

Rico Blanco, Randolph Estrellado of Maynilad, Gloc-9Joanna Ampil, and Noel Cabangon deliberated as judges for this year’s competition.

The Judges (Gloc-9, Randolph Estrellado, Joanna Ampil, Rico Blanco, and Noel Cabangon)

From heartfelt acoustic performances, elaborate dance numbers, to grand entrances, every performance proved the current state of the local creative pool. It is surely flourishing, and songs such as The Benjamins‘ “Tinatangi” (interpreted alongside Cooky Chua and Bayang Barrios), showed the audience a different side of pop music. “Tinatangi” gives a taste of how the youngest participants of PhilPOP 2016 deeply cherish their Filipino roots, from the overall feel and lyrics of the song, down to their ethnic garbs.

The Benjamins with Cooky Chua and Bayang Barrios
The Benjamins with Cooky Chua and Bayang Barrios

Influenced by the fun aspects of ska music, The Juans‘ rendition of Johann Garcia‘s “Binibini sa MRT” brought the evening to a different direction. With fans rushing up to the front of the stage and cheering on their favorite local act, the boys of The Juans switched vocal duties as their own binibini danced around them.

Subsequently, one of the artists to perform his own composition, Ramiru Mataro appeared on top of a higher platform, backed by dancers for his entry “Kahon.” Channeling the spirit of Michael Jackson, Mataro’s slick moves paired with his heavily Rn’B song had heads bopping in the crowd.

The Juans with Johann Garcia's "Binibini sa MRT"
The Juans with Johann Garcia’s “Binibini sa MRT”

As Banda Ni Kleggy tossed lines over Aikee Aplacador‘s “Pabili Po,” Yassi Pressman prepared for her superstar entrance right at the doors of the KIA Theater. The gorgeous interpreter of Mike Villegas and Brian Cua‘s “Dumadagundong” stole the hearts of the audience, but it was with Kenjhons‘s take on Karl Gaurano and Daryl Reyes‘s “Friday Night” that had everyone laughing staring blankly at his killer dance moves.

Yassi Pressman
Kenjhons brought on the laughs with “Friday Night”

Teamwork between songwriter Soc Villanueva and interpreters Jason Dy and The Akafellas on “Lahat” was one of the most stellar at this year’s PhilPOP competition. Written as his wedding vow to his wife for their 25th anniversary, Soc Villanueva’s composition was taken with a smooth Rn’B feel, reminiscent to Alicia Keys’s 2004 Billboard Music Award-winning hit “If I Ain’t Got You.”

Standing lovely in a white dress was Monica Cuenco for her rendition of Keiko Necesario‘s “Nobody But You.” Her performance was sweet, and she proved herself as the ideal singer to represent the endearing pop song.

Jason Dy backed by The Akafellas

Inspired by society’s tendency to forget the things that matter, Jazz Nicolas and Wally Acolola‘s heartbreaking song “‘Di Na Muli” had the audience holding back tears, as it seemed as though Nicolas too was trying to keep his to himself. He kept his eyes closed for most of the performance, pretending it was just him and the Itchyworms in the hall.

Jazz Nicolas

Bringing back girl groups are Sugar N’ Spice with Joan Da‘s soul pop song “Baliw sa Ex-Boyfriend Ko.” The bubblegum pop number was interpreted with synchronized choreography, almost like how Kpop stars Girls’ Generation brought back the classic ’50s moves and sound with “Lion Heart.”

Nyoy Volante carried his silent guitar onstage for songwriter Jeroel Maranan‘s “Sintunado.” The pairing was a good one; Maranan chose the perfect singer to champion his composition, and in turn Volante allowed Maranan’s work shine with an acoustic charm.

Last to perform was Jimmy Marquez (who had just performed at the KIA Theater just the week before with Gary Valenciano) with A Capella Go for their interpretation of JC Jose‘s “Stars are Aligned.” Out of all the performances, they were the only ones who relied completely on the power of their voices.

Nyoy Volante
Jimmy Marquez & A Capella Go

Shortly after a medley featuring the songs that won PhilPOP in the past, Jason Dy and Soc Villanueva accepted the Maynilad People’s Choice Award. PLDT-SMART then presented the Best Music Video award to The Benjamins.

With all the anticipation in the concert hall, Boys Night Out and Bela Padilla called The Benjamins centerstage to take the 2nd Runner-Up trophy for “Tinatangi,” Soc Villanueva and Jason Dy for the 1st Runner Up trophy, and Jazz Nicolas and Wally Acolola as the Grand Prize Winner for “‘Di Na Muli.”

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