On a slow Friday evening, while the rest of Oman is enjoying a much needed weekend break, the Al Falaj Hotel was flooded with people.
It is seldom that Filipinos in Oman come out by the hundreds for an event and if they ever make an effort to put everything on pause, there should be a very good reason.
And on June 22, there was a very good one.
With music a big part of its culture and tradition, one of Philippine’s best singers and currently dubbed as Asia’s Phoenix because of her ability to rise from the ashes and reinvent herself was in town and because her show is only but for a night, it was a spectacle the overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) just cannot miss.
Twenty-two-year-old Morisette Amon is a phenomenon — a force to reckon because of her voice that can draw crowds. In the last five years, she has cemented herself as a young diva in the Philippines who can sell tickets and croon songs and popularise them as she infuses them with her signature vocal acrobat.
While June 12 of each year is celebrated as the Philippine Independence Day, the event called “Likhang Pinoy” [Filipino-made] is a post-independence day event which aimed to not only commemorate the many sacrifices made by Philippine heroes but to provide OFWs in Oman (considered modern heroes in the Philippines due to their remittances) an avenue to meaningfully commemorate and celebrate the country’s freedom.
Organised by the Filipino Community Social Club (Filcosoc), the celebration’s main highlight was a cultural attire competition putting front and centre the love of every Filipinos for tradition and good clothing. With 10 competitors donning some of the most dramatic and flamboyant of Philippine traditional costumes generating claps and cheers from the audience, it was Amon, however, who was the primary force in drawing the crowd.
Mila, a domestic helper, has to travel for two hours just to get to the venue. She has to ask for special permission from her employer just to attend the event. Her case was no different to many others who seldom hear songs being sung live in their national language.
Morisette has had concerts in Qatar, UAE, and Bahrain in the last four years and this is her second time in Oman. During the mini-concert, it was easy to see why Morisette was a favourite amongst OFWs not only in Oman but in the Gulf region and other countries abroad. Other than her spectacular voice making the most difficult of notes sound so easy, she is also charismatic and emphatic thanking the attendees for their sacrifices and speaking of her awareness of their plight especially the hardship of moving away from home leaving a family behind in order to pursue a dream.
As a product of Philippine’s gruelling singing competition scene, she has to move away from home at a young age to go to the capital to test out the country’s competitive entertainment industry.
“Although the distance is not as far as where you have to go, I understand how it feels to be away from your family. And it is for this reason that I am here, to bring joy to all of you in the little way that I can,” she would gush in her national language to hundreds of her fans.
“Tonight is an evening of memories. And I thank you all for coming and joining us tonight,” she said.
Morisette sang about six songs — a good portion of them were slow ballads which she infused with her unique style of singing. Two of the stand out performances of the evening was her cover of Little Mix’s chart-topper Secret Love Song and the Philippine favourite slow song Shine.
The crowd can be seen singing along with her and every performance was met with thunderous applauses.
“I came here to hear her whistle. When you hear Morisette, you think Phoenix. So you think of a wide repertoire and excellent vocal prowess. As the ‘Mariah Carey of Asia’, you know that it will be a memorable performance,” Vianney Antonio, an expat working in the hospitality sector, shared.
“You see a lot of people going out of their way to come here. That is her star quality speaking. She’s really good and she truly didn’t disappoint,” she added.
Right after the event, even the meet and greet was a blockbuster. Hundreds of fans stayed until 10 in the evening just to get Morisette’s autograph and a photo with her.
‘I commend the Filcosoc leadership as well as all its members, affiliate organisations, sponsors, and other persons and establishments of goodwill whose cooperation has made this event a reality. I hope we all keep up the good work,” Ambassador to Oman, Narciso T Castañeda, said in a letter read by a representative during the event.
He added, “I am happy that Likhang Pinoy (Filipino-made) is the theme of this celebration to put importance on our sovereignty and nationalism.”
Other performers of the evening included Idyllic Band, Key of Seven, Nizwa Band, and the Vamoz Band.
The current Filcosoc Board of Directors is comprised of Chairman Edgardo M Lora, Vice Chairman Roland S Leaño, Secretary Annie Domede, Treasurer Vivian Ballena, Auditor Rosalie Regalado, Programme Directors Donald Colegado and Jennifer Estrada, Sports Director Gerry Manglicmot, PR Director Marianito Valian and Sgt at Arms Alliver Revilla and Gil Gomez.