MANILA, Philippines – Fans of international singer Whitney Houston gathered near the New Hope Baptist Church in Newark, New Jersey on Saturday to bid their farewell to their idol.
Singing Houston’s No. 1 hit, “I Will Always Love You,” the fans were also treated by glimpses of celebrities who attended the exclusive funeral service including Alicia Keys, R. Kelly and Stevie Wonder.
Among the many fans who gathered around the church was Rudolph Manacap, who came from Princeton, New Jersey.
“Die-hard fan ako ni Whitney. Kahit alam kong hindi kami makakapunta dun malapit sa New Hope Baptist Church, ‘yung intensity ng fans dito ‘yun na ‘yun eh. ‘Yung feeling na nandito ka,” he said.
Mercedes Sweidan, who lives in Belleville, New Jersey, was in Newark since last Friday afternoon.
“Masyang malungkot eh,” she said. “’Yung kalungkutan nila dinadaan na lang nila sa pagkanta dahil hindi naman kami makapasok dahil wala ngang mga invitation.”
The fans created their own altar outside the church with hundreds of flowers, balloons, candles, photographs and other memorabilia.
Her Filipino fans also thanked Houston for leaving behind memorable songs, which have become staples in the country’s karaoke bars and in sing-along parties.
“’Yung kanyang mga kinanta, ginagaya din ng mga Pilipino. ‘Yung iba narating ang kasikatan ng ibang Pilipino dahil sa kanya,” Sweidan said.
Fil-Am musicians react
In Los Angeles, Filipino-Americans in the music industry also shared their thoughts on the passing of Houston during a local television launch party to benefit apl de ap'a foundation.
Fil-Am boy band Legaci and Disney star Roshon Fegan said they all grew up on the music of the late music icon.
“We grew up listening to her music. It's just really a shock,” Legaci’s Chris Abad said.
The group’s Del Lazaro added: “I was listening earlier to ‘The Bodyguard.’ I love the movie. That movie had the best song.”
Fegan called Houston one of his biggest inspirations. “She changed the game. She's such a staple in the music business,” he said.
Rex Sampanga, a Fil-Am member of the Recording Industry Association of America, said the death of Houston is a major loss. “I'm glad the industry kind of pulled together this past Grammy weekend to give a little tribute to her,” he said.
Reports from Don Tagala and Steve Angeles, ABS-CBN News North America