MANILA, Philippines -- Purposely avoiding any chance of her fellow Filipinos getting "mad" over her rendition of the national anthem, teen singer Kirby Asunto stuck to the basics when she performed "Lupang Hinirang" before a million-plus audience.
And it paid off.
Asunto, a Filipina teen based in New Jersey, was aware that her performance during the June 9 bout of Pinoy boxing superstar Manny Pacquiao would be watched by millions, including the boxing icon's passionate fans in the Philippines.
Asunto sings 'Orange-Colored Sky' at dzMM
"Iniisip ko 'yung Pilipinas eh, syempre pinapakinggan nila eh, so I should not get it wrong because they're going to get mad at me. Iniisip ko talaga na habang kumakanta ako, I have to get this right," Asunto said in an interview on dzMM Thursday.
Unlike earlier and more controversial performances of the national anthem in previous Pacquiao bouts, Asunto's a capella rendition of "Lupang Hinirang" at the MGM Grand Arena in Las Vegas earned her praises.
The 14-year old singer said it also helped she couldn't see the audience.
"Kaunti [lang 'yung kaba], kasi hindi ko naman po nakikita 'yung mga tao eh, kasi madilim. So okay lang sa 'kin," she said, adding, "Nung rehearsal kinabahan talaga ako, kasi first time ko doon sa MGM."
Singing in the US
Although her MGM stint would be her first before millions, Asunto has had her share of the limelight in the United States.
Born on November 6, 1997 in the Philippines, Asunto had been performing in numerous events for the Fil-Am community in the East Coast.
She had her first taste of success in the US when she won the regional and national level competition for Child Access Broadway. She was also the grand champion junior level in Philippine Fiesta Idol in New Jersey.
In the Philippines, Asunto also performed during the inaugural ball of President Benigno Aquino III in 2010.
She was also the front act for Journey frontman Arnel Pineda’s concert in Atlantic City and only a week before performing at the MGM Grand Arena, she performed during the Philippine Independence Day parade on Madison Avenue, New York City.
Their six-year stay in the US have certainly opened doors for Asunto, and, according to her mother, Shirley, the teen singer already showed promise at a very young age.
"Umalis kasi 'yung asawa ko, one year old and seven months siya (Kirby). Gagayahin niya 'yung TV. 'Pag gumulong si Britney Spears, gulong din siya. 'Kumanta ka diyan,' bini-video namin para ipadala sa husband ko," Shirley shared with dzMM.
Confidence didn't come easy for the young Kirby, however. Shirley recalled her daughter would perform for their visitors, but with a condition.
"'Pag may bisita ako, may sinadya akong cord na mahaba, tapos dun siya kakanta sa kwarto. Tapos 'yung mga bisita ko nakikinig sa kanya. Nahihiya pa siya. 'May potential 'tong batang 'to,' sabi ng mga bisita ko," Shirley said.
When she was 14, Pacquiao saw that same potential in Asunto. After performing numerous times before Pacquiao, the teenger was personally hand-picked by the boxing icon to sing the Philippine national anthem during his bout against American boxer Timothy Bradley.
"Mixed emotions," Asunto said, referring to her reaction to the news. "Kasi masayang-masaya kasi there are a lot of kids in the Philippines who could sing the national anthem, but he picked me."
Recounting the milestone, she said, "It was really an honor."