Two young Philippine singing superstars in Ireland who were reared joining family sing-alongs culminated the Christmas festive season with spinning red chairs on the popular British TV competition “The Voice Kids UK.”
Following last year’s win of UK-born Justine Afante, Aishling Mae Bontoyan (15 years old) from Co. Wicklow and Fiona Cassandra Vargas (14 years old) from Co. Kildare sang against 10,000 contenders and got through the closing bid to impress a coaching panel of famous celebrity singers at the prestigious TV show’s fifth series aired in December 2021.
Bontoyan triumphed as a fourth grand finalist frontrunner with her powerful rendition of Wham classic “Last Christmas.” She won a fully paid family trip to Disneyland Paris, which includes flights, accommodation at the 5-Star Disneyland Paris Hotel, 3-day Disneyland Paris tickets to access the two parks in the resort, and spending money.
Mentored by her idol, Danny Jones, Bontoyan thought being a grand finalist was surreal, saying: “I can’t believe that I have gone that far. I remember looking up to my Ate when I was younger. She was a good singer and I used to copy her moves and her singing style at karaoke parties.”
Vargas’ breath-taking performance of “Remember Us This Way” got her through the semifinals. Like all other contenders and their guardians, she and her father were given free flights and hotel accommodation during the final stages of the competition, which ran for a month in London.
Like Bontoyan, Vargas started joining Filipino karaoke parties since she was three.
“I remember my Lola always used to play ‘Malayo Pa ang Umaga’ and I admired my Kuya who loved recording songs,” she said.
Vargas was the last contestant for the series and was worried there were no places or coaches left.
“Being there was already a big achievement so when I was the last person called, I just sang my heart out and was surprised (Spice Girl) Mel C picked me,” she added.
Born in Ireland, Bontoyan and Vargas actively participate in Filipino community events from a young age.
“I love the Philippines even if I was not born there, and I love that I grew up in such a loving culture. It was an honor being at ‘The Voice Kids UK’, especially representing the Philippines.” Vargas said, “I love the way Filipinos connect and respect each other and how they are so in touch with music and food.”
Bontoyan’s mother, Zenaida, and Vargas’s mother, Sheilla, fully support their daughters’ budding careers and they are very thankful for everyone who have contributed to their recent success. Their message to the girls? “As long as you work hard, keep praying and remain humble,” they said.
Bontoyan and Vargas believe that kids who are gifted with a beautiful voice should go for it. “Not only in singing but in anything. Just try everything,” advised Bontoyan. “Follow your dreams, follow your heart, and take the risk because at the end of the day, it is all worth it!” Vargas concludes.