MANILA - Yohan Hwang, a Korean college student living in the Philippines, took a risk when he decided to abandon his cutesy persona and opted to perform a "serious" ballad like "Wag Ka Nang Umiyak" for his "I Love OPM" grand finals performance.
It paid off handsomely, however, as on Saturday he was named the first-ever grand winner of the singing competition that places the spotlight on foreigners who love and sing Filipino music.
He won P2 million, a one-year recording contract with Star Music, along with several other prizes. He beat out Pakistan's Harris Dio, American singer Ryan Gallagher, and K-pop group J Morning.
"Nagpatunay ka ngayong gabi kasi nage-expect kami na pakikiligan mo kami, ise-serenade mo kami pero iyong binigay mong performance sa amin, ramdam na ramdam ko ang bawat salitang binigkas mo. I feel you!" said judge Toni Gonzaga.
Lani Misalucha, Gonzaga's co-judge, added: "Iyong performance mo kakaiba ngayon, nag-level up ka. At hindi lang iyon, may pinatunayan ka sa aming lahat. Hindi lang ka lang heartthrob, ikaw ay isang singing heartthrob."
Veteran singer Martin Nievera rounded up the comments, praising Hwang for continuing to improve his voice and diction throughout the competition. "You proved to us tonight that Yohan loves OPM!" he said.
The winners were based on a combined score from points given by the judges, as well as the public votes.