Before they were champs: El Gamma looks back

ABS-CBN News

Posted at May 18 2015 05:21 PM | Updated as of May 19 2015 01:21 AM

MANILA -- The first-ever "Asia's Got Talent" champion El Gamma Penumbra didn't start out as a shadow play theater group.

Like many Filipino teens, the group's members were avid hiphop dancers in their home province of Bantangas.

In an interview on the DZMM program "Sakto" on Monday, member Marvin Marfa recalled that when El Gamma Penumbra started in 2010, they were competing in dance contests.

"Sikat po dati ang dance contests so madalas po kaming sumasali," he said.

But when they decided to enter the ABS-CBN talent contest, "Pilipinas Got Talent," they thought of changing their act.

"Ang dami po talagang hiphop dancers dito sa Pilipinas. Kung makikipagsabayan kami, baka po hindi kami makasabay o manalo. Kaya nag-isip kami ng bagong act -- something unique, something new sa mga Filipino," Marfa explained.

That's when they thought of doing shadow play, which Marfa said was already popular "all over the world" at the time. "Pero ang concept po ng Pinoy, eh sa amin po 'yon," he stressed.

Improvised

In the beginning, Marfa said they would rehearse in the basketball court in their barangay using a tarpaulin and a halogen light. "Improvised lang po hanggang sa in-improve namin ng in-improve," he recalled.

They became so good at it that in 2011, the group made the finals of "Pilipinas Got Talent." Although they finished only in fourth, so impressive were their performances in the show that the group still landed several high-profile gigs, including a Choose Philippines campaign that became viral online.

When they joined "Asia's Got Talent," they worked again on a tourism theme for the auditions but expanded it to include iconic landmarks in the region.

This proved to be a hit among the pan-Asian audience of the regional show and sent the Filipino group straight to the semi-finals via the coveted "golden buzzer."

On Monday, El Gamma Penumbra performed this audition piece on "It's Showtime."

Challenges

According to Mafa, the group today has 19 senior and 14 junior members although only 13 were able to participate in "Asia's Got Talent," which was held in Marina Bay Sands in Singapore.

With 33 members, Marfa said they choose the members who will perform based on rotation, as well as their availability.

So how do they do it?

"Mahirap kapag nasa likod na po ng screen. Kasi kailangan po ang kilos ay standard, may measurement po talaga, pati ang distance ng mga paa kung saan ipo-posisyon. Once na mawala ka lang sa pwesto mo ay madi-deform na 'yung shadow images. Kaya kailangan po talaga ay koneksyon sa bawat isa sa pagbubuo ng shadow," Marfa said.

"'Yun din po 'yung medyo mahirap sa amin kapag mayroong naaksidente o biglang nagkasakit. Mahirap adjust-an pero sa awa naman ng Diyos ay nagagawan ng paraan," he added.

Asked if El Gamma Penumbra is open to accepting women members, Marfa replied: "Lalaki po or beki pwede pero ang babae po ay hindi namin ina-allow kasi lagi po kaming overnight rehearsal at saka po body contact."

With their recent win, the group hopes to do a world tour to inspire and to spread positivity, while showcasing the Filipino talent.

Part of their prize is a stint at Marina Bay Sands in Singapore.