Within minutes of her finale week performance on "Tawag ng Tanghalan," Janine Berdin zoomed up as a top trend on Twitter Tuesday, a fact that now appears to have foreshadowed her triumph at the episode's conclusion.
Berdin, 16, was among the second batch of finalists whose performance completed the 12-contender rankings, after the first batch of six artists took the stage on Monday.
With a heartfelt version of "With a Smile," Berdin garnered the highest combined public and "hurado" votes, securing her spot in "Ang Huling Tapatan" to be held on Saturday (June 2) at Aliw Theater in Pasay. That showdown, which also now includes second-ranked Ato Arman, will have the top six finalists competing for the grand prize.
The response to Berdin's performance on Twitter, many of which were about how it moved viewers to tears, was also true for host Vice Ganda, who cried as he thanked the young singer for a reassuring rendition after the comedian's recent bout with depression.
Karylle, who gave Berdin a standing ovation along with fellow judge Erik Santos, was similarly moved, as she was shown trying to hold back tears during the performance.
But this wasn't the first time Berdin stirred emotions in the "It's Showtime" studio. During the semifinals, she gave a heartbreaking twist to the rock hit "Narda" in a performance that went viral online and had judge Ogie Alcasid wiping his eyes as he took his turn to comment.
The impression at the time, at least to Alcasid and some of her fans, was that Berdin has a wealth of experience, both good and bad, to draw from to color her renditions. But as she told ABS-CBN News on Tuesday, her emotionally fueled performances owe more to artistic interpretation, rather than real-life "hugot."
She explained: "Wala naman po akong pinaghuhugutan, kasi love na love naman po ako ng family ko, ng friends ko. Grabe po ang blessings ni Lord sa akin.
" 'Yung akin lang po, kung bakit po sa tingin ng mga tao nakakatagos sa puso 'yung mga kanta ko, it's because, para sa akin, as an artist, as a singer, ang isang piyesa, ang isang kanta, isang story po iyan. Obligasyon ko po bilang singer na i-deliver 'yan nang maayos."
Asked why she thinks her performances touch viewers emotionally, she said: "Feeling ko po dahil -- iyon po, 'yung sinasabi nila -- kakaiba po 'yung mga atake ko sa mga kanta. Alam ko rin po na 'yung pagkanta ko ng bawat song, with my whole heart. Nafi-feel po talaga ng mga tao, kasi mismong ako po, nafi-feel ko po talaga."
Berdin's surprised reaction when told her name was a trending topic on Twitter appeared to be an indication of genuine humility. This, despite her frontrunner status, backed by the fact that her "Tawag ng Tanghalan" performances easily total 20 million views on YouTube alone.
"Sobrang overwhelming po kasi lahat po ng mga kalaban ko kanina mga bigatin," she said, referring to her top ranking on Tuesday. "Grand finalist na po kami lahat, kaya alam ko po na lahat kami magagaling in our own fields, kaya napaka overwhelming po na nagustuhan ako the most sa mga hurado at sa mga madlang people."
The Cebu-based singer went on to thank her supporters, both those who have followed her since her "Tawag ng Tanghalan" debut in January and those who are just recently rooting for her after her recent string of viral hits.
"Ako po dati, estudyante lang ako na nangangarap. Marami pong nagsasabi sa akin na, 'Hindi mo 'yan kaya kasi hindi ka nakakabirit,' pero ngayon nakaabot ako ng ganito kalayo, all because of the people na naniwala sa akin," she said.
With the "Huling Tapatan" only days away, Berdin revealed she already has a song in mind to perform and promised she would bring more of what her fans have come to expect from her.
Aside from hoping to clinch the grand prize, which she foremost intends to spend for the medical expenses of her grandmother, Berdin is eyeing a bigger goal already set by the likes of her idol, KZ Tandingan.
"Parang tumatak na po sa mga utak natin na puwede ka lang sumali sa ganito kalaking kompetisyon dahil nakakabirit ka," she said. "Gusto ko pong burahin iyon, kasi katulad nga po ng [sinabi ng] inspirasyon ko na si Ate KZ Tandingan -- na nag-influence din po sa akin sa ganitong kompetisyon -- ang kaibahan ay hindi po hadlang sa pagtatagumpay."