Meet the Pinay finalist in 'X Factor Australia'

By Rogelio Constantino Medina, The Philippine Star

Posted at Oct 19 2014 12:47 PM | Updated as of Oct 21 2014 09:49 AM

MANILA, Philippines - “I have always wanted to become a professional performer or singer since I was seven years old so I thought of joining 'X Factor Australia' in order to fulfill that dream,” the Glendenning schoolgirl Marlisa Ann Punzalan, who turned 15 years old last Oct. 1, told The STAR in an e-mail interview.

Marlisa is a high school student in Western Sydney. She admitted that she is quite shy and she wants to gain some confidence in singing in front of a big audience.

Two years ago, she sang "Christmas In Our Hearts" with the iconic song’s singer-songwriter himself, Jose Mari Chan, when he had a concert in Sydney. Very shy, she had to be assisted by Jose Mari in holding the microphone when she was asked by the singer what her wish was for her fellowmen back in the Philippines. She was later encouraged by Jose Mari to visit her relatives in the Philippines.

But when Marlisa, in her simple violet and white dress, began to sing, Jose Mari was amazed by such talented voice. She was also asked to join the Sydney concerts of the Aegis band and Sharon Cuneta in 2012.

Last Oct. 15, during her homecoming concert after making it to the finals of the "X Factor Australia" 2014, she attracted a mammoth crowd. She was thankful to her school, the Mercy Catholic College Chatswood, for the warm welcome and to her community in Mount Druitt, Westfield, a suburb of Sydney in the state of New South Wales.

She said, “I am sincerely grateful to each and every one of you who fought with me in this incredible journey.”

It should be recalled that during her audition last July 13 for the "X Factor Australia," wherein she sang the Beatles’ "Yesterday," judge Ronan Keating, who would become her mentor, yelled out his admiration for Marlisa. Other judges Redfoo, Natalie Bassinqthwaiqhte and Dannii Minogue joined Keating in making a standing ovation after Marlisa’s performance, which has reached over two million views on YouTube.com.

Amidst her "X Factor" journey, she has never forgotten her late grandmother, Rosie Ongkingco, whom she found “so strong, so full of life even after her battle with cancer.”

“(She is) the one who introduced me to singing, (she is) my inspiration. I dedicate my performance of 'Yesterday' to her, to all the families who have lost their loved ones or are suffering from cancer, and to my supporters who never give up on me.”

She is also thankful to God for all the blessings. “Without a doubt, we will keep on chasing this dream together according to God’s plan.”

Marlisa first showcased her God-given talent in 2003 at the Australian International Conservatorium of Music (now Australian Academy of Music and Performing Arts), a non-profit independent school of music offering world-class education, as vocal singer and classical pianist, and in December 2005 at Glenfield Home for the Aged. In December 2011, she staged her first solo concert, dubbed as Marlisa and Friends, at the Blacktown’s Basement. She performed solo at the Norman Mitchell Comedy Show in May 2012.

In July 2013, she was a triple gold medalist at the McDonald’s Sydney Eisteddfod Performing Arts Challenge.

Interestingly, her parents, Lito and Andrea, come from Bataan province and they used to be neighbors and childhood sweethearts. Her dad migrated to Australia in 1982 while her mom arrived in the Land Down Under in 1990.

“I am blessed to have supportive parents, brother (Martin), relatives (such as her gorgeous little cousins Gabe, Isaac and Elijah doing the promotions for her at their very young ages), friends and supporters, community and charity groups, singing and dancing groups, my vocal coach Roxanne Kiely,” she said.

The young singer has supported a great number of charity events, including the World Childhood Foundation Concert where she helped raise $26,000 to provide support to kids in need around the world. She also took part in a charity concert for the victims of Typhoon Sendong in early 2012 and Typhoon Haiyan (Yolanda) in Eastern and Central Visayas last year.

For her, happiness is an elusive, transitory thing. If you search out for it, you will find it evasive, but if you try to bring happiness to someone else then it comes to you.

Tonight, whatever the result will be, she will be forever grateful for the opportunity to be a part of "X Factor Australia" 2014.

After all, music, as she quoted Angela Monet in her official website, speaks “what cannot be expressed, soothes the mind and gives it rest, heals the heart and makes it whole, flows from heaven to the soul.”

Read more on The Philippine Star.