Winning, as it turns out, isn’t everything. Anyone joining a talent contest would rightfully have their eyes on the prize – usually a lot of money, property, and a recording deal – but that doesn’t always guarantee their future.
While placing on top is definitely a step in the right direction, pursuing a music career is unpredictable and you never know what cards you’ll get dealt with – no matter how well you do. American Idol alone has launched the likes of David Archuleta, Chris Daughtry, Katharine McPhee, Adam Lambert, and of course, Jennifer Hudson, the youngest woman to reach EGOT status, even when they didn’t walk away with that grand prize.
Similarly in the Philippines, there’s a plethora of talented musicians who, despite losing their respective competition shows, ultimately won the world with their music. Check some of them out here.
Christian Bautista was a finalist in the 2003 show Star In A Million, which Erik Santos ended up winning. He signed a recording contract with Warner Music Philippines shortly after his elimination as one of the most popular contestants at the time. His self-titled debut album, Christian Bautista, went multiplatinum with singles like “The Way You Look At Me,” “Hands To Heaven,” and “Colour Everywhere.”
Mark Bautista placed as first runner-up to Star For A Night champion Sarah Geronimo in 2003. He soon signed with ABS-CBN, where he became an ASAP regular, and even hosted the singing competition Search For The Star In A Million. His debut album, Dream On, became successful thanks to the staying power of its lead single “I Need You,” which topped MYX’s daily top 10 list for eight weeks.
Moira Dela Torre
Moira Dela Torre‘s time on The Voice Of The Philippines in 2013 was short-lived: turning only one chair during her “Hallelujah” blind audition and getting eliminated in the battle round. Fans nonetheless took notice of her winning interpretation of the 2017 Himig Handog song entry “Titibo-Tibo,” her 2018 best-selling album debut with Malaya, and her sold-out first concert that spawned a second night due to insistent demand. She later became a judge on Idol Philippines.
Darren Espanto concluded Canada’s The Next Star as a finalist in 2012 and the Philippines’ The Voice Kids as runner-up to Lyca Gairanod in 2014. Afterward, he became part of ABS-CBN’s talent management arm Star Magic. Espanto released his albums Darren and Be With Me in 2014 and 2016 respectively, which both became platinum and topped Apple’s iTunes store locally making him the youngest artist in the Philippines to achieve such a feat.
A 13-year-old Juan Karlos “JK” Labajo finished third behind Espanto and Gairanod on the first season of The Voice Kids in 2014. He similarly entered Star Magic and has since released two studio albums by himself and with his band, Juan Karlos. His most successful song, “Buwan,” was one of the most-played tracks in 2018 and would win Song of the Year at the MYX Music Awards, among other accolades.
Morissette finished Star Factor as runner-up to Eula Caballero in 2010 and The Voice Of The Philippines as a semi-finalist in 2013. She then released her eponymous debut studio album, Morissette, which would reach platinum status. The singer later gained widespread recognition after consecutively representing the Philippines at South Korea’s Asia Song Festival, upon which she was labeled “Asia’s Phoenix” in reference to her vocal range and whistle register.
Daryl Ong tried out for Pinoy Pop Superstar in 2005 and Pinoy Idol in 2009, then became a semi-finalist on The Voice Of The Philippines in 2014. His music career only took off, however, when he began singing hit theme songs for local shows, including Bridges Of Love‘s “Ikaw Na Nga,” On The Wings Of Love‘s “Stay,” FPJ’s Ang Probinsyano‘s “Basta’t Kasama Kita,” and Ikaw Lang Ang Iibigin‘s “How Did You Know,” among other hit soundtracks. He was also part of the breakout success Budakhel, a group act he formed with fellow R&B acts Bugoy Drilon and Michael Pangilinan.
Sheryn Regis was the frontrunner to win Star In A Million in 2003, with eventual champion Erik Santos later acknowledging “she was the one to beat.” Although the new mother narrowly missed out on the million-peso prize she had needed and hoped for, her life changed after she was offered a recording contract with Star Records and released her signature song “Come In Out Of The Rain.” Regis would be dubbed as the “Crystal Voice of Asia” and “Queen of Teleserye Theme Songs,” as heard in her multiplatinum albums, gold records, and work on Marina, among others.
Julie Anne San Jose
Julie Anne San Jose lost Popstar Kids in 2005 but joined the show’s spin-off singing group Sugarpop together with her co-finalists including winner Rita Daniela. She grew up to become the “Limitless Star” who was one of the country’s best-selling recording artists of the 2010s. Her self-titled debut album, Julie Anne San Jose, made her the youngest Diamond Record Award recipient from the Philippine Association of the Record Industry, with “I’ll Be There” becoming the first single to ever be certified — at quadruple platinum no less.
Aicelle Santos made a name for herself as the “First Undefeated Pinoy Pop Superstar” by achieving eight wins in a row on Pinoy Pop Superstar, only to end the competition second to champion Gerald Santos in 2006. She quickly signed an exclusive management contract and a recording deal with GMA Artist Center. The “Asia’s Soul Flair Songstress” would later represent the Philippines in Kazakhstan’s Astana Music Festival, where her rendition of Vehnee Saturno’s “Bakit ‘Di Subukan” won Best Performance of Own Country Song.
J. Rey Soul
J. Rey Soul competed on The Voice Of The Philippines in 2013, choosing apl.de.ap as her coach but losing in the battle round. She still made the right call to join Team Apl as she soon signed with his label, BMBX. From there, she collaborated with the Black Eyed Peas on Masters of the Sun Vol. 1 upon Fergie’s departure, before formally joining, collaborating, and touring with them in their upcoming music activities.
Zack Tabudlo was introduced to the world on The Voice Kids in 2014, passing his blind audition with “Sunday Morning” but bowing out immediately in the next round. His recording career began when he joined MCA Music through the sub-label Island Records Philippines and released his debut single, “Nangangamba.” Tabudlo’s breakthrough came in the form of his record-breaking “Binibini” topping Spotify’s Philippines charts, then “Pano” becoming the longest-running number-one OPM song on Spotify Philippines, debuting on the Billboard Philippines Songs chart as its first number-one song, and charting in other Southeast Asian countries.
Zephanie competed on The Voice Kids in 2015 and Tawag Ng Tanghalan in 2017, which Elha Nympha and Janine Berdin respectively won. The third time proved to be the charm in Idol Philippines, where she became the show’s first winner in 2019 after a number of viral performances. Her reward was a P2-million cash prize, an all-expense-paid trip to Taiwan, Camella Homes property, and a Star Music contract. That was only the start as she was dubbed “This Generation’s Pop Princess” with several big awards and millions of music streams to her name.
Jake Zyrus, formerly known professionally as Charice Pempengco, placed third on Little Big Star behind winner Sam Concepcion in 2006. He later performed on The Ellen DeGeneres Show and The Oprah Winfrey Show, before performing with the likes of Celine Dion, David Foster, and Andrea Bocelli. His international debut album, Charice, became the first album of an Asian solo artist to enter the Billboard 200’s top 10 and spawned the globally successful single “Pyramid”.