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Filipino artists make their mark in the UAE

GN Focus spotlights four artists making waves in the UAE

  • Joselito Echivarria, or Kabayan Bluebird to his fans, is a popular radio presenter in DubaiImage Credit: Supplied
  • Former Philippine Idol Mau Marcelo is a singer at a club in Dubai where she works with her DJ husbandImage Credit: Supplied
  • UAE-based artist Susan De Guzman’s Pintados collection was inspired by the story of the Philippines’ tribesImage Credit: Gulf News Archives
  • Actor Dexter Dalisay will be seen in the Arabic film On Borrowed Time, a comedy by Yasir Al YasiriImage Credit: Supplied

Joselito Echivarria, or Kabayan Bluebird to his fans, is a popular radio presenter in Dubai. Bluebird arrived in the UAE 11 years ago and was among the first batch of presenters behind the now-defunct Filipino programme on Dubai Eye. He now hosts the morning show on Tag 91.1, along with Louie Da Costa.

Becoming an RJ happened by chance, the former broadcast engineer says. “I never thought I would land a job in Dubai as a radio presenter, and be known for it,” he tells GN Focus. Bluebird endeared himself to fans in the UAE with his thick Visayan accent, now part of his trademark. Although he admits to not taking his celebrity status seriously, Bluebird’s legion of fans has seen him being offered multiple endorsement contracts.

He says his listeners keep him going. “I’m just thankful I am able to bring joy to people in my own way.”


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Former Philippine Idol Mau Marcelo has already made a name for herself in the Philippines since her amazing 2006 victory and is set on making her mark in the UAE. The Dubai-based performer first gave UAE fans a taste of her comeback in the singing showdown Expat Duets.

“I still want to be recognised as an international singer, if there is a chance,” a smiling Marcelo told Gulf News in January. “If not, I’m contented with what I have now.”

Marcelo is a singer at a club in Dubai where she works with her DJ husband. The couple left the Philippines for the UAE three years ago for greener pastures and to continue their musical careers. On a recent trip back to the Philippines, the former Idol could not keep a low profile and was invited to guest on popular radio station Wish 107.5 where she sang her winning piece, Whitney Houston’s Try It On My Own.


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Although her work has been exhibited around the world,  Dubai was the latest stage for award-winning UAE-based artist Susan De Guzman’s Pintados collection, which was inspired by the story of the Philippines’ tribes. Her debut solo exhibition was attended by art enthusiasts from around the country.

Although a rising star in the art world, De Guzman prefers to share the limelight with other Filipinos. “Filipinos are very creative people and I want to be able to show this part of us to the world,” she told Gulf News in April.

“We have a lot of really good artists, but I hope they get the international recognition they deserve,” says De Guzman, who merges her work as an artist and educator to bring Filipino art to the world stage. She is also a professor of design at the Sharjah Women’s College — Higher Colleges of Technology.


Su_170612_thephilippines_entertainment_dexter1If his face looks familiar, that’s probably because you’ve seen him in advertisements and commercials for HSBC, Motiongate, TGI Friday’s, Jashanmal, Crocs and others.

Soon, you’ll also see Dexter Dalisay in the Arabic film On Borrowed Time, a comedy by award-winning writer and director Yasir Al Yasiri. Dalisay is part of an international cast that includes Kuwaiti actor Saad Al Faraj, Syria’s Salloum Hadad and Emiratis Mansoor Al Feeli and Marie Al Halyan. The film releases this month.

Dalisay is no stranger to the spotlight, however, and was a star on TV network GMA 7 until 2014, when he moved to the UAE. In less than a year, he was being offered several product endorsements.

He is now busy filming Lamentasyon, the first movie produced and created by an all-Filipino cast and crew in the UAE. The suspense drama is set for a November release.

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