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Rehearsals for Matilyn...At Last! Image Credit: Clint Egbert/Gulf News

No visit to the Philippines is complete without karaoke sessions, a key part of the Filipino culture.

A majority of the people love music. They love to sing and perform at events and family occasions. So, it's no wonder then that when Filipinos move to other countries, music is one of the gems they take with them.

In one of the largest events featuring UAE-based overseas Filipino workers (OFWs), some 70 performers will be showcasing their talents in a variety show on November 15 at the Shaikh Rashid Auditorium in Oud Mehta.

Titled Matilyn… At Last!, the Filipino variety show is a vision of singer-composer Matilyn Bagunu.

“There will be a Broadway segment, an OPM segment, A cappella and a band as well, and the launching of my original compositions,” says Bagunu.


“The theme is breakthrough — the introduction of breakthrough artists. Most of them were never before seen onstage. I think only 5 per cent are very active performing onstage — the rest are new faces,” she adds.

The financial adviser, who’s been an OFW in Dubai since 1992, has long been dreaming of staging a concert that will showcase not only her original compositions but also the talents of her compatriots who share the same passion.


number of performers for Matilyn...At Last!

I’ve been planning for this for years now. It was just that there were so many challenges in the past that I was not able to push through with this dream

- Matilyn Bagunu, composer and choirmaster

Bagunu, who has been a choir director for St Mary’s choir for 26 years, wrote a jingle for an online Filipino television show in March — and that somehow opened an opportunity for her to finally realise her dreams. Soon after, she got a producer to help her plan the show.

“She wants to showcase these new talents that are hidden gems in Dubai, so we are thrilled to show the people that these OFWs have talents,” shares Michael Papa, the managing director of the show.

New talents

“I believe this is the first time for OFWs to show their talents [in such a grand scale]. Usually talents come from the Philippines to do a show here. In Matilyn at Last!, we will show new talents that you’ve never seen before. It’s like a breath of fresh air.”

During the concert, Bagunu will launch 12 of her original compositions, which will be rendered mostly by a new breed of performers.

“I’ve composed more than a hundred, but I will just introduce at least 12 songs,” says Bagunu. “The 12 compositions are about God, that’s why I’m coming full circle because it’s about God — an inspirational song, a wedding song, a pop song, a song about friendship, a song about mothers and there is one hugot song. We call it hugot because it’s full of emotions, everything is in there. So it’s a variety — variety compositions, variety songs.”

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Matilyn Bagunu, composer and choirmaster Image Credit: Clint Egbert/Gulf News

The performers were personally hand-picked by Bagunu, including some are members of the St Mary’s Filipino community choir.

“The participants are as young as 11 years old; we are targeting Filipinos from all walks of life regardless of age,” she says.

During a visit by Gulf News #Pinoy at one of the rehearsals, Bagunu and the rest of the performers revealed more about the production.

On her inspirations in composing songs:

“Actually, I don’t have any particular inspiration at all. Sometimes, just by talking to a friend I can come up with a very good song. Most of my compositions are not actually about me; most are about my friends who are sharing their stories with me. My family is musically inclined also. My father and my mother and all of my other siblings, my uncles they are my influencers. They play the guitar and we just sing together all the time whenever we meet.”

On Filipino talent in the UAE:

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Image Credit: Clint Egbert/Gulf News

“When I came here, I immediately joined the St Mary’s Filipino community choir. During that time, the market was not ripe as compared to today. There are so many talents right now from all walks of life and even as young as six years old. Filipinos can sing and perform on stage.”

On the challenges of staging an all-OFW concert:

“The challenge is just too much. There are so many things that were not able to attend to. We started practicing last week of August and then we are meeting every week. It’s only now that we are practicing twice a week because the pressure is already building up for all of us. Up to now we are not able to have a practice with full attendance because some have work, some have shifting schedules.”

Message to fellow OFWs:

“Don’t stop dreaming. Don’t stop pursuing your dreams. It doesn’t matter how old you are. For me, I waited for more than 20 years before I finally decided to come out in the open and introduce my songs. I’ve been composing songs for the St. Mary’s Filipino community choir, so most of these songs that I am going to introduce have been sung by them through the years.”

The performers 

Kyla de Mesa, 16 years old, student:

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Kyle de Mesa Image Credit: Clint Egbert/Gulf News

“This show will really break down boundaries about age being a limit; it’s a misconception because if it’s your passion then you can just do it. I’m one of the pianists. I’ll be playing a popular song and one original composition from Tita Matilyn. She is very open about inserting my own taste to it. It’s a fresh music; she encourages me to add a few of my suggestions.”

Michelle Menor, 35 years old, assistant director, sales and marketing:

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Michelle Menor Image Credit: Clint Egbert/Gulf News

“Aside from having some role in a Broadway-style presentation, I’ll be launching one of the original compositions of Matilyn. It is an inspirational song. We can offer this either to someone we love or to God. When Miss Mat asked me to sing the song, I was so touched personally because the song reflects a lot with me.

"I can relate so much with the song. It is beautiful, the rhythm. I’m in love with the song. I told Miss Mat that this song reminds me that God loves me so much. This is the reflection of song to me.”

Edel Mario del Mundo, 35 years old, works in a bank:

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Edel Mario del Mundo at a concert rehearsal at the Filbrit Training Centre Image Credit: Clint Egbert/Gulf News

“I’m part of five productions in this concert. First one is One Day More, which is Broadway, and second is the Beauty and the Beast. I will also sing one of the original compositions of Miss Matilyn.

"I also have a solo part in Awit ng Isang Bayani. I’m also part of Seasons of Love and Uptown Girl. The original composition is all about the OFW. The song actually pertains to every Filipino. We are actually proud of every Filipino everywhere in this world.”

Don’t miss it!

Matilyn… At Last! will be staged on November 15 at the Shaikh Rashid Auditorium, Oud Mehta. Gates open at 5pm. Show will start at 7.45pm. Tickets start at Dh50.