4th Impact perform live in Dubai at the Al Nasr Leisureland on 29th April, 2016. Image Credit: Clint Egbert/Gulf News

Their journey to success has not been easy. X Factor UK finalists 4th Impact, composed of the Cercado sisters — Celina, 20, Mylene, 23, Irene, 25, and Almira, 27 — say they’ve had their share of bumps along the way as they tried to fulfil their dreams.

Their march to stardom started when the quartet was invited to take part in X Factor UK. “Of course the X Factor UK is the most memorable,” said Almira during a press conference on Thursday ahead of their concert in Dubai on Friday. “It’s the most memorable because after Korea’s Superstar K6 [a singing competition in South Korea] we gave up. We felt like it’s enough — we’ve been joining competitions for ten years already.

Meron pa po pala mas hinihintay na opportunity [We never thought there were bigger opportunities] with X Factor UK. We did not just fulfil our dream of meeting Mr Simon Cowell, but more than that we reached the top five. Such a history to be an impact to the world because we are the first Filipina girl band in X Factor UK.

Irene said joining X Factor UK was never part of their plan. “A fan of ours from the UK told us to try X Factor UK, but the problem was we didn’t know how. So he sent us the link and he allowed us to borrow his address in the UK for us to join. After one month we received a message from X Factor UK and that’s how it all started.”

But the challenges didn’t stop there. The sisters needed financial help to fly to the UK.

“The biggest challenge for us was the money for the airfare,” said Almira. “It’s an opportunity [to join X Factor], but we didn’t have the money to buy plane tickets.” They eventually overcame the hurdle with the help of what the group calls their “fairy godmother”. “But we are really thankful to God that we met our ‘fairy godmother’ who helped us finance everything,” said Almira. The group declined to name their benefactor.

X Factor UK has had many Filipino contestants, but 4th Impact were the first who flew all the way from the Philippines. The group said the organisers were just as excited having contestants from such a faraway country as they were to be there. “When we were auditioning and we showed them our passports, they told us we just made history,” said Almira. “They’ve had contestants from as far away as Belgium, but we came all the way from the Philippines. They were really shocked that we flew all the way from the Philippines.”

The group was formed in late 2001 and was already a veteran of singing contests before becoming X Factor UK finalists last year. They had also participated in several Philippine and South Korean talent shows.

The sister act, which changed names several times — they were The Cercados, Gollayan Sisters, MICA and 4th Power — before settling on 4th Impact, eventually finished fifth in the 12th season of X Factor UK. Irene said they never planned to have so many iterations of the group’s name; the name changes were usually to comply with regulations of the competitions they joined.

“For the Superstar K6, our group’s name was MICA, but there’s a famous singer in the UK whose name is Mica (Paris), so we needed to change our name to 4th Power, but after our Bang Bang audition, a company called the X Factor saying there is a copyrights issue, so we needed to change it again, so we thought of 4th Impact.”

While the sisters are undeniably talented, it took them ten years and an overseas competition to make it big, a situation emblematic of the state of the entertainment industry in the Philippines.

“We didn’t have the right connections. It was just our mum who served as our manager,” said Almira. “The only way for us to be known was by joining competitions. Hindi naman lingid sa kaalaman natin na [Everyone knows that] personality is important [to make it into] the Philippines’ [entertainment industry] – [they’re always looking for] star quality [and not talent].

“When we auditioned for X Factor Philippines, we were told that we did not make it past the auditions because we lacked star quality. We also didn’t have connections. We don’t have the right manager, the right person to give us a break. It was X Factor UK that gave us the privilege to be known not only in the Philippines but internationally.”

Almira says their success in X Factor UK has helped further strengthen their bond as a group and as siblings. “What changed a lot after the whole X Factor UK and the tour is actually the experience of performing with my sisters. We thought that in all ten years that we’ve been performing, it’s all about money, it’s all about the prize that we needed to win to help our mum. But with the X Factor UK experience, we realised how important the trust and the faith in your talent and the craft [is].”

She added: “Of course, with the success came the fans and the opportunities — we don’t have to beg now to perform to people. They are now asking us to perform, especially the fans who are helping us reach our dreams. But our humble beginnings, we will never forget that.”

Celina, the youngest, says working with her sisters makes the job a lot easier. “For me, it’s easier to work with them because we are just in the same house. When we have free time, we just practice, practice and practice. Our bond as sisters is really close because [of our passion for] singing,” said Celina, adding that watching movies together is one of the things they love to do together.

The girls say they are flattered when someone compares them to other international celebrities. “Nakakahiya naman po [It feels awkward] but we are very honoured to be compared with other international groups,” Irene said. “The advantage for us is that we are sisters. We are sisters no matter what happens. Whoever among us becomes successful, we are happy for each other. We have only one goal — to help our family and have a better future.”

Almira added: “No matter what, we will not separate and will stick together because we can hear people say that we will only last five years, 10 years. Our passion for singing is what binds us together. We don’t get in the way of each other’s success because we work as one.”

The group is also looking forward to record original songs and release their own album.

“Hopefully, this year we can make original songs or our own album,” said Mylene.

Almira added: “We’ve received enquiries, but our management is choosing the best option because we are not only targeting Filipino music, we are aiming for international impact. We pray and we are expecting it to happen hopefully this year.”