I AUDITIONED FOR SMOKEY MOUNTAIN



I loved singing and performing for relatives and guests at home when I was young.

One time, when I was about four years old, my mother asked me to sing Tomorrow for our relatives who were visiting.

I instantly burst into song.

However, after singing the first line with so much passion, I decided to stop and asked to be excused.

I went inside my room, did a proper entrance, and then whipped out my milk bottle, which I used as a microphone. I sang “The sun will come out tomorrow” again and finished the song.

No doubt about it: even when I was just a kid, I already knew I wanted to sing and perform for others.

Fast forward to my high school years.

One day, I read in the papers that Ryan Cayabyab was forming an all-male version of Smokey Mountain. Of course, I just had to try out. I didn’t tell my parents about it. My friends and I decided to try our luck.


For those who have no idea what I’m talking about, Smokey Mountain was a vocal group composed of 3 guys (James Coronel, Tony Lambino, and Jeffrey Hidalgo) and 1 girl (Geneva Cruz). They were responsible for hits like Kailan, Can This Be Love, and Mama. And oh, they dressed weird (look at the photo above).



When they disbanded, James Coronel stayed and was joined by another guy (Jayson Angangan) and 2 girls (Zhar/Shar Santos and Chedi Vergara). They had hits like Kahit Habang Buhay and Nahan Ka. They were kinda weird, too, but instead of clothes with toothbrushes, they experimented with crazy hairstyles.

Going back to the auditions, my friends and I went to Sunvar Plaza in Makati to try our luck. All the guys were with their parents and my friends and I felt so cool because we were on our own.

To my surprise, I passed the initial round and was asked to return a couple of times. I don’t know how many guys auditioned – maybe hundreds or even thousands, but I eventually made it to the "finals." I think we were about 10 or 12.

Honestly, I don’t even remember the songs I sang, but I think Can This Be Love was one of them, and that it was really surreal singing it because Jeffrey himself was there.

One thing I remember is that I had a wireless mic inside my backpack – it wasn’t working, of course, I just liked bringing it wherever I went – and that I lent it to this guy in a sparkly vest because he was singing with an invisible mic.

Another thing I remember is that I was doing all these Mariah Carey finger movements, which distracted Chedi. I heard her say that one of their teachers would definitely ask me to stop doing that.

Sadly, nothing happened to our batch – no boyband was formed. I don’t remember the exact reason but I think it was because we were so few and they wanted more people. They were so sure some of us wouldn’t be able to endure training or would get lazy or would prioritize school or would turn out to be assholes or something.

A year after, I got surprised when they got in touch with me again, asking me to return. I had to undergo a couple of auditions and eventually ended up as one of the final 10 or so guys. The difference was that there was a group of girls, too. I didn’t know how many guys they were looking for but the fact that they were including girls made my chances slim.

Unfortunately, I didn’t make it to the final lineup.


They chose three girls and just one guy. The group was named Kaya and the guy who beat me is Brenan Espartinez, who is an amazing singer.

And that, ladies and gentlemen, is how I almost became part of Kaya/Smokey Mountain batch 3.
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