The sound of his voice is easily equatable to angels singing, and Onello Bahingawan’s vocal talents are made all the more special when you see where the voice is coming from.
Bahingawan is only nine years old, but he’s already belting out hit songs sung by the best voices in the music business, including Adele among others.
He was recently recognized for his singing talents when he won the junior division of the Youth Talent Search at the Weyburn Fair, enabling him to perform at the provincial youth talent search at the Saskatoon Exhibition.
Although he performs the songs of superstars, the young Filipino-Canadian certainly hasn’t taken on the ego of one.
“I was surprised when I won the talent show, I thought I would be the runner up,” said Bahingawan.
He brought the crowd to a standing ovation during the Youth Talent event with his rendition of Adele’s “Someone Like You”. He picked the vocally taxing song not out of interest in showing off his pipes but simply out of an interest in the song, saying, “I just really like the song.”
Bahingawan’s singing coach, Alfredo Aguiar, knows that crowds are often impressed with how talented the boy is for his age, but that’s not what gets them on their feet.
“It’s not only the age, although that does make an impression, it’s also how he does it. The passion he has when he is singing, not just the whole song, but every phrase, every word he sings, he sings it with so much love and passion, that’s what captivates the audience,” said Aguiar.
Bahingawan continues to captivate audiences with his choice of songs, sticking to his favourite genre, pop, instead of moving into more traditional types of singing like opera.
That’s fine with Aguiar, who said it’s important to let his students pick which songs they want to sing, only guiding them on their choices instead of forcing the issue.
“I’m going to guide them, but with the passing of the years they will decide what kind of music they want to play and sing. You have to allow them some time to go with the songs they want to sing,” said Aguiar.
The young St. Michael School student combines his talent and passion for singing to delight audiences, but his interest in getting better is what delights his teacher.
“He is talented, he has good voice quality, but most importantly he has an eagerness to learn, to do it better,” said Aguiar.
Getting better is something Bahingawan is doing all the time, said Aguiar, who has high hopes for all his students and says that for Onello, there is no limit to what he can accomplish.
“I’m giving him some techniques so that he will be able to sing what ever he wants. Of course it has to be with time and dedication. He also has a family that are very supportive, and his parents are always there,” said Aguiar.
Bahingawan’s singing success is deeply rooted in his family, first taking up singing to emulate his dad.
“When I was six, I heard my dad singing with a guitar, and I just tried to follow along,” said Bahingawan.
Father, Mel, and mom, Amy, continue to help Onello become a better singer, taking him to singing lessons each week and making sure he practices his exercises during the week.
The family has been in the area for about four years now; originally from Baguio, Philippines, they moved to Canada in 2008. When the family first arrived in Canada, they moved to Ogema before eventually settling in Weyburn.
Shortly after moving to Weyburn, Bahingawan took up singing lessons to improve his talents.
For help, the family sought out Aguiar, who is not only a music teacher but a performer himself, trained in music and composition in his native Cuba before moving to Canada in 1995. Aguiar has walked a similar path to what Bahingawan is on now, starting out singing in different festivals and working to improve his skills.
Bahingawan has been working to improve his performances as well, getting better as he gets more and more experience under his belt. He recently entertained classmates at the closing ceremonies for St. Dominic School in June, again impressing the audience by belting out Adele songs. While the performance garnered loads of applause, Bahingawan wasn’t as calm as he appeared on the surface.
“I was really nervous before the show, I kept going to the bathroom,” he said with a grin.
Aguiar said Bahingawan will likely move beyond just singing, learning how to write and compose as well.
“He’s going to be able to write his own songs; he’s in the process of learning and eventually he’s going to take off as a writer because he will have the need to express his own feelings with his own writing,” said Aguiar.
For Bahingawan it’s a steady process of getting a little better each day. When the young songster isn’t concentrating on getting better at singing he said he likes to spend his time like many other kids his age, playing video games and watching T.V.