AL AIN, United Arab Emirates – In preparing for working abroad, Filipinos usually prioritize passports, working visas and other important documents.
But not Nikki Develos.
During the time she was packing for her trip to the United Arab Emirates, Nikki had one thing in mind: her costumes.
All because she was planning on joining singing contests in the UAE.
“Nung mga panahon na nagi-empake ako ng maleta ko, I’m thinking by chance baka magkaroon ng contest at makasali ako, so I planned to take all my costumes with me rather than bringing my other clothes,” the 23-year-old saleslady in Ajman China Mall shared in an e-mail.
She got lucky, indeed. Just eight months after her arrival here, a fellow OFW helped her pursue her singing career.
“I was so blessed to be discovered by my coach, Mr. Gary Maigue, when I uploaded my video for the singing contest of the Kabayan Weekly newspaper,” Nikki said.
Her entry song then was “Bakit Ako Mahihiya,” the mid-70s hit song popularized by Didith Reyes.
“Right away, nag-leave siya ng message asking me if I am willing to be handled by him and isasali niya ako sa lahat ng contest. Walang pagdadalawang isip, sagot agad ako ng oo,” she said.
Nikki traced her love for singing and dancing to her childhood, inspired by her father, himself an amateur singer.
“Namana ko ito sa kanya,” Nikki said, referring to her father. "My father is an amateur singer before, while my mother is the one who's good in dancing. I was blessed to get both of their talents.”
When she turned 9, she started joining amateur singing contests guided by her Tita Excel Enriquez.
“Kung wala siya, hindi ako ganito ngayon. I would just be a singer inside the bathroom,” she said in jest.
When she joined the “Harana sa Barrio Acoustic Singing Contest” of Barrio Fiesta in April 2012, where she became the grand champion, her partner, Collier Pingol, played the guitar for her.
“Being an amateur singer before [in the Philippines] is my work. It helps us to pay the bills at home that’s why since early age I was a breadwinner,” Nikki said.
“I usually sing ballads. Pero in real life, mas feel at mas love ko talaga ang RnB. I love to put my own style on a song, 'yung tipong ‘kulot-kulot’ sa boses para mas maintindihan ng lahat,” she added.
Nikki’s first singing competition was during the “DSF Singing Star Showdown” in Dubai last year. “I placed 4th with special ‘X-Factor’ award.”
This year, she joined the “Last Singer Standing” at the Pegasus Bar in Chelsea Hotel-Dubai and was able to reach the grand finale round.
“And last Independence Day, I joined two contests in one day. Lumagare ako from Dubai to Ras Al Kaimah – the contest in Dubai started at 11 a.m. and the contest in Ras Al Kaimah started at 2 pm,” she shared proudly.
Her effort was not wasted—Nikki won third place in the “OPM Singing Competition” held at the Al Nasr Leisureland in Dubai; and grand champion in the "Videoke Singing Contest" held at the Ice Land Water Park in Ras Al Kaimah.
“Pakiramdam ko talagang hindi ako pinabayaan ni Lord that day kasi 'yung oras ng dalawang contest is saktong-sakto sa pinagdasal ko. Thank you din kay coach kasi lagi siya nandyan at hindi niya ako pinababayaan,” Nikki said.
“Hindi alam ng lahat na minsan si coach pa ang gumagastos sa akin para sa costume at pagkain, because he knows na kapos din naman ako. That's why there a lot of things I would like to thank him,” she added. —KBK, GMA News