Vietnam has earned a reputation over the past few years as one of the second homes for Filipinos' hoping to earn a living through music.
As more and more take a shot at their dreams, there are some steadily gaining popularity for their wealth of talent and beauty among the Filipino singing community in the Southeast Asian country.
Beauty on stage
Several days a week, Cherry, one of the most acclaimed singers at La Piscine Lounge on Nguyen Binh Khiem Street in District 1, Ho Chi Minh City, takes the stage to liven up the atmosphere with her upbeat cover songs.
As she bellows well-known tunes in her sparkling sequin dress, La Piscine’s patrons cannot help but stay fixated on the dazzling singer.
|Filipino singer Juliet is seen performing at a lounge in Ho Chi Minh City. Photo: Tuoi Tre|
After greeting customers with a little R&B, Cherry switches to Jenifer Lopez’s Latin hit "Let’s Get Loud" to liven the crowd before inviting a male customer to dance along to her melodies.
When the song ended, a guest gentlly offered Cherry a kiss on the hand amidst the applause of other spectators.
“People may touch, kiss, or joke because it’s part of my job to make them happy and comfortable, but the people coming here are all educated and respectful of others," Cherry shared in a talk with Tuoi Tre News after taking her final bow at almost midnight.
“My boss here is also overprotective. If I say someone is embarrassing me, he will kick him out,” she added.
Cherry began singing in the city seven years ago after a friend invited her to come and sing in the southern city of Vung Tau.
“If we had had enough money in the Philippines, we wouldn’t have come to Vietnam,” Cherry said.
“The life there was too difficult for us and my family was not rich so I had to move."
Cherry grew up in Quezon and began working at the age of 14.
Taking advantage of her stunning grace, she began work as a promotion girl, sometimes turning to modeling, or a singer at several venues in her home country.
When she was 17 she became a single mother. Now, 15 years later, she sends more than half of the money she earns in Vietnam back to the Philippines to support her family and child.
“I am happy being on stage, but sometimes feel lonely in my rented room,” she admitted.
“My family keeps asking me to come back home but I want to earn enough money to be able to start my own business before going back.”
A nurse who sings
At a bar on the 52nd floor of the Bitexco Financial Tower in Ho Chi Minh City, Juliet is not only a singer but also a ‘cheerleader,' relying on her upbeat dance moves and vibrant songs to send energy through the guests.
Unlike other Filipino singers who consider singing their main job, Juliet only sings in her spare time.
During the day, she works as a nurse for an international hospital in District 1, a job she happened upon.
When she first came to Vietnam with her band, Juliet only planned to stay for six months before moving to Singapore.
However, she got injured once having her bag snatched on the street and was brought to the hospital for treatment.
After finding out she was a nurse back in the Philippines, the director invited her to work for the hospital.
At first, Juliet said she wanted to do the job part-time so that she could have time for her band but then she has switched to full-time and stayed in Vietnam for 13 years so far.
“I can do both things that I love, nursing and singing, that’s also the reason why I’ve lived here for such a long time,” she explained.
Juliet was born in Bohol to a large family which loved music.
However, her father feared that allowing her to sing would mean that she would wind up performing in less-savory venues surrounded by drunken and disrespectful customers.
Juliet’s passion for music eventually convinced her father to let her become a singer.
Years ago, she and her cousins formed a band and traveled to perform in Dubai, where she met her boyfriend, a Filipino keyboard player.
The two then moved to Vietnam to continue pursuing their musical dreams.
The bar’s magnet
Singing led Filipino performer Kuleen to her Romanian husband, who fell in love at first sight after seeing her perform.
|Filipino singer Kuleen is seen performing at a bar in Ho Chi Minh City. Photo: Tuoi Tre|
The Filipino singer used to perform in Hong Kong and Japan and has stayed in Vietnam for the longest time as her husband works in the country.
Kuleen's strong voice has helped her become one of the “magnets” for attracting customers to the bar she sings in Ho Chi Minh City's 'backpacker area.'
Nights featuring Kuleen are always full of customers who come to enjoy her performances of popular songs like "Havana," "Side to Side," "Stone Cold," and "Despacito."
To please her Vietnamese fans, Kuleen has also learned some local songs which always draw cheers from the crowd.
Living in the city for nearly 10 years, the performer considers the country her second home.
“I really love Vietnam. I love the food and have many friends here,” she said.
“Vietnam is like the Philippines. When I go to Cambodia, I feel like I’m a foreigner, but when I come back to Vietnam, I feel like I’m home,” Kuleen added.
How much are Filipino singers paid?
Although there are no official statistics, according to some Filipino singers, the number of their countrymen coming to sing and perform in Vietnam reaches into the hundred.
These musicians often perform at lounges and bars in big cities and resorts in tourism hubs such as Phu Quoc, Vung Tau, Mui Ne, and Da Nang.
According to Cherry, a Filipino singer is normally paid about US$100 for performing 3-4 songs at a specific event and around $45 for a regular bar gig.
Vietnamese musician Hoang Thuan, who has experience working with Filipino singers, said these singers work really hard and perform anytime he has show offers for them.
They do not mind moving to Singapore, Hong Kong, or Taiwan or other places if they can get good deals, he added.