The Phenomenon that was Yeng Constantino
I must admit that when I was informed that Yeng Constantino was the selected artist to grace the Edmonton Filipino Fiesta through the auspices of TFC (The Filipino Channel) Canada, I did not know much about her. The realization on how big and significant she is, I was able to gauge based on the public’s reaction to the announcement of her participation at the Fiesta. You could feel people shaking with excitement and hyped up through social media posts. I was getting calls from outside of Edmonton asking for details, as they were driving to Edmonton as far away as BC. People were also willing to shell out money for a chance to see Yeng live and were just too happy to learn that it was open to the public.
Once the excitement of the news of her performance waned, we buckled down to preparations for her arrival - i.e. performance stage, adjunctive activities, programming, and what seemed to be the most pressing one, security and safety in terms of crowd control. Call me naive but I had a thought that the
concern was a little bit overplayed. I recall stories of sightings of Brad Pitt, Angelina Jolie, Ed Sheeran, Sarah Jessica Parker at the West Edmonton Mall; of Stephen Tyler at Churchill Square; Justin Bieber and Selena Gomez by downtown - and of people maintaining distance and respecting their privacy. I was constantly told - “Well, it seems it’s a different story with Filipinos.” And judging from what actually transpired, Filipinos do love and go crazy over their local celebrities.
Yeng Constantino is a singer-songwriter, host and actor. She is dubbed as the Pop Rock Princess. Her breakout moment in the music industry was bagging the Grand Star Dreamer in the inaugural season of Pinoy Dream Academy in 2006. She has recorded several platinum albums and is the singer and songwriter for the hits “Hawak Kamay”, “Ikaw”, “Salamat”.
Yeng arrived in Edmonton from Manila close to midnight on June 21. On June 22, running on just three hours of sleep, she engaged in a Philippine Arts Council Learning Table session with students and young artists in the morning, and a TFC Hour performance at the Edmonton Filipino Fiesta in the evening. From the Fiesta, she went straight to the airport and headed to Surrey for another Fiesta/Philippine Heritage Month celebration on June 23. The following day, June 24, she flew back to Manila. Apparently, this kind of schedule is not out of the norm for her. She travels a lot and in fact, finds the buzz of the plane or the car as a calming, and at times, inspiring sound for her. Some of her songs were written during these times. With this hectic schedule, Yeng remains a true professional in her engagements.
Before her arrival in Edmonton, I did some research on her and watched some of her vlogs to have a sense of her personality. Meeting Yeng at her hotel room, I was amused at how quickly she transformed from a worried professional suffering from a sleepless night, to an ecstatic fan when presented with a Raptors merchandise. I was surprised to learn that she was nervous about The Learning Table, and anxious about not meeting people’s expectations. There was nothing for her to worry about and I gave the assurance that the intent is to learn from her, that the participants are eager to know more about her, to present herself as she is, and just be her own person. And boy, did she do that and more. Yeng was genuine in her sharing and rapport with the participants. She was vulnerable and revealed her insecurities. She was also greathearted in sharing how she coped with uncertainties, in responding to the questions, and giving advice. Majority of the participants for The Learning Table were regulars of previous The Learning Table sessions and projects of the Philippine Arts Council. So they are not easily fazed and can sometimes be jaded. But never had I seen them more star struck than this one with Yeng.
Her appearance at the Edmonton Filipino Fiesta for the TFC Hour was both record breaking and refreshing. It was heartwarming to see the overwhelming crowd just having a really good time. They were enamoured and in high spirits. Yeng had good banter with her audience and hosts, and was gracious even with technical difficulties. Her singing, needless to say, was exceptional. Yeng was running on a tight schedule, yet she somehow managed to suspend time by singing an extra song from her playlist, and engaging in conversations with fans during the Meet and Greet just before heading to the airport.
And this is Yeng’s appeal. Apart from her undeniable talent, she is right off the bat charming and down to earth. A person who is deeply spiritual and emotional, knows her boundaries, and values her authenticity. From this experience, I have gleaned that Filipinos do really love and adore a role model hailing from the home country. It is good to see that all this fawning and adulation is for someone truly deserving of all these. Yeng’s visit to Edmonton was courtesy of TFC Canada - true to their vision of bringing joy to Filipinos wherever they are, in the spirit of “Kapamilya”.
* This article was published in the July 2019 issue of the Alberta Filipino Journal.