Ever since Melody Hodgson was just a little girl, she had always dreamt of that winning moment when it comes to talent shows. In her head, she would practice her own reaction if a host would call out her name as the winner of the competition.
Yet, in recent times, that dream turned into a reality when the Filipino-British singer-songwriter triumphed in the Sinulog Idol All Stars 2021, the 12th season of the annual Sinulog Idol competition, which is loosely based on the American reality singing competition American Idol.
[The Sinulog Idol is local competition in Cebu held during the Feast of the Sto. Niño. For its 12th season, the competition invited its past alumni to compete against one another.]
“My life, for now, has come a full 360 circle kasi I started my career with Sinulog Idol,” she explains to pikapika.ph. “Now, I’m older. It feels like I’m beginning again with Sinulog Idol. Parang I’m a different person from who I was last year sa mga dinaanan natin and pandemic [at] sa mga personal problems and, of course, kung sino ako noong bata ako, kung sino ako bilang artist at singer.”
With a fresh success in tow, Melody is ready to conquer the music world with her passion and immense talent for the art of singing.
A FACE OF THE KONTESERA SCENE
Melody is no stranger to the singing craft, being born to a musical family as her mother and father were also gifted singers. However, despite singing at a young age, she admitted that she only started doing the talent professionally at the age of 14.
“’Yong unang-unang nahiligan ko is ballet. Dancing, actually, [at] hindi singing,” she recalls. “Pero singing has always been there. ’Yong tipong sinusunod ko na si Little Mermaid.”
She entered her first singing contest at the age of 10 and recalled herself in tears as she could not hit the high note from the Celine Dion hit “To Love You More.”
“Hindi ko pa siya maabot,” she says. “Umiyak ako noon, e, kasi hindi ko siya maabot. Hindi ko maabot ’yong mataas na nota. So, umiyak ako noon.”
However, that experience did not stop Melody from doing what she loves, entering singing contests left and right. In her recollection, she must have joined 15 singing contests all in all, including an obscure Halloween singing contest sponsored by a memorial service company.
“Ever since childhood talaga, nagko-contest ako, kumakanta ako. It’s always been a dream of mine na maging singer,” she says.
She even noted that she joined beauty pageants back when she was young because of the talent portion, which allowed her to showcase her singing abilities. After several singing contests here and there, Melody pushed herself even more by enlisting for the national singing scene, joining the ABS-CBN reality singing competition The X-Factor Philippines in 2012.
However, the competition was not for her as she only made it to the “boot camp” part of the show, which took place early on in the competition. That year, the now-successful singer KZ Tandingan was crowned the champion.
“Medyo na-down ako noong time na ’yon kasi bata pa ako. Parang first time kong ma-reject nang ganoon katindi,” she recalls.
Her loss made her take a break from singing for some time until someone talked to her about a contest in her hometown of Cebu called Sinulog Idol, which was already in its 4th season at that time. Her family encouraged her to join, telling her that she might learn something new.
“Kahit ako hanggang ngayon, feeling ko talaga you will always learn something kapag pinu-push mo ’yong sarili mo,” Melody reflects. “Iba kasi kapag competition, parang ilalabas mo talaga kung ano ’yong best mo tapos... ’yong mental health mo din, how to think straight na para ka rin magkaka-strategy.”
After bowing down from the Kapamilya talent show, Melody, then only 16, went right back to Cebu for the Sinulog Idol, which was originally a six-day competition.
By November, after turning 17, she was able to make it to the Top 12 of the competition.
“Patayan talaga ng boses siya,” she describes Sinulog Idol. “Kung tingin n’yo mahirap na ang Tawag Ng Tanghalan, mas mahirap ’yong Sinulog Idol kasi every day siya ta’s iba’t ibang genre siya ng songs.”
Melody recounted that every day in the span of Sinulog Idol, she had to adjust to what the judges felt was the genre of the day. She had to sing everything from dance tracks, ’80s hits, and rock music, just to name a few.
She was able to reach the grand finals, as she made it to the Top 6, and performed “Somewhere Over The Rainbow.”
Despite not reaching the Final 3 of the Sinulog Idol, Melody was able to appreciate the intense training given to her by the competition.
“Sobrang lakas ng training ta’s on the spot pa,” she says. “’Yong training kasi ng Sinulog Idol, on the spot. Kung sasabihin sa’yo na ngayon, let’s say 15-20 minutes before the song starts sasabihin sa’yo na kakantahin natin ’to, magme-memorize ka ng ganoon kabilis. Ganoon ’yong training niya.”
KATY PERRY LOOK-ALIKE
After joining another singing competition for a telecommunications company, Melody was invited back for an event for Sinulog, where she met DJ Nicki Morena from ABS-CBN’s former commercial radio station MOR 101.9. DJ Nicki emerged as the champion of It’s Showtime’s “Kalokalike Face 2 Level Up” for her impersonation of rapper-singer Nicki Minaj.
Melody recalled her first encounter with the radio host, with the latter likening the former’s look to international pop star Katy Perry.
“Bakit mo kamukha si Katy Perry?” Melody recalls Nicki asking her. “Ta’s piniktyuran niya ako. Hindi ko alam pala naghahanap na pala ng contestants for ‘Kalokalike Face 3 (Season 3).’”
Nicki then sent Melody’s photos to the producers of the noontime variety show who might be interested to let her participate in their celebrity impersonation competition.
“Hindi ko naman ini-impersonate si Katy Perry pero, ayun, pinadala doon sa producers ta’s tinawagan na ko. Noong tinawagan ako, sabi nila sa akin ‘Gusto mo ba mag-audition? Punta ka dito sa Manila. Mag-audition ka. Nag-i-impersonate ka ba talaga or kamukha mo lang?’” she recalls the producer asking her.
Melody, who was in her 3rd year in college taking up Psychology at the time, had exams to take when she received the phone call from It’s Showtime producers. She had to ask her professors if she can take the exams before or after her audition for “Kalokalike Face 3.”
Some professors understood her reason, yet others did not. However, this did not stop Melody from auditioning for this one-of-a-kind opportunity.
Her auditions went well, and she was on national television once again, this time impersonating one of pop music’s known icons in Katy Perry, serenading the “madlang people” with her songs like “Teenage Dream.”
Melody’s performances of Katy were well-received by the judges and viewers that it shot her up to the grand finals where she was eventually named 1st runner-up, bowing down to Daniel Aliermo of Davao City who impersonated Vice Ganda.
Though she didn’t clinch the top win, the experience, for Melody, was more than enough of a reward.
“Hindi ko din talaga in-expect na makapasok ako hanggang grand finals ta’s maging 1st runner-up pa ako,” she admits. “Kasi hindi ko talaga trabaho, [’yong] pag-i-impersonate.
“Maganda talaga siya na experience,” she adds. “Aside sa X-Factor, kasi first time ko in a national TV ’yon, e.”
Her “Kalokalike Face 3” experience trained her how to manage her time, as she was also a college student back then. It helped her balance good grades with having good performances in shows.
But that’s not all. In the midst of her “Kalokalike Face 3” bouts, Melody joined a singing competition of a sports event sponsored by Viva Entertainment. It was during that event when Cebuano representatives of Viva discovered her and arranged an audition for her in front of Viva Chairman of the Board and CEO Vicente “Boss Vic” Del Rosario, Jr.
She immediately received a management contract from the mainstream media company while going forth with the It’s Showtime competition until the grand finals.
After being the “Kalokalike Face 3” 1st runner-up, Melody pushed on with her Katy Perry looks and impersonated the pop icon for two years before slowly fading away from it and going back to the United Kingdom, her other home, to get a degree in Music.
“Bumalik ako ng UK kasi gusto ko talaga mag-aral ng Music,” she recalls. “Hindi siya natuloy kasi nakapagtapos na ko sa Pilipinas at medyo mahirap kumuha ng scholarship or student loan. Medyo mahal mag-aral doon sa London.”
ANOTHER CRAFT, ANOTHER BLESSING
During her stay in the UK, Melody got into another musical craft which is songwriting. However, singing and songwriting competitions were limited in the country, so she searched left and right where to pursue her two passions.
She found luck when she discovered Open Mic UK which was perfect for her two passions as they favored singers who sang their original pieces.
“Na-push na magsulat ako doon,” she recalls, which prompted her to start writing more songs.
At that time, she already had a song written in Bisaya called “Hahay,” which she had shelved for a while.
“Hahay,” which is a Cebuano expression for “pagod na ako,” is described by Melody as a song with “heartbroken, bitter” lyrics set in a happy, upbeat rhythm.
“Actually no’ng sinulat ko yan, joke kang talaga siya, e...’yong tipong...’yong mga Bisaya kasi, mahilig kasi kami ’yong magjo-joke-joke lang. ’Yong banter lang. Parang ‘Uy. Hahay!' Hahay is an expression meaning ‘pagod na ko.’
”Funny lang siya kasi matakaw talaga ’yong family ko, kami as a family matakaw at mahilig magluto. So ’yong chorus kasi is tignan niyo lang ’pag ako'y papayat…
“’Yong character [sa] song is heartbroken pa siya kaya gusto niya pa kumain,” Melody elaborates. “Kasi, ’di ba, ’pag heartbroken tayo masarap kumain ng mga ice cream kasi heartbroken tayo? So, ’yon ’yong meaning ng song... at the same time hopeful na maka-get over siya pero medyo bitter pa siya sa ngayon. Parang, tingnan mo lang one day at magsisisi ka rin pero, sa ngayon, kain muna ako.”
Upon giving the song to the Cebu representatives of Viva, they urged her to release the song so Viva could give it a listen and, possibly, give her a recording contract, which they did a year later.
Since then, blessings kept coming for Melody. “Hahay,” which was the first song she released under the mainstream music label, bagged an award as the Best Regional Recording in the 2019 Awit Awards.
“Baka ma-nominate ’yong song mo for Regional Recording for Awit Awards,” she recalls the Viva Cebu prod team member telling her during a group dinner. “Tapos parang sabi ko ‘Ha? Sure ka ba? Wait lang. ’Di ako ready. Kain lang pinuntahan ko dito.’ [...] and then a few weeks after, na-shock na lang ako na totoo pala na-nominate pala siya.”
She was already over the moon regarding the nomination from one of the country’s prestigious award-giving bodies in Music, yet life thought it was not enough and decided to give her the award of Best Regional Recording.
After being called on stage to receive the award, Melody was still in a trance, still finding the moment unbelievable that her first-ever song release bagged a national music award.
“’Yong feeling na first song ko ever na na-release ko, nanalo ng award, ng Awit Award pa. Sabi ko ‘Lord, chill ka muna, stress ako.’” she says. “Maganda lang sa feeling na, in a way, nadala ko ’yong pagka-Bisaya ko to my budding career sa Manila na pinagtatrabahuan ko.
“And for it to be my first song ever na nanalo, parang feeling ko lang na may ginawa akong tama sa buhay ko,” she adds.
A SECOND CHANCE
Blessings keep on coming for the rising star, especially at the start of 2021, when she was crowned the champion of Sinulog Idol All Stars, besting all of her fellow alumni from the Sinulog Idol competition in Cebu.
The concept of All Stars came about when past alumni, including herself, jokingly floated the idea about past Sinulog Idol alumni reuniting to compete against one another. To their surprise, the concept came alive last 2020.
Melody recalled that it was Gloria Villarojo, the director of the said singing competition, who messaged her asking her to join the “reunion.”
“Try mo,” she recounts Villarojo urging her. Although, Melody started having doubts about herself, questioning whether she was prepared to come back to the competition she once was a part of eight years ago.
“I know how hard it’s going to be of a competition because I’ve been through it before,” she says. “Lalo na ngayon, ’yong mga kalaban ko nag-PGT, galing pa ng Hawaii, ganoon ’yong mga makakalaban ko. Kaya ko ba ’to?”
After countless times of self-reflection, Melody agreed to go back to Sinulog Idol and was able to send her audition piece during the competition’s deadline, which was December 25, Christmas Day.
“I felt like I needed a challenge. I needed to go back to my roots and re-discover who I am,” she says of joining the All Stars edition of the competition. “One year din tayong nawala dahil sa pandemic. One year din tayong down [...] so kailangan kong i-uplift ang sarili ko kahit konti man lang and, at the same time, makakatulong din ako sa family ko.”
And, thus, it all came true. In the first week of 2021, Melody was hailed the champion of Sinulog Idol All Stars, a huge redemption from her Top 6 slot during her first try on Season 4.
“Hanggang ngayon hindi ko pa siya ma-process, hindi pa siya nagsi-sink in talaga,” she says after a few pauses, still showing surprise. “Ang sarap ng feeling na masasabi mo sa sarili mo na ‘I made it!’ ganoon.”
A day after her win, Melody recalls being called the champion of Sinulog All Stars by her colleagues. She remembers being very shy about acknowledging it. She was then told by them to embrace the title and savor the moment because it is hers and that it was one rare opportunity.
“It’s something I want to savor din and, at the same time, ground myself with na kahit All Stars ka na, [hindi ’yong] wala ka nang kailangan i-improve on,” she says. “It reminds me to keep working, to keep getting better.”
That same day, Melody also recalls seeing a Facebook memory that carried her picture in the newspaper eight years ago. She was only 16 years old in the photo and she describes herself then as a girl who has yet to accomplish anything. She then says it feels surreal to see that photo after her huge accomplishment the night prior.
“You’ve come so far,” she says addressing herself. “Naging 360 [degrees turn] na ’yong buhay ko sa ngayon. I can’t wait to see kung ano pang meron sa future [in] another eight years from now.”
Her victorious moment during Sinulog Idol All Stars reminded her of a word in Bisaya called “padayon” which means “pagpatuloy mo lang.”
“Reminder siya sa akin to keep going kasi, you know, whatever you plant, you will reap talaga at the end of the day,” she says. “Just keep putting in the work. It’s gonna take a lot of effort, a lot of tears, a lot of time pero kaya ’yan. Padayon lang.”
However, when asked if her triumph in Sinulog Idol All Stars was her most memorable moment to date, Melody said it is the journey towards it and the people she met along the way rather than the victory itself.
“It’s always the people I meet who inspire me to strive to become better,” she says. “So, ’yon ’yong memorable sa’kin, the people I meet and the lessons I learned along the way. Hindi ’yong pagkapanalo lang. It all comes as a package talaga: the whole journey, the whole process nang pagkapanalo ko.”
With victories also come struggles in life. And Melody is not exempted from that. Throughout her music career, she has also faced a lot of problems, citing people who badly bashed her work as one example.
“Marami talaga ang mambabatikos. There will be a lot of people who will go against your dream and that’s the hard part,” she acknowledge. “[They will say], ‘there is no stability there [in singing competitions]’.
“Ang dami kong friends na musicians, artists, singers, and dancers who have made a good stable life out of doing what they’re passionate about,” she counters. “I’m really passionate din about being passionate, for doing what you love. Aanhin mo naman ’yong pera kung hindi mo naman mahal ’yong ginagawa mo, ’di ba?”
Another struggle she faced throughout her musical career was financial issues. The journey, she says, wasn’t easy. But it was sure worth it.
“Kung gusto mo ng bahay, you invest time in your work para magka-sweldo ka nang malaki para magka-savings ka for a house,” she rationalizes. “For me, that’s how I see my dream. It’s a house I’m going to buy someday. [...] Pahinay-hinay kong binibili ’yong house ko.”
Anxiety and doubts are also issues she has faced as a singer, especially in how she perceives herself physically and mentally.
“[Singing] really trains you talaga to be strong kasi ang daming rejections na matatanggap mo talaga,” she says.
She recalls one audition when the judge told her that she sings good yet they do not see any emotions coming from her.
“Wala silang nararamdaman na emotions. At that time kasi, I was very young so I didn’t know how to put my emotions into my singing,” she recalls. “Siguro, kulang din ng experiences sa buhay pero marami na rin naman akong pinagdaanan, pero siguro may walls pa ako [noon].”
This made her realize that when it comes to music, be it singing or songwriting, one has to be vulnerable and be open to kinds of emotion.
“That’s the hard part talaga of being a singer, an actress, a performer, an artist,” she says. “When you’re an artist, you pour in your heart, your whole self out. It’s so scary din in a competition when you’re judged and you’re pouring your whole life out into one song.”
Melody remembers a piece of advice given to her by Sinulog Idol resident judge Apple Abarquez in relation to being a vulnerable performer.
“‘Once you’re on stage and you sing that one song, it’s going to change your life forever so make sure when you sing that song, ilabas mo lahat ng pinagdaanan mo and put it into the music and tell a story of what you’ve been through,’” Melody recounts her Mama Apple’s words of wisdom.
“Hindi ko na talaga ma-count kung ilang beses na ko na-reject, siguro nasalihan ko na lahat ng national competition, lahat ng international competition and one rejection after another and nakaka-down talaga siya,” she goes on. “You start thinking to yourself na hindi ba ko enough? Ano pang kailangan kong gawin? Ano pang kailangan kong i-explore?”
And Melody tells of two ways to answer the question: it’s either you stop or you keep going.
“For me, I dislike giving up only unless kailangan talaga for myself or for other people,” she says. “I could continue kahit ganu’n na kahirap ang sinasabi ng tao sa inyo.”
“Sometimes, I feel like I’m very hard on myself,” she summarizes her musical struggles. “Pero I’m trying to improve on that now kasi iniisip ko now na andami ko palang nagawa sa buhay. Kailangan ko rin maging kind to myself. Padayon lang.”
Yet, as struggles come and go, it never crossed Melody’s mind to give up the craft. She says she has fallbacks, having a college degree in BS Psychology and having a part-time job as an English teacher. But music has a special place in her heart.
“There will always be other careers waiting but, for me ’yong passion ko talaga, what I really want to pursue is music. It’s what keeps me going every day. Gusto ko maging singer. [Quitting] never crossed my mind. Ever since naka-try ako kumanta onstage, hindi na [ako tumigil].
“Every time I’m on stage, this is what I want to do for the rest of my life, kahit gaano man kahirap, kahit gaano ka-hassle or gaano siya kahirap gawin, heto lang talaga ang gusto kong gawin sa buhay ko,” she affirms.
When asked if she has advice for aspiring musicians, she reiterated the Bisayan term “padayon” —for them to remember to keep going with their chosen craft.
“It sums up my whole journey talaga. This isn’t the end. You’ll probably see more of me. Hindi talaga ako titigil. ’Yan talaga. Huwag kang titigil. Push ka lang nang push. Laban ka lang nang laban,” she goes on advising.
“Kasi if you give up on something you love, it’s kind of like giving up on yourself,” she went on. “And if you give up on yourself, lalo ng mag-gi-give up ’yong ibang tao sa’yo. So, make sure to love yourself first, put yourself first ’pag kailangan. Of course, family important din naman ’yon and friends, pero hindi mo naman mabibigay sa ibang tao o sa ibang bagay kung wala naman sa’yo so if you don’t love yourself, how are you going to give love to others?”
At this point in the conversation, she once again recalls her younger self eight years ago when she did not enter the Final 3 of Sinulog Idol. Little did she know that she would get her redemption in the same competition.
“Eight years later, nabigyan ako ng chance na bumawi sa ginawa ko last time,” she says. “Ta’s every time I sing, parang ’yan na ’yong last mo. Maybe tomorrow, things could change, the world could end. Always make sure when you perform, it will be your last. Kahit gaano kalaki ’yong TF (talent fee), make sure ’yong binibigay mo ’yong buong-buo mo because that’s where you’re gotta be remembered for.”
And now that she is fresh from a new success in her musical career, Melody is prepared to do more, having two upcoming singles in the works and she plans to keep on releasing music as soon as she has a new piece.
“What’s next for me is just I plan on releasing music, kung may mga competition pang p’wedeng salihan, tara! Rak! Kung wala naman, I’m going to keep on doing online gigs,” she reveals.
She also plans to relaunch her YouTube channel, do more vlogs and music collaborations with fellow artists, and continue to keep writing original songs. In fact, she is currently writing one now which she teases as “something different” and is in another genre of music.
“Atangi!” she says, which is Bisaya for “wait for it” and we are surely excited for it.
Good luck and more power, Melody!
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