Where dreams come true: Filipina caregiver wins Israel’s X Factor
MANILA - Celebrations broke out in the Philippines Wednesday after a Filipina caregiver working overseas became the winner of Israel's first "X Factor" television singing contest.
Rose Fostanes, one the millions of Filipino overseas workers who are lionised back home and form a crucial pillar of the country's economy, won the competition late Tuesday with a rendition of Frank Sinatra's "My Way" that delighted fans in both countries.
Local television, news websites, and social media were filled with praise for the unmarried 47-year-old caregiver, who relatives said had worked abroad for more than two decades to support her family.
"We know the situation she was in and we are very proud that she has again given the Philippines pride in the showcase of her talent," President Benigno Aquino's spokesman Edwin Lacierda told reporters Wednesday.
"The Filipino has an innate advantage when it comes to the arts.... It clearly shows that the excellence of the Filipino can be expressed anywhere, everywhere, when they are given the opportunity to show their talent."
Some reports likened Fostanes to Susan Boyle, the middle-aged Scottish singer whose humble looks and shy demeanour belied a scintillating voice that captivated millions on the television talent show "Britain's Got Talent" in 2009.
Before she entered the competition, Fostanes' day job had been to care for an elderly employer in Tel Aviv -- one of some 10 million Filipinos, about a tenth of the population, who have gone to work abroad to escape poverty and joblessness back home.
"Not all workers and cleaners from the Philippines are in a position like this: It's like Cinderella, you know," she told the show in an earlier interview uploaded on YouTube.
But she fretted whether Israel's television audience would vote her out of the contest in favour of her much-younger, slimmer rivals.
"This is what I'm afraid of, because I don't have the whole package," she said.
But fans were won over. In a live performance watched on television by many of her impoverished countrymen before dawn Wednesday, Fostanes won the judges' nod with her performance.
She had blitzed through the earlier rounds with impressive renditions of songs by Tina Turner, Lady Gaga, Prince and Christina Aguilera among others.
Clips of her "X Factor Israel" performances have been drawing tens of thousands of hits since they were uploaded on YouTube this month.
Prior to Fostanes, Filipinos threw their support behind Jessica Sanchez, an American teenager with a mother born in the Philippines, who came close to winning the "American Idol" singing competition in 2012.