Before Charice there was Banig.
A little girl who just loves to sing, Josephine “Banig” Roberto came to people’s consciousness when she entered “Ang Bagong Kampeon” in the late 80’s. Banig was only 8 years old then when she became 7-week champion of the hit singing competition making her the youngest contestant to enter the finals and won 3rd place.
Banig’s feat in Ang Bagong Kampeon was highlighted by her big vocals which was compared to Whitney Houston, and of her cute little charm. She was often teased by one of Ang Bagong Kampeon’s hosts the late Bert Tawa Marcelo with jokes about her, still wetting their banig or sleeping mat. Thus the monicker Banig came about.
After winning in Ang Bagong Kampeon, several albums, concerts and singing engagements made Banig’s childhood busy. In fact she was the youngest Pinoy artist to have headlined her own concerts.
In 1987, at the age of 10 she won Best Child Performer at the Aliw Awards and the year after in Awit Awards.
Banig was also featured as the opening act in Duran Duran’s Manila concert at the Araneta Coliseum in 1989.
But Banig’s voice was not only contained in the country. In 1989, she joined and represented the Philippines in the International Star Search in Los Angeles California, USA where she beats several contestants from around the world which include Christina Aguillera, and named as the Junior Vocalist Champion.
With her victory in the International Star Search, Banig moved to the US with her family to continue with her emerging career. She was signed with Motown Entertainment and 20th Century Fox for a Television series.
Banig also graced different US talk shows which include Arsenio Hall Show, Into The Night With Rick Dees, Maury Povich Show, Super Dave Osborne Show, Good Day LA, and AM Los Angeles among others. She was also tapped to sing the Star Spangled Banner for The Clippers vs The Kings NBA Game.
Banig had a lustrous singing career in the US. In 1994, she recorded her first album “Can You Feel My Heart” under Del-fi Records and released 5 singles also from Del-fi records. The album even peaked at #8th on the top 100 chart in Virgin Mega Store in Las Vegas and her singles were given good airplays in several radio stations in the US.
Seven years later, after taking a little break, Banig and her sister Jhoanna established their own record label Double Play Entertainment where she recorded her second US album “Silent Whispers.” The album which contains 17 songs of mostly soul-pop-ballads were all written by Banig and Jhoanna. Several songs from the album reached #1 in different radio station countdowns.
Meanwhile, as her way of honoring her Filipino root, Banig in 2010 released her 1st Tagalog album “Josephine Roberto” featuring the song “Igalaw Natin” which received great support from several radio stations and clubs in the US.
Just recently, in efforts to boost her singing career again, Banig staged a show at the famous The Grammy Museum where she showcased her unfading singing prowess. Singing Whitney Houston hits and some of her own songs, Banig proved that she still has what it takes to be named a champion.
In an interview with ABS-CBN North America, Banig said she felt blessed to get another opportunity to perform and rekindle her music career.
“It’s always been a dream to do it again. It has never left me. It’s just that you have to learn the business. Siguro alam ng lahat na maliit pa lang ako, kumakanta na ako. At some point in time you have to learn the business, learn your craft. I had to do that.” – Banig in an interview with Yong Chavez of ABS-CBN North America
Banig is really one remarkable artist. She may have taken a break but her passion for music remains. While there maybe new and up and coming singers who give pride to our country, Banig will remain in every Filipinos hearts as the little girl who did not only conquer the Philippines’ but paved the way for Filipino talent to be recognized in the world stage.