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Joy sets sight on singing to bigger audience

06 July 2017

By Daisy CL Mandap

She finds the ultimate joy in singing, and hopes to share this obsession with more people, perhaps on a bigger scale.

It is a dream that does not seem impossible for Joy Carbonell, a 39-year-old domestic worker in Hong Kong who has been getting accolades lately for her amazingly powerful voice.

At a recent Philippine Independence Day ball hosted by the Philippine Association of Hong Kong, for example, Joy who sang dressed casually in jeans and shirt, left the audience in awe because of her sheer talent.

The former public school teacher who came to Hong Kong from her hometown of Nueva Ecija 10 years ago, says she has always loved singing.

“From age nine, I would sing everyday, Iyon na yung pinaka-laro ko,” she says.

She indulged this passion by joining local singing contests, but did not think of it as a future career. Instead, she continued with her studies, and eventually obtained a degree in education from the Central Luzon State University. She went on to teach in a public elementary school, but continued singing with the school choir.

In 2007, Joy came to Hong Kong for what she says were “personal reasons”. She initially worked as a nanny for her sister, but decided to stay when her sister moved to the United States.

She says she is lucky because her employers have been very supportive of her singing. With the ample free time she is given, she gets to hone her skill by joining singing contests and being part of “Unsung Heroes,” a choir in Discovery Bay made up of foreign domestic workers.

“Sa Pilipinas mas kaunti ang oras ko para sa pagkanta kasi maraming trabaho,” she says.

Her happiness at being able to spend more time on her passion is the only reason she has not gone back home to teach, says Joy.

“Kung hindi ko lang nae-enjoy ang buhay ko dito, babalik ako sa Pilipinas para magturo,” she says.

A few years back, Joy joined a major singing contest organized by financing company Prime Credit where she ended up in second place. A judge in that contest disclosed at a public event recently that the only reason Joy failed to take the top slot was because she did not come across as a total package, meaning, looks and all.

Joy wryly admits that she must have looked “baduy” or a “manang” (old-fashioned) then, as she was just new in Hong Kong. Or it could also be because she needed to practice her singing a bit more as it had been awhile since she last joined a contest.

But she was happy enough to have landed in second place, and that the experience opened the door to her being invited to sing at various Filipino community events.

It was while singing at one of these events that an American teacher took notice of Joy’s unusual talent, and offered her free singing lessons.

“Malaki ang naitulong nito sa akin, lalo na sa diction at sa technique,” Joy acknowledges.

Her being part of “Unsung Heroes,” which is coached for free by Jane Engelmann, a performing arts coordinator at Peak School, also helped.

In time, Joy, who is openly gay, also found that she felt more comfortable performing in jeans and boots.

“But I don’t have any problem wearing a gown or a dress, in makeup and high heels, if I need them to interpret the song,” she says. “Costume lang naman ang mga iyan”.

With her newfound confidence and additional training, Joy went back to join Prime’s singing contest, and won resoundingly.

In the wake of this victory, Joy was also given the chance to record her first album, which had its big launch at Edinburgh Place, Central on June 18, and is now available for viewing on youtube and digital music service, spotify.

Joy looks at these recent events as the crowning glory in her singing career, but is not about to stop aspiring for even bigger things. She now plans to join an international singing contest like WCOPA (World Championships of Performing Arts) held annually in Los Angeles, California where she hopes to add another feather to her cap.

Then there is also the hope that one day, finally, she can transition from being a foreign domestic worker to a professional singer. With all the bright things coming her way now, achieving that dream may not be far behind.

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