Maria Aragon and Lupang Hinirang (and the director who drove me crazy)

I’ve been meaning to get around to this but the intensity of everything else having to do with Pacquiao-Marquez III kept from doing it until now. I have been fascinated for some months by the story of Youtube sensation 11 year old Maria Aragon, who –as by now everybody knows–posted a spare, delightful cover of Lady Gaga’s “Born this Way” to Youtube and was discovered by Lady Gaga, who loved it, and 44 million Youtube plays later, she’s performed with Lady Gaga; been on the shows like Ellen Degeneres — and most recently was selected by Manny Pacquiao to sing the Philippine National Anthem.

I found myself becoming a fan of Maria not because I think she’s got the greatest voice in the world — it’s good, but it will get better — but because her presence is just stunningly impactful, with certain grace and heartfelt simplicity that really touches me. Watching this 11 year old sing Born this Way accompanied only by keyboard really caused the song to come alive, and its message, and I found myself tearing up — and not just the first time. The song’s message of inclusiveness, sung by this angelic child (who clearly knows what the words mean), and having her voice and persona go out to world and touch millions including Lady Gaga herself — all of that really worked for me, and continues to.

So — I was looking forward to hearing her performance of Lupang Hinirang — Yet when she performed, the damned director was about as “moment-deaf” as anyone I’ve ever heard of. He starts out with a giant wide shot, then cuts to one of the most unflattering “point the camera up the singer’s nose” shots I’ve ever seen (this for our first view of her), then an extended cutaway to Manny Pacquiao doing mitts in his locker room (which elicits a distracting buzz of inappropriate applause), then back to an extreme closeup, still unflattering, then an aerial shot of Las Vegas, the back to Manny, and finally ends on another fairly close shot, after she has sung the last note, that is the first one that actually lets you see her. Come on! That’s ridiculous. Not a single shot of any Filipino in the audience singing along…..not a single decent shot of her — nothing that attached any feeling at all to what should have been a lovely moment. Grrrrr……. didn’t like it at all.

Here’s the original cover of “Born this Way” — I don’t see how anybody can watch this and not fall in love with this simple, unaffected girl, and I’m just really disappointed that her Lupang Hinirang never had a chance.

And here she is on Ellen Degeneres — I just love the way she handles herself in this and all her interviews:

And by the way — can’t fail to mention that Fil-Am Thia Mcghia from American Idol sang the US National Anthem, and did a great job.

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