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Viral Cebuano Talent Makes ‘America’s Got Talent’ Judges Swoon

Viral Cebuano Talent Makes ‘America’s Got Talent’ Judges Swoon
Roland ‘Bunot’ Abante belts out ‘I Will Always Love You’ during ‘America’s Got Talent’ qualifying rounds on Wednesday, Sept. 13, 2023. (Philippine time)

Viral Cebuano singer Roland “Bunot” Abante once again captured the hearts of “America’s Got Talent” judges and audiences following his emotional rendition of Whitney Houston’s “I Will Always Love You” for the talent show’s qualifying rounds.

Abante performed the classic song on Wednesday, Sept. 13 (Philippine time) to loud audience cheers in the venue. A standing ovation followed immediately from audiences as well as judges Simon Cowell, Sofia Vergara, Heidi Klum and Howie Mandell.

“Roland, bravo! I mean look at everyone here, they are going crazy for you! And I know that the people have been watching you, your audition and people love you. It's amazing. Coming from your country, from a karaoke --- good job tonight! You are amazing, you deserve to be on AGT," an enthusiastic Vergara said, noting the audience appreciation for Abante.

Cowell initially said he did not like Abante’s performance and was booed by the audience. But later declared: “I loved it.”

“How could you not?...Particularly when I saw the film and what happened after the audition and how much this means to you and you know you were singing your life out on stage there, that’s what makes this competition exciting, people will come from all over the world to kind of fulfill their dreams and I think…well in fact I know America loves you and rightly so," Cowell said.

Mandell, meanwhile, said Abante had the “perfect song” and “perfect voice,” and that his performance was spectacular.

“You know, you said 'I will always love you.' I think you just made everyone in the world love you. This was memorable. Only two can go through, [so] they gotta vote for you. I believe that this was the performance of a final," he said.

For her part, Klum noted the “grit” and “texture” in Abante’s vocals. Like Mandel, Klum was vocal in wanting Abante in the final rounds because of his “beautiful” performance: “If there's another golden buzzer that could push you right to the finale, I would push that for you right now,” Klum said.

Like his performance, the judges’ praises for Abante also elicited loud audience cheers. Abante himself could only turn emotional as he thanked them for their words.

As of writing, Abante’s performance has clinched the second spot in YouTube’s trending list with about 1.2 million. Netizens praised Abante’s vocals, from his control of it, to pulling off a difficult song to cover.

Abante’s performance is part of AGT’s fourth batch of “qualifiers.” To determine its finalists, five qualifiers will be held, with two talents per batch entering AGT’s grand finale through overnight audience voting.

Abante first garnered attention during the show’s audition rounds in June. With a performance of Michael Bolton’s When a Man Loves a Woman,” Abante earned four ‘“yes” votes from the judges, along with a standing ovation from the audience at the time.

Apart from the Cebuano vocalist, Filipino-American magician Anna de Guzman is also vying for a grand finale spot in the same qualifiers batch. In her performance on Wednesday, De Guzman performed another card manipulation trick on the judges onstage.

After her tricks, judges praised De Guzman for coming through despite being nervous. Mandell and Cowell, for their part, “loved” the magician’s personality and presentation.

“We need more female magicians! That’s all I can say. Okay? I also have to say, it’s amazing how you did this because you were so incredibly nervous. Like, I could see your hands [shaking]…But you were incredible. I also love the way you spoke. You kept us all engaged. I really like you,” Klum said.

“It was super fun to be there with you, to see what you were doing. You started super, super nervous, but then you started like easing into it. And your personality was showing. I think you have a big career ahead of you,” Vergara told De Guzman.

Watch the performance of Roland Abante here:

Watch the performance of Anna de Guzman here: