It’s in your DNA to be a Filipino; how can you just turn your back on it?
Lea Salonga is widely regarded as an iconic figure in Filipino culture, as she was one of the first Filipinos to become a widely recognized musician in North America. Born in Manila in 1971, Lea began studying music at a young age. At age 7, she made her musical theatre debut in a local production of The King and I. At age 10, she recorded her first album, Small Voice, which was certified gold in the Philippines. After years of gaining fame in the Philippines, Lea’s big break was in 1989 when the producers of Miss Saigon London expanded their search for leads into Asia. At age 17, Lea moved to London to play the lead in Miss Saigon, a musical which would eventually lead to her winning a Tony for Best Actress in a Musical, making her the first Asian woman to win a Tony award. After Miss Saigon, Lea went on to play roles in Les Miserables, and eventually voiced protagonists in both Disney’s Aladdin and Mulan.
Throughout her career, Lea has advocated for the preservation of Filipino culture through music and has yet to forget where her roots are from. In 2007, Salonga was awarded the Order of Lakandula, one of the highest honors in Philippine culture. She earned this award due to her “outstanding dedication in fostering mutual understanding, cultural exchange, justice and dignified relations among persons and nations”. This simply goes to show that her efforts to promote her culture don’t go unnoticed. Growing up partially Filipino, I often see her influence on many Filipino individuals, especially on musicians. She’s an idol to many who often feel underrepresented in their profession.