HomeGood ShowFrom Fishing Nets to Applauding Jets: How Filipino Singing Fisherman Roland Abante...

From Fishing Nets to Applauding Jets: How Filipino Singing Fisherman Roland Abante Reeled in the America’s Got Talent Judges

Roland Abante America's Got Talent
Experience the heart-touching journey of Roland Abante, a humble Filipino fisherman who won the hearts of judges and audience alike on America’s Got Talent with his soulful voice. Read on to learn how his life was transformed from casting fishing nets to hitting the high notes on the world stage. Screengrab from AGT video.

Once a fisherman in the remote seascapes of the Philippines, Roland Abante, also affectionately known as “Bunot,” delivered a stunning performance on the globally-renowned stage of America’s Got Talent (AGT) that left everyone in awe. The talent competition’s 18th edition was set ablaze with his soulful rendition of Michael Bolton’s “When a Man Loves a Woman.”

Before the much-anticipated performance on June 13, 2023, the judges delved a little into his background. Probing about his day-to-day activities in his home country, Roland shared that he spends his mornings fishing and his afternoons driving a motorcycle taxi, known as “habal-habal”. However, when the sun sets, the singing fisherman “Bunot” takes center stage at local karaoke joints, surprising everyone with his jaw-dropping vocals.

Abante’s dream to perform on America’s Got Talent came from a place of pure passion and emotion. Visibly nervous yet exuding excitement, he confessed that this was his “big dream to be here.”

His initial jitters were swept away as soon as he started singing, leaving the judges and the crowd completely mesmerized. The result was a staggering standing ovation, with each of the judges giving him a resounding “yes.”

Judge Heidi Klum lauded his performance, stating, “Mic drop. You left it all on the stage, you were amazing, you should be very proud of yourself.” The praises didn’t stop there. Sofia Vergara humorously predicted a career shift for Roland, stating, “I have a feeling you’re going to stop fishing because this is where you needed to be.”

Despite Abante’s initial nerves, Simon Cowell, who Roland admitted was his favorite judge, recognized his tremendous effort. He said, “You were so nervous, I genuinely thought for one moment you were not able to do this. And then, that happened.” Simon complimented Roland’s authenticity, which made him love the audition even more, calling it “really brilliant.”

Roland’s heart-touching performance also tugged at the heartstrings of fellow judge Howie Mandel. He reiterated Simon’s sentiment about Roland’s singing style, emphasizing, “It’s the emotion and we could feel your heart. And I think everybody just heard a life-changing moment.”

This isn’t the first time Roland’s singing talent has been recognized. He is well-known back home, often invited to perform at events and shows. He even had a viral moment in 2014 with his cover of “To Love Somebody” by Michael Bolton and was a contender in a popular local singing competition, It’s Showtime’s “Tawag ng Tanghalan,” in 2017.

The Hug

Behind Roland Abante’s heartfelt and mesmerizing performance on America’s Got Talent were touching moments of comfort and affirmation provided by two of the show’s judges. The fisherman-turned-singer from the Philippines not only garnered standing ovations but also heartwarming hugs from Heidi Klum and Simon Cowell.

Abante, accompanied by a translator on stage, had shared his humble beginnings with the audience and judges before his rendition of Percy Sledge’s “When A Man Loves A Woman”. “I’m a fisherman,” his translator relayed, describing his life in the Philippines, “And in the afternoon, I do drive a motorbike and I deliver passengers and goods.”

However, his typical day does not end there. He also belts out songs in his neighborhood and at karaoke nights, demonstrating his passion for singing despite his lack of professional training. Furthermore, before setting foot on the AGT stage, Roland already enjoyed a significant following of 44 thousand fans on his Facebook page. His social media posts depict him performing at various venues such as the ASEAN Music Festival and numerous local bars and parties. Additionally, he released an EP titled “Bunot” in 2017, available for streaming on platforms including Apple Music.

Abante’s powerful performance on AGT took everyone’s breath away, prompting a standing ovation from the four judges. They praised his incredible talent, with Heidi Klum even symbolizing a mic drop to compliment his performance. Simon Cowell acknowledged Roland’s nerves but celebrated how he overcame them to deliver a performance that genuinely moved him. Sofia Vergara hinted at a promising future for the gifted singer, suggesting that his fishing days might be coming to an end.

Before his performance, an emotional Roland shared with Klum his dream of being on AGT. Touched by his vulnerability, Klum offered him a comforting hug, a gesture that seemed to have a powerful impact. “Can I just say, boy, Heidi, that hug really worked,” joked Howie Mandel after Roland’s impressive act.

In a surprising moment, Roland interrupted Mandel’s review to express gratitude to Simon Cowell, revealing that Cowell was his favorite judge. This prompted Sofia Vergara to suggest that Cowell too should share a hug with Roland, leading to another touching moment on stage.

Roland Abante spends his nights in singing joints.

It was this combination of raw talent and genuine emotion that led to Roland receiving four unanimous “yes” votes from the judges, cementing his progress in the competition. His performance was more than just an act; it was a life-changing moment for him and an inspiring spectacle for the audience.

Roland Abante proved that talent knows no boundaries. A simple fisherman by day, this musical powerhouse lit up the AGT stage, making waves not just in his homeland but across the globe, capturing hearts with his soulful voice. His story is a reminder to dream big, as you never know when your voice might be heard by millions.

AGT is the stage that also gave the spotlight to Pilipinas Got Talent winner’s multi-voiced singer, Marcelito Pomoy, who won 3rd Runner-Up in America’s Got Talent Champions in 2020 and more recently, AGT 2021 semi-finalist young singer Peter Rosalita on the AGT All Stars stage.

For those wanting to witness more of such magical moments and follow Roland Abante’s AGT journey, new episodes of America’s Got Talent can be viewed Tuesdays at 8/7c on NBC and the next day on Peacock. Meantime, you can watch his performance here:

Good News Pilipinas is a Lasallian Scholarum Awardee. TELL US your good news story tips by messaging GoodNewsPilipinas.com on FacebookTwitter, or Instagram, or e-mailing editor@goodnewspilipinas.com

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The Good News Pilipinas Team
The Good News Pilipinas Team
The Good News Pilipinas Team is a group of Filipino journalists who advocate putting more good news stories about the Philippines and Filipinos on the media.

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