It was a night filled with realized dreams and wishes for the young Total Performer, Darren Espanto, as he reached an important milestone in his career. A night of celebration and fellowship among the ten thousand devoted DARRENatics who flew all the way from different parts of the country and the world. A night, where among many other stars, only one stood out and shined the brightest. Who would have thought that he’s only 14 years old with his superb talent and performances? How DARREN made history on May 29, 2015 was an extravaganza of a lifetime. An occasion that will stay sculpted in every DARRENatic’s heart. And for Darren was, “The Best Birthday Ever.”
The night began young as DARRENatics started filling up the MOA Arena assembly area at 4:00PM. Everyone was wearing keyed up smiles and dressed in their respective DARRENatics group shirts. Expressions of happiness were evident as cameras clicked here and there. Familiar faces got to exchange “Hellos” and “How are yous.” Warm hugs and kisses were shared among everyone. And don’t forget the children and adults, from all walks of life, who were undeniably hooked to this amazing kid, bearing priceless joy in their faces. To make the waiting more fun, the Darrenatics Admin gave out sweet treats and also had a face painting session. The excitement was not just spilling out for Darren’s anticipated performances but as well as the fellowship that the event called for.
As everyone was queuing for the entrance, DARRENatics Admins were giving glow sticks to the audience. Bracelets, necklaces, belts, and many other creative designs were made out of 12-inch long glow sticks. It was indeed a brilliant idea to paint MOA Arena green that night.
MOA Arena was enormous but surprisingly enough for the DARRENatics who packed the venue. Getting to your respective seats was easy and hassle free. It was great to note that everyone was giving way especially to the elderly and the kids. Although the fans already found their seats, still, they can’t stay put and took pictures with some celebrities present such as Darla Sauler, Kris Aquino, Jed Madela, Anthony Teberna, and many more.
A countdown was then started and was largely shown on the stage-wide screen. As the countdown continues, the shrieks grew louder and louder.
Louder screams were heard all over the arena as the fans’ excitement brimmed up while video greetings made by different DARRENatics groups around the globe was aired. The extensive reach of Darren’s supporters is just incredible. From the Philippines, to other countries worldwide, Darren had made a huge impact on the lives of these people.
The countdown was down to one minute and the earsplitting screams couldn’t just stop. The opening number has a futuristic theme where Darren first came out with a led suit along with 6 other dancers who were also wearing colorful led lighted suits. Darren quickly changed his outfit into a shiny black studded suit with black tee underneath. They all grooved rhythmically to the beat of the songs “Slave to the Rhythm” by Michael Jackson and “Domino” by Jessie J, two of Darren’s most favorite artists. The opening number was completed with stage fireworks.
After that exhilarating opening production, Darren took the time to welcome everyone and thanked them for making his birthday wish come true. It shows in his voice and reaction that he was very delighted to see the MOA Arena filled up. He shared how excited and nervous he was that he felt every beat of his heart. He was overwhelmed by the trust that was given to him to stage his concerts from the Music Museum and now at the MOA Arena. Still he was able to gather all his supporters and jam-packed the entire arena, which he admits he owed it to his dearest DARRENatics, family, friends, and relatives. He then promised to give everyone a great time and show them the “Darren” that they’ve never seen before.
Next up was a marvelous dance number that heated up the entire arena with a mash up of “That Power” by Will.i.am and Justin Beiber and “Radioactive” by Imagine Dragons.
He then excused himself and grabbed a sip of water saying, “Sandali lang po, iinom lang po ako’ng tubig.”
As a segway for the next set of songs, Darren owned up to everyone that he really loves performing and has been signing for 12 years now. He told everyone that he wanted to learn and do more things as a performer and that his journey has just begun. He assured everyone that as long as they (his fans) are there for him, he will never get lost and will continually follow the map of success. The songs “Counting Stars” by One Direction, “Maps” by Maroon 5, “Wild Heart” by The Vamps, And “Don’t Stop” by 5 Seconds of Summer best described the moment.
Everyone felt nostalgic as Darren recollected the memorable things that transpired for the past year and how their lives changed a hundred percent. When his family first decided to leave Canada for him to join The Voice Kids, things have turned a complete opposite of how they used to live as a family. He had his first mall show, TV guesting, solo concert, and his very first talent fee. He happily shared that he placed some of it in the bank and he spent some for a dinner treat with his family and friends.
Darren admitted that the best highlight in his career was when he released his self-titled debut album and was very thankful that it’s already gold. He good-humoredly inspired everyone that hopefully it would reach platinum by the end of the night.
He also acknowledged that his very first fans club, The DARRENatics, as they celebrate their first anniversary.
Having said that the voice kids had paved the way for him to achieve his dreams, he introduced one of his Kuya from The Voice Kids. The screen played a music video of his song “Makin’ Moves” and later on appeared Robi Domingo in a black and white striped sando, topped with a gray sleeveless cardigan. By the end of the song, Darren came out all looking funky in a white tee, yellow green and black jacket with a big letter “D” embroidered in front, black jeans, and a pair of high cut gray sneakers with white soles. Both of them looked very gorgeous and danced gracefully on stage.
Robi then gave a heartfelt birthday message to the celebrant. He noted that one of his biggest regret was that he didn’t make it as part of The Voice Kids season 1. He emphasized that Darren is the most talented kid he knew and complimented him with flattering words like, “Whatever happens, Darren Espanto is our Champion!” He continued saying, “Tonight is yours, tomorrow is yours, and the future is yours.” These words merited a loud applause from the audience.
When Robi left the stage, Darren continued to serenade his fans with his career single In Love Ako Sa’yo, composed by Mr. Vehnee Saturno. As always, he went down the stage and reached out to his fans. The eager fans were very receptive who took photos and shook his hands.
Darren then introduced for the very first time the music video of his second career single and soulfully sang along with it. Kennard Farraon’s “STUCK” was a masterpiece. Everyone was shrieking as Darren was charmingly seated on the music instrument boxes set up on stage.
After the heart throbbing serenade, Darren once again showed how appreciative he is to all the people who have helped him reach his goals. One of the people who tirelessly support and love him as family is the Queen of all Media, Kris Aquino. The lights dimmed and Darren came out with the beat of “Macho Gwapito.” Darren and Bimby had a fun dance number with Totoy Bibbo”, “Mr. Suave”, “Haypa”, and “Boom Panes.” After their dance prod, Darren thanked Miss Kris Aquino for allowing Bimby to join him on stage. He also thanked Mr. Mel Feliciano for the choreography and the dancers. Bimby left sweet words for his Kuya Darren.
The Voice Kids, according to Darren has opened a lot of doors and blessings for him. Through the voice he also found a family and two of them will be joining him on stage. The Voice of the Philippines Season 2 Top Two finalists, Mr. Jason Dy and Miss Alisah Bonaobra appeared on stage. Jason Dy, clad in cream suit, came out first as the song “Somewhere over the Rainbow” played. Alisah Bonaobra, dressed in white-silver gown joined Jason on stage. Darren fully clad in a brown suit with a white button up shirt underneath with a blue tie and black shiny shoes joined the two as they greeted him a happy birthday. Darren, Alisah and Jason sang “Stand up for Love” and later gave Darren their birthday messages.
The Voice fever did not end there as Darren shared a performance with The Voice of the Philippines Grand Winner Mr. Mitoy Yonting. The song “I Believe created goose bumps as they both flawlessly reached the high notes. Mitoy was attired in a black leather jacket with a white tee underneath, black pants and shoes. As Darren left the stage, Mitoy made the whole arena burst into laughter with him cracking jokes and giving out funny lines. Mitoy then sang his version of “Handog.”
Darren appeared again on stage in a shiny silver suit thanking Mitoy. As Mitoy left the stage, Darren shared that Mitoy is his idol and an inspiration for people like him to keep on dreaming.
Being a family oriented kid, Darren is always very thankful of his family and he wouldn’t miss it in the world to make them part of this celebration. The proud bother then introduced his little sister, Lynelle Espanto. Darren and Lynelle sang and danced “I want you to know” by Zedd and Selena Gomez.
As the saying goes “Like father, like son,” Darren introduced his next special guest, his very own father, Mr.Lyndon Espanto. Their version of the song “You Raise Me Up” was very touching.
Darren called his family on stage, his father Lyndon, his mother Marinel, and his cute little sister Lynelle. His mother and father gave emotional and touching messages for their son. A message that every parent would want to tell their kids. A message to keep his humility and to always put God at the center of it all. After having said their well wishes for their son, Darren dedicated the song “Home” by Whitney Houston to them.
Talking about God and his immense blessings on Darren, he offered his next song “Hallelujah” to the Lord God Almighty who made all his dreams come true despite being just a “Small kid with a big dream.”
Another highlight of his career was when he sang for Lolo Kiko on January, which he considered as a huge blessing. When Darren started to open his mouth, tears started to fall from the eyes of the avid DARRENatics. Darren sang “Tell the World of His Love” in a capella joined by a choir of about 60 members comprised of Barasoain Camerate Philippines, Vox, Dei, Sto. Nino Chorale, and Cherubs of the Holy Cross. A sentimental moment where everyone remembered the time when Pope Francis visited the Philippines and how the Filipinos felt so much love.
The lights dimmed and a ray of light casted on the shadows as El Gamma Penumbra once again showed their unique talent to the audience. It was no doubt why they won the very first Asia’s Got Talent grand champion crown.
Speaking of how talented the Filipinos are, Darren sang a series of Tagalog songs to pay tribute to the all-time best Filipino composers and writers. His amazing renditions of the song Sana’y Maghintay ang Walang Hanggan by Willy Cruz and Baby Gil, Iduyan Mo by Ryan Cayabyab, and Saan Darating Ang Umaga by George Canseco blew everyone away. With all the Tagalog songs that he gave life to, surely the mentioned composers are very proud of him with his expressive rendition, diction, and timing.
After singing his favorite OPM songs, he also belted out his favorite foreign songs. First up was Michael Jackson’s “Man in the Mirror.” It was a slower and emotional version compared to the ones he did before.
Living to the title of being a Total Performer, Darren displayed his ability to play the piano at the same time belting out Sia’s “Chandelier.” Everyone in their seats were jolted as Darren hit the highest note effortlessly.
After thanking the people behind the scene including the band, the dancers, and the directors who gave out their best for Darren, he sang his The Voice Kids Grand Finals piece, Ngayon by Basil Valdez. Silver confetti were flying around the stage as Darren finished the song with his signature high note.
Since the fans couldn’t get enough of Darren, they wanted more and Darren gave them a farewell song from his album “I Believe in Me,” where he asked everyone to stand up and party with him. Everyone was very happy and it definitely showed.
The night might have ended, but for Darren, it was the start of a new and brighter future for his career. After that night Darren has left a mark at the MOA Arena as the youngest artist to stage a sold out major solo concert in such a massive setting. The DARRENatics took part of this big success and will always be. Darren conquered the Mall of Asia Arena, proving that he is bigger than his dreams.
As he turns 14, Darren has yet so many stage to rock and more lives to touch. Being a Total Performer is not just being a singer and dancer but also making a difference in people’s lives. That is what DARREN ESPANTO is to his fans: an inspiration, a model, friend, and a true person inside and out.
Soar higher Mr. Domino!