New Zealand is a country with a big heart, as migrants who have come here to better their lives have found. For some Pinoys it’s a life that pursues their passion - a passion for theatrical music. And those who have auditioned for roles in spectacular shows like Miss Saigon have been well received by local audiences. Report by Mel Fernandez and Maricar Siayngco (

The original Kim in ‘Miss Saigon’ (London and New York productions) was played by Filipina actress, Lea Salonga. The role made her famous internationally.

In New Zealand, Ivy Rose Padilla was the first Filipina to land a major role in ‘Miss Saigon’.

She played Kim in the Wellington season of the blockbuster musical in April last year.

Ivy and her family have been in this country for only three years.

Following in Ivy’s footsteps was Tina Bergan-tinos, 22, who played the pivotal role of Kim in the Hamilton season in July last year, followed by a similar role in the Dunedin season in September.

Although it was her first musical-theatre show, some reviewers say “she stole the show with her delicate but powerful voice”.

“During the Hamilton auditions there were 60 applicants vying for the role of Kim in the production. So it was quite an honour to be selected for the part”, says Tina.

She is a fashion designer by profession with her own brand of clothes, which are sold online.

Tina told FMN that she has no plans to participate in any more musicals.

The Auckland season of Miss Saigon commenced in May this year with a cast of 60 talented individuals; the largest team ever recruited for a musical in the city.

There were 29 Asian cast members, 17 of whom were Pinoys.

Of the nine male roles in the musical, seven went to Filipinos and of the sixteen female roles, six were Filipinas.

This group calls themselves ‘Pinoy Saigon’ and has plans to continue singing after the curtains come down in Auckland.

In one theatre review, O’Neal Mendoza who plays Thuy, an officer in the North Vietnamese Army, received a special mention for his outstanding performance.

In the Philippines he has had the honour of singing with some of the original London cast of Miss Saigon.

O’Neal is now in his fourth year as a performing member of the New Zealand Opera Company.

Dwayne Mallo, another cast member, says: “I’m excited as this is my first major production. I’ve done a variety of roles in campus stage productions and numerous shows in the Philippines.”

He is an optical technician by profession and comes from Las Pinas, Metro Manila.

Erwin Cifra, an early childhood education teacher, says: “Joining Miss Saigon was my lifelong dream. I’ve been involved in stage productions since high school and performed at major venues back home”.

Leilani Guillen, from Los Banos, Laguna, played the role of "Annie" when she was only 12.

“I also joined some singing competitions in the Philippines - ‘Star for a Night’ and ‘Magandang Tanghali Bayan’. I’m currently one half of the Auckland-based singing duo, ‘Rhythm and Sounds’".

Lelani works as a Business Development Manager for a mobile marketing company.

Ena Rico, an accounts co-ordinator at TVNZ, says: “I’ve been a long-time fan of Lea Salonga and I was delighted to land a role in the musical”. 

Reynald Ricafrente, a design engineer for Telecom NZ, is a member of the Living Water Chorale and the MIT Concert Singers.

Russell Siayngco was equally thrilled when he found out he was chosen for the show. Russell works in sales for Goodman Fielder New Zealand.

Other members of the cast include Samantha Batchelor, Janel Surtida, Catherine Ombao, Abby Marasigan,  Percy La Madrid and Romel Gonzales.

The four Filipino kids in the show are Kenzo Santayana, Abbey Martinez, Isabella Caballero and Johann Guadalupe who took turns to play “Tam”.


- First appeared in Filipino Migrant News (

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