FILIPINO CHAMPION: BESSIE BADILLA

By Don Tagala, ABS CBN North America Bureau

May 9, 2013

Stamford, CT – At her Stamford, Connecticut home, Bessie Badilla is still picking up the pieces, 6 months after Super Storm Sandy devastated the East Coast.

“Eto ang remnants ng Sandy, pinapagawa pa po namin,” Badilla said, “It was really traumatic for us for 8 days, walang power walang tubig.”

But Badilla quipped that Sandy pales in comparison with the storms she had to weather to get to where she is now.

From her humble beginnings in the Philippines, this former beauty queen became one of the first Filipinos to model for the House of Balenciaga in Paris in the 70’s.

In the 80’s, the hit show “Eh, kasi Babae” turned her into a household name as a TV celebrity and was even nominated as most promising television star and best actress in a comedy show.

Badilla added that for someone who only wanted to become a flight attendant so she can travel the world, all these were unplanned.

“Wala sa balak ko yung maging Miss Philippines, maging miss Visayas, tapos maging model those were all unplanned. Yun yung mga sopresa ng buhay.”

She would later turn her back on a lucrative modeling and entertainment career in the Philippines to raise a family in the US.

She was living her American Dream in Stamford, Connecticut when it was cut short when husband Vicente “Bambi” Del Castillo died in his sleep in 2006 – due to an aneurysm.

Following the death of her husband, the grieving wife was diagnosed with thyroid cancer.

“In my mind, gagaling ako, hindi yung Oh My God, may cancer ako, in my mind gagaling ako and it will only give me more reason to live (In my mind I say I will get well. I don’t say ‘Oh my god I have cancer.’ That gave me more reason to live)” she said.

To take her mind off the pain, she learned to dance the samba, the Portuguese language and participated in a Brazilian Carnival Parade.

She never stopped dancing until she was crowned the Carnival Queen in Sao Paolo, Brazil in 2009, not once but twice and the first Filipina Carnival Queen at that.

After an aggressive radioactive iodine therapy, lots of prayers and an absolute will to live — she was diagnosed cancer-free in three years.

“I don’t think about being sick. I had to perform, I had to really dance well and sing well all in Portuguese, she said, “There are 5,000 people with me dancing Samba and singing with me. I had to give them the best energy that I could, I think that’s what actually help cure me too, the positive energy.”

Today, Badilla is finishing up the final touches on Brinoy Dois, a follow up album to her successful Brinoy music album launched in 2011.

Brinoy is Brazilian music infused with Filipino lyrics, written and sung by Bessie Badilla herself.

Brinoy music launched Badilla’s career as a singer and it created a new genre of Brazilian music that is uniquely Pinoy.

“There’ll be ups and downs, sometimes there will be more downs, but you have to get up, and try again, until you get what you want, Badilla said.

The girl who had nothing to begin with, and lost almost everything at one point in her life said she will continue to sing her life story in a Filipino-Brazilian kind of way and she couldn’t ask for more.

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