Chicago Filipina Caregiver Joins StarQuest

by Joseph G. Lariosa
PHOTO:: Marilou T. Dichosa (JGL Photo by Joseph G. Lariosa)
PHOTO:: Marilou T. Dichosa (JGL Photo by Joseph G. Lariosa)

PHOTO:: Marilou T. Dichosa (JGL Photo by Joseph G. Lariosa)

CHICAGO (JGL) – A Filipina caregiver in Chicago, Illinois is following the footsteps of Rose Fontanes, a Filipina caregiver , who won the reality show X-Factor in Israel last January.

Unlike Fontanes, Marilou T. Dichosa is not going to have a problem with United States immigration authorities because when she arrived in the U.S. in 1986, she was a legal permanent resident (LPR) after her mother petitioned her on a family-based immigrant visa.

Fontanes, 47, who has been in Israel since 2007 as a caregiver, was only permitted to work as a caregiver. Initially, Fontanes was denied permission to work as an artist. However, a public outcry in her favor prompted Israel authorities to issue her a permit. Fontanes won the inaugural Season of Israel’s X-Factor talent show.

Dichosa would have loved to join a singing contest 28 years ago. But the StarQuest Karaoke Singing Contest, a Hollywood, California-based contest among Filipino Americans, had yet to be conceived.

Only seven years old, StarQuest will be holding its Grand Finals on Jan. 31, 2015 in Hollywood that will include Dichosa as one of the five finalists from across the U.S., the first time this year that this contest will go national.

Dichosa won the right to represent Chicago Filipinos by besting four other contestants at the StarQuest search elimination round at Bahay Kubo restaurant in the north side of Chicago last Oct. 19, 2014 with her rendition of her idol, Shirley Bassey’s This Is My Life.

Winner of the Grand Finals will get a top prize of $3,000; the second, $2,000; and the third, $1,000. Qualifiers get Karaoke machines and a Mexican Cruise.

A supporter of Dichosa, businessman Nestor Soriano of Chicago and Cebu-based Neon Technologies Institute and founder of Asian Neon & Arts Tech in Cebu, said whether Dichosa wins the StarQuest Grand Finals or not, he wants her to join “The Voice of the Philippines,” a year-old reality talent search of ABS-CBN, in Metro Manila.

“I want to give her a break,” added Soriano, who has contacted a Chicago-based recording studio to give Dichosa a crack at waxing a record.

A high school student when she arrived in Chicago, Dichosa had been a popular party guest singer in different Filipino American community events taking up odd jobs to support her two biological children, whom she raised as a caregiver.


A native of General Santos City in the Philippines, Dichosa was a winner of Bagong Kampeon, a singing contest in her city in the early 80’s.

Aside from Shirley Bassey, Marilou’s other favorite is Filipina Sentimental Songstress Imelda Papin.

Her dream? To sing, backed up by an orchestra.

StarQuest started in 2008 as “Search of the Valley Stars” held at Oshata Restaurant, a Thai restaurant in Panorama City in California, for relaxation and fun. Ed Robedillo hatched the name and Freddie Castaneda executed the idea as Executive Director of Filipino American Marketing Enterprise (FAME), now Filipino American Media & Entertainment. Mr. Castaneda invited Teresita “Tek” Bautista and Dr. Ner Azaula to become partners on the venture.

At the Grand Finals of Season 1 on Dec. 13, 2008, Judith “Jetskie” Bergman won the top cash prize of $1,500; Season 2 started at Barrio Fiesta Restaurant in Eagle Rock, Los Angeles with a new name, LA StarQuest Karaoke Singing Contest with Arnel Culata, Manny and Jet Francisco as co-producers. Retz Gajardo, Jr. won the top prize of $1,200; Season 3 gave birth to another name, StarQuest Karaoke Singing Contest, which is still in use up until this year’s Season 7. Season 3 was held in different restaurants in Los Angeles. Winner of the grand prize was Michelle de los Reyes, who pocketed $3,000 plus round-trip ticket to Manila.

Taking a page from American Idol, under a new regime, StarQuest Karaoke Singing Contest will have weekly elimination rounds, monthly finals and quarterfinals with the scoring 50% coming from the average score of the three judges and 50% coming from the audience.

In the semi-finals, 60% will be coming from the average score of five judges and 40% from the audience. In the Grand Finals, the 60-40 scoring format in the semi-final will also be adopted, but the number of five judges will be increased to seven.



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