MANILA, January 10, 2006
(STAR) SPORTING CHANCE By Joaquin M. Henson - Games and Amusements Board (GAB) commissioner Angel Bautista, whose uncle is former Sen. Ramon Revilla, swears he didnít pull any strings to get his daughter Jennifer, or Jen, the plum assignment of singing the National Anthem in the ring before the Manny Pacquiao-Erik Morales rematch at the Thomas and Mack Center in Las Vegas on Jan. 21.

Lani Misalucha did it once but Jenís turn comes when millions of viewers are tuned in to watch what could be the fight of the decade. Patrons are paying from $50 to $500 for tickets to witness the bout at the 19,000-seat University of Nevada at Las Vegas Runniní Rebels varsity homecourt. And fans are coughing up $44.95 each for a hit on HBO pay-per-view.

In the Philippines, the fight will be telecast with Filipino commentary, featuring World Boxing Council (WBC) lightflyweight champion Brian Viloria as analyst, on the ABS-CBN network and the Solar Sports channel on Sunday morning, Jan. 22. It will be shown live via satellite with no commercial breaks in SM cinemas at Megamall, Fairview, Southmall, Manila, Pampanga and Cebu starting at 8 a.m. There will also be pay-per-view subscriptions available in selected provincial sites.

An exclusive VIP screening is being planned for special guests in Metro Manila. An SM cinema or a Rockwell theater may be used for the VIPs.

A replay of the fight is scheduled at 9 p.m. on the same day, Sunday, with the Filipino commentary on the ABS-CBN network and the US commentary on the Solar Sports channel.

Viewership is expected to hit the roof. The first Pacquiao-Morales fight enjoyed an audience share of about 47 percent or some 1.6 million households. This time, it should go over 50 percent because the hype for the rematch is just phenomenal. Solar marketing head Jude Turcuato said the objective is to connect to at least two million households to assure an audience share of over 50 percent.

It was Commissioner Bautistaís colleague Alex Paglumotan, also a GAB commissioner, who announced that Jen would sing the National Anthem in Las Vegas in a Dec. 15, 2005, release on the website

"Lady Luck has just smiled on this young, talented and beautiful lass from Imus, Cavite," wrote Paglumotan. "The newly-launched Viva artist who popularized the best revival of "Hello" and other Filipino love songs of the 21st century has been tasked to sing the Philippine National Anthem for the much-publicized WBC International superfeatherweight championship (fight) between Mexicoís top caliber pro Erik Morales (and) our very own Filipino star "Pacman" Manny Pacquiao.

ĎJen will render the Lupang Hinirangí as traditionally done every time and whenever a championship fight is held among professional boxers in any weight category. And Iím sure about this, Jen will definitely be a lucky charm for Manny."

In case you didnít know, Pacquiao had a hand in landing Jen the job. Thatís Manny for you. Heís always ready to lend a helping hand to another Filipino looking for a big break. Pacquiao did the same for his close friend Rex (Wakee) Saludís protege Philippine superfeatherweight champion Jimrex Jaca who is booked to face Ivan Valle of Mexico in the Las Vegas undercard. He arranged Jacaís booking through his manager Shelly Finkel and promoter Gary Shaw who, in turn, finalized the deal with Top Rank boss Bob Arum.

Jen, 23, is a Mass Communications graduate of De La Salle University in DasmariŮas, Cavite. She has performed at the MetroPop Star Search in 1999, the Star for a Night in 2002 and the Star in a Million in 2004.

Jenís debut CD, produced by Viva, is now available in the market.

Aside from singing in concerts, Jen likes to act on stage and appeared in the musical play "SideShow" at the Music Museum last year. She was a guest performer in concerts of Christian Bautista, Jaya, Nonoy ZuŮiga, Sarah Geronimo, the Side A band and Gary Lewis and the Playboys, among others. Jen also sang on Solar Sportsí "Tribute to the Champions" honoring Pacquiao, Rey (Boom Boom) Bautista and Viloria.

Jenís father said he wonít be at ringside for his daughterís global TV debut. But her mother Luve will be. The day after the fight, Jen will appear with balladeer Anthony Castelo in a Las Vegas gig. They will also perform in New York on Jan. 27-28. Jen is booked to sing in San Jose, California, too.

A week ago, top singer Martin Nievera offered to sing the National Anthem for free. He wasnít aware of Jenís assignment.

"It would be my right-left combination and contribution for Manny," said Martin in his offer. "I have no price for this type of thing. It would be my honor. My pay would be the honor of our flag."

When he was told that a commitment had been made to Jen, Martin said no problem. His offer came too late. Someone suggested a duet but Martin said it would be difficult.

"A group could sing it but not a duet," remarked Martin. "Next time na lang. As long as a Filipino or Filipina is doing it. Not important that itís me. As long as someone waves our flag proudly. Itís better or more sincere if less people (are) in the kitchen or in this case, on stage."

Martin said heíll be at the Thomas and Mack Center applauding Jen and cheering his lungs out for Pacquiao. The Concert King is now in Las Vegas and just appeared in a benefit show for Hurricane Katrina victims. According to Mari Ojeda of the Air Transportation Office, Martinís close to signing a long-term contract to perform in a popular Las Vegas club with a noted American vocalist.

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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