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An unlikely YouTube 'singing sensation:' Cardinal Tagle

After Jessica Sanchez, Charice, and Arnel Pineda, the latest rising Pinoy YouTube star is cut from a different cloth – or, to be more precise, he's a man of the cloth. It's no surprise that Manila Archbishop Luis Antonio Cardinal Tagle's musical talents delight his followers in the Philippines, where singing is a national pastime. Tagle himself has gotten rave reviews on YouTube, where Pempengco and Pineda began their rise to fame. In 2009, a performance featuring Tagle as the soloist was the most applauded number in "Horizons," the first major concert of Our Lady of the Pillar Cathedral Choir, according to the description of a video uploaded on YouTube in 2010. Our Lady of the Pillar Cathedral Choir is the Diocesan Choir of Imus, Cavite, Tagle's hometown. Since the video was uploaded, it has drawn 18,375 views, many of those from new fans of the supposedly most active papabile in the social networking world. Singing Gary Valenciano's "Warrior is a Child,' Tagle was also the star of the show at a concert for the benefit of Bantay Bata held at the La Salette Shrine in Biga, Silang, Cavite. "The audience was surprised and awed by the display of talent by these anointed servants," wrote Salvador Pico, who uploaded a video of the bishop's performance to YouTube in 2009. [] Tagle's love for music, as well as his religiosity, was evident at an early age, according to his mother, Mila, interviewed on GMA News TV's Brigada. As a theology student, Tagle was very funny, in addition to being brilliant, says Fr. Robert Reyes, Tagle's classmate at the San Jose seminary at the Ateneo de Manila University. "We were kids. Even if we were already theology students, we were in our early 20s. Naglalaro kami, kumakanta kami. We liked to sing," said Reyes in an interview on News to Go on Tuesday. "I was the guitarist of our little singing group, and Chito (Tagle's nickname) was one of the lead singers with another classmate, si Danny Bermudo," Reyes recalled. Apart from singing, they would also dance. "Definitely Chito was a performer during our time. He would conduct the little group of Fr. Hontiveros. We had regular concerts," said Reyes. Even then, it was evident that Tagle would go far. "We knew he would definitely become a bishop at the very least. He was very brilliant. Kami lahat kakayod, talagang magihihirap sa pagrereview sa exam. He would sit in his room, dadalawin siya ng mga nahihirapan. Kakatok, tutulungan niya, siya hindi magaaral tapos he still gets the highest grades," he said. Should Tagle be chosen pope, his talents would serve the Church well. As John Allen wrote in the National Catholic Reporter, Tagle is "an effective communicator and missionary at a time when Catholicism's highest internal priority is a new evangelization. There's a sort of E.F. Hutton quality about Tagle: When he talks, people listen." As Reyes said, Tagle as a speaker was funny, but effective. "He would communicate very serious ideas in a very popular and simple way," he said. Reyes said that with the problems the Church is facing now, good communication skills are necessary. He noted that Pope John Paul II was very charismatic, while Pope Benedict the XVI connected in a heavy and serious way. "Ngayon ang daming problema ng Simbahan. It's a very painful time for the Church, 'yung mga scandals. It is no laughing matter. But we need someone who can lighten up the atmosphere and get people to work and reform the Church," he said. Tagle's followers adore him for his powerful sermons as well as for simple lifestyle, choosing to ride tricycles and jeepneys. "His compassion for the poor and his unassuming ways have impressed followers in his homeland, Asia's largest Catholic nation, and church leaders in the Vatican," Daniel Miller wrote in an article in Daily Mail. Still, Tagle's chances of becoming the next Pope are considered remote, the article said. "But even the hint of papal consideration has electrified many in the heavily Catholic Philippines, where past pontiffs had been welcomed by millions with rock-star intensity," he wrote. In the Philippines, Tagle leads over 80 million Catholics. "Sabi nga ng marami, na napakalaking honor. It's a very very great honor. The Filipinos will feel so honored and so happy if he becomes a pope," Fr. Catalino Arevalo, one of Tagle's professors at the Ateneo de Manila University, said on GMA News TV’s “Brigada." The second youngest cardinal, Tagle's age is an obstacle to his candidacy. "At 55, he's three years younger than John Paul II was when he was elected in 1978, so a vote for Tagle would be tantamount to a vote for another long papacy, perhaps as much as 30 years," Allen wrote. On the other hand, his age could be an advantage when reaching out to Catholic youth.  "The young want to be connected," Tagle was quoted in an Agence France Presse report. - Carmela G. Lapeña/VVP/HS, GMA News