Blind Girl From the Philippines Renders Dolly Parton Original

by

Riley Johnson

Updated

February 26, 2024

Updated

February 26, 2024

Updated

February 26, 2024

In August 2018, everyone was swept away by a video uploaded by Darell Burnett on Facebook featuring a blind girl from the Philippines casually belting a Dolly Parton classic, “I Will Always Love You,” whilst sitting down the whole time. And people couldn’t get enough of her rendition. In fact, in a matter of a few months, her singing earned 22 million views!

The Vocal Prowess of a Filipina

Elsie Atig Balawing is the second of four siblings, and she was born totally blind. But that wasn’t the only challenge she had to face. Coming from a small fishing village in Dipolog, Zamboanga del Norte, Elsie also didn’t have the privilege of receiving any formal education. Hence, she never knew how to speak English. 

But those things didn’t stop her from chasing her dreams.

Despite being unable to converse in the language, she learned to sing through listening. And one cover in particular changed her life: Dolly Parton’s song popularized by Whitney Houston titled “I Will Always Love You.” 

Every Filipino knows this song by heart as it’s a go-to in karaoke, auditions, and even performances. 

It was a simple video filmed at a small gathering of a few family and friends, with Elsie in a simple shirt and shorts. She was comfortably sitting down and then was promptly introduced by a woman. And then, as soon as she started to sing the first line, it was clear she was going to blow everyone away. 

And she did. She nailed Houston’s style, pouring her emotions into every line of the song and effortlessly hitting all the high notes. She also clearly enunciated each lyric, and no one would have been able to tell she didn’t speak the language. To some, this was a difficult song, but to her, it was just like another casual Tuesday exercising her vocals. She didn’t even look like she struggled a bit. 

Her incredible vocals didn’t just attract attention. It also got her a manager, a rock band bassist named Jeruel Pino. According to Pino, Elsie was actually discovered by his cousin Ang, but as soon as he heard her recording, he knew he had to find her. “I traveled to her village to see her and record some songs to tell the world about her talent.”

After her viral video and many more that followed, Elsie was invited to join the center stage on ABS-CBN’s ASAP with Filipino music industry heavyweights Regine Velasquez, KZ Tandingan, Yeng Constantino, Angeline Quinto, and Kyla to sing “I Will Always Love You” and Beyonce’s “Listen.” 

Check out her rendition of “I Will Always Love You” in the video below and be amazed.


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Dolly Parton


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