“I ALWAYS dreamed of being an artist when I was little, so I joined various singing competitions in the school and barangay until I was discovered by someone in need of a vocalist for his band in Panabo City,” says Francis Rey Paña – Finstad, a good looking guy whose friendly and charming demeanor instantly keeps everyone in rapt attention. We were in a Japanese restaurant when his good friend Pamela Pitts, introduced him simply as an international artist just in town for a short break.
This person who proudly hails from a small city of Panabo has an amazing journey to tell.
Francis was studying in the University of Mindanao while juggling part time work as a dance instructor and singer in local bands. He then decided to pursue work abroad to help his family and the education of his siblings.
He started training in Zamboanga and Naga City for two months while waiting for his working visa. In 1999, he left the Philippines for a global experience that will span years of hard work, amazing skills, perseverance, and a good dose of luck.
The first stop was Bahrain as a singer in the Holiday Inn, then a hotel in Dubai, and back to Bahrain again. His Middle East experience lasted for three years.
Shanghai, China was his next stop in 2003.
He became a multitalented artist for ten years, performing at big company events, roadshows, boxing matches, the Philippine Consulate in China, and in both Filipino and Norwegian communities. He was mostly thriving as a singer until he moved to Jakarta, Indonesia in 2013 where a new world was opened to him.
“This is where I concentrated more on my passion for fashion and make-up styling, as I found myself in a circle of designers, beauty titlists and top models,” he relates.
“Here I met Whulandary Herman, Miss Universe Indonesia 2013, when she made it to the top 16 finalists in the Miss Universe 2013 in Russia. I began to style and help her wardrobe in various catwalk and entertainment shows. Since then, my fashion and make-up skills were recognized and acknowledged.”
“I managed to penetrate the entertainment industry in Jakarta and have fortunately worked with actors and actresses, artists, and famous people from all over the world. I trained Indonesia’s Miss Grand International 2016 held in Las Vegas, and Miss World 2nd Runners-up of 2015/2016. I am privileged to work with an international Filipino artist based in Indonesia named Leo Consul. He is currently expanding his career here in the Philippines and I am asking you guys to support him,” he says.
Currently, Francis is based both in Indonesia and Norway, traveling back and forth. He is now a Filipino-Norwegian, having married Thomas Finstad in 2010. Thomas was counselor for the Royal Norwegian Embassy whom he met in China years ago.
Currently, he is CEO of Francebook Arts & Entertainment, a fashion/makeup stylist, pageant and catwalk coach for men and women, as well as a musician and vocalist. His latest projects were preparing the winners for their international pageants from Miss Universe, International, Supranational and Grand 2017.
This year, Ms. Whulandary, the beauty queen turned actress and good friend had a grand wedding where Francis proudly sang during the reception.
When asked for his future goals and a simple advice to aspiring artists, he replies, “I will continue to inspire people especially my kababayans through my work, and hopefully be able to bring this craft back to my Philippines with a styling company of my own someday. Do not lose your passion to dream, pursue it.”
The Panabo-born entrepreneur’s childhood ambition was encouraged by his grandmother who was a professional singer during her time. For following his dreams, he was able to send his siblings off to college, buy his own house and invest in business opportunities. Here is a proud Filipino whose journey and artistry continues to blossom, inspiring others to pursue their own dreams while embracing the trials and challenges that come along.
You can check his Instagram account @francebook and on Facebook (francisrlpana-finstad).
(Jojie Alcantara is a long time photojournalist and workshop speaker based in Davao City. Proudly writing for SunStar Davao for more than two decades, in this nest she has grown to become an avid traveler and photographer. Email at email@example.com or visit kodakerdabawenya.com.)