TAGUMENYA Julia Serad had been very devoted in pursuing her musical career her entire life.

At a very young age, Serad recalled accompanying her cousin, who was joining a singing contest in a mall. Caught by surprise, she was also asked to audition even as she was unprepared. This was the point when her interest in music began.

She auditioned for the same contest and won second runner up. She joined the competition again the following year and became the champion.

Since then, she has been seen joining singing competitions in schools and outside schools. From Tagum, her father had to accompany her to Davao City whenever she joined competitions.

She then became part of a music school, which was a big break for her as the management brought her, along with her bandmate in Manila, and was handled by the same management that houses prominent talents such as Dingdong Dantes and Ivana Alawi.

In 2015, her band represented the Philippines in the World Championships of Performing Arts (Wocopa), where they brought home five gold medals.

A year after, the band decided to go on hiatus, that was when she pursued a solo career in Manila.

It was the time when she pursued her musical career in singing at five-star hotels.

In 2020, months before the enhanced community quarantine was imposed in the entire country due to the Covid-19 pandemic, she became a lead artist in the production shows at Resorts World Manila where she got to showcase her versatility in singing, dancing, and performing on stage.

"It was so fun ta’s biglang namatay ang lights kasi nag-pandemic bigla. Mga two months lang yata ako nag-perform doon pero sobrang saya,” Serad shared.

Being stranded in Manila during the first few months of the pandemic, she said it was a challenging moment in her life.

Pursuing a musical career amid the pandemic was hard for her since they were not allowed to perform on stage. That was when she resorted to performing online via video sharing app Kumu and performing in virtual corporate events. She has also recorded covers on her YouTube account.

"Parang it's a new world for me. Singing through a screen, it's not that rewarding as an artist for me. Kasi I long for that feeling na may response gyud ang tao ba habang ga-perform ka. Gapalakpak sila and then you get to see their reactions," she said.

She said she is still thankful that at least she gets to do what she loves.

Serad recalled that a friend of hers sent her a link, encouraging her to join GMA7’s singing competition The Clash, which was on its season 4. She recalled having no interest in joining after getting discouraged from her previous experience.

Serad had previously joined singing shows on TV in 2016 and along with her group Zalia in 2019.

"Dati, na-discouraged ako mag-[join] ng competition kay I don't think competitions, especially on TV, kay fair because this is business, they need to give people what they want. Na-isip ko I don't want to sacrifice my artistry to get that much attention,” she admitted.

But since she was stuck at home doing nothing, she gave it a try and sent her audition video.

"I was also searching for that feeling na excitement, pressure kasi tagal ko nang hindi sumasali sa contest. I was longing for that feeling as a performer," Serad said.

Despite not being a newbie in singing contests, Serad still felt her nerves are wracking, knowing she would be facing one of the show's judges, who happens to be her idol -- Asia's Nightingale Lani Misalucha.

The journey was also unusual for her, considering that it was her first time to join a competition in the middle of the pandemic.

The pressure of the competition not only affected her but also the fear of getting Covid-19. She revealed that some of her fellow "Clashers" did not make it through the competition, not because they were eliminated, but some tested positive for Covid-19, forcibly having to leave the contest.

She said she was privileged to work with professional artists, musical directors, and voice coaches.

"As a singer, parang validation siya na naka-work ko sila," she said.

Serad said she grew up as a ballad singer. But during the competition, her potential as an R&B singer was exposed. This was seen as the reason she had advanced in the competition, and had not only wowed the judges but also gained followers.

"You also have to exercise your creativity para you could give something new every time. Kailangan dili lang ka mag-stay sa imong comfort zone," she said.

Her experience and confidence as a singer had contributed to her starpower performance in The Clash.

"Being with these people sa work, I also had to maki-level sa kanila. Dili pwede nga mediocre lang akong (It’s not enough to give a mediocre) performance. I need to excel kay (because) you are lined up with all these successful and very famous artist,” Serad said.

"And me, knowing na gikan sa probinsya (from the province), I was thinking that there is no space for me to be reserved, to be shy. I need to be really baga’g nawng. Dili pwede mag-ulaw-ulaw (Think-faced. No room to be shy). This is my chance,” Serad added.

Admittedly, she felt a little frustration for not making it to the final round of the competition. But still, there were no regrets in joining the competition despite not being able to make it to the final round.

“Pero I was thinking na lang after that it doesn’t end here, and I believe that God has prepared bigger things for me, and I will be working hard for it,” she said.

“Ang mindset ko kasi, if it’s not for you, then it is really not for you , and you move on to the next thing and work harder,” she added.

In December last year, Serad made her homecoming on Christmas, wherein she was given recognition at the City Hall of Tagum for showcasing the world-class Tagumenyo talent in the national talent search. She was overwhelmed with the support of Tagumenyos.

If there was one person whom she made happy and proud the most, it was her father, who works as the security guard of the Tagum City Hall.

"Everybody knows nga anak ko sa ako papa and they were congratulating my dad. Even my dad was so happy,” she smiled while sharing.

Until now, she is not used to the attention she is getting. For her, it's a weird feeling but happy that people recognize her. But she said she remains grateful for the support of Dabawenyos.