Filipino talents across the diaspora have graced the stage of NBC’s America’s Got Talent (AGT). Marcelito Pomoy wowed the judges and the audience for AGT: The Champions last season and Angelica Hale made history as the first contestant to earn Golden Buzzer wins in the two seasons she joined. The all-male hip-hop dance group called Junior New System also made it to the semifinals of the show.
For Season 15, fans are earnestly looking at The Spyros Bros, who have mastered the art of incredible and elaborate diabolo (Chinese yoyo) tricks. Merriam Webster describes the diabolo as “an hourglass-shaped top that is balanced and spun on a string stretched between the tips of two sticks.”
The duo, composed of Filipino-American brothers Marco Angelo and Marc Albert, are all set for the show’s semis this week.
“We have more insane tricks we haven’t shown yet and a secret danger element to reveal. We don’t want to spoil, but it’s once again something that AGT has never seen before,” Marc told the Asian Journal.
Equally excited, Marco promised that they are going to step up their game and they plan to keep the surprise and the wow factor going.
“That’s the hardest part. We need to find new, fresh tricks the audience and judges have not seen,” he said. “The semifinals is where the men are separated from the boys.”
The brothers delivered a riveting and captivating audition piece which was aired last June 16.They combined various elements of juggling, dancing and acrobatics to produce a great performance, one that opened the door for them in the NBC reality show competition and earned for them a standing ovation from the judges.
“We pulled it off. We’re excited and exhilarated,” Marc said after the performance.
“We worked 4 to 8 hours a day just to get to this point. This was not an audition to us, this was our grand finals. Diabolo is our life and passion, we’ve done it our whole lives and it has changed our whole lives,” Marco added.
The brothers told us that they prepared for their audition piece for two months and practiced every single day, whether it is in the dark, it is windy or in the rain, or even on uncomfortable ground.
They had to work extra hard for the live quarter-final rounds which started a couple of weeks ago. This time, they delivered another epic performance, more than enough for the judges to swoon and express a little fear for their own safety at the same time.
“The joy and enthusiasm you bring to the show is special,” said actress Sofia Vergara, who shielded her face a couple of times. “I’ve never seen a diabolo in my life until I met you guys and it gives me fear, I feel like you will break my teeth or something bad is going to happen.”
“It was quite incredible,” echoed fellow judge Heidi Klum who said she loved how the brothers were able to maximize the space at Universal. Except when that space was the “space right in our face,” she remarked.
“You are precision, you make diabolo look so easy and you make judging look so dangerous,” said Howie Mandel.
Finding an opening, Marc was able to give out a piece of trivia after their performance.
Host Terry Crews mentioned Klum’s comment that the diabolo was not like a yoyo which was attached to a string.
“It is a giant yoyo that flies. Fun fact: the small yoyo was invented by a Filipino and we’re Filipino. His name is Pedro Flores and that’s how it all ties in,” he said.
Fox News anchor Tucker Carlson drove some of his viewers to the brothers’ performance which was uploaded on YouTube, as evidenced by the comment section.
“Last night, the Democrats’ convention lost in the ratings to a variety show called “America’s Got Talent.” A pair of jugglers from the Philippines wearing glow-in-the-dark headbands did a yo-yo demonstration. That out-rated “Doctor” Jill Biden. By a lot,” he said.
Road to Fame
Born and raised in Queens, New York, Marco and Marc lived with their family in Floral Park.
The brothers were around 8 to 10 years old when the diabolo piqued their interest and curiosity. They first tried it at the China Pavilion of Epcot Center and found it so unique and fun to play with.
They were amazed that unlike the yoyo, the diabolo is not attached to the string and it can be thrown into various places like onto the sticks, in the air, juggling multiple diabolos and doing athletic moves with it.
They moved back to the Philippines in 2012 and continued mastering the craft.
They settled in Santa Rosa, Nueva Ecija, the hometown of their parents Alberto and Maritess Betito, and went to Holy Cross College for high school and Wesleyan University for college. Marc took up Electronics Communications Engineering and Marco studied Fine Arts.
“We wanted to learn about our culture, language and family heritage,” Marco said, adding that he remembers how hot it was in Cabanatuan City and calls it “possibly the hottest city in the Philippines.”
“New York is filled with so much diverse culture but it felt like we didn’t know much about our own besides the lumpia and tinikling,” Marc said.
Marco turned 26 on August 29, and shares his birthday with his idol Michael Jackson. On the same day seven years ago, he won a talent show in the Philippines called “Talentadong Pinoy” with a Michael Jackson tribute performance.
The brothers joined PINASikat on the noontime show Showtime, another talent search in the Philippines, in 2015 and won.
From then on, they set their sights higher and wished to perform their act internationally and put AGT on their radar. It wasn’t an easy route though.
Marco was born with Language Processing Disability and grew up with ADD but with enough family support and his own strength and determination, he was able to overcome such adversity.
He shared that he dreamt of joining AGT when he was only 14 years old.
“It was always our dream to join AGT,” Marc, who is two years younger than Marco, echoed. “The actual question was when were we ready. We wanted to join because we wanted to show the world our talent & share our story of how we overcame hardships in our life.”
Early this year, auditioning in front of the judges became an actual dream come true for them.
This happened last March at the Pasadena Convention Center. Among the words they used to describe the experience: “super exciting but also nerve wracking” and “cool and really fun experience.”
What people see on television is a four to five minute performance and not the ton of hard work poured into it. The brothers adhere to a process in order to craft each performance.
“It takes countless hours of rehearsals and endless thinking and brainstorming. We have to choreograph our own moves, edit our own music, and watch film as well,” Marc shared. “The process is gruesome. Hard physical work for at least 4 hours a day. It takes several weeks to perfect each performance.”
Simplified further, it’s like the famous response to the question “How do you get to Carnegie Hall?” Practice, practice, practice.
“It involves a lot of blood, sweat and tears. We have to battle minor cuts and sprains. We had sleepless nights thinking of the routine and how to improve it,” Marco said.
The AGT Experience
For their live quarterfinals performance at the Universal Studios Hollywood last August 18, the brothers knew they had to show something different from their audition piece.
And just like every performance they do, they have to conquer their nerves first.
“Everybody gets nervous, even the professionals,” Marco shared. “Question is how do you manage it. We have a warm up routine that we use which involves physical, mental and the spiritual.”
“Right before we perform, we always pray to God. Praying to God calms the nerves and helps us focus before our performance,” Marc said.
But for them, waiting for the verdict was more nerve wracking than the actual performance even if they delivered a standing-ovation-worthy act.
“We didn’t want to go home. But when they finally called our name, we felt super relieved and happy,” Marc said.
Asked if they have a favorite judge, Marc picked Simon Cowell.
“Whatever he says is validation. The judges are really friendly and down to earth. After the performance they are always interested in interacting with us,” he said. Cowell also serves as an executive producer in the show.
For Marco, “All of them. But Howie and Simon are very important to be there to judge us. They’ve been on the show for the longest time and they are the validation for the entertainment value we bring to the show.”
There is no secret to the success that they are enjoying now. In fact, it can be summed up in two words: hard work.
Spyros Bros is a testament to how focusing on one’s passion and mixing it with hard work and perseverance could open a lot of doors.
Marc and Marco are thankful to their fans, particularly the Filipinos in the diaspora who have been supporting them. Win or lose, they have earned the love and adulation of their followers.
“We are here to represent our culture and raise our flag. We are here to share our story of overcoming bullying and that we can all achieve great things no matter what, through hard work and believing in God,” Marc said.
“Their support and votes inspires and motivates us more,” Marco added. “To the youth, we hope we can inspire them to find their God given talents and pursue them. Despite the hardship of life, we hope we can still bring pride and joy to our people.”
(America’s Got Talent airs Tuesday and Wednesday nights at 8 p.m. ET/PT on NBC.)