Friday, March 14, 2014


"My driving force in my life is my family. I do everything for them.
My achievements are for my dad, the pride is for my mom,
the rewards are for my siblings; their HAPPINESS is mine 
and that's what keeps me going."


Who would have known that her debut as a triple threat performer would begin as one of the cast of Cameron Mackintosh's Miss Saigon to be unleashed May of this year? Live performances, high expectations and a new journey...let's get the inside story of how Ela had reached her dream.

Like any other person walking on this planet, Ela dreams a lot of dreams. As a self-proclaimed fan of the Queen B and Bruno mars, this passionate young woman is driven 150% in attaining her goals. She finds no excuses in achieving them that she actually went to a lot of auditions and got rejected so many times as well. But she would always find a way to get up from a downfall. Just like us, Ela strives to find herself along the way and she stands up to be a better person each time.


Elaine Margaret Reyes Lisondra, most commonly known as Ela to family, friends and colleagues, was born on April 10 in the Philippines and were raised in a family of six. She is the eldest but confidently claims being young at heart. She got two brothers and a sister. Ela loves her family above all else and they are her life. She considers her dad as the greatest influence and greatest motivator because he nurtured Ela's hunger for excellence. He discouraged Ela into pursuing a career from performing but that didn't stop her spontaneous spirit. She considered that as her fuel and treated it as a loving reminder. He just doesn't want him to put Ela's efforts from her academics to become stagnant in the whole process. At least that was just in the beginning.

What you guys have to know is that Ela was a valedictorian when she graduated from her primary years. But as early as that, she showed a promising inclination to dance being the Dance Club President. She continued to feed her creativity all the way when she reached High School that she graduated with a Terpsichorean Award and probably ending as the most aesthetic of all in her batch. In college, she got admitted to Philippine's most prestigious and known university, the University of the Philippines. Its dance program take only dancers with strong classical and contemporary background. She never had a hardcore training in ballet but the artistic director, Sir Steve Villaruz saw Ela's potential. She got through even though her first ballet class was the audition itself.


Ela interacting with Timon
Lion King Show,
Hong Kong Disneyland
"When i got the call from Disney, it was surreal. I was just a college student who got pulled by friends to audition for it, not really expecting anything. I was very happy but torn at the same time between my studies and an awesome job opportunity.", as remembered by Ela when the big break is about to come.

Of all the jobs anybody could ever have in the Philippines, it was catchy for most if you say that you will be working abroad as a "dancer". It denotes something else. But when Hong Kong Disneyland had a number of young artists, talents and musicians employed, it had impressed a lot of people that being a performer had instantly gained respect as something stable and favorable enough to put food on the table. Usually, if it's not as grand as going for any of the foreign musicals or if you're not a celebrity, you're NOT it!

But Ela didn't have it in a silver platter right away upon reaching Hong Kong. She started as a parade dancer having to perform under any weather condition. She didn't mind that. From the beginning, she had been real and honest with what she does. She enjoys every bit of it, from the rehearsals down to opening the shows, she was on every time. She gives off a genuine smile and an extra "umph" while at it!

After several auditions, she was able to move to shows where she had never wasted a moment to learn and to expand as a performer. She got to be trained on how to become a character and also an aerialist, hence getting the contract of a principal dancer in Lion King. In the middle of her contract, she auditioned to be a friend of Mulan and was sent for a contract to Disney Paris in an instant. She remained the kind of person she is as far as being driven is concerned that she learned how to speak French fluently for just less than 3 years of staying there. She came back in 2012 possessing a different approach with her passion because of that much exposure to the French culture. She engaged to competitions seizing every moment and she had opened herself into doing what needs to be done. She started living her life to the fullest by being confident and fearless.

The release of the Spirit Bird is one of the highlights
in Hong Kong Disneyland's Lion King show.


Fuscion Loca - Champions of the World Salsa Festival 2013
Ela made herself a versatile artist by attending more dance classes outside work and collaborated with a lot of voice coaches which helped her get the role of a lead singer for High School Musical. She would be active in all presentations sharing an intermission number or two with her colleagues on Christmas parties, get togethers and gatherings. Her talents and skills were subconsciously getting sharpened more and more while plainly just having fun and being herself. My husband and I were blessed to have her sing on our wedding reception. I requested her to sing, "Sing Me Your Song Again Daddy" for my surprise dance number with my father after his speech to dedicate to him the most memorable gift he imparted to me and that was love for music which the wonderful Ela made even more special.

In 2012, right when she came back from Paris, she formed a group along with fellow Filipinos called "The Movement" and won as Champions that year as Hong Kong's Best Dance Crew. It was a strong contemporary piece and was their first time to win. Then a complete turnover to ballroom dancing the year after that, when she got invited to compete in the World Salsa Festival which was held, then, here in Hong Kong. The group was called Fusion Loca and the team was composed of 6 pairs, all Filipino representatives. Every year, since she got the call from Disney, offered Ela a renewal of herself and slowly, she had grown into becoming ready for 2014.

Ela together with her team enjoying their piece during the World Salsa Festival Competition 2013


Ela did not stop at winning with Fusion Loca in 2013. When she got hold of the information regarding Miss Saigon Auditions that was about to commence before the year ends, she was ready, up and about going home to Manila for it. That was November of 2013. Over thousands of applicants, Ela was chosen to stay until the remaining top 7 to be heard of the highest note their voices could reach. Not to mention, this was asked after the dance auditions of the very same day. So, literally, the production team wanted to know who's going to crack under pressure. I remember her sharing to me how tough it was and how frustrating that nobody is assured of the result with less than a year of the broadway show's opening gala. By December of that very same year, the Miss Saigon production confirmed that the revival will be launched May of next year (2014) and that they had people in mind to consider for final casting. Ela began the 2014 with high hopes as she was asked to record and pass a couple of songs sung by herself from the show since they are strongly and highly considering her to be a part of it.

Ela couldn't sleep for weeks waiting for the final decision over email that she had gone anxious and nervous the whole waiting time. She had to go to work, put up what is expected of her in the show and perform like nothing was actually bothering her from the inside but she was considering a lot of Plans B, C, and D already just in case Plan A doesn't happen for her. When she had received it finally, she couldn't help but ask her coach and boyfriend, Elias, to read the email for her. Trembling while waiting, curled up on the bed with the pillow on her face, she peeked on him and he looked despondent upon reading the message so she couldn't help but cry asking, "I didn't get it?" But then he said, "Yes babe, you got it!!!!" It made her jump up and down and it made her scream with her whole body shaking with joy and excitement when it sank in her that she got the part. For her, the moment was PRICELESS.


From having no background in ballet, to slowly taking steps in making it to becoming a principal dancer, to expanding beyond expectations, to getting casted as a broadway swing for Miss Saigon, allow your jaws to drop as this girl gives justice to that statement, "I've worked my way to the top."

the graceful Ela as the Spirit Bird
Ela admits honestly that she is not familiar with what to expect with theatre and broadway and that she needs further knowledge about it. Though when I asked her about who she looks up to now that she is about to take a new journey, she acknowledges the people who are very close to her and whom she had worked with. She knows who are the hardworking ones waiting for their big breaks to come and she also is thankful for the ones who already have. She has a strong admiration for her colleagues who never stop pursuing their passion; those people who keep striving to becoming better in their field. She bows down to them and sees them as her inspiration.

Like how she considers every experience as a learning ground, she was willing to share 2 things that she learned from the Miss Saigon audition:

"First, it doesn't end in the actual audition, so keep on improving yourself."
Ela wrote about her whole experience on her journal from bringing it on the moment her name was called to sing her piece. She didn't doubt herself during the dance part but undeniably feeling a bit frustrated on the plane on her way home, thinking about how close she was to the final round. She had thought of herself as a failure on the singing part that time. But she had kept a record of it alongside the additional resolutions to her game plan. Not a year after, she got an email from the Miss Saigon team and because of her focus, she was prepared in delivering to those songs they needed for her to sing for reconsideration. With her free time, she had strengthened her voice that after the final submission, she made it. "It goes to show, that the audition process ends when the casting is finished. So always be prepared!", she advices.

"Second, no matter how talented you are, if it's not for you, you won't get it, but if it is for you, it's for you."
She had a callback with other 50 other girls and most of them according to her were experienced in theater. She was waiting side by side with some famous showbiz personalities as well that she got intimidated at some point. For her, the thought of waiting with these talented women is beyond her imagination. In the end, she got the part and she was very grateful to having been chosen. She regards this opportunity as her chance. She says, "My time had come!"

Ela dancing a piece during the Christmas Cabaret 2013


That being said, she remains to be spontaneous but chooses not to be reckless. She got plans but that doesn't mean she lives her life in a box. In fact, it's the total opposite of how she sees her life. "Get crazy! Don't be afraid to be a geek and be happy!! A lot of good and/or even bad things happen when you get crazy. It puts you out of your comfort zone and that's when you really live and learn. Do not be afraid to be totally immersed and to fall in love into something that yeah, won't seem too cool but who cares? And being happy is being grateful and generous itself.", shares Ela. Furthermore, she thinks that she was led to 3 huge opportunities (Hong Kong Disneyland, Disney Paris and now Miss Saigon) because she never wanted to stop learning and exploring what she can do and actualising her maximum potential. But with a golden coating of being a dreamer, she moulds an armour of making IT happen!


Like all of us, Ela aspires to be successful, to become a financially independent woman. Her focus stays on her career yet there's a side of her that most of the people don't know about. During her younger years, she had trained herself in knowing the importance of saving and investing with the influence of her dad; so much so, that she would love to have her Real Estate properties and businesses lined up in the future. She is well, in fact, targeting to build her own hotel in Boracay this 2014. When asked whether which to choose between TIME and MONEY, she undoubtedly chose TIME without thinking twice. "Although I realize the importance of having money in my life, I will, without no doubt, choose time. Without it, what's all the money for??? You can have your money back but NEVER time."

When I asked her where she sees herself 5 years from now, she said, "The Stage." She is aware that by that time, she will come of mature age but right now, she can't see herself going anywhere else except on stage. That response kind of sounded familiar when I researched on Lea Salonga being asked about her other plans after achieving the label, "broadway diva". Needless to say, successful people think alike. The young Ela is still making the thought of how big Miss Saigon is for her to register, so she keeps her focus and efforts on this. Until this opportunity gets established, it would be the only time then that she would pursue being the female Bruno Mars,if given the chance. (She looks up on him since Bruno Mars is one of the coolest Filipino talents that had made his songs as vibrant as his personality is.) She would push on the idea during the entire interview and would just laugh about it but who knows, she might be just it!


We have asked Ela the following and check out how indifferent she is with the rest of us.

B.        1. If you'd be in a musical movie and will have a leading man, who would you like to be partnered with?

A. Hugh Jackman (Les Mis)
B. Antonio Banderas (EVITA)
C. Gerard Butler (Phantom of the Opera)
D. Other: Please specify ____

           2. Which Disney princess best describes your own fairy tale?

A. Cinderella
B. Princess Tiana
C. Belle
D. Other: Please specify - MULAN

           3. What do you do in your free time?

A. Facebook
B. Listen to music
C. Watch movies
D. Other: Please specify - A. Facebook while B. Listening to music

A        4. In which would you rather spend money on?

A. Food
B. Travel
C. New gadget
D. Other: Please specify ____

          5. Who for you is an epitome of confidence?

A. Miley Cyrus
B. Angelina Jolie
C. Anne Curtis
D. Other: Please specify - IRENE SENDLER, woman who saved thousand of kids during the
                                         VICTORIA SOTO, who hid the kids and sacrificed herself instead during
                                          the latest school bombing;
                                         MALLIKA SHERAWAT, and Indian female celeb to whom I see myself
                                         in - very OUTSPOKEN

          6. For fun time, you prefer doing:

B. Beer pong
C. Dance Battle
D. Other: Please specify - "FUN" for me is BEACH and everything about it.

          7. Best asset:

A. Lips
B. Waistline
C. Legs
D. Other: Please specify - Hair

Related posts you might be interested in:

1. THE HEAT IS ON! - Check out Ms. Lea Salonga who had won a Tony award from being one of Ms. Saigon's prodigy.

2. SPEAKING OF WHO? - How inspiring are these fellows? Have a read.

3.  2009 Moments - Mentioning Ela achieving Euro-Disney

4. ARIEL REONAL - another colleague joining Ela in a wonderful journey to the West End.

5. HOGAN AND KYTE, AUGUST 26, 2013 - our union that Ela graced with a song.

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