This Saturday, all eyes may be on the fearsome Manny Pacquiao as the fighter takes on Floyd Mayweather in a much-hyped match-up. But it’s a young Filipina-American who people will be listening to before the opening bell.
19-year-old Bronx native Gail Banawis, accompanied by The Word Chorale, a chorus composed of pastors, will be singing the Philippine national anthem ahead of the event.
Banawis began her singing at the age of three, and began her performance career at age 12.
Even as a child, Banawis had a performer’s verve.
"I’d always ask my mom 'Oh mommy can I sing?'", Banawis said, recalling how as a youth she’d watch Pacquaio fights as part of family tradition. “But now it’s coming true."
Banawis went to the performing arts-focused La Guardia High School, where she was a voice major. She was originally slated to sing at a previous Pacquiao fight, but circumstances prevented her from doing so. This time, no such hiccups stand in Banawis’ way.
Speaking en route to Las Vegas, Banawis said she was well aware of the momentum surrounding the fight.
"Not many people knew about the Philippines until Pacquiao came along, so having to sing for any of his fights honestly is such a great blessing, especially this fight, the Mayweather fight,” she told NBC News. “Its a big event in history."
The young singer is a freshman at Brooklyn College, where she is studying speech pathology.
Despite enough recognition of her talent to perform in front of a global audience, Banawis says she’s keeping her career options open.
"If a singing career comes into, whatever God’s plan is, I’ll go for it, but as of right now it’s still going to college," she said. "If any opportunities arise, I’ll take it."
Actor and singer Jamie Foxx is slated to sing the United States national anthem.