Pinay caregiver Rose Fostanes got her wish to change her life when she won last night’s first X Factor contest in Israel. From her first audition, the judges and viewers dropped jaws when the diminutive Fostanes sang soulful renditions of contemporary and classic songs.

Judge Rami Fortis, a well-respected rock musician in Israel, told Fostanes right at the beginning of the contest that she has the “X Factor.”

Throughout the contest she often told the cameras that she “would try her best” but wasn’t sure she’d actually win. Now the 47-year-old Fostanes is being called the Susan Boyle of Israel.

“One thing that came out in this contest is that in Israel you can make it wherever you come from, no matter how old you are,” Philippine Ambassador to Israel Genoroso DG Calonge tells ISRAEL21c. “Rose is 47. It brings to mind Susan Boyle, who was 52 when she showed the world her excellence. Israel is a multicultural country, a country that recognizes talent. Whoever dares to compete and has the talent has the chance to win.”

Filipinos in Israel and abroad cheered for Fostanes. Even the Philippines President Benigno Simeon Cojuangco Aquino III sent a congratulatory message.

“We are very very proud that [Rose] has given the Philippines pride in the showcase of her talent,” Philippines Presidential spokesperson Edwin Lacierda said in a press briefing in Manila. “That is a victory also of the Filipino people.”

Fostanes earned standing ovations for her renditions of Frank Sinatra’s My Way, Queen’s Bohemian Rhapsody, Shirley Bassey’s This is My Life, Lady Gaga’s Born this Way, Kelly Clarkson’s Because of You, Alicia Keys’ If I Ain’t Got You, and Sweet Dreams by the Eurythmics.

Funnily enough, Fostanes’ final song, My Way, is said to bring bad luck when sung in karaoke sessions in the Philippines, according to a report.

And the winner of X Factor Israel is... Rose Osang Fostanes, a Filipina caregiver with a powerful voice. (Tal Givony)

Making a better life

Fostanes came to Israel six years ago to work as a caregiver, after stints in Egypt and Lebanon. Like millions of other Filipino workers abroad she sends money back home to her family and her girlfriend.

“It’s a big change in my life because before nobody recognized me, nobody knew me. But now everybody, I think everybody in Israel knows my name. And it is very funny,” she told AP.

The 1.50 meters-tall Fostanes gave a face to the thousands of foreign workers in Israel – and became a celebrity for Filipinos everywhere.

Shiri Maimon, a judge of the show and a former reality TV contestant herself, served as Fostanes’s mentor on the show. Maimon said Fostanes had received dozens of letters and emails from fans abroad.

Ambassador Calonge says he heard rumors during the contest about how the Filipino community in Israel didn’t believe a foreign worker would come out on top of an Israeli contest. “I had faith in the judges and audience and those who voted by text messaging,” he tells ISRAEL21c. “I can feel and I saw it with my own eyes, she had a big Israeli following.”

Israeli model Bar Refaeli hosted the show. Though she towered over Fostanes when announcing the winner, the focus never shifted from the true star.

“One thing that came out in this contest is that in Israel you can make it wherever you come from, no matter how old you are. Israel is not different from the most developed countries of the world where open competition is really open,” said Calonge.

Reshet Television, the company that produced X Factor, surprised Fostanes just before the final round by flying in her sister and long-time partner for moral support.

Fostanes scored another first when Interior Minister Gideon Saar gave an unprecedented okay for her to work as a singer in Israel. The X Factor winner had been in the country on a work permit that allowed her to work as a caregiver only. When she won, Reshet executives were in a quandary as to how to proceed with Fostanes’ fame. Now, according to a Ynet report, she has been cleared to sing in Israel and get paid for it — and it looks like Fostanes is on her way to packing out Israel’s concert venues.