By this time, I’m sure that the Erik Santos’ growing number of fans know his vital stats by heart. I bet they know a lot more about Erik, the guy who beat nine other equally good singers in the ABS-CBN-sponsored Star in a Million contest, similar to the popular US talent-search show American Idol, one of them petite Cebuana Sheryn Regis who, many televiewers claimed, deserved the title more than Erik did. (But then, the decision of the judges, among them Ryan Cayabyab and Gary Valenciano, is final and irrevocable – and they were judges with sterling credentials, so how could they be wrong?)
Erik’s winning song was This is the Moment (by Martin Nievera) and it aptly describes Erik’s current state of being – basking in his moment.
Even during the contest, Erik was already called The Rising Star and he’s living up to that monicker. Barely a few months after the contest, Erik has released one hit single after another: I Believe I Can Fly, It Might Be You (a duet with Star in a Million-mate Marinel Santos), I Want to Spend My Lifetime Loving You (a duet with Sheryn) and This is the Moment (a huge radio hit, topping local radio charts as well as the MYX Hits Chart, staying at No. 1 for 11 weeks).
His debut album, also titled This is the Moment, has just been released by Star Records with which Erik is under contract.
Asked if he feels like a million (the amount he took home for winning the contest, plus a house and lot), Erik said, "Not just a million but multi-million."
His life story was recently featured on Maalaala Mo Kaya which couldn’t squeeze into a one-hour-and-a-half show (hosted by Charo Santos-Concio) everything the fans wanted to know about Erik.
Let’s "probe" this One-in-a-Million guy some more...
How did you spend your one million?
"I bought a car, a Space Gear, for P500,000-plus. I needed a car badly for my out-of-town shows. I can’t be commuting all the time, otherwise I’d be late for my work and appointments. I saved the rest in the bank, along with my earnings."
What about the house and lot?
"I haven’t moved there yet. It stands on an 88-square-meter lot in Binangonan, Rizal. Not so big but very memorable to me."
Was the competition in Star in a Million really stiff?
"It was, so it’s a big honor if you win. It’s not just any singing contest; napakahirap at napaka-higpit. The contestants were very good. It took guts, determination and will power – and, of course, talent – to stay in the race. And lakas ng loob, too."
The contest lasted for one year and you were eliminated along the way. How did you get back?
"I lost during the monthly finals held on A.S.A.P. Mania. That was on my third week. Luckily, ABS-CBN decided to hold a ‘wild card’ competition and all of us losers were called back. Five of us competed for the 10th slot on the grand finals. Originally kasi, there were only nine finalists. Since I had lost already, I rehearsed even harder for the ‘wild card’ competition and I won."
The grand finals were followed by a controversy, especially since Sheryn, the so-called "crowd’s favorite," finished only second. Televiewers were divided into "pro-Sheryn" and "pro-Erik."
"I understood how the fans of Sheryn felt. I couldn’t blame them. Every week during the competition, we were being ranked and it got televiewers excited how their favorites rated week after week. Parang sa American Idol. So every week, all of us contestants talagang tried to come up with a ‘winnable’ song."
Your winning piece, This is the Moment, was very "winnable"; talagang pang-competition.
"The areglo was done by Homer Flores. Homer did a good job. Talagang nagkaroon ng edge ’yung song."
Did the controversy challenge you all the more to prove your worth – you know, that you really deserved to win?
"Oh, yes, it did. I wanted to convince the ‘pro-Sheryn’ people that I deserved the title. I must admit that Sheryn did very well with her number, Comin’ Out of the Rain. But the controversy didn’t affect my friendship with Sheryn. Hindi kami nagpadala sa controversy."
After the contest, nasty rumors about you started coming out (you know, that he had a gay lover from La Salle, etc.).
"The rumors died a natural death. My manager, Tito Boy (Abunda), told me not to mind them and for me to just do my best. Tito Boy is a good motivator. Beforehand, he warned me that such nasty rumors would surface so I was prepared. Besides, I knew what I was getting into; I was ready for the worst."
So there’s no more skeleton in your closet?
Are you sure that you’re not... what... an unwed father?
"I’m not. I’m sure of that."
How did you get into Star in a Million?
"A friend encouraged me. Actually, I was the only one who auditioned for the contest."
What was your audition song?
"I Believe I Can Fly (by R. Kelly)."
Do you believe that you can fly?
"If you believe, I think you can – in your mind."
What’s your favorite line from that song?
"I believe I can touch the sky. As I said, if you believe you can touch the sky, you can touch the sky."
How long have you been singing?
"Since I was five years old."
What was the first song that you ever sang?
"Pangarap na Bituin (by Sharon Cuneta). It’s a beautiful song; very inspiring."
Where did you hear that song?
"I don’t remember but my aunt told me that I heard it on TV. Since then daw, palagi ko na kinakanta ang song na ’yan. I started by singing a line and then two lines and then three lines, until I learned the whole song by myself."
Did you come from a family of singers?
"My Dad (an engineer working in Jeddah) has a good singing voice. But my Mom doesn’t. We are four siblings in the family. I’m the second to the eldest."
Who are the singers who have influenced you?
"Martin (Nievera) and Gary (Valenciano). What do I like about Martin? He sings from the heart. He sings from experience. You can tell if a singer is singing from the heart because feel na feel niya ang bawat lyric ng kanta."
Has Martin ever give you pointers?
"He told me that he liked the way I sing. Sabi niya, ‘You sing from the heart,’ and I was flattered. Coming from a Martin Nievera, that’s a big compliment! He told me, ‘Feel your song and the audience will feel along with you’."
What about Gary V.?
"I like his versatility. He can do R&B, ballads, pop. He’s a great performer. He doesn’t just sing, he really performs!"
Any pointers from Gary V.?
"Lagi lang daw ako maging humble. I should offer daw my every song to God."
What’s your type of music?
"I go more for pop and ballads, and a bit of R&B."
And what type of music don’t you like?
"Rap. Unang-una, hindi bagay sa akin."
What have been the changes in your life after Star in a Million?
"Hayun, palagi akong pagod, palaging puyat. Before, my only focus was my studies. I used to study at CEU, taking up Dentistry, before I transferred to Emilio Aguinaldo College (EAC)."
"I want to work abroad eventually. Like my father."
Do you still plan to work abroad now that your singing career is off to a good start?
"You know, there was a time that I wanted to give up singing na. Pagod na ako and I thought I’d better stop, wala naman mangyayari. Sabi ko, I’d rather be a nurse and earn good money abroad. But now, I’m having second thoughts. An opportunity has opened for me at sayang naman if I don’t take advantage of it, di ba?"
Before Star in a Million, where did you sing?
"At weddings, sa mga debut. Mostly for free."
Was Star in a Million the first contest that you joined?
"Yeah, on TV."
So what are the things that you can’t do now that you’re becoming popular?
"I can’t commute anymore, or take the LRT or MRT. I can’t stroll in the mall or go out by myself; I always go out with a companion."
What kind of family did you come from?
"A middle-class family, a very simple family. Masaya naman ang childhood naming magkakapatid even if we had to struggle."
Have you always wanted to be a singer?
"Yeah. Although I thought that not everybody who aspires to be a singer can reach that goal. You need luck, too. But as I’ve said, if you believe you can fly, you can fly. If you believe you can touch the sky, you can touch the sky. It’s important to believe. If you don’t, nothing will happen to you."
What about your love life?
"Zero. I broke up with my girlfriend a year ago, before I joined Star in a Million. With my busy schedule now, I don’t think I can have time for a love life."
If you were a song, what would you be?
"I Believe I Can Fly."
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