Regine and the songs of her life

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Here is the second of the two-part conversation I had with Asia’s Songbird Regine Velasquez.

Let’s talk about your life in a song by remembering the songs that you consider the most memorable. When you were joining amateur singing contests, what was your piece?

Bakit Ako Mahihiya

How many contests did you join?

Around 300. I probably won 75 of them.

Who was the contestant who would always defeat you?

Meron akong nakakalaban, si Eva Castillo. She was small but her voice was like Dulce’s! There was one night, I joined two contests. In the first one, nahubaran ako ng half-slip ko! Because I was so thin then, the half-slip I wearing was my mom’s which was big even for her! Then when I was singing, it was already starting to fall down. Tapos binuka ko pa yun legs ko. Ayun’ nahulog siya. In fairness, nanalo ako nun! P1,000, isang cavan ng bigas and a gas range. Then I rushed to the other singing contest, I also won, P2,000 naman yata. After that contest, sikat ako because of the half-slip incident! We had like a manager who would look for contests we can join in… naghahanap siya ng mga fiesta. Umaabot pa kami sa Candaba just by tricycle! I had some sort of a metaphor in life that time. Since we were riding the tricycle, we couldn’t pass by the bridge in the Pampanga expressway. We could only take the side streets. I told myself that one day, we’d be able to take that bridge.

And now you can pass by that bridge..

Naman! Ha ha! And then I remember when I was joining, people knew me as the girl who would sing Bakit Ako Mahihiya. All of the contestants had their own pieces kaya pag dumadating na ako, they would say "Ayan na si Bakit Ako Mahihiya."

What was the next important song in your life?

In Your Eyes. That was my winning piece in Ang Bagong Kampeon. My next song is And I Am Telling You and You’ll Never Walk Alone because of the Asia Pacific Singing Contest nung 1989. Sa recording naman, it’s from my first album, Urong-sulong.

The first time you worked with Kuh Ledesma, you were very young…

I was 17, at the Ramada. Ronnie Henares told me, "You know, what? Kuh wants to produce your concert." I told him I didn’t want to because I was so terrified! I sang The Greatest Love of All. At that time I was so young. I was only 16 and people didn’t know what to do with me. When they want me to sing love songs, they had to explain to me what it meant because I didn’t know the feeling yet.

Is it true na ang mga ibang artista ang nagbibigay sa’yo ng damit?

Ivy Violan was so nice. Also Tita Nanette (Inventor). When I went to the US, they gave me $50. Sweet di ba? Anyway, another memorable song for me is Please Be Careful With My Heart. I was so tense when I learned that I’d be doing a duet with Jose Mari Chan. He made me sing it and it became a hit. Narito Ako, the song and the concert naman is my biggest hit at the Folk Arts Theater.

I will never forget that. You were singing Narito Ako, everyone was crying. After that, pinabalik ka ng mga tao.

I was so happy because all my friends were there. Pops, Martin and Gary where there. I sang encore songs, You’ll Never Walk Alone. Nakakatuwa pa dito, I had six standing ovations. That was one of my most memorable moments.

That was the confirmation that you were a major concert artist.

That’s true. Anyway, other songs are Sana Maulit Muli, Reason Enough and You’ve Made Me Stronger. I recorded the latter when your alaga (Ariel Rivera) and I were going out. I couldn’t relate pa. Pero when that thing happened naka-relate ako and so did a lot of people. A lot of women would approach me and say that they were inspired by the song. May lumapit pa nga na sinabi, "You know what, my sister just locked herself up in our house for two years because her boyfriend broke up with her. But when she heard your song, she became normal again." Another song was my duet with Jackie Cheung, I Will Always Love You. When I went to Taiwan, they thought I was Dawn Zulueta! Ha ha!

Do you know that you’re the diyosa ng mga bakla?

Natutuwa ako. Feeling ko nga si Anton, the gay who impersonates me, is my sister. Maybe gays think I look like them! Actually, I’m very flattered. Kasi dati, ako lang yun gumagaya kina Dulce, Imelda Papin at kay Kuh Ledesma. But now, ako na ang ginagaya.

Wasn’t there a rumor that you were adopted?

Yes and I was able to surpass that.

Regine, you’re the type of singer that when you admire someone, even an up and coming one, you approach them and say "Ang galing mo…."

I learned that from Kuh. It’s not forever that you’ll be up there and that they’ll be down there. Why fight it? You’ve got to help and support them.

What other songs are significant in your life?

You Are My Song is one of my favorite songs. Tapos siyempre, ang walang kamatayang On the Wings of Love.

In your journey, Mang Jerry was always there…

Yes, he was the one who helped me hone my voice. He would submerge me at sea… that’s true. I like my dad being around.

Is there any song that would best describe your journey in life?

You Are My Song is my song for my parents, for everybody who is a part of my life, who has been listening to my songs.

You know what Regine, as we talk now, you are still that young girl I first talked to years ago. And I think that’s the best thing about you.

And I hope that I don’t lose it!

(Regine Velasquez’s Songbird Sings is slated at Onstage on Nov. 29, 30 and all Saturdays and Sundays of December. For ticket inquiries, call Maxi Media at 551 7777).

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