Erik Santos: The first ‘Star in a Million’

The sweetest victories are usually the unplanned. Erik Santos never thought he will emerge grand prize winner and turn instant millionaire that night when he mounted the Star in a Million stage. But he did.

All the 21-year-old nursing student from Malabon would have been content placing first or second runner-up. But the grand prize — that was unimaginable. As his career of choice showed, Erik wasn’t even looking at singing as a career.

Even when his friend, a classmate, was convincing him to join the ABS-CBN talent show, Erik was hesitant. Self-effacing to the bone, he didn’t want any form of TV exposure.

But then, fate had other plans for him. One fine day in September, Erik found himself bankrupt. Forced against the wall, he finally gave in to his friend’s well-meaning advice.

"I told myself I had nothing to lose. I’ll still get something, even a consolation prize," recalls Erik.

As we know by now, he won the judges’ heart and went home, not only a million bucks richer, but with a house and lot at St. Veronique Subdivision in Binangonan and a recording contract with ABS-CBN’s sister company, Star Records.

"I’m more excited about the house and lot," Erik admits. Now, he has a place to transfer his family to when the floodwaters reach thigh level, the way they always do, in his beloved Malabon.

He hasn’t figured out what he’ll do with his whopping cash prize, but one thing’s for sure. He wants to bring his entire family to Hongkong. Star in a Million (now on its second season) is also giving Erik his fair share of controversy.

Erik denies rumors that he is married, with child, too boot. He also insists that there’s no bad blood between him and second placer Sheryn Regis.

In fact, they are good friends and he doesn’t want to destroy their good relationship by dignifying rumors that she should have bested him in the contest.

"Sheryn admits she was expecting to win. I’d feel the same way if I were in her shoes," Erik defends his friend.

He goes on, "When I sensed that intrigues were starting to crop up, I made my move. I called her up. Things became fine."

His family, unused to the ways of showbiz, was affected. But Erik reassured them it’s okay. He just told them "they (those who spread nasty talks about him) move in a different world.

To a comment that the contest is primarily a search for someone with star material than somebody with a superb singing voice, Erik recalls:

"When we auditioned," he says, "they didn’t ask us to sing. Instead, they checked how we registered before the cameras."

A veteran of barangay singing contests, Erik shunned cold drinks for three straight months to preserve his voice. He still sticks to tap water up to now, even if the waiter at the presscon ABS-CBN hosted for him offered Erik ice cold drinks. To boost his stamina, Erik took Vitamin C regularly.

While he comes from a family of musicians (his dad, an engineer working in Jeddah, played in a combo while a grandpa is an orchestra conductor), Erik credits his Tita Vi for guiding him as a singer.

"She taught me the ropes, especially how to make my voice quiver while singing," relates Erik.

Indeed, it’s his quivering voice that carried the day for Erik, whose favorite song, prophetically is the cheery I Believe I Can Fly.

Aside from the million pesos and house and lot, Erik’s victory has brought him things he never imagined he’d have. Among them is a group of autograph seekers who recognize him in the jeepney he happens to be riding in. They ask for his autograph when Erik alights from the vehicle. While this tickles him pink, Erik feels embarrassed because "it can get in the way of the other jeepney passengers."

Also greatly affected is his dad.

"He originally wanted to go home for a vacation next month. But since he learned that I won, he moved his vacation to August so people won’t think he’s taking advantage of my prize money," states Erik.

After all, he’s not just a singer. Erik’s management company, Backroom Inc., is grooming him to be a host. As a first step, Erik co-hosts ASAP Mania and is set to attend a hosting workshop under his manager Boy Abunda.

Still, neither fame nor glamour can make Erik renege on his studies. He is bent on finishing Nursing, where he’s now on his junor year.

That’s the best thing about the guy. He may be floating on Cloud 9, but his feet — thankfully — are still firmly planted on the ground.











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