Farewell, Queen of Visayan Songs
Nathalie Tomada (The Philippine Star) - September 8, 2013 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines - Susan Fuentes, who reigned as the “Queen of Visayan Songs” in the ’70s, passed away mid-day yesterday due to complications from colon cancer. She was 58.

The singer, whose real name was Susan Toyogan, became a prominent recording artist in the late ’70s to the ’80s. With her signature sultry vocals, Susan popularized various Visayan songs, from Cebuano, Boholano to Ilonggo. She also recorded original Tagalog songs, best-known of which is the original version of Miss Kita Kung Christmas (subsequent revivals included that of Sharon Cuneta’s) that continues to enjoy radio airplay every Yuletide season.

Susan was born in Butuan City and grew up in a music-loving household. From the age of five, she was joining and winning amateur contests in her hometown, and soon after high school, she was brought to Manila to sign up with Alpha Records. Not too long after, she transferred to Gem Recording, where she was built up as the “Queen of Visayan Songs.” She released seven albums under Gem Recording (which had the likes of APO Hiking Society and Hajji Alejandro as recording artists), becoming such a hit in the Visayas and Mindanao, where her albums became certified gold records.

In the ’90s, Susan receded from the spotlight. In an interview with this writer in 2011, she had shared: “It’s a long story. I had family problems. Then I got sick. I underwent four major operations, including a kidney transplant.”

Nevertheless, she admitted that it was when she hit rock bottom that she found her faith. “I’m actually living through the grace of God,” Susan had then said.

While bravely battling her kidney illness, friends from the music business, led by fellow Visayan artist and good friend Dulce, held a benefit concert for Susan last year to help settle her mounting medical bills. It was supported by several OPM heavyweights like Jose Mari Chan who asked her to autograph his Susan Fuentes LP collection.

Despite her struggles, there was also one thing she was always thankful for — “I thank God for not taking away my voice,” she had said in our interview. 

Susan, who busied herself in the music ministry of her church in Quezon City where she lived, had a few public performances in recent years, mostly in Cebu, where she also received an award from the JRG Halad Museum (the music-themed museum keeping memorabilia of popular Visayan artists) last year.

According to her closest friend and churchmate Daisy Leocadio, Susan had been confined at the National Kidney Institute for a month now. She was about to undergo another round of dialysis. But it was to Stage 4 colon cancer (diagnosed only last month) that she succumbed at around 12:20 p.m. yesterday.

Daisy, who was the only one around when Susan died, never had any premonition that the singer would pass on yesterday. She said Susan was a “fighter” who willed to live, especially after finally reconnecting with her two adult children last year after an estrangement of more than a decade. “Ate Susan was excited and even praying that she would still be around when her daughter comes home from the US in December.”

In our interviews, Susan always liked to say, in Cebuano, “Si Lord nalang ang bahala nako. (The Lord will take care of me).”

Susan, Daisy said, was singing and humming Christian songs until her last breath.

As of presstime, wake arrangements are still being finalized.


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