After 20 years in music, Erik Santos wants to continue legacy of late parents

Nathalie Tomada - The Philippine Star
After 20 years in music, Erik Santos wants to continue legacy of late parents
To celebrate his two decades in the entertainment industry, Erik Santos will release three brand-new songs under Star Music in the lead-up to the Oct. 6 20th anniversary concert at the MOA Arena.

Erik Santos recently reflected on his two-decade music journey, from being a boyband member, to singing champ, to the accomplished artist he’s now.

Even before he became the first Star in a Million champion, he harnessed the power of manifestation in achieving his dreams of becoming a solo artist.

“Bata palang ako, mina-manifest ko na to be a singer. I didn’t know how. But uso pa nuon yung karaoke, yung bibili ka ng multiplex or minus one, tapos bibili ka ng blank tape, i-re-record mo rin yung boses mo using the minus one and microphone,” Erik told The STAR in an exclusive chat.

One of his career highlights was playing Prince Eric in the musical Little Mermaid.

“I would record songs of Ogie Alcasid, Ariel Rivera, Martin Nievera and Basil Valdez. At that time, I already knew my genre. Then, I would fill up the tape, Side A and Side B, with songs and reproduce it. I had my picture taken at a studio near our school and made that cover photo of my album. So, kunwari may album ako. I would distribute it among my classmates in college. Dun sa loob nun, I wrote a dedication, I gave an autograph,” he recalled with amusement.

He also recalled lining up for auditions at both ABS-CBN and GMA. He spent 24 hours on a set to appear as extra in a movie, where he never got paid for the promised fee of P200. “Buti nalang nakita kami sa pelikula na tumakbo,” he laughed.

With his late parents Renato and Angelita.

“Ang mga tao ang alam lang nila, yung Star in a Million. ‘Di nila alam, ang dami kong sinalihan na mga auditions na hindi naman ako natanggap,” Erik shared. “But because of those struggles, I think I became more willing and determined to reach for my dreams.”

Before Star in a Million, Erik was part of a boyband in late 2001. After the band did an album, singles, music videos and TV guestings, he began to feel it wasn’t going anywhere. Incidentally, a former member introduced him to seasoned talent manager and “king of talk” Boy Abunda in 2003.

With his family.

He recalled, “I actually auditioned inside Tito Boy Abunda’s van. He expressed interest naman in managing me but parang ‘di pa niya alam anong gagawin sa akin kung singer ba or pwedeng actor. After some months, I received a call from Tito Boy, asking if I wanted to join Star in a Million. That time si Christian Bautista yung first winner of the monthly episode of Star in a Million that was still on ASAP at that time.” The rest is history.

Twenty years after that turning point, Erik has since accumulated career highlights as OPM’s Prince of Pop. His Top 5 includes his debut album, This is the Moment, in 2004. “When I recorded my first album, it became Gold in two weeks, it became Platinum in a month, then double and triple Platinum. The Pagbigyang Muli, I think, for more than a half year became No. 1 on radio stations. The success of the album was really unexpected. The songs in that album, I still sing them, because they are among my most requested until now.”

The singer with his Cornerstone family.

His other milestones are his first solo concert at Araneta Coliseum in 2005; when he represented the Philippines at Beijing Olympics for a show featuring music stars in Asia; the collaboration concert with his idols Martin Nievera, Ogie Alcasid and Regine Velasquez in 2018 at MOA Arena; and his successful 15th anniversary show at MOA Arena five years ago.

Asked if there was anything in his career that he regretted, he said, “Wala. Wherever I am now, this is the sum total of the things I’ve done through the years. If a mistake or wrong decision was made, it’s all part of where I am now. I don’t think I have regrets.”

Erik as a kid.

He also felt blessed to be managed “first by Tito Boy Abunda and then next by Cornerstone, sobra akong na-handle na maayos,” even when it came to projects that had to be accepted or not.

“Because when I won, there were a lot of inquiries for acting projects and all, but Tito Boy, lagi niya sinasabi sa akin, Erik, let’s not rush, let’s establish you first as a singer, as a concert artist, recording artist because that’s really your first love and dyan ka talaga nakilala,” he said.

Looking back, he said, “He was right because if we accepted it and I didn’t do well in that project, maybe ‘di na rin ako makilala kung ano ako ngayon as a singer.”

To celebrate his 20 years, Erik will release three brand-new songs under Star Music in the lead-up to Oct. 6 concert at the MOA Arena. “This is a big deal for me because not everyone is given the opportunity to celebrate 20 years in the business, especially given our industry nowadays, people come and go, maraming nagsusulputan na magagaling talaga na singers from different contests and maa-access mo na ang mga magagaling sa iba’t-ibang platforms like YouTube, TikTok, it’s no longer just TV.”

Without going into detail, he could say he had his baptism of fire and share of detractors, but what served as his “weapon” was two core values that his parents taught him. “Gratitude — kahit ano pa naman success mo, small or big, you have to grateful to all the people (fans and industry people) who have been instrumental in achieving your dreams. Humility — hindi lang kapag in times of success and victory, nagkaroon ka ng humility. Dapat baon mo rin yun in times of defeat.”

“As long as naniwala ka sa values na yun, intact ka as a person that you won’t be changed by paninira and fame,” he added.

At his 20th anniversary concert, he will give back “all glory to God because I was able to last in the industry because of His grace,” and honor his supporters and late parents. His father Renato passed away last month, his mother Angelita in November 2022.

“If you ask me, kumusta na ako, sa ngayon, hindi ko masasabi na OK ako, but I am looking forward to Oct. 6 because ito din gusto ng parents ko to celebrate my 20 years with the people who have loved and supported me from Day 1. Ito rin yung gusto ng parents ko maging way ko to say thank you to them.”

This will be the first time his “No. 1 fan and No. 1 critic” wouldn’t be around for a show of his.

“Yung Nanay ko siya yung klase ng supporter na walang ibang magaling na singer sa kanya kundi si Erik Santos. Yung Tatay ko naman, very straightforward, my critic, very objective. Whenever I asked him, was my performance on ASAP earlier good? ‘Anak, parang hindi, dapat ginawa mong ganito, ganyan, may mga unnecessary notes ka.’ Pero yung Nanay ko, pagtinanong ko, ‘Ang ganda ‘nak!’ Kahit minsan nga, inisip ko ‘di naman talaga maganda, pero para sa kanya ang ganda-ganda. Siya ang klase ng audience na tapos na pumalakpak ang mga tao, yung kamay niya nakataas pa rin,” he said.

“They never missed any of my performances. When my mom got sick, nagpapa-video ako ng performances ko kahit sa US. Pinapadala ko and pinapanood ko sa kanya when she was in the hospital.

“Losing both your parents hindi talaga siya madali (especially) if parents mo naging dahilan kung bakit mo ginagawa ang lahat ng ‘to, tapos biglang kukunin sa ‘yo in the span of eight months. But I hope my story as a son, it will be an inspiration to others.

“I want this concert to be an inspiration to other people who will watch the show and also, to other artists who are just starting, it’s never easy but kaya (you can do it).”

What are his other dreams 20 years onwards? “All singers dream of an international project, but apart from that actually, I just want to continue the legacy my parents left me. By doing so, gusto ko pang tumagal sa industry. That’s my main goal now,” Erik shared.

“Singing has been my passion since I was a child. I was trained by my parents and when I got it, hindi ko na siya binitawan. After 20 years, I’m still here. If given the chance, I still want to last for 30, 40 or even 50 years in the business.”

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