Do you still remember Star In A Million's Marinel Santos?
Just recently, a video of her singing Lani Misalucha's hit "Bukas Na Lang Kita Mamahalin" in a mall became viral on Facebook.
As of this writing, the video already has 9.4K reactions, 568K views, and more than 2,000 shares.
"Bukas Na Lang Kita Mamahalin" jumpstarted Marinel's singing career when she joined Star In A Million in 2003 since it was the song that earned her a place in the grand finals. She also performed it for the reality show's official album.
Eventually, she emerged as the second runner-up, Sheryn Regis placed first runner-up, and Erik Santos won as the grand champion of their batch.
Through Facebook Messenger, PEP.ph (Philippine Entertainment Portal) spoke to Marinel where she shared the story behind the viral video.
According to her, she was strolling in a mall in her hometown when a staff member of the mall asked her to sing in a karaoke.
She recalled, "It's my hometown, so relax lang, gala-gala as usual. Everytime pumupunta kami and mapapadaan sa area ng mga videoke and gadgets, yung mga staff ng karaoke, ilang beses na sila nagrequest sa akin na kumanta ako sa videoke nila, hindi ko sila mapagbigyan kasi nahihiya ako.
"Pero bago kami umuwi, tumingin ng camera si Mama sa area nila, so nagkaroon ng chance magchikahan with the staff, and then before bayaran ni Mama yung binili nya, one of the staff requested me to sing.
"Yung feeling ko that time, 'Okay, sure, why not?' I was already there and the staff were nice, so tin-ry ko kumanta sa karaoke kahit nahihiya ako dahil nasa exit area yung karaoke.
"They recognized me and they requested for my signature song in Star in a Million, which is 'Bukas Na Lang Kita Mamahalin.'"
Her mother took a video of her while singing and she decided to upload it on her Facebook account.
"Few hours later, I noticed na marami nag-share, and of course I'm very happy na through my video, may mga tao akong napasaya kahit saglit ng oras nila. It really matters to me na may nakaka-appreciate ng talent ko."
Did she expect that people will still remember her even if it has been fifteen years since Star In A Million was aired on TV?
"Siyempre, masaya ako na until now, may mga nakakakilala pa rin sa akin, pero nahihiya ako pag nakikilala nila ako.
"Every country na napuntahan ko for work, may nakakakilala sa akin. Those are the people na ka-age ko or nakapanood ng Star in a Million."
At present, Marinel is already based in Macau, China, where she works as an overseas singer.
The singer is currently in the Philippines for a vacation until February.
This is not the first time that Marinel gained the attention of netizens through her voice.
In 2016, Marinel's cover of Phil Collins's hit song "Against All Odds" also went viral on social media, getting over 200,000 views in a short span of time.
STAR IN A MILLION DAYS. According to Marinel, she is still in touch with the other contestants of Star In A Million.
Aside from her, Sheryn, and Erik, their other batchmates in Star In A Million were: Christian Bautista, Gayle Dizon, Czarina Rosales, DK Tijam, Michell San Miguel, Teresa Garcia, and Johann Escanan.
At present, only Erik and Christian remain active in local show business.
Star In A Million 2003 finalists: (L-R, first row) Gayle Dizon, DK Tijam, Teresa Garcia, Michell San Miguel, Sheryn Regis
(L-R, second row) Johann Escanan, Czarina Rosales, Christian Bautista, Marinel Santos, Erik Santos
Marinel said, "We're still in touch. Sobrang busy na lang ng lahat sa kani-kanilang buhay siyempre, kaya minsan pag nagkakayayaan mag-dinner, hindi lahat nakakasama. Yung iba nasa abroad, like Sheryn and DK.
"That's what I love about us, we still connect kahit matagal na kami hindi nagkita-kita pero pag nagkasama-sama kami, parang walang nagbago.
"We all love each other and we know in our hearts that we have each other's back. And we're all happy sa mga achievements ng bawat isa."
She also considers grand champion Erik as one of her closest friends in the competition.
In fact, during the announcement of winners, it was seen that Marinel was jumping for joy for her friend.
She remembered, "I was really happy when Erik won and kitang-kita naman sa TV yung happiness ko noon.
"I was happy kasi sobrang close kami ni Erik that time, hindi lang sa kanya, sa family rin niya. Sa kanila kami natutulog minsan. Kaya ganun na lang yung happiness ko.
"Kung si Sheryn man yung nanalo, I would be happy for her as well of course."
One of the most talked-about moments during their batch was the rivalry between her and another contestant, Teresa Garcia.
At one point during the contest, Marinel was even heard saying, "Gusto kong matanggal na siya."
However, the Star In A Million second runner-up clarified during the interview that they never had a fight during the duration of the contest.
She explained, "Maraming nagtatanong about sa amin ni Teresa kung nag-away kami.
"Actually, never kami naging magkaaway, kasi sobrang professional ni Teresa. Although kami lahat noon, medyo batang isip, I was 18 years old and sobrang playful namin noon.
"Siguro yung mga actions and choices of words ko, hindi ko iniisip kaya ganun yung impression ng tao sa akin. Pero never kami nag-away ni Teresa.
"Akala nila maldita ako, well medyo, actually haha! Pero pag ganung age talaga, wala ka pa sa matured na pag-iisip, lalo na ako. Sobrang late bloomer ako. 28 years old ako siguro nung nag-matured yung isip ko haha!"
STILL SINGING. In 2009, Marinel decided to quit show business and decided to pursue a career abroad.
Prior to this, she was able to record a few albums and songs after Star In A Million, including the theme song of teleseryes It Might Be You (2003) and Krystala (2004), and the reality show Star Circle Quest (2004).
She said about this, "Star Records (formerly Star Music) during that time really supported me and gave me a chance to show my talent in singing which I am still thankful for."
Marinel admitted that the stiff competition, including the entry of new singers in show business, made her decide to look for another venue for her passion and talent.
"Siyempre, maraming lumabas na bagong singers and hindi na ganon kaganda yung takbo ng singing career ko so I decided to stop and just work abroad as a singer. From 2009 until now, I pursued singing overseas."
Marinel said that she had no regrets of pursuing a different career which still involves singing.
"I am happy with my decision to work abroad, kasi ang daming lessons and experiences sa buhay na natutunan ko. Yung mga kaibigan na nakilala ko, mga musicians na nakatrabaho ko, Filipinos and foreigners. It's such a wonderful experience.
"I think, nag-grow ako as a singer sa pag-aabroad ko. Nalaman ko kung paano makisama sa iba't-ibang klaseng tao and katrabaho, lalo na ibang lahi yung katrabaho ko for the past four years.
"My favorite contract is in Macau kase ang dami kong naging kaibigan, as in totoong kaibigan, and ang daming Filipino talents rin sa Macau na thankful ako na nakilala ko and nakasama ko.
"The lessons and experiences of working overseas as a singer and singing on TV are very different."
Here are some of Marinel's performances during her Star In A Million days, which she also uploaded on Youtube: