It wasn't easy road for Chona Velasquez to rise from humble beginnings to become one of the most admired singers of the Philippines.
GMA-7 aired a docu-musical special called Regine...Roots to Riches last Sunday, May 24. It served as a birthday special for Ms. Regine Velasquez a.k.a. Asia's Songbird.
The TV special was a creative mix of production numbers and documentary videos that traced the roots of Regina Encarnacion Velasquez, whose singing career started by joining hundreds of amateur singing contests all over Bulacan and even on national television.
Regine...Roots to Riches was staged at the gymnasium of Centro Escolar University in Malolos, Bulacan.
IMPORTANT CHARACTERS. Among those who have made a great contribution in reaching Regine's dream were her parents: Teresita Velasquez and Mang Gerry Velasquez, who became her trainor and first manager.
Other characters who also made a great impact to Regine's life are Tatay Estong, the tricycle driver who transported Regine to various amateur singing contests in their province; Minerva Castillo, Regine's rival in amateur singing contests and the only girl who kept beating her; Ms. Susan Galvez, Regine's teacher when she was in Grade 3. When Regine joined Barangayan and Bagong Kampeon in 1984, Ms. Galvez also designed and sewed her gowns.
Other significant persons were mentioned in the show, namely Ronnie Henares, Regine's former manager and Celso Valeriano of CV and Friends, the founder of the band that Regine first joined.
Pilita Corrales, the host of Bagong Kampeon where Regine emerged as a champion in 1984, joined Regine in this musical extravaganza as did Jose Mari Chan, with whom Regine did her first recorded duet titled "Please Be Careful With My Heart."
LOOKING BACK. During her special concert, Regine reminisced about the difficulties that she encountered as a budding singer.
She remembered one particular childhood memory: she and her sister Cacai, used to watch television programs from the window of their neighbor's house. When their neighbor caught them watching TV for free, the neighbor would close the window immediately. When their parents found out about this, they bought a black-and-white Singer television for the family. This particular item was even to brought to the concert venue so viewers could see the first TV set of the Velasquez family.
"Nung bata ako, pinangarap ko lang magkaron ng TV. Hindi ko pinangarap na balang araw, ako ang mapapanood sa TV na ‘yon," she admitted.
Another highlight of the concert was the duet of Regine with Minerva "Eva" Castillo. "Meron akong karibal na batang maliit na malaki ang boses," recalled Regine. "Nung araw na yon, kami ang Nora at Vilma sa amateur singing contest. Kumbaga may Chona Velasquez, may Minerva Castillo.
"Parang takot ako sa kanya, e. Hindi naman takot, pero parang kinakabhan ako pag siya yung kalaban ko kasi nga magaling siya. At saka nagagalingan ako sa kanya."
Later that night, Regine performed "Ako Ang Nagwagi" with Minerva Castillo.
After the exciting "Single Ladies" song number of Pilita Corrales and MsRegine Velasquez, the Asia's Queen of Songs told the Asia's Songbird: "The first time I heard you sing when you were 14, I knew you were going to be the Queen of Bagong Kampeon."
Regine, during her "Chona Velasquez" days, was the unbeatable contender for weeks at Bagong Kampeon, a televised singing contest. She eventually took home the crown as the new champion in 1984 with her winning piece, "In your Eyes."
SONGS FROM THE HEART. Throughout the TV special, the female singer performed the songs that have seen her through her years in the industry.
These were: "Bakit Ako Mahihiya,"Regine's favorite piece for amateur singing contests; "Saan Ako Nagkamali?" and "In Your Eyes," the former being her audition piece in Bagong Kampeon and the latter, Regine's winning song in the said talent search.
Another memorable piece was "Love Me Again," Regine's first Single as "Chona Velasquez." In 1989, Regine performed "And I Am Willing To Tell You" at the Asia Pacific Singing Contest.
Regine also chose to sing "Narito Ako," her most applauded number in her first solo concert at the Folk Arts Theater and "Buhat," the very first song that she learned from her father.
Also that night, Regine performed modern hits like "If I were a Boy"with Pops Fernandez, and "Lucky"with Dingdong Dantes and Dennis Trillo.
BORN TO SING. Regine's optimistic outlook in life, knowing what her goals are, and the determination to fulfill those goals while continuing an appreciation to people along her journey are the things vital to her victory. Although there are moments when her passion to sing are challenged by unexpected circumstances, there's no stopping for Regine.
"Yung unang-unang beses kong tumuntong sa stage, tapos after kong kumanta, pinapalakpakan ako. And I remember to this day, I remember the feeling na pinapalakpakan ako. Nung pumapalakpak na yung mga tao, I loved it, I loved the feeling. And right there and then, I've decided that this is what I'm gonna be doing for the rest of my life."
Asia's Songbird, Regine Velasquez, is definitely here to stay.