When they were kids, they would sing just for fun.
"It was just a play, we were never serious," said Menchu Lauchengco-Yulo. But as they were growing up, the "older sister" realized that she couldn't part with music, and chose to place her passion into it.
Raymond Lauchengco, on the other hand, was just going with the flow. Becoming a singer never crossed his mind.
In an exclusive interview, he told PEP (Philippine Entertainment Portal), "When I was a kid, I wanted to be a pope, 'tapos presidente, 'tapos doktor, 'tapos abugado...in that sequence. You know why? I was so scared that I was going to hell, so, to make sure that I was going to heaven, I wanted to be the first Filipino pope. So, on Sundays, I put a blanket, walk around the house, blessing, blessing, kunwari..."
But fate dictated that he would become the "chaperone" of Menchu, who was fond of going to auditions.
He related, "Si Menchu is always the one, siya talaga yung palaging may hilig. Ako, wala akong kahilig-hilig. Naging member ako ng choir, ganun-ganun lang. Ang mission ko in life at that time was to chaperone my sister kung mag-o-audition siya sa Glee Club. Sasama ako, bantay lang. Ang gusto ko talaga, sports. Then one day, she decided to audition for Repertory Philippines."
Raymond was 12 years old then, and little did he know that accompanying his sister that day would change his life.
Continuing his story, "Without my knowing, she [Menchu] filled my name on the form and submitted it."
The young boy found himself face to face with the late Bebot Amador, a formidable name in theater and the founder of Repertory Philippines.
Raymond recalled, "If you know Bebot, you don't want to get him mad at you, di ba, so I was terrified, I went up on stage. The play was The King and I. Ayoko talagang masigawan, so I sang.
"The funny thing was we both got accepted, and the role that I was chosen to portray was Louie, the son of Anna [the female lead]. The irony was—Menchu was neither here nor there in terms of age. She's hilaw pa, so she was asked to play as one of the wives, na talagang super support role. Ayaw niya. She quit and left me."
His first theater experience led the reluctant boy to bigger opportunities.
SHOWBIZ BECKONS. The two kids, whowould playfully sing the songs of the Carpenters and Osmonds, began taking music seriously when they became members of Repertory Philippines.
It wasn't long before showbiz noticed their talents and good looks.
Raymond and Menchu were asked to join the roster of Pepsi New Generation Artists—which included Keno, Gino Padilla, Timmy Cruz, and JoAnne Lorenzana, among others.
In 1983, Raymond made his mark as a recording star and breathed life into successful hits like "So It's You," "Saan Darating Ang Umaga," and "Farewell."
Talking about his songs, Raymond never expected that some of them would turn out to be timeless OPM pieces. "Parang it comes into life every March or June...Nakakatuwa kasi people say, 'You know, when I got married, ang tinugtog 'So, It's You,' o kaya nung nag-graduate ako, 'Farewell.' Nakakatuwa to be part of their lives...But my personal favorite is 'Saan Darating'..."
That same year, he became one of the "bagets," a teen flick series that made the names of Aga Muhlach, William Martinez, Herbert Bautista, and Eula Valdes, famous.
Menchu also went the same route and gave showbiz a shot. She recounted, "I did movies, did a lot of TV drama, did hosting. I hosted Patok na Patok. I used to host Discorama...I was the first VJ of Music Television Channel or the first one to introduce MTV prior to EDSA revolution pa, Channel 4 pa noon, e. I did it all."
But unlike her brother, she didn't venture into recording. "I almost did pero hindi natuloy. I decided not to do it," she said. Her reason: "I decided getting married."
LEAVING THE LIMELIGHT. In the early '90s, Raymond became less visible on camera, and eventually found himself working behind it.
For her part, Menchu went back to her first love—the stage—and would become the First Lady of Musical Theater. She has done the greatest female roles, such as Maria in West Side Story, Eva Peron in Evita, Fantine in Les Miserables, the Witch in Into the Woods, Guinevere in Camelot, Luisa in The Fantasticks, and Johanna in Sweeney Todd.
But unlike her brother who flexibly interprets pop songs, Menchu would become a purist. She explained, "If I look into a particular work, I want to make sure na lumabas ang intention ng author, intention ng writer, so, hindi ko babaguhin yun. Pop music is a totally different science. My voice is not [for] pop, my sensibility is not pop."
In September 2008, she journeyed another phase in her life when she directed The West Side Story—featuring Karylle, Christian Bautista, and Joanna Ampil.
Menchu admitted, "Directing is still [something] I'm not secure about. Insecure pa ako diyan. I'm not going to say na magaling ako because hindi ako aral. Every thing I do is based on instinct and experience. I'm very open to suggestions, very open to comments, and I ask people a lot, I read a lot.
"Most of these directors who are very famous abroad would say that there's no technique, there's no study, there's no school for it, it's really your instinct. You learn from your mistakes. So you do it, ganito pala...and as you do it, you'll be open to people's comments. That's how you will learn."
Meanwhile, in the early 2000's, the balladeer would busy himself performing in concerts and stage plays. Then, he would release two albums—Raymond Lauchengco (2005) and Full Circle (2007). He would even do guestings on the boob tube, which he described as a "different life" during the interview.
To elaborate, "I did one a couple of months ago for MMK [Maalaala Mo Kaya]. If you get into that, there's nothing else you can do because you will be working 48 hours. By the time you get home, you're dead.
"It's a great job, I'm sure it means a lot, lalo na sa mga actress na galing sa theater. It's a good job. Yun nga lang, you cannot do anything else.
"E, ako, I really like to sing. How can I sing if I'm puyat? 48 hours, call time is 6:00 a.m. in Bulacan, and then you go home 6:00 a.m. the next day...so talagang the next day, kahit libre ka buong araw, bagsak ka."
After trying a lot of things, the siblings had three realizations: one, movie and TV acting is something they can do sporadically; two, performing is where they want to dedicate the rest of their lives; three, Raymond and Menchu had not done a concert together.
SINGING PARTNERS ON A REAL STAGE. The purist joins pop, the accomplished singer shares the same stage with a superb stage actress, Tony Bennett meets Sweeney Todd, ballad fuses with one Broadway—all these will happen as Raymond and Menchu celebrate Sibling Revelry, a dinner-concert on February 14 at the Rockwell Tent in Makati City. (CLICK HERE to read related story.)
During their press conference, Raymond couldn't contain his excitement, "I'm very glad that finally, I'm performing with my first singing partner."
He added, "I find the concept refreshing and different. It's apart from the usual love team you've seen in Valentines. Of course, we couldn't be love team, but we love each other."
They've performed in front of hundreds and hundreds of people. Do they still get nervous?
Menchu's quick reply: "Yes. Absolutely! I think I would be lying to anyone if I say that I will not get nervous. There's nervousness na, 'Will I make a mistake, I will forget things...'
"The beauty of live performance, e, walang cut once you're there. I know if there's gonna be a good or bad show the moment I open my mouth. Importante, the first note you sing. There are shows na 'andiyan yung boses, you just forget the technique. There are shows na ingat na ingat ka because wala sa kundisyon ang boses, e. So, those are the factors in your head, and once you start on the right foot, dire-diretso na 'yan...."
Raymond will consider the night as payback time. He said, "When I was a kid, I would never stand on stage alone due to extreme stage fright. You can never me make talk in public, much less, sing. But how did I find my way to showbiz? I think one of the reasons is really because of my sister. So, this concert is also a chance for me to say thank you to her."
And yes, they would reminisce their colorful childhood.
For starters, Raymond laughingly revealed: "I was there, 15 feet away, when Menchu's first boyfriend proposed. Nandun ako, nagtatago."
He admitted, "Yes, we had our own moments of contention. We would fight about stupid things, like sa car, unahan kami, [or] who gets to put the school sticker first...Iyakan 'yan pag hindi nauna. And then we would fight about kailangan our mom's next baby was a boy or a girl. All the time..."
But on the night of their concert, harmony will prevail.
"Besides talent, besides anything else, there's the chemistry and rapport between siblings. That, for me, is what's important—genuine rapport, talent may follow," Menchu said.
After more than three decades, the two kids who used to sing just for fun will give their best and conquer a real stage together.