30 moments that defined Regine Velasquez's career

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From conquering barangay singing contests to singing atop the Manila Peninsula Hotel to usher in the new millennium, Regine Velasquez’s storied career is a testament to her Asia’s songbird status.

Manila (CNN Philippines Life) — With a career that spans three decades and an artistic history that transcends generations of fans, it is impossible to create just one list that perfectly encapsulates the moments that molded Regine Velasquez-Alcasid into one of the most respected and celebrated artists of our time. How do you cherry-pick the top moments in the timeline of an artist that has had numerous hit songs,films, concerts?

Still, in celebration of her 30th anniversary concert happening at the Mall of Asia Arena this Oct. 21 and 22, we attempt to list down 30 moments in Regine’s career as the quintessential Filipino diva and pop culture icon.

1. Training in a sea in Leyte

It was the legend that made parents start submerging their own singing contest prodigies in water. Tales have it that what gave little Regina Encarnacion Velasquez her lungs of steel was her rigorous vocal training with her dad Mang Gerry that involved “sing-dipping” in the salty waters of Hinundayan, Southern Leyte, her mother’s hometown.  

2. Conquering the little stages

The Regine Velasquez appeal has always been rooted to her humble beginnings. With her reinforced vocals, she began to sweep across and conquer the barangay fiesta singing contest stages of Bulacan and beyond — the birth of a legitimate kontesera. She might not have won them all, but she won enough to keep going, and more importantly, provide for her family.

3. "Ang Bagong Kampeon" (1984)

Chona (as Velasquez was previously called) and Mang Gerry’s tandem sent shockwaves in the amateur singing contest scene and their small barrio victories snowballed with enough momentum to lead them to a national stage: the televised Bagong Kampeon singing competition. In the pre-YouTube era where every aspiring talent has to fight tooth and nail to catch a break, 14-year-old probinsyana Chona clinched the grand title with her sophisticated vocal prowess that contrasted with her wide-eyed demeanor.

4. From “Chona” to “Regine” (1986)

Having been minted as a gold medalist in the Philippine vocal version of the Olympics, Velasquez was steadily gaining popularity across the nation as the new vocal powerhouse — albeit with a different name: Chona, the name she used while competing in Bagong Kampeon. While the name had that masa appeal, it just did not have that diva essence befitting her talent. It was a fortuitous guesting in an old variety show with Martin Nievera when the fellow vocal powerhouse suggested that she drop the “Chona” and instead use a version of her first name: “Regine.” The rest would be herstory.

5. The first studio album (1987)

It’s one thing to win a singing contest, another to actually record and release an album. In 1987, Velasquez became a legitimate recording artist, signing up with one of the country’s major record labels, Viva Records. She released her eponymous studio album that contained some of her iconic hits “Kung Maibabalik ko lang,” “Urong Sulong” and “Isang Lahi.”

6. The maiden flight of Asia’s Songbird (1989)

Releasing her debut album did not mean that Velasquez was done with singing competitions. This time, however, she was on her biggest stage yet: the 1989 Asia-Pacific Singing Competition, chosen to represent the Philippines. She unleashed two of the most powerful songs in her arsenal: a diva version of “You’ll Never Walk Alone” from “Carousel” and the diva staple “And I’m Telling You (I’m Not Going)” from “Dreamgirls.” Her performance grabbed the attention of the Asian media, who then dubbed her as “Asia’s Songbird.”

 

7. Narito Ako, The Concert (1990)

Velasquez went from singing contest champion (and country’s pride), recording artist, to full -fledged concert performer. Teary-eyed, Velasquez thanked the crowd who filled Folk Arts Theater for “making (her) dream come true.” “Narito Ako,” her first major solo concert, would start herstring of live shows that would revolutionize the local concert scene.

 

8. Conquering Asia with “Listen Without Prejudice” (1994) and “My Love Emotion” (1995)

Velasquez continued a slew of other successful concerts in support of her albums, and it was in her Music and Me concert where the president of Polygram Far East Records approached her with an offer to elevate her popularity to the whole of Asia. Thus “Listen Without Prejudice” was released, and its opening song was a duet with Asian superstar Jacky Cheung. With Velaszquez’s powerful yet sweet vocals as its major selling point, the album became the first hit for Polygram in Asia. Following its heels is “My Love Emotion,” which featured the anthems “You’ve Made Me Stronger” and a bombastic cover of “What Kind Of Fool Am I,” and was also released to huge acclaim and sales.

 

9. Regine’s next stage: The theater (1995)

When the producers of Miss Saigon scoured the world for the lead of their new musical, they stumbled upon Velasquez, who at the last moments decided that the life of Kim was not for her. But then the call of the musical stage was strong, that she starred as Maria Clara in the Ryan Cayabyab musical adaptation of “Noli Me Tangere.” This stint would let Velasquez add “actress” in her expanding list of credentials, and paved the way for Viva Films’ head honcho Vic del Rosario to discover the Songbird’s gift for acting.

10. Reinventing the past with “Retro” (1996)

She then released her third album with Polycosmic called “Retro,” which featured a whole setlist of covers of hits from various genres. It would soon start the wave of other recording artists doing an “all-covers” album and the surge of the demand for “revivals.”

11. Regine the movie star (1996)

As early as 1988, Velasquez has ventured in films, playing minor roles as the token teen star in comedy movies. But it wasn’t until the release of  Viva Films’ “Wanted Perfect Mother” in 1996 that she showed her box-office might as a lead actress. In the same year, she starred in “Do Re Mi,” further owning the music-inspired movie genre.

12. Regine: Isang Pasasalamat (1996)

As her first 10 years on the industry was a resounding success, Velasquez gave a love letter to her fans via a free concert at the UP Sunken Garden Open concert grounds — reminiscent of Streisand’s 1967 concert at New York City’s Central Park. She sang her greatest hits thus far, accompanied by the Philippine Philharmonic Orchestra under the baton of Ryan Cayabyab. The show also marked her first foray into stage direction, unleashing a different side of her artistry.

13. Return to Viva Records (1998)

After her successful recording career under Polycosmic Records, Velasquez went back to Viva Records to release “Drawn” which ushered in her new, sexier sound (and image). From singing mostly pop ballads, she added an R&B flavor to her music. “Drawn” also revealed her other talents: sketching (she drew the cover artwork of the album) and more notably, directing (she directed her own music video for the album’s lead single, “How Could You Leave”).

14. The birth of the Regine-Aga loveteam (1998) 

Fans were eager to have another Regine Velasquez movie after the wide acclaim of “Wanted: Perfect Mother.” Viva then decided to pair the Songbird with one of the most popular leading men in the country: Aga Muhlach, and the results were so romantic — and somewhat sexy as well (see music video below). “Dahil May Isang Ikaw” would be the first of many box office successes for this love team.

15. Bringing the concert experience to television (1998)

At a time when ABS-CBN’s “ASAP” was dominating the Sunday noon timeslot, rival GMA had to quickly inject a booster to their fledgling variety show “Sobrang Okay Pare.” The show was reformatted to simply “SOP” and Velasquez was introduced as one of the new main hosts of the show. The Back-to-Back-to-Back segment became one of the most successful innovations of the show, with her concert caliber performances being one of the most anticipated segments by viewers.

16. Reaching the peak with “R2K” (1999)

While Velasquez conquered every aspect of the Filipino entertainment industry, it still remained that music and that voice was her #1 weapon. In 1999 she released her arguably greatest album thus far: “R2K”. But though the cover features an image of her in the future,  Velasquez’s album is a collection of song covers. The way she sang those 17 songs was inventive and revolutionary, backed by fresh arrangements. She stamped her brand of vocal acrobatics into some of those songs so well that now we recognize the Velasquez version more than the original, including Aerosmith’s “I Don’t Want to Miss a Thing.” It did not come as a surprise that this was her most successful album to date, as it reached up to 12x platinum.

17. Voice of the new millennium (1999-2000)

More than 60 broadcasters from all over the world led by BBC joined forces to produce "2000 Today,” an unprecedented T.V. special with the goal of covering how the countries welcomed the new millennium. As one of the participating nations, the Philippines through GMA Network beamed to a global audience the video of Regine Velaquez singing the Philippine millennium song “Written in the Sand” atop the Manila Peninsula Hotel in Makati City.

 

18. Literally flying high during “R2K the Concert” (2000)

For diehard fans, the most iconic image of Regine Velasquez is the one where she was hoisted high up the Araneta Coliseum wearing a billowing, winged, yellow Rajo Laurel gown, belting the highest sections of her megahit “On The Wings Of Love.” This two-night concert, which was in support of her successful “R2K” album, reached standing-room-only levels of sold out.

19. Conquering the rom-com genre

As if conquering the concert arena was not enough, Velasquez kept soaring high in 2000 by releasing another box office juggernaut, the romantic comedy “Kailangan Ko’y Ikaw.” Seen as the Filipino answer to the Julia Roberts’ starrer “Notting Hill,” it sees Velasquez as a popular singer-actress (basically her life) who falls in love with Robin Padilla’s everyman character. Velasquez played off with Padilla’s trademark onscreen masculinity with her brand of feminine confidence, and the resulting chemistry was nothing short of charming.

20. Beating out acting heavyweights (2002)

By this time, Velasquez was no longer stranger to receiving accolades for her music achievements. But she added another accomplishment by winning the Star Awards Best Single Performance by an Actress honors for her role in the drama anthology show, “Maalaala Mo Kaya,” as a mentally challenged woman, beating drama heavyweights Vilma Santos, Sharon Cuneta, and Jaclyn Jose.

21. Box office queen (2002)

In 2001, Regine released her second movie with Aga Muhlach, “Pangako... Ikaw Lang.” Propelled partly by the inescapable theme song penned by her then-future husband Ogie Alcasid, it became the most successful Filipino movie in the box office that year. With this, Regine finally clinched the “Box Office Entertainment Award for Box Office Queen” title during the 2002 Guillermo Mendoza Memorial Scholarship Foundation Awards.  

22. MTV Asia Special (2002)

Velasquez has had the honor of being once selected as an ambassador by the global humanitarian organization focused on children’s rights and welfare, UNICEF. As an ambassador, she hosted an MTV Asia special about the plight of Filipino children called “Speak Your Mind,” which was aired across Asia.

23. Championing new vocal talents (2002)

Velasquez is a legend among singing contest circles for she is the platform’s most successful product. It was then natural that she would start hosting her own singing competitions on television given her relatability to struggling contestants. In 2002, she hosted Viva’s “Star For A Night,” and later GMA’s “Search for a Star” and “Pinoy Pop Superstar.” These singing competitions gave birth to the careers of other successes Sarah Geronimo, Rachelle Ann Go, and Jona.

24. Return of Asia’s Songbird (2002)

At the inaugural MTV Asia Awards, Velasquez made her triumphant return to the Asian music stage, representing the Philippines in the event that brought together the region’s biggest talents. She picked up the award for Favorite Artist Philippines (an award she would win again the following year) and made that unforgettable duet with international pop star Mandy Moore.

25. Regine speaks her mind on CNN (2003)

In this 2003 live interview on CNN’s “Talk Asia,” Regine Velasquez was tagged as a “Filipino Superstar” who has maintained her popularity for the past 15 years. Fresh from winning her MTV Asia Awards and her series of concert and box office successes, host Lorraine Hahn asked about the beginnings of her career, her role in the family, and the secrets to her longevity.

26. The Songbird becomes a mother (2011)

Velasquez and husband Ogie Alcasid added another chapter in their love story when she gave birth to their first child Nathaniel, or Nate. Velasquez took a much needed hiatus to focus her energies to become the best mother possible, tantamount to the level of excellence she devotes to anything she sets her sights on.       

27. Silver anniversary (2012-2013)

Velasquez has been known to be a reliable vocal athlete who can deliver a golden performance under any circumstance. But during her 25th anniversary concert in 2012, she lost her voice and had to cut the concert short. Fans stood by the Songbird and she promised to recuperate and return, to show her fans how the concert should have been done. True enough, a repeat of the concert called “Silver Rewind” was staged in 2013, to the delight of the fans who witnessed the comeback with the tickets they bought for the original show.

28. Becoming a singing domestic diva (2012)

Given her new life development as a mother, Velasquez eyed a reinvention befitting this new status: to become a singing domestic diva. She then started hosting “Sarap Diva,” a cooking-slash-talk show where she and her guests would whip up easy dishes for working moms on-the-go. And of course, she does a song or two in the end. In 2016, she also released “Bongga Sa Kusina,” a collection of recipes from the show’s archives.

29. A motherhood album (2013)

After five studio albums since her return to Viva Records, Velasquez signed with Universal Records in 2008 and released three albums. Out of these three, it was the 2013 release “Hulog Ka Ng Langit” that reflected notable changes in her as an artist. She offered a more mature, laid-back yet emotional sound with songs that celebrated one of her most important milestones: motherhood.

30. Celebrating 30 years in the music industry (2017)

Reaching the 30-year milestone in your career while staying on top of your game is no easy feat. As an expression of love to her fans, Velasquez is coming out with a new three-disc album entitled “R3.0,” a collection of original songs: “Rise,” a fresh take on her biggest hits, “Reflections”, which re-imagines her biggest hits, and an official recording of songs she made her own through the years, called “Renditions.”