Meeting Regine and the Pinoys Inbetween…

Regine Velasquez, Asia's Songbird

Regine Velasquez, Asia's Songbird

Working in the corporate catering industry I’m meeting celebrities, the rich, the famous, and the infamous constantly. Whether it’s movie premieres, UN conferences, or because a someone noteworthy has a charitable cause, like cleaning up the New York City streets or they recently planted a tree and they want the world to know… somebody has to be there to feed the crew, give booze to the stars, and bring magic to the experience. That’s what I do. After a certain amount of time, it all becomes passé.

The frustrating part is when you meet THAT famous someone who really did affect you in so many countless ways, you don’t know how to sum it up in 30 seconds or less. I’ve learned, when dealing with the famous, you only get 30 seconds at most, to impress them or impress upon them that, “hey, I really, really dig you… I am humbled by your very presence.” Even if those 30 seconds are granted, don’t expect any eye contact or a mere gesture indicating information was received.

When I got a formal introduction to Miss Regine Velasquez (and I say formal because I wasn’t working an event or getting anybody a cocktail), I realized my 30 seconds were already up because nothing could express all the emotions imploding inside. If you could see me now, I know the first thing to cross your mind, “why does this white boy like our Asia Songbird so much?” Where do I begin to tell you how a white boy from Montana ends up worshiping a Filipina idol? How quickly can I do this before my 30 seconds are up?

I moved to New York City in the summer of ’99. My first three New York friends I made just happen to be Filipinos. Dennis, one of my first Filipino friends, took me to this novel little Asian club catering to the “alternative” lifestyles. He paid for everything. I was broke and still new to the city. Any New Yorker will tell you, coming here on your own you can be broke for quite sometime. Dennis had a few more years on me in age and his duration in this metropolis.

It was time for the nightly “drag queen showdown” and I watched in skeptical awe the pageantry as lady bois competed for the night’s crown. Each lip-synced to the grandest dancehall divas, mesmerizing the audience with their sequined voodoo. The grand-prize winner could earn a few hundred, or the runner up – free booze. I wavered in my interest as the night grew long, but one performer caught my attention… not for the “stylings” but rather the song choice.

“I Don’t Want to Miss A Thing” was a song originally recorded by a group called Aerosmith, but this was a different take all together… it was a female’s voice, full and sublime. I figured it was a Jessica Simpson, or some other up and coming white girl with pipes of glory ready to blaze the charts. I didn’t hear that song again for quite sometime.

It wasn’t until I was invited to have dinner with one of my other Filipino friends I made in New York, that I heard the song again. He played R2K on his stereo as he prepared some Filipino cuisine doing his best to make his lower east side apartment authentically “pinoy”. “Who is singing that song?” His grin gleamed with delight, “Oh, you know her? She’s our Asia Songbird. How do you know of her?” Long story, I wanted to say… but I finally got to learn of her name… REGINE VELASQUEZ.

With that, I embraced Regine as a sort of novelty. I accumulated some of her cd’s and movies through these Filipino friends. The more I spoke of her I realized there were more and more Filipinos in my life than I thought. She began to become this sort of iconic topic of conversation and bridge between Filipinos and I. Novelty didn’t turn into worship until I saw her in concert at the Beacon Theater.

It was the first summer after 9/11. Dennis was now BROKE himself. He had quit his semi-lucrative job and now I was the one on my feet, or at least for the time being.

I needed to pick up his pride. I bought our tickets to her concert. As the promoter put it, we were to sit in the “high roller” section. The first four rows are usually reserved for friends and family and those special guests who pay the top dollar. I was going all out for my friend and I. I got us in the fourth row, center stage.

It was THIS night that changed everything. Well… not everything, but what REGINE meant to me.

Anyone can sound great on studio recordings. They can “fix it in post” as they say in the film industry. The night was a showcase of Regine’s and Mister Ogie Alcasid’s favorite songs from film and greatest hits. The woman could sing. I mean, you could take away the microphone and still hear her belting out any given note from the sub-basement bathroom, behind walls of lead, or even in Jersey. The woman was pitch perfect.

Throughout the show, Ogie and Regine would dish some clever banter going in and out of Tagalog and English. Their rapport was a throw back to the variety shows like that of Sonny and Cher. They told jokes, belted out their tunes, and gave their all to the audience. They are true all around entertainers.

After the concert, Dennis and I went to a nearby café to reflect on the evening. I kept repeating over and over to Dennis, “my god, why isn’t she big here?” “Why aren’t their more Asian artists on the music scene in America?” “Is it racism?” “Wait, what about Mr. Sony?!? Can’t he do something???” “Oh my gosh, that woman was spectacular… “

I grappled with my lack of knowledge of the worldwide music industry and other conjured woes.

The vibrant Filipino culture and all of its worship and admiration for American Western Culture can best be summed up in its greatest, awe-inspiring artist Regine. Why can’t we Americans worship back or at least have the opportunity too?

When I finally got to travel to the Philippines, for the second time in less than a year, I knew a lot of it had to do with my friends and artists like Regine, who inspired me and made me more curious about these hidden talents from American Industry.

Luck would have it, the Filipino friend who played me R2K album had a best friend from high school who was now a t.v. and film producer making Regine’s next movie. Luck would also have it the two old friends still keep in touch. Circumstance would permit his friend to invite me to a limited engagement in which Regine was not only going to perform a concert with Piolo Pascual, Erik Santos, and Mark Topaz from the band Shamrock, but I was to meet the damsel as well.

I received a text message from the film producer. I could meet Regine and go to a small venue concert at Zirkoh in Timog. “What was a Zirkoh?” I thought. “Sounds pharmaceutical.”

Zirkoh can best be described as a club/cabaret hall. The club’s name “Zirkoh”, from what I’ve gathered, is derived from some Tagalog words encompassing the circus, drama, and romance. Mainly a comedy bar venue with nightly performances from eclectic artists, drag queens and female impersonators, Zirkoh is a modern day Moulin Rouge.

I was a bit nervous that he wouldn’t arrive because show time was in less than 15 minutes. Did I mention we hadn’t met yet? I had no clue what he even looked liked. I began to think I’d have better chance of seeing Regine by staring at my cd collection. Alas, the film producer arrived… my red hair and six foot stature must have given me away. Did I mention this was our first time meeting?

Zirkoh was practically spilling over with twenty something pinoys and pinays. Entertainment was already in progress. About seven to eight performers were onstage performing Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody” to an instrumental track. The music was booming and the performers vocals were top notch. The performers ranged from actor and actress types to what appeared to be transvestites or drag queens (I guess one could argue the later were still actor and actress types). Nonetheless, they were all a unified troupe onstage, belting their hearts out. As the film producer lead me toward the front row, all the spectators took turns ogling over the random white guy who just arrived. This drove me into a sweat. Thank god I wore dark colors, sweat stains won’t be so apparent.

Our tables were left of stage, and I wasn’t the only one in the producer’s close circle. Some of his other actors from Regine’s next film were also seated. I felt awful I didn’t know who they were, but maybe it was for the best… they tried to make me feel comfortable and I’m sure I was a bit of a curiosity to them. If I foamed at the mouth for them as well, I might have lost my charm.

Within moments, drinks were served and food arrived, but the producer motioned for me to head up the precarious winding staircase to the loft dressing rooms. “Be sure to get your camera ready, ok?” Ok, sir!

I passed Erik Santos, who was busy in make up. His highlighted hair immediately reminded me of California. The dressing area was tight and I could hear Regine’s voice being asked questions in a manner that suggested a formal interviewed. The producer went inside her dressing room then soon popped back out. “Okay, got your camera ready?”

“Oh sure,” wait a second… I ain’t gonna take her picture… I want to be IN the picture.

“You know how to operate one of these things? It’s digital.”

I had him take a test photo. It’s all good.

Regine appeared in casual, black blouse, trendy, torn jeans with a make-up artist attached at the hip executing final touches. How my heart raced. My thoughts were scattered and multiple. Every topic epitomizing this moment rang bombastically in my cranium… Regine, you know how much you’ve affected me? am I sweating too much? Wow, she’s the height I thought she’d be! Are we making eye contact? Does she find this all annoying? OH, how pretty she is! Did I trim my nose hairs?

“This is Dan, he came here from New York City and he is one of your biggest fans.”

“Oh no… really? He can’t be.” Her observation skated between coy and being baffled.

“I am one of your biggest fans!” I spoke… dear lord, make me stop…

“Oh, you couldn’t know me – how could you know me?” Ah-ha… she’s playing coy.

“Well, where do I start? You’re my all time favorite female singer! I’ve seen you at the Beacon Theater in New York! I’ve seen you perform with Ogie Alcasid in Atlantic City! I’ve seen your movies! I know who you are!” Help! I’m sounding stupid now.

Photos of us are taken, I blabber some more fragmented ramblings then Regine was whisked away.

Not much to write home about, I know. I met a woman I valued and revered. I was able to ever so briefly solidify my connection to Filipino culture and one of its most talented representatives. A moment that will give me goose bumps for times to come.

The producer and I made our way back to our tables. The cast prodded me on my meeting. I gushed gaily and drinks were poured, refilled, and poured again. Soon Regine took to the stage and the concert ensued. All I could do was glow.

I couldn’t help but think how this all came 360; the bar, the drag queens, the song, the friends, the trip, the bar, the drag queens and finally, the woman herself.

I would have loved to tell her of my voyage to her and her influence on Asian artists, Filipinos and people like myself. But when I watched her perform, watching various audience members work up the nerves to join her onstage for photo ops, and watching her accommodate them all, I figured… she probably already knows my story. She probably knows many of our stories. I think this is why she could be so generous with her performance… pose for photos while singing. But perhaps she was just being Filipino… persevering, resilient, and heartfelt. I would have loved to tell her my story but my 30 seconds were up. But those 30 seconds will stay with me for a lifetime.

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21 thoughts on “Meeting Regine and the Pinoys Inbetween…

  1. OMG! you’re very lucky to meet the Songbird and have a picture with her… I’m a filipina and I’ve been Ms Regine’s fan since 2002… Wow! nice picture! actually, I am speechless right now but anyways, thanks for sharing the picture and of course, you’re experience meeting the DIVA.. god bless..

    Cheryl
    USA

  2. i was touched by your story. and by the fact that you like our regine very much, and how this deepen your connection to filipino. regine’s my ultimate fave celebrity. she’s not just a singer to me. her name’s an adjective in my dictionary. i love almost everything about her…
    you’re very lucky to meet her. i live in the phils but i never get to talk to her…i met her in few of her album lauchings and during autograph signings…
    btw, she’s coming up with a new album entitled “low key”. it would be a great christmas gift that i look forward to giving to myself.

  3. wow! worth reading! i love it! heheh im a super fan as well, and i love reading this kind of stuff.

    i hope you can update us more. btw, she will release a new album this november. hope you get your copy!

  4. hi! i love your blog i’m a fan also and i’m happy that you appreciate a filipino talent specially regine…

    we reginians are inviting you to join http://www.reginemultimedia.com it’s the most updated website of ms. regine and there you could also meet many more reginians like us lol.

    hope you could join us 🙂

    thanks again for the blog and your story we are really deeply touched by your story 🙂

  5. Hi!

    wow! nice post. i cant believe that there would be a WHITE guy who’d love our songbird so much. This is really worth reading. thanks for sharing your story and showing us the picture. May God bless you! 🙂

  6. Hi Dan! thanks for sharing that picture, she’s really beautiful!! and a lot of thanks for your blog that you expressed how you are impressed by the songbird…. she’s gonna release her album “Low Key” this november….

    you can watch thousands of her videos in youtube (www.youtube.com)

    you can watch these: “I don’t wanna miss a thing” http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5QlyQwrpUK0

    and “Reasons” (contains her highest belted chest note so far) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Kdj-xCHjnrg

  7. Ei, you’re one of the coolest fan of Ms. Maganda (Beautiful).

    Thank you for loving her as well. Eventhough she is an Asian.

    Thank you for relating to us your 30 sec encounter, that is so brave of you.

    Guess what? When I met her, I left the cover of her album that she is suppose to sign (I lost myself; she is mermerizing, captivating I really couldn’t describe what I felt), like you I have our digi photo taken as souvenir.

    Right after that meeting its alright for me if I die. Honestly.

  8. lol… don’t die on us now! There will be another chance to meet her and get that autograph. As you may read from other posts, Regine has another album coming out… I get so many emails discussing her new album I had to deny alot of the postings… lol…

    Thanks for your story… salamat po…

  9. wow! quite a long read but i did enjoy your story! i adore Regine a lot too! and i dun even know why! haha

    I’m planning to meet her in the ATC Low Key Promo Tour and Im hoping I could get near her. Id seen 2 of her concerts but Im too shy to approach her. *bonkself*

    thanks for sharing!

  10. you’re a lucky guy. i also had the chance to have a picture taken with her last sunday, january 18. i was there at alabang town center & i had a chance to see her perform, have a picture together & had my cd signed. she’s really beautiful & talented. don’t forget to buy her new album entitled low key. thanks for sharing your wonderful story & keep on supporting our dear songbird! mwah!

  11. Great article! You’re a good writer. Enjoyed reading it! I love the Songbird as well! Congratulations for having the chance to meet her. Thanks for sharing your story.

  12. FOR ALL THOSE REGINE FANS OUT THERE…. yes, YES, I already bought her new album LOW KEY!!! lol… and I recently saw her again in Atlantic City doing the Divas 4 Divas concert. Did any of you see me???

    LOL

  13. Reading your article made me proud once again of our one and only Asia’s Songbird, Regine Velasquez. I’m not surprised that you adore Regine that much because even foreign artists as Peabo Bryson, Jeffrey Osbourne, Michel Legrand, Brian Mcknight (and many others) have praised her as one of the greatest voices in the world.

    Like you, I’m also a Regine fan. Because of this, I want to share to you (and to other Regine fans here) my Regine-tribute-videos. You can find them at youtube. My account name is AntiBasher2.

    You can also join our Regine yahoogroup. Just register at regine-v@yahoogroups.com

    Keep supporting Regine. Enjoy! 🙂

  14. thank you for supporting our dear songbird.. i was always in awe everytime i see her perform or just by simply seeing her… she’s so pretty.. love her long hair now 🙂 such a goddess.. you’re one lucky guy.. she have a movie that will be shown i guess this coming february with aga muhlach 🙂 and watch out for her coming album early this year. ingat ka palagi Dan!

  15. thank you for loving our dear songbird! i was always in awe every time i see her perform, her lung power really drives me crazy.. i don’t know where’s that coming from and simply by seeing her leaves me speechless. she’s very down to earth even if she’s famous. she even paid for everything, the venue, the foods…. for all the people who’s been supporting her.. last december she organized a christmas party for fans.. she even gave away her personal things and shirts and perfume for everyone. she stayed for almost 5 hours just to mingle with everybody and have picture taken with her. i get to love not only “the songbird” but “Regine” herself.. she gave us her time, can you imagine her staying for almost 5 hours just to give everyone an advice and speak her heart out.. she went home at around 11:30 in the evening to think that she still have to wake up at around 4am the next day to shoot for her new movie. i love her.. she’s not just an outstanding singer, box office actress, a host, endorser, producer, entrepreneur but someone who’s famous but still manage to put her feet back to the ground even though alot of people put her to the pedestral. like what she said, she just wanted to sing and send her siblings to school to finished their education, she was able to do that and more.. she didn’t get to achieved that overnight, she worked hard for it.

  16. reading your blog made my day Mr. Gingerfire =) yes, Regine has always been dear to us pinay trangender/drag queen folk—dear enough to emulate her in every way we can. alas, there can only be one Regine. your beautiful story brought back a lot of memories for me as well, how i became entranced with a girl from humble beginnings with her flawless vocal stylings. just as she serves as your bridge to us pinoys, Regine also serves as my anchor to the Philippines, as i work here in China. its difficult to be far from home but when i play her songs its as if i’m just a bus ride away from my loved ones.

    you have exquisite taste Mr. Gingerfire. that i can say for sure;)

  17. Hey Dan. Hope u had a wonderful time when u visited my country. I am often and I must say quite frequent nowadays in NYC as well as I am working as an FA. Anyway,hope all is well with u. Take care.

  18. Hi Dan, found my way here because I viewed your video on youtube singing with Anton Diva. Enjoyed my reading here and thank you for appreciating our own talents, anyway its hard for an Asian to penetrate American music world, yet we have our Charice , Arnel Pineda and APL of Black Eyed Peas and others.

  19. There are SO many fabulously talented Asian/Asian-American performers, and too few of them get any recognition. It’s nice to see someone else as totally enthralled with an Asian entertainment find! =) I’ve watched sooo many films, and got myself addicted to sooo many musicians and groups… You should really check out the Korean music scene, it’s pretty rad!

    • Why THANK YOU Erin… I should write a piece on all my favorite recent Korean influences. There are certain film makers I am absolutely mesmerized by.

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