Cover Story

Regine Velasquez-Alcasid Unpacks The Future Of OPM

Asia’s Songbird looks back on her 37 year career, the past and future of OPM, and how SB19 is part of a new generation of artists pushing the boundaries of Filipino music worldwide.

It is no question that Regine Velasquez-Alcasid has an overwhelming love for Original Pilipino Music (OPM). For her, this mission is so much more than just her own career — it’s the genuine belief in the power of Filipino music to bring people together, regardless of the changing trends and new advances in the music industry made over time.

“It’s the story of our lives. The way that our songwriters would write our songs, it’s always ma-drama and we love that. We can relate to the stories. If you compare [Filipino music] to other [types of] music, ours is really different,” she says. “Even though other people would say that we’re so influenced by Western culture—yes, it is—but if you listen to our melodies and lyrics, they’re still very unique.”

She goes on to share how Filipino listeners don’t just relate to the story told in the song itself, but they also apply it to other seemingly unrelated experiences in their own lives. In this sense, the song is no longer just the artist’s, but a shared moment between the singer and listener. For Filipinos, Regine describes, music isn’t just a means of entertainment, but an intimate retelling of our lives. For her audience, Regine is not just a singer. She embodies the stories of her songs, even if these are not reflective of her personal experiences at the time. The singer continues by talking about multiple instances when fans would approach and tell her that her music helped them move on from heartbreak or come out of the closet. 

Regine Velasquez

Avel Bacaudio Structure Top and Trousers.

“You just don’t realize how songs like that can inspire or empower someone,” she muses. For Regine, that effect isn’t just an isolated experience between her and her listeners. As the landscape of Filipino music changes and grows over the years, old and new musicians alike seem to keep the heart of what makes a piece of music uniquely Filipino, whether intentional or not.

“The industry has changed a lot…for the better naman,” she says. “Even though that has changed, that certain characteristic of an OPM song has always been there. I can’t quite describe what it is, but when you hear an OPM song, it’s like being home. It’s that familiar sound that you know you’re going to be okay. Even if I listen to the old songs and I listen to the new songs, somehow, they still have that.”

The heart of OPM has been passed down through generations, even if it’s become increasingly more accessible to produce and release original music today. Gone are the days of vying for a spot to perform on TV. Digital streaming platforms and websites like YouTube, Spotify, and Apple Music are giving almost anyone an instant platform that a few decades ago would’ve been almost impossible to do early in your career.

“It’s probably going to keep changing, it’s probably going to keep improving, but that OPM sentimental wonderfulness will remain. The songwriters will improve it and the arrangers will make it sound different but when you hear it, that distinct OPM sound will stay there. Yun yung sinabi nila na when you know, you know. You can feel it.”

A version of this story appeared on Billboard Philippines’ pop issue, dated Oct. 15.

Creative and Fashion Direction by Daryl Chang. Art Direction by Daryl Chang and Kenneth Dimaano. Sittings Editor: Bret Jackson and Nicole Almero. Photographed by Borgy Angeles. Hair by Arturo Tolentino. Production Design by Rey John Legaspi and Miguel Alomajan, Assisted by Uriel Palacios, Reymark Legaspi, Jheno Sonio, Mateo Legaspi, Ariel Mendros, Charlene Garcia, and Kenneth Murillo (Rocket Sets). Photography Assisted by Pao Mendoza and Karl Mariano. Shoot Coordination by Mikaela Cruz. Shoot Assisted by Megan Lim. Video Creative Direction by Kenneth Dimaano and Bret Jackson. Video by YouMeUsMNL. YouMeUsMNL Creative Heads headed by Kerbs Balagtas, Xavier Alfonso, Dale Reciña. DOP and Edited by Jireh Bacasno. Assistant Direction and Editing by Alanis Manantan. Video and Lighting Assisted by Sam Tangzo.