It is almost unthinkable to imagine a Filipino music industry without Regine Velasquez-Alcasid. For the past 37 years, she has been one of the most celebrated and critically acclaimed artists in Philippine history, with over 80 awards to her name, numerous sold-out tours here and abroad, and a loyal legion of fans that spans generations. It’s clear that this has rightfully earned her such titles as ‘Asia’s Songbird’ and the ‘Queen of Pop.’

A legacy as storied as hers is anything but sheer luck. She joined the local music industry at a time when it was cutthroat and ruthless, where even winning a nationally televised singing competition could only get you a deal to record one single. In Regine’s case, that was “Love Me Again,” which she released under the moniker Chona. 

Regine Velasquez-Alcasid

Regine Velasquez-Alcasid photographed by Borgy Angeles on August 2023 at the studio of Billboard Philippines in Pasig City, Philippines

“During our time, there was no other way but TV. You had to work so hard to be discovered, because you can’t just go to the station and say, ‘Hello, I can sing, can you put me [in a show?]’ It wasn’t like that at all,” the singer shares to Billboard Philippines. 

Nevertheless, she persisted. At the recommendation of Pops Fernandez, a pop icon herself, she performed in The Penthouse Live! and struck a management deal with Ronnie Henares. She released her debut album Regine in 1987. The rest is history.

That’s why when she announced that “it was no longer her time” in an interview with ABS-CBN last July, fans and casual listeners alike were shaken. Comments and posts poured out all over social media, with Filipinos crying out, “No, you’re still our Queen!” and “Regine is irreplaceable!” But the singer says that she’s just being true to herself.

“I like that I’m very realistic. I’m not at all jaded. You know, when you’re in this business…fame has a way of changing you. I know I have changed, just like everyone else, but I always check myself, ‘am I okay? May nagbabago?’ Of course, may nagbabago, ang pangit naman kung ako pa rin yung six years old na nag-decide kumanta. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve realized na andami nang magagaling,” she says. 

Regine Velasquez-Alcasid

Regine Velasquez-Alcasid photographed by Borgy Angeles on August 2023 at the studio of Billboard Philippines in Pasig City, Philippines

There’s a profound humility in acknowledging the coming of a new generation. It’s even more profound to accept that that’s okay. “Naniniwala din naman ako na parang…walang magpapalit kay Sharon [Cuneta]. Wala namang pumalit kay Nora Aunor, kahit hindi na siya active ngayon. You make your own mark in the industry, and people will like you for who you are, not because you sound like someone else,” she says. “When your time is done, then someone else will occupy that space. And that’s okay. That’s fine.”

Until that final curtain drops, the Queen of Pop maintains that she’s still here. She serves as a mentor to a new breed of artists, wielding her vantage point as someone who’s witnessed firsthand the evolution of Filipino music. 

“I have 37 years of experience… I can share that. Those are stories, experiences that I can take to my grave, but sayang naman (it would be a waste) when [instead] I can inspire other artists, I can help make their lives or experiences a little bit better, para di sila masyadong mahirapan (so it won’t be too difficult for them), hopefully,” she says. “More than the fame, more than anything else, I like doing that.”

A version of this story appeared in Billboard Philippines’ debut issue dated Oct. 15, 2023.

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