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Make way for the Philippines' prince of pop

Posted: Thursday, May 08, 2008

Erik Santos says he's a lifelong pessimist, but a concert tour with tickets upwards of $100 each indicates the Filipino singer is learning to get in touch with his optimistic side.

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Then again, with all of the "bargain" $88 tickets for his 6 p.m. May 11 show at Juneau's Centennial Hall quickly snapped up, maybe he's got reason.

Santos, an "American Idol"-like star in the Philippines who promotes himself as the "Prince Of Pop," will perform what's expected to be an extended-length show with five other singers from the 7,000-plus island archipelago as part of a U.S. tour mostly along the Pacific Coast.

"He's a well-known singer back in the Philippines and he's an aspiring actor as well," said Rey Caparas, owner of Reymel Oriental Store, where advance tickets are available. "People love him for everything. As a matter of fact I'm watching his TV show right now."

Santos won the 2004 competition of the "Idol"-like "Star in a Million," has recorded four albums and an EP since 2004, and appeared on numerous other albums. He also is a regular on the Filipino variety show "A.S.A.P. '08," aired locally at 11 p.m. Saturdays and noon Sundays on FILIP on GCI.

Asking what about Santos' musicianship is worth a premium price in a world full of talented Filipino singers can evoke responses akin to "he's famous because he's famous." His Web site, www.eriksantos.com.ph, quotes an interview where Santos says "I am so blessed I have the support of the country's best composers and music superstars," but doesn't spend much time on his talents. Also, the fame seems to be very much a homeland fame: run his name through Google News and - at least as of May 3 - there's no U.S. articles about him or his current tour.

Still, mingled in the enigma are nuggets of bona fides. There's long musical roots in the family, including a grandfather who was a conductor and his father who led a combo band. Santos was singing as a tot, and began performing with church choirs and in competitions while still a young child. He struggled through a failed band and elimination in one "Star In A Million" competition before his victory gave his musical career firm footing. His debut single, "Pagbigyang Muli," topped the WRR radio's hit chart for more than 20 weeks and he's won several Filipino awards for best song and best male performer.

"I almost lost my voice singing 'This is the Moment' so many times, but when I see the house, all of the hardships from work disappear," Santos said in an interview quoted on his Web site. His site also mentions how he was able to bring his father home from two decades of work in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, and how "nothing can be sweeter than reaping the fruits of your success with your loved ones by your side."

The high ticket price of his current tour is warranted because it's a six-person show - all on stage at once - and should last about four hours, said Fejie Manalo, who is helping her aunt produce the show locally. The other performers are Sheryn Regis, the "Star In A Million" runner-up to Santos; John Prats; Liza Manalo; Denise Laurel, who appeared on MTV Asia's show "Rogue"; and Pooh (no last name).

Available tickets are $125 up front and $108 beyond the second row, and Manalo said seats should remain available at the door. As for the $88 tickets in the back, "they were just like gone" after they went on sale, she said.

There's free options beyond the "A.S.A.P. '08" TV show for those wanting a preview of Santos' singing before committing to a ticket. Brief samples from all his albums can be heard at www.eriksantos.com. An MP3 of the song "Here I Am" can be heard at www.aimini.net/view/?fid=47Yt61gOB1Pe6Tw3c4ZA. A WMA version of "I'll Never Go" is at www.angelfire.com/musicals/donz17/illnevergo.wma. Run his name through YouTube and there's more than enough for a private home concert. Be cautious if Googling him for other material: many of the vast number of sites tend to be full of pop-up windows and registration demands.

For more information or advance tickets call Reymel Oriental Store at 790-4684, Manalo at 321-2734 or Melba at 321-8092.



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