When something is meant to be, the stars will inevitably align to make everything really work out right.
Randy Santiago was not yet a solo artist in 1986 when the chance to record a hauntingly sentimental ballad came his way. At the time, he was a member of the Cicada Band and was also working as an assistant for his father, noted film director Pablo Santiago.
“Hindi pa ako artista when I recorded ‘Hindi Magbabago,’” he told ABS-CBN News.
The eldest in the Santiago brood of six children, Santiago was preparing the report of the next-day shooting of his father’s youth-oriented action-fantasy, “Ninja Kids,” when he was approached by Vicor Records producer Ricky del Rosario, the younger brother of Viva's boss Vic del Rosario.
“Kulang kami ng isang singer,” Del Rosario told Santiago. “Baka pwedeng ikaw na lang ang kumanta ng ‘You’ve Got the Power,’ with Gino Padilla and Juan Miguel Salvador.”
“You’ve Got the Power” was penned by musician-songwriter Tats Faustino and Gary Valenciano for “Ninja Kids.”
After the recording, Faustino, who was also a member of Cicada, made Santiago listen to a ballad he composed. That was “Hindi Magbabago.”
That same evening, Santiago recorded the ballad that was included in the “Ninja Kids” soundtrack. He sang another track, “Mend Our Ways.”
The success of “Ninja Kids” allowed Santiago to become a TV host in “Triple Treat,” with Padilla, Keno and Regine Velasquez. He later joined “Lunch Date,” where he also became a regular host.
“Hindi Magbabago” became a hit when Santiago joined “Lunch Date” in the first quarter of 1987. “That was when I got to really promote the song,” he shared. “Hiningi ko na lang ‘yung song and we included it in my debut album, ‘First.’”
“Hindi Magbabago” quickly climbed to the top of the charts and became such a huge hit.
“That started everything for me,” Santiago said. “For one year, ‘Hindi Magbabago’ became a No. 1 single. Every hour, they played the song on the radio.”
Undoubtedly, that also kicked off Santiago’s immense popularity. His Hawi Boys were eventually formed, which included Dennis Padilla, Jong Cuenco, Chinkee Tan and Santiago’s cousins.
“There were times I would render ‘Hindi Magbabago’ as the final song in a live, outdoor concert, pero hindi ko na natapos, sa dami ng tao,” Santiago recalled. “First line pa lang hindi na pinatapos sa akin.
“I had a concert outside SM North EDSA. Pinapaalis na ako, kasi baka magkagulo or magka-stampede sa dami ng tao. Exit na ako agad. Hindi ko na natapos.”
In 1987, Santiago originally planned to stage a solo concert at Birds of the Same Feather (that later became Birdland) in Timog Avenue in Quezon City. However, they needed a major venue, that was why he did the concert at the ULTRA.
“During my time, kami lang nila Gary [Valenciano], Martin [Nievera] ang kumakanta ng live. There were only a few of us. We were all in our 20s and we were very young. We captured the young market then," he recalled.
“If you’ll compare me during that time and today, ang layo na. I’m already 60 now. Even if you ask me to sing another ballad now, I don’t think I can still capture the market again. The young singers these days, like perhaps Iñigo Pascual, they are the ones doing very well.”
Santiago was a big brother in La Salle Greenhills’ all-male singing group, Kundirana. He mentored the likes of the younger batch that included Ogie Alcasid and Dingdong Avanzado.
“I was in college and I was a ‘Kuya’ in Kundirana,” Santiago beamed. “I was their mentor. We would teach the new batch. There was a batch that came before us, sina Dingdong Eduque, Mel Villena, Louie Ocampo and Tony Alcasid, the older brother of Ogie.”
“Hindi Magbabago” was also recorded by other artists. “Gary and Martin had their respective versions,” Santiago said. “Because it was Tats who composed it.”
The song was also used as the theme of Santiago’s comedy flick with Maricel Soriano, “Taray Teroy,” megged by his dad.
Undoubtedly, “Hindi Magbabago” became Santiago’s biggest hit and signature song.
Embracing the success of “Hindi Magbabago” came easy for Santiago. “It helped that I was already entrenched in the industry,” he said. “I was working with the top actors of the land as Papa’s assistant.”
Santiago would often see the likes of Fernando Poe, Jr., Joseph Estrada and Nora Aunor. “I was no longer star-struck. That didn’t happen to me. I worked with top actors.”
Even before him, Santiago’s brother, Rowell, joined showbiz back in 1982. “I was his PA [production assistant] and I would drive for him.”
Rowell was paired with the likes of Sharon Cuneta in Eddie Garcia’s “Cross My Heart” (1982) and “Friends in Love” (1983), and Pops Fernandez in Emmanuel Borlaza’s ”Just Say You Love Me” (1982).
After “Hindi Magbabago,” Santiago recorded other ballads like “Damdaming Para sa ‘Yo,” penned by Vehnee Saturno in 1988. Santiago wrote his own songs that became subsequent hits, too.
There were the upbeat ditties like “Babaero” and “Siguro.” Aaron Paul del Rosario gave him “Umiinit, Umaapoy.”
“When I wrote my songs, favorite ko lahat ‘yun because binubuhos ko talaga when I composed something,” Santiago said. “Winner is ‘Pagod na Puso,’ a song I wrote and arranged by Mon Faustino.”
“Pagod na Puso” won Best Theme Song for Laurice Guillen’s “Apoy sa Puso” (1992), with Dawn Zulueta, Gary Estrada and Ricky Davao.
The song became one of Santiago’s favorites among the tunes he wrote. That’s why in May last year, to lighten the mood of everyone while on lockdown, he re-recorded “Pagod na Puso,” given a new arrangement by Iean Iñigo, with the help of Santiago’s youngest son, video editor Raiko.
Also last year, Santiago wrote the upbeat “Dance and Sing (Basta’t May Social Distancing),” now on Spotify.
After more than three decades in show business, Santiago has done practically everything. From singing and songwriting, he did TV directing, hosting, acting on TV, films and theater.
“Everything is relaxed for me now,” Santiago offered. “I don’t want to retire yet. Whatever will be given to me, I’ll gladly grab it and work on it.”