Many still fondly recall Keith Martin for the eternal classic “Because Of You.”

Keith Martin (Publicity photo/file)

Diana Soto Dayao remembers Keith beyond that. And for good reason. She is, after all, more than just a fan of Keith’s. She was his partner. They were together for years. Keith is the father of her only child, Dion James Martin, now 14.  

Understandably, Diana was more than shattered when she found out about Keith’s sudden passing last March 25.

Diana Dayao (Photo by Manny Llanes)

“It was hard. It was surreal in the most depressing way,” she told us recently in a casual interview.

“Losing a loved one is my biggest fear in life. I had a taste of it that moment and all I could say repeatedly was ‘No,’ like a helpless child. I burst into tears and I knew then I was powerless. I immediately dialled his number. Of course, nobody picked up…”

Diana, Dion James (Instagram)

Diana and her child observed the 100th day of the singer-songwriter’s passing on July 1. She did so reflecting on their relationship.

She relates, “There is so much to remember about Keith. I realized that even when we had been separated for years, he did not have any family or any one person he had spent as much time and emotional connection as he did with me and our son.”

“I’d like to say we both had moved on and gone our separate ways, and then suddenly I found myself as the widow. And as much as I knew it all happened as God planned, everything flashed back to me and I sort of blamed myself for everything I might have missed doing to save our relationship. I thought that maybe, if I did more than I did, maybe it wouldn’t have lead to this – him dying alone when he gave his all to the world through his music…”

Keith, Diana (Instagram)

According to Diana, music is Keith’s main priority in life. Yet when he came back to the Philippines in 2018 after being away for 4 years, it was apparent that he wanted to rekindle their bond and get his family back.

But the pandemic hit and that did not help matters any, physically nor financially. But last February, Keith visited and cooked hamburgers, his specialty, for Dion.

He even volunteered to bring Diana to a spa as she had a very bad case of cough at the time and he thought she needed some steam. 

It seemed like a bright new beginning. Dion was especially happy. His last message to him: “come back next week.”

Diana (Manny Llanes)

“It was difficult to get him to spend time with Dion, but he was always there for birthdays. We celebrated it together since he came back. Last year, he brought a cake,” Diana shares, getting emotional.

“In my mind, I always had him in my future. So that time he took me to the spa I didn’t know that was going to be the last. He was just looking at me, in deep thoughtful glances. I pointed to his unhealthily increasing weight; he ignored me and said he was strong.  It was the first time in years that we went out like that you know, just being casual, having fun by ourselves.”

Diana, Keith, Dion (Instagram)

They first met at an awards event in 2004 when “Because Of You” took over Philippine airwaves eventually becoming a national love anthem.

Diana, then reigning Miss Manila, was just 20.

“We connected through music,” she recalls. “After we met, he would often drop by my place and we’d listen to songs. He’d break out his laptop and hand me his headphones – old school r & b, jazz, Motown, he was just so into music.”

Keith, Diana (Instagram)

Keith’s intentions were made clear to Diana and her family and eventually they became a couple.

Diana was just graduating from college at the Pamantasan ng Lungsod ng Maynila.

In any case, their union would also blossom into a musical partnership, with the two writing songs together.

“He encouraged me to try it after learning that I’m actually a writer and that’s how it started. He used to call us Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis.”

Keith, Diana (Instagram)

The two wrote songs for each other and for other artists. Diana would go on to pen songs for Zsa Zsa Padilla, Kyla, Jed Madela, among others.

“Two years into the relationship, my very sheltered self, still a bit naïve, got pregnant. It was unexpected yet a very beautiful moment, one that prompted Keith to look for work elsewhere. It was tough for me seeing him not getting the attention he deserved here in the Philippines, so when he told me there was opportunity back in the US, I encouraged him to go. For our son, too.” 

The couple would eventually separate.

Keith would go on to continue making music wherever, including the US, Australia and Indonesia. Diana, meanwhile, would establish herself as a multi-media host, consultant, and advocate. All while raising Dion.

But the music between them remained.

Diana would go on to release her debut album “Senti Sultry Diana D.” for Viva in 2017. Some of the songs therein, like “Ikaw Lamang,”and “Questions” were co-written with Keith.

Diana on the cover of her album for Viva

“We stayed in touch,” said Diana of Keith during those times. “We were in constant communication.”

According to Diana, the days that followed after Keith died proved confusing, frustrating.

“I was grieving and I had to do things that I’m not really familiar with and never wanted to be familiar with, you know? Like arranging stuff for his wake, talking to the police…it was surreal. The hardest was going to his place in Eastwood and seeing him. I looked at him from a distance as I didn’t want my last memory of him to be like that. My mom stood closer to him. We loved him despite everything…”

Adding to the difficulty was the constant flow of news about his death.

Dion, Diana (Instagram)

“They were coming from everywhere but not from me. I mean, this singer-actress was all over the news talking about him, about his child, about his death, giving hearsay information, all the while knowing how to reach me. She even skipped the wake….”

“It was funny because she claimed in her interview that she was just a stone’s throw away from Keith’s and they would wave at each other at their respective balconies. The building admin of Keith’s condo found it so ridiculous that she even walked me around the building to show how impossible that scenario could’ve been.”

“She also claimed she had been calling Keith before he died, but I have Keith’s phone. No call.”

“She has no respect for the dead. It was just for show, drama for publicity. Not even a decent way to treat a friend, if she even considered him a friend. And now that’s all my son could see online.”

She lamented, “Keith helped a lot of people since he moved here. Big stars, not-so-big stars…but you know what? Most of them were nowhere to be found during the last years of his life. Even during and after his death.”

Keith Martin (File)

Diana adds, “The tragedy of Keith was – he went on to mentor, to write, produce music for established and budding artists, writers, producers –most of the time for free. And many took advantage of this. And the less money he had, the more vulnerable he became. All the while, he had a son who needed him. (But) that’s not what people saw – what they saw was a brilliant foreign producer who would just be happy with fried chicken for a session. Music kept Keith going. He latched on it while waiting to get his career back on track, but time and, I guess, bad eating habits caught up with him. He may not have been the best husband or father, but he damn deserves an award at the very least as a musician if also as a huge advocate of local talent.”

Life goes on for Diana and Dion.

Currently, Diana heads the Corporate Social Responsibility department of Kumu, and does hosting for big online and onsite events. She releases music from time to time.


She is busy too, with Manila Street Love – a mobile outreach campaign for the homeless, which she founded.

Diana with several street children (Instagram)

“But I really wish Keith was still here, you know? I miss him. But I find relief in the thought that he is in a better place. Where all the music, wisdom, and love he deserves exist. He was a big Bible-reader. I keep his Bible beside his photo and urn at home. I still cry every day, especially when I think of our son, and how I know he wanted to have his dad around badly, even when he doesn’t say it, maybe to avoid disappointment.  I wish we had more time to make family memories, but I look forward to the other side.  For now, we remember him with fondness, with love, with a smile. He used to tell me all the time ‘I love you til I die.’ I feel it every day, I feel we have an angel now guarding and protecting us…”

Source: Manila Bulletin (