He was born on 29 January 1889 to musically-minded peasant parents, Felipe Santiago and Maria Santiago. Poverty did not stop him from pursuing piano studies.
In 1908, he composed “Purita” and dedicated it to the first Carnival Queen, Miss Pura Villanueva, who later married the distinguished scholar Teodoro Kalaw. He was a piano instructor in 1916, the same year the University of the Philippines (UP) Conservatory of Music was established.
Santiago's masterpiece was the “Concerto in B flat minor” for pianoforte and orchestra. His most famous piece "Kundiman, (Anak-Dalita)", was sung upon the request of King Alfonso XIII of Spain before the Royal Court of Spain.
His other compositions were the kundiman "Sakali Man", "Hibik ng Filipinas", "Pakiusap", "Ang Pag-ibig", "Suyuan", "Alaala Kita", "Ikaw at Ako", "Ano Kaya ang Kapalaran?", "Hatol Hari Kaya?", "Sakali't Mamatay", "Dalit ng Pag-ibig", "Aking Bituin", "Madaling Araw" and "Pagsikat ng Araw". He was named UP Emeritus Professor of Piano on 25 May 1946.
On 28 September 1947, as the UP Conservatory of Music celebrated its 30th anniversary, Santiago died of heart attack. He was buried at the North Cemetery in Manila.
A hall in the Head Office of BDO (former PCIBank Twin Towers) was named in his honor. The Francisco Santiago Hall was mainly used for kundiman contests of the Makati City Government and the awarding of Service Awards of the former Equitable PCIBank and PCIBank
- “Significant daily events in the month of January in Philippine history”.The Kahimyang Project.(Accessed on 29 January 2015).