on One with Nelson Nacionales
singer, songwriter, producer...pastor
By Marites Launio
One of the most exciting things about being in the
media is that we have the luxury of meeting and
interviewing different individuals, from different walks
of life, of all ages, from politics and those in
When I was asked by my editor to some assignments for
Sunstar Weekend, I was a bit hesitant as I have a lot of
things to attend to, nevertheless I accepted (...or do I
have a choice?! hi-hi-hi). And this is to interview an
Ilonggo, whom at first sounded unfamiliar to me and
perhaps, to some too.
His name is Nelson Nacionales, a 39 year old Ilonggo
singer, songwriter and a pastor who is married to Cecille
Nacionales and a father of two fine young boys.
Last Friday, I was able to contact this man via phone in
his own house in Bo. Obrero. And guess who picked up the
phone...Yes, Nelson Nacionales himself!
When I've learned that it was him, I immediately
introduced myself readily set up the time of our meeting.
Yes a meeting to the Grand Champion of the 1986 Ilonggo
Finally, Monday came, April 23 at around 2:30 p.m., we
met at Chowking at the Mary Mart, Iloilo. I have to admit
that I was a bit surprised when I saw him because I
expected someone younger, like my age (his voice sounded
like one) but age wise, it's still Nelson Nacionales, the
man I set up to meet and interview.
So after exchanging pleasantries, we got down into
business and I sure did learn a lot from our
conversations. So let me share them with you.
Marites: When did you start singing? Since when,
Nelson: Since I was still young, high school maybe but
professionally, after I graduated from college in 1986.
Marites: What course did you finish?
Nelson: B.S. Architecture at San Agustin but never
Nelson: I really love singing and singing was my first
Marites: When was your first performance?
Nelson: I had my first performance at Sarabia Manor Hotel.
I used to sing there nightly, then in Hotel Del Rio,
Angelina Restaurant, among others.
Marites: You sing alone? What kind of songs do you
Nelson: I sang with a band, sometimes accompanied only by
a minus one. I love jazz music, but before, I sang
popular songs from back then. Oh yeah, I had a band back
in 1980 called "something else" and the other
one is the Friends Connection. We're all Ilonggos.
Marites: You're married, right?
Nelson: Yes I am. To Cecille Nacionales and we have two
children, 2 boys actually. We've been married since 1988.
Marites: Do you mind if I ask you how old you are?
Nelson: Oh no, 39. I turned 39 last April 9. I was born
Marites: OK. Back to your wife, how is she in your
Nelson: She's very supportive. She's just there, no
questions, no violent reaction.
Marites: So, she's one of your inspirations ha?
Nelson: Oh yes, she is, and of course God.
Marites: Going back to your career, did you receive
offers to break into the national music scene?
Nelson: There were offers but they came right after I won
as the Grand Champion in the 1986 Ilonggo Music Festival.
Marites: You won? Wow! What song did you sing and
composed by whom?
Nelson: Yes. I sang the song "Binhi" composed
by...actually I forgot who composed it.
Marites: Ok, so offers come pouring in, did you accept
Nelson: No. But I went to Manila in 1987 and sang in
hotels. One of them is in Holiday Inn with a band but we
disbanded after only 3 weeks because of some things that
we couldn't get along with. Then I was hired as one of
the screeners of Soledad Promotions. They were screening
would-be singers. Then I was taken in by the son of the
famous actress Paraluman and was with him for 3 months
practicing for show band. But I eventually went back to
Marites: Why? Opportunity is here?
Nelson: Yes! But I felt alone. I miss what I left here so
I have to get back. I wasn't married during that time,
you know my wife now was just my girlfriend back then. I
came back to Iloilo in 1988. But before that I went to
Singapore in 1985 to do concerts for the Evangelical
Churches of Singapore and have been composing songs which
eventually came on my first album in 1997.
Marites: You have an album?
Nelson: Yes, it's entitled "Apple of My Eyes."
Marites: "Apple of my eyes" Why is that?
Nelson: It's for God. God reached out to me and because
of that, He became the apple of my eyes. I told him and
also because I was struggling back then. My family was
here in Iloilo and I was in Singapore for 3 months.
Marites: How did you get involved into this religious
Nelson: Through one of my former classmates. He was one
of those who helped me to get close with God because
during that time I was singing and I thought that
something was lacking so there it was in 1986. I attended
Bible school in Singapore and eventually became a pastor
in 1997 up to now leading over a hundred individuals. Our
church is the Bethlehem Church, a denomination of the
Evangelical Churches of Singapore.
Marites: Wow! Did becoming part of the Church stop you
from singing and did it change anything in your career as
Nelson: Yes. It did in a way but in some ways, no. I was
still able to come up with my album but I stopped singing
after that. I'm now more focused on my career serving God.
Marites: The album came up 1997, who wrote the songs,
who helped you produce this? What songs are in the album?
Nelson: There are 10 songs in the album, most of which I
wrote, sang and produce myself. The carrier single is 'Apple
of my eyes', you should hear it, it's a great song, I
personally like it. Most of the songs are bible inspired,
the lyrics are from the bible and I just add in the
melody into it. Some of the composers include Jay Ballos,
Jong Ng Beng, Zaldy Evangelista.
They are also close friends and my brothers in the
Singapore church helped me financially because it was
really hard producing the album without financial help.
The Executive producer is Bing De Leon, and I produced
the album myself, arranged by Pablito Villanueva. My back-up
singers are the Bacolod sisters and this album is locally
And so, the interview ends.
Nelson promised though, that this will not be the first
and the last of our meeting, and I promised to keep in
touch and so did he.
I really learned a lot from this interview with the once
Grand Champion of The Ilonggo Music Festival, I've
learned that being a singer, is like any other profession,
just like being a journalist...it takes time, passion and
love for the craft to be able to stay with it despite all
And with Nelson ending his professional career as a
singer, and his becoming a pastor...again it takes love
to be able to stay with it.
Well, that's it...gotta go with my free cassette tape...yes,
Nelson Nacionales' album, the "Apple of my eyes."
Gotta listen to my new tape now and be inspired.
God Bless, Nelson!
rights reserved. Sun.Star Weekend 2001