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One on One with Nelson Nacionales

Ilonggo 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 different professions.

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 Music Festival.

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, professionally?
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 practiced it.

Marites: Why?
Nelson: I really love singing and singing was my first job.

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 usually sing?
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 1962.

Marites: OK. Back to your wife, how is she in your career?
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 anything?
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 Iloilo.

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 thing?
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 a singer?
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 produced.

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 takes time, passion and love for the craft to be able to stay with it despite all the odds.

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!


All rights reserved. Sun.Star Weekend 2001


.APRIL 29-MAY 5, 2001

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