With Pops Fernandez reading their ‘Now Vows’]

MANILA, NOVEMBER 4, 2011 (STAR) By Bibsy M. Carballo - If one would ask us to describe Martin Nievera, we would say that he is the male Kris Aquino.

Both provoke like and dislike reactions with nothing in between. Both have incredibly controversial love lives, amazing talents, and yes, both are devastatingly honest in their pronouncements. Yet that is as far as it goes.

When discussing Kris with friends, they concede it a phenomenon that Kris who seems to do everything wrong, is easily the most sought-after endorser and most popular host on television. While Martin in doing everything wrong has not been as lucky.

On Nov. 11, Martin and the Side A Band topbill the concert All For One at the Smart Araneta Coliseum, their first ever engagement together.

This is the perfect team-up yet to come out of Viva as it celebrates its 30th anniversary on the day the Sharon Cuneta-Gabby Concepcion romantic film P.S. I Love You was shown.

Both Martin and Side A had their first big hits as artists of Vicor and Viva under Boss Vic del Rosario. Both artists are consummate performers and perfectly complement each other. Joey Generoso, lead singer of Side A would rather just sing, while Martin the “Big Mouth” could be comedian, host, juggler and singer.

Martin always stirs interest in the public as his life is a veritable open book of intrigue, speculation, successes and failures, questions about which he is always willing to answer.

What would one like about Martin? His passion for music is unquestioned. He takes rehearsals and recordings as seriously as live performances. In an interview with Boy Abunda, Boy asked him what song he would sing to God and he confessed that it would be a song asking for forgiveness like Why God? from Miss Saigon (Why God, Show Your Hand? Why Me, What’s Your Plan?). He spoke of once going into a church, loudly faulting God as a youth of 19, confronted with problems involving his parents, of things happening too fast, of wanting to kill himself, finding the expectations he put on himself too much.

We attended the press confab for All For One and found a Martin, as passionate as ever about his music, as glib and inspiring. Obviously, we belong to the “like” group, although we do agree he has to lose weight.

After everyone had eaten and Martin arrived, the group started jamming. Martin announced the event and the Q&A began. But the audience preferred to hear them perform and started requesting songs which obviously they were doing for the first time. And already it was wonderful.

[PHOTO - Martin (leftmost) and the Side A band topbill the All For One concert at the Smart Araneta Coliseum on Nov. 11]

The Smart Araneta concert is for many like us, the fulfillment of a dream. If there would be a band and solo singer we had followed in the ’80s, it would be Martin and the Side A.

All For One would be the long awaited musical experience for many. What would be the expected lineup? Naturally, hits like from Side A (Joey Generoso, Naldy Gonzales, Ernie Severino, Lee Von Cailao and Ned Esguerra) Hold On, Tuloy Pa Rin Ako, Forevermore, By Your Side and Tell Me. For Martin, You Are My Lady, Kahit Isang Saglit, Each Day With You, his teleserye themes, Broadway themes including his favorite Jekyll and Hyde musicale.

The part where they sing together is still fluid. They have met on the lineup but nothing is certain until the last day but that is what makes it exciting, Martin concedes. He is still in the US doing several shows of which there still are many, including that of the AS 1 series with Gary Valenciano which gave color to both their careers. He returns a week before show time. But if the presscon is any gauge, this will be the best show ever for both.

Martin entered showbiz when Pilita Corrales met him and convinced him to try a career in the Philippines. He had spent his growing years in Hawaii and the USA where his dad Bert Nievera was part of the Society of Seven, a popular Filipino singing group. From the moment Martin made appearances in Manila, it was obvious that Pilita had uncovered a diamond in the rough. After a few exposures here and there, Martin was on his way to a dizzying world of successes much too soon.

He had a first album Martin... Take One in June 1982 that went platinum in five months. His first TV show Penthouse Live where he met Pops Fernandez was a huge hit, during which they fell in love, got married and became the Concert King and Queen in no time at all. One of his dreams was to go international and in Las Vegas at the Golden Nugget (2004) and at the Rio Hotel Casino (2005), the crowds of Americans, Europeans, Filipinos that filled the venues gave Martin a glimpse of that. Then in May of 2007, things began to fall apart. The Filipino producer of a big show at the Steve Wyrick Theater in Vegas disappeared, leaving Martin holding the bag, with Martin selling his possessions to pay for everything.

The cracks in his personal life had also started to show. There had been talks of Angie, Cutie del Mar, this girl and that girl which remained unconfirmed until Katrina Ojeda was rumored pregnant, and after years of playing blind to the truth, Pops decided to end it all. In a press interview, Martin confessed, “How many times do you think I’ve been on my hands and knees, literally, with Pops and she said ‘No’?” He left the house, stayed for months, sleeping under the desk in the studio apartment office. He pleaded with her to give him another chance but she still said no.

It took some time for the truth to sink into Martin that he had lost Pops. When Pops had found Jomari Yllana, Martin even gamely agreed to join the 2009 Valentine Concert Missing You produced by Jomari that capitalized on their separation. On TV, while promoting the show, Martin broke down in tears. The concert was a stunning success but when both read their “Now Vows” to each other and both were on the verge of tears, the audience felt for them. We were part of that audience. We asked ourselves how could this marriage of two persons so much in love has ended? Not long after, Pops and Jomari also separated.

Part of that “Now Vow” Martin read in front of 20,000 people at the Araneta, said: “Some years ago I said, ‘I do’ with you, even though I didn’t do what I said I’d do…even though I sucked as a husband when you were an awesome wife… In front of every woman and man. The world is at peace when we are together. My ‘Now Vow’ today is to love you forever.”

Today, as we go through Martin’s unforgettable classics, we realize that some of his most heartfelt hits were those he had written or co-written with Louie Ocampo, where he bares his soul through songs like Before You Say Goodbye and All My Life and our favorite I’ll Be There: When there’s no one beside you, I’ll be there to guide you, catch you each time you fall. When the stars won’t shine anymore, I’ll be there....

For one of Viva’s most successful movies Wanted Perfect Mother starring Christopher de Leon and Regine Velasquez, Martin was asked to write the lyrics of You Are My Song which became a monster hit and earned for him Awit and Katha Awards for Best Performance by a Male Recording Artist. His lyrics go: How can I, each time I try to say goodbye…You were there, You look my way and touch the sky. We can share tomorrow and forevermore, I’ll be there to love you so. You are my song.”

People suggest to Martin to re-invent himself today. He could write songs for others, or revive his television musical shows like Martin After Dark which ran 10 years total from GMA 7 to ABS-CBN for which Louie was his constant musical director. We think he could appear in musicals like acoustic singer Nyoy Volante who had discovered theater early on, his latest being In the Heights, or Jett Pangan who is into his 13th theater musical in Next To Normal while still working with his rock band.

Martin loves to sing theater arias which he interprets as an actor would. For All For One, we would love to hear aside from This is the Moment from Jekyll and Hyde that he popularized, the song that spells the essence of the musical, Lost in the Darkness Confrontation where Hyde and Jekyll confront each other in a solo number. Only Martin could give justice to the song, and he should claim it now.

We asked Martin some questions which he answered through an e-mail from the USA where he was performing. For his most unforgettable career landmarks he picks “My very first concert, Aug. 21, 1983, Folk Arts Theater. The screams were so loud we were unable to show the concert on television. I could not hear my band nor could I hear myself. It was a nightmare. Unforgettable!” Another was the first attempt at hosting for television which was Penthouse Live. Still another, performing on a US tour with son Robin.

Of his worst experiences he named “1) Producers with big dreams, big mouths and small wallets (the snafu of the disappearing producer); 2) A failed marriage and lost time watching my kids grow because work came first; 3) Having my heartfelt National Anthem criticized. (The Manny Pacquiao-Ricky Hatton fight in Vegas where Martin’s rendition didn’t follow composer Julian Felipe’s arrangement, for which Martin later apologized. Renditions of Sarah Geronimo and Lani Misalucha had also undergone similar criticism.)

When it came to his happiest moments, Martin’s love for his children surfaced as he named Robin and Ram, children with Pops, and Santino with Katrina. Of three saddest moments, they were his mom and dad’s divorce, his and Pops’ annulment, and remembering them both.

As he muses on the Internet, we feel the pain and the regrets, but also the maturity of one scarred by mistakes and experiences and doing the best he can. He says he is now jaded and scared. He sings “with the pain and angst of a person who has been there and done that. I think I was born too late. I would have loved to be born a singer during the days of Sinatra when crooning was the norm.”

We asked about the Martin nobody knows. He replied, “There is a silent side of me, believe it or not. I am at my most peaceful when I am flying. I write songs, endless poems and even letters to my three sons and God. The sad news is neither of them has ever read these letters. This is the Martin Nievera only few know about. Writing letters in the sky through the years; flying around the world going nowhere…”

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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