By LEAH C. SALTERIO
Las Vegas-based Martin Nievera got a big
surprise during his birthday dinner last
month, organized by his partner, Katrina
Ojeda, with whom he has a four-month-old
son, Santino. Of course, Martin shares the
special date with his twin sister, Vicky,
who was also there in the party. The gathering
saw his dad Bert Nievera and mom Conchita
Razon together for the first time after
so many years. Both his parents happened
to be in Las Vegas at the same time last
"The party was a shocker for me,"
Martin happily shares. "To see my dad
and mom together after so many years of
pain and tears was a magical moment for
me and Vicky. It was the best thing that
happened in the surprise party, the best
birthday gift ever for both Vicky and I."
Also present in the dinner were the entire
Society of Seven with their families, "American
Idol" finalist Jasmine Trias (who fills
in temporarily for Lani Misalucha performing
with Society of Seven at Flamingo Hotel
in Las Vegas), Martin’s Las Vegas
producer and agent, his friends from church
and golf buddies.
"I was so stressed out that week because
of all the problems we were facing for my
opening night," Martin recalls. "But
when I got to the venue for the dinner with
baby bag over my shoulder, I was really
Martin formally started his latest Las
Vegas stint last February 26. He performs
at 5 p.m. everyday except Fridays at the
Steve Wyrick Theater in the dessert passage
of Planet Hollywood Hotel (formerly Aladdin).
His contract runs for one year. He did a
special preview of his performances which
started on Valentine’s night.
"Steve Wyrick, the owner of the theater,
is a gifted magician and needed a Sinatra-kind
of act before his two shows," Martin
grants. "Thanks to the faith of one
of his investors, a Filipino named Gene
Gamalinda and the high recommendation of
a concert producer and friend, Ivee Fresnoza.
I have been given this awesome chance. It
could have gone to any singer here, Filipino
or non-Filipino. But it was given to me.
I want to make the best of it and bring
home some much-needed Pinoy pride. I need
to give this opportunity on the Las Vegas
strip my best effort, which means more sacrifice
on my part."
Four years ago, Martin had conquered Las
Vegas when he headlined a successful series
off The Strip at the Golden Nugget Hotel
and Casino. His latest venture saw "Mr.
Las Vegas" himself, Wayne Newton and
his entire family in the audience. An esteemed
Las Vegas icon whose contemporaries include
Sammy Davis Jr. and Frank Sinatra, Wayne
continues to perform at The Strip. He initiated
two standing ovations toward the end of
Martin’s show. They later saw each
other in a restaurant where Martin was having
his autograph session and they posed for
a couple of shots.
Wayne told Martin, "I thought you
were amazing. If you do every night what
you did tonight, I think you will be the
singer to watch out for in Las Vegas."
Wayne even told Martin’s featured
singer, Jenevi Bakch, "Martin is beyond
"Some singers wait a lifetime to have
someone as big as Wayne Newton sitting in
center row," Martin says. "It
only took me 24 years, that’s why
I’m truly blessed."
Even after his Las Vegas stint ends next
year, Martin cannot exactly confirm if he
will return to Manila for good or stay longer
in the US.
"First of all, I have never announced
I would stay anywhere for good," he
points out. "There is no ‘for
good’ in my world. A performer can
never plan for anything permanent because
anything ‘for good’ or ‘permanent’
doesn’t exist in my world.
"My home is the Philippines. My home
away from home, for now, is Las Vegas. My
oneyear contract will keep me busy here
for the meantime. Santino, too. Now, the
price of my decisions has been raised by
one son. Before, I only had family in the
Philippines, with Robin and Ram. Now, I
have Santino and have to plan my time equally.
If and when Robin and Ram decide to further
their studies or seek work here in the States,
I will be ready for them."
Robin and Ram are his grown-up children
from his previous marriage with Pops Fernandez.
Lately, Martin confesses to being a couch
potato and, just like all homesick Filipinos
abroad, he has turned to The Filipino Channel
(TFC) for updates about the country, especially
when it comes to showbiz. At night, he turns
his TV set to "real soft," so
he can wake up to "Magandang Umaga
Pilipinas," with Julius Babao and Tintin
"I am so homesick," Martin laments.
"I miss all those I love back home.
Now, I can totally relate to all TFC subscribers
around the world. I find myself stuck to
TFC everyday. I get ready for work with
Boy Abunda’s ‘Homeboy’
and Willie’s ‘Wowowee.’
Then I end my week crying and screaming
with ‘ASAP’ and ‘The Buzz.’
"I think I have become a Johnny Manahan
wannabe. From my brown leather couch, I
am always cheering and steering ‘ASAP’
and ‘The Buzz.’ I am actually
screaming at the TV like an idiot. Can you
picture that? I am constantly telling the
hosts on ‘ASAP’ to ‘wrap
up’ or ‘reverb’ when the
singers have none. ‘Break for commercial!,’
when the interviews on ‘The Buzz’
are too long. I will scream ‘Oh my
God! Oh my God! No Way!’ Or ‘What?
I don’t believe it.’ Or ‘Wow,
Kris is looking more beautiful than ever.’
"Sometimes, Santino watches with me.
He loves Cristy Fermin. I do, too. I guess
I am this way whenever I watch TFC, not
because I know it all but because I am a
team player and I want my brothers and sisters
at ABS-CBN to always shine."
Martin insists he is not in Las Vegas to
get away from the Philippines, but to satisfy
a life-long dream and conquer this latest
opportunity that came his way. After all,
not every local entertainer is given a chance
to perform in Las Vegas and make it big
"I am still very much in love with
the Philippines," Martin says. "But
I have always been a firm believer that
dreams can come true and that if you dream
it, you can do it."