As the song goes, “nothing comes from nothing…nothing ever could…” my “interactions” with MiG Ayesa, albeit only from watching him on stage in Rock of Ages in Broadway and through subsequent email exchanges – gave me a strong feeling that his great love for music, success and humility would have come from being nurtured in an encouraging and loving environment.
Meeting and spending nearly a whole day with his mother, Dr Carmen ‘Uko’ Legarda-Nelson, proved that I was spot on.
After exchanging several emails since my first article on MiG, Uko and I finally met on a beautiful winter’s day – cold but the sun shone brightly on a clear blue sky.
It was like a ‘blind date’ with us texting what we wore and where in Circular Quay we were to meet up at about ten o�clock in the morning.
The lady in lime green shawl and grey trousers beamed me a great smile as I hurried towards her standing in front of Wharf 5 as agreed upon. She is rather petite in built; elegant and chic in a ‘quiet way’.
My apprehension about my ‘date’quickly disappeared. It felt like we have known each other for a very long time.
We chatted away as we stood for several minutes at the entrance to the Italian cafe and had to be asked twice by the waiter to go in out of the cold.
I was so happy that Uko had agreed previously to do a short interview when we meet up. As we gazed out to enjoy watching the hustle and bustle of people, with the ferries coming in and going with loads of passengers, we agreed to get the interview ‘out of the way’ so we could go for a good walk around ourselves.
While we savoured our cappuccino, we did just that and I am happy to share a further insight into our Fil-Aussie Broadway superstar through the eyes of his loving mother.
VC: Before we talk about MiG, may I ask where the nickname ‘Uko’ came from.
CLN: I was born during the Japanese occupation; my father gave me a Japanese nickname: “Mitsuko”. My two- year old sister could not pronounce the whole nickname and kept calling me “Uko”… and the name stuck! And while we are talking about names, I am happy to share that although MiG’s father and I separated, the two families got on so well which provided a loving and supportive environment for him and his brother.
VC: From when did you notice MiG�s interest in music?
CLN: MiG was still in elementary school when he expressed his desire to play the piano. At that stage I did not really know how serious he was with this. I agreed to pay for his lessons. He caught the bus from school to get to Lidcombe Hospital where I was working to practise on the piano at the day care centre of the hospital. I told him that if after three months he showed he is good at it, I will consider buying him a piano. Well, I was pleasantly surprised with his progress � reading notes, playing well, etc. So I bought him a second-hand piano.
VC: What were MiG’s interests in his younger years?
CLN: He was a well rounded kid. He played sports, more basketball than soccer. However, he seemed to spend more time on his music. Then he had electronic keyboard, amplifier, computer – technology in leaps and bounds. He progressed from there. He was always involved in school musicals. His friend Damian and Miggy did not have to audition; they were always sort of offered roles. Productions were bigger than others but I remember better the bigger ones � “Oliver”, where he played lead role. He was also in more dramatic roles �Twelve Angry Men�, his role was the real angry one. He was in an all-boys school and they had joint production with the girls high school. He was also in a musical, by an Australian composer, about dogs, instead of cats. They did a lot of pantomimes. One was something like Dracula style; he was the assistant of Dracula with the hunch back.
VC: What do you remember of MiG when he was growing up, which characterises him up to now?
CLN: MiG was and still is good nature, always smiling, never said a crossed word, always polite and said the right words at the right time. He is kind of a �flatterer�. Even when I scolded him about something he did, he was quick to say sorry. He has a well-rounded personality, has no bad word about anybody. When you ask about the new cast he is with, he would always be praising them. He has not shown any signs of ego common in the showbiz world. He keeps his feet on the ground, and not let things to get to his head. He perhaps know that I/we would not put up with such behaviour. I always miss him. I am a �big mother�. I think it is in our culture that our children are our “kids” regardless of how old they are.
VC: When was MiG�s first ‘professional� stint in music or performing arts?
CLN: He was professionally involved when he was 17 years old, in a film something like ‘Mission Impossible’ type filmed in Denmark. They flew to Denmark, then to Spain The movie is the type you will see in Nickelodeon now. It was not a musical. He was at home till late 20�s. Then he got a small flat to get into the real estate market. Then he travelled a lot. One of his biggest breaks was Richard Valens� role in the Buddy Holly in UK. He progressed from show to another. I was always encouraging him to have a university degree. I come from a family of doctors; all four siblings were in medical field; one nephew finished at medical school. But MiG did not want to be a doctor so he was doing Communications at Macquarie University. His studies were always interrupted; it was a hurdle to get back to it. He only had one semester to complete his degree.
VC: You mentioned that you are leaving for Manila in a few days. Would that be to watch MiG in Rock of Ages in Manila?
CLN: Yes, the whole family will be in the opening night of the show. I am happy to be visiting and be with my sister and two brothers; my youngest brother is a doctor in New York City. We are also having a family corporate which we planned to coincide with Miggy�s show. Miggy�s friends will also pop up. It is also always a pleasure to be spending time at my ancestral home, near Malacanang. The daughter of my sister, Suzette, did hotel management course in Switzerland and has established fine dining restaurant (La Cocina de Tita Moning) in our ancestral home. A lot of the equipment of our mother were being used there and the setting gives diners the ‘atmosphere’ of yesterday�s era. They get a total experience from the signature dishes � lengua, paella, my mother�s bread and butter pudding which is to die for; a reminder of all old things.
VC: What is like to be the mother of a superstar?
CKN: It is an honour for me and the family that MiG achieved what he has on his own. He enjoys what he is doing; I am proud for him. His profession is at times hard, very demanding � it is like putting on the costume despite how he feels and sock it to them; whether he feels dying or not. He does a lot of charity work; he is a very generous person.
As we were wrapping the interview up, I was touched and lost for words, when Uko said: “When I laid eyes on you, I knew you�d be a delightful and warm person, I expected you to be from your emails. I felt the warmness on the first time I read your article on MiG. I felt compelled to contact you, to thank you and let you know how much I appreciated the article.”
When I got my tongue back, I said with a smile and a hug:“Umm you said MiG was sort of a flatterer. Now I know where he got that from”.
The cafe’s waiter was good enough to let us chat away while we sipped coffee. He was even happy to take some photos which I am also happy to share. From the cafe we walked around Circular Quay towards the Museum of Contemporary Art, through to The Rocks and stopping by the Billich Gallery which boasts three levels of amazing art work by Charles Billich. It was a bonus that Charles, his lovely wife Christa and Joy (gallery staff who is Fil-Aussie) were also there and had a brief chat with us. It turned out that Uko has two prints by Charles.
Then we walked back towards the Sydney Opera House and stopped for lunch in one of the famous chocolate brand restaurant. While we talked away some more, about everything and nothing as us ‘girls’ do, we enjoyed a healthy lunch of quiche and salad, sealed by a mug of hot chocolate drink!
It was nearly three o�clock when nature remembered to honour the forecast for the day – showers and strong winds.
We were happy to go by then as we were grateful to have been given a magical day to share.
Likewise to the title of his CD, more than ever I greatly admire MiG – not only because he is a fantastic performer but he also has introduced to me an interesting lady and a loving mother of a Superstar.