Remembering Baguio boy Bert Nievera
BAGUIO CITY – Roberto Jose dela Cruz Nievera died of multiple organ failure caused by sepsis last Tuesday, March 27 at the Southern Hills Hospital and Medical Center in Las Vegas. He was 81.
Although known now as “Martin Nievera’s father,” Bert could very well hold the microphone on his own, known for years as the “Timeless Balladeer” and the “Johnny Mathis of the Philippines.”
In his hometown Baguio, Bert Nievera is a well-loved guy.
“He was my pal since 1956 when we were at the Baguio Military Institute (a boy’s school in Irisan). He was a jolly good fellow,” said educator Reynaldo Bautista.
“I used to watch him every time in Manila or in the States. We are proud of him,” said journalist Angel Villaralbo.
Bert Nievera was born in Baguio where his father, who was from Ilocos Sur, was a doctor for the Benguet Auto Lines.
Nievera said he first wanted to be a priest or a doctor. He even planned to be a cadet at the Philippine Military Academy. He instead went to college at the University of the Philippines and joined the UP Dramatics Club where his gift for singing was formally discovered. He was trained and encouraged by the late great Filipino theater playwright, Wilfrido Ma. Guerrero.
Formally, because even in Baguio, he was already singing at age of 7. He remembered one time when he joined an amateur singing contest in Baguio where he sang “Wonder Why” by Vic Damone to perfection until the last note where he sang out of tune and so lost the contest.
He never lost his composure when he joined a contest in Student Canteen called “Johnny Mathis of the Philippines” and won with his piece, "It’s Not For Me to Say."
Riding his fame, he sang professionally at the “Ember’s Club” in Cubao.
In 1966, he joined the popular Hawaii-based band, Society of Seven, which also sang in Las Vegas. He was with the Society of Seven (SOS), an association of Fil-Ams in Hawaii, for 10 years until 1976. It was in Hawaii where he married his first wife and had 3 children, including Martin.
“Today we lost one of the greats,” said the SOS FB page. “The Johnny Mathis of the Philippines and our very own Roberto Nievera.”
After 1976, Bert thought he has retired from music, said Villaralbo, but Pilita Corrales gave him another break and invited him to her concerts. In the 1990s, Bert returned to the concert tour often with son Martin. That was when he earned the title, Timeless Entertainer.
He shortly returned to Baguio when he opened a Country Waffles branch at the Camp John Hay. When his franchise folded up, Bert Nievera quietly settled back in the States. – Rappler.com