At home with Regine

By Nathalie Tomada

This was another stage that Regine Velasquez-Alcasid visibly ruled. In the kitchen of her home tucked away in a hilly portion of an exclusive Quezon City subdivision, the Songbird, sans make-up and dressed down in a striped shirt and jeans, was whipping up a delectable feast, allowing her few media guests a front-seat view to this relatively new chapter in her life — as a homemaker.

The singer-actress showed she really is the woman of the house she shares with hubby Ogie and their nearly year-old son Nate — being very hands-on in manning the kitchen, where she enjoys cooking food she learned on her own and from her parents.

This side of hers is also explored via her new cooking show Sarap Diva on GMA 7 every Saturday at 9:30 a.m. (She also co-hosts the talk show H.O.T. TV on Sunday afternoons.)

“I really enjoy doing Sarap Diva, kwento-kwento lang at the same time, I’m learning,” said Regine who admitted that she needs to learn more regular Pinoy food recipes, as her specialties, based on what were served at her home, were a fusion of international dishes.

And just like in her show, her cooking led to some kwento — a free-flowing and intimate chat that had her opening up on some career and personal highlights, as well as some challenges before she became the country’s top female pop singer.

One was the “close to traumatic experience,” as she described it, of being bullied as a child. Regine revealed that she got teased and taunted in grade school because “ang alam nila di ako marunong magbasa.”

She added, “My mother thought there was something wrong with my eyes because when they would check my books, they couldn’t read what I wrote (to think) I just copied what was written in the blackboard. I had to be seated in front because they thought I had weak eyesight. Di pala nila mabasa kasi bali-baligtad yung ‘b’ at ‘d’ ko… I couldn’t distinguish ‘b’ from ‘d’.”

Regine’s coping mechanism was her mastery. She was excellent at memorizing things, especially by ear, and this helped in developing her singing. “Up until I was grade six, I would listen to the record four times and I would memorize (the entire thing),” related Regine, who broke into the music biz after winning the singing show Ang Bagong Kampeon when she was only 14.

Plus, her family always provided positive encouragement, never letting anyone undermine her. “My father would tell (the people at school) matalino talaga anak ko, kasi magaling sa memory. Paano ka magiging bobo kung ang galing ng memory mo? I couldn’t comprehend it because I knew I’m not (stupid).”

Many years later, Regine would comprehend her experience. She remembered watching an Oprah episode on dyslexia, where some symptoms discussed were interchanging the letters “b” and “d” and the inability to spell. (According to the US-based National Institutes of Health, Dyslexia is a brain-based type of learning disability that specifically affects a person’s ability to read.

Studies said signs and symptoms, some of which are very poor spelling and letter-reversal, vary from person to person and differ in degree from mild to severe.) The episode felt like a blast from the past. “I thought, this sounds familiar! Para akong nag-tunnel and returned to grade school. This happened 10 to 12 years ago. (So) kelan lang yun? The whole time I didn’t know what it was.

“I had a feeling I already have that because I have a friend who has a school for special children and na me-mention niya sa akin yun, and I said I think I have that (because) di ako makapaniwala na I have such good memory and I can’t spell; there has to be something wrong.

“Kelan lang ako nakaka-spell dahil sa text because, of course, there’s the dictionary… though what’s weird is I can somehow spell hard and long words, but I can’t spell ‘tongue.’ Also, it isn’t spelled the way you would pronounce it. So I have a hard time with that.”

When it comes to her scripts, “Babasahin ko ang script, so nakabisado ko kung paano isinulat. Pero kapag inilagay mo sa teleprompter at iba ang pagkakasunud-sunod, hindi ko na mababasa ‘yon.” While there was no mention during the interview if she eventually consulted a doctor, one thing is certain: Challenges like that didn’t get in the way of her continued success. (According to Dyslexia.com, it’s a gift rather than a disability because individuals with dyslexia or dyslexic tendencies are

“highly-creative” like US actor Tom Cruise and journalist Anderson Cooper, to name a few famous dyslexics.) With her revelation, one can’t help but appreciate all the more her musical journey, which now on its 26th year.

Regine is set to celebrate the milestone via a grand concert on Nov. 16 at the SM Mall of Asia Arena. Expect hubby Ogie to offer ample support on and off stage. Regine was asked how her love story with Ogie started. “Our history goes a long way back. I first met him at the concert of Dingdong Avanzado at the old Rizal theater where we were both guests. After he sang, he approached me and introduced himself. According to him, I told him, Ang yabang mo naman ang galing mong kumanta.”

“And nanonood daw siya sa concert ko pero di ko naalaala. One time, he asked me nasayo pa ba yung bear? Anong bear? He said, I gave you a bear, di ko talaga maalala.

“We also went out on a date but it was a group date, which included my father. During that date, pinatayan ko siya ng ipis sa harapan niya kasi ‘eww’ ng ‘eww’ sila (laughs). Tapos kinwento niya kay Dingdong (Avanzado).

“We actually even have a picture together on my 21st birthday na nagsusubuan ng cake kasi tinutukso na kami kasama nila Pops (Fernandez).

“Tapos ang tagal namin nagkita ulit. We first met again in GMA 7’s (now-defunct) S.O.P.” Regine said she only had one other boyfriend (Ariel Rivera) before Ogie. According to her sister, Cacai, a number of eligible guys have expressed interest including a politician who asked for a date with Regine through her.

But Cacai said a guy has to be so obvious with his intentions for Regine to get it — and it was Ogie. Asked if she’s ready to be a political wife should Ogie enter politics in the future, she said, “Several people have asked him, special groups have approached him, but he doesn’t want to.

Before, he was kinda interested and open to the idea, ewan ko why nagbago siya. But I’m just preparing myself because that might change. It’s a calling. And who am I to stop what he wants to do in life. One thing is for sure, my husband is happy being a public servant.” (Ogie was appointed president of the Organisasyon ng Pilipinong Mang-aawit in 2010.)

“In all fairness to my husband, one year pa lang siya sa OPM ang dami na nyang na gawa. Na-set-up niya ang benefits for the singers and na set-up niya na bumababa ang mga tax. So kahit papaano, marami siyang nagawa.” These are apart from the activities held under his leadership that have reenergized the OPM (Original Pilipino Music) scene.

Aside from being a supportive and proud wife, she is also a proud mother of Nate. She said of her firstborn: “I think aside from getting much of my looks, he also has my mannerisms, like the way he sleeps. Although nowadays, he’s beginning to look like Ogie. As a father, Ogie is very playful with him.”

Asked if she wants to have another child, Regine, who had Nate when she was 40, said, “I’m not young anymore (so) I’m leaving it up to God. I’m happy (to say) that Nate was conceived — not with the help of science although we had thought of it — through natural means.”

Regine’s Silver Concert is happening on Nov. 16 at the SM Mall of Asia Arena, with tickets already selling fast amidst a concert scene swamped with foreign visitors. It’s titled Silver because it’s actually a celebration of her 25th year in the biz, which was supposedly last year but then, she got pregnant with Nate. As she said, it’s never too late to celebrate.