Nez Marcelo’s journey from the Philippines to Harlingen was a long and winding road.
Now music coordinator at Harlingen’s Queen of Peace Catholic Church, Marcelo’s original intention was to become a priest, he said.
He earned a bachelor’s degree in philosophy at the University of Manila, Marcelo said. He also earned a certificate in music there.
He began his studies with the intention of entering the priesthood, he said. His brother is a priest.
But he dropped out of the seminary and pursued music, he said.
Now living in Weslaco, he hopes to move to Harlingen, where he is in charge of the church choir at Queen of Peace, organizes the schedules of music, gives voice lessons and plays an electronic keyboard to accompany the choir.
“I have a friend who works in Weslaco; we went to college together,” Marcelo said. “He actually referred me to Father Joe Villalon and Father Joe was looking for a music minister in his parish at San Matin de Porres (Catholic Church) in Weslaco when I was visiting in 2009.”
On another visit, six months later, he was helping out with a concert in Weslaco, Marcelo said.
“Father Joe asked if I could stay and help him out, but I had plans in the Philippines,” Marcelo said. “But I came back in six months to try my luck. Then I got permission to work here.”
Church music is changing a lot from the old days when most churches had an organ and traditional hymns were played, Marcelo said.
“People going to church easily get bored,” he said. “Slowly the Catholic Church is also changing. … In Europe people are more into the guitar.”
In the Philippines, he grew up 105 miles north of Manila in the small village of Villasis, in Pangasinan province, which was founded by the Spanish, Marcelo said.
Since the Philippines were colonized by the Spanish for many years, Spanish names and culture are very familiar to him, he said. There are 7,000 islands in the Philippines and many dialects, but the most common are Tagalog and Cebuano, which is spoken in the southern island, he said.
He began studying piano at age 6 and his parents bought a piano so that he and all his siblings could take lessons, he said.
But only he and his brother Jeronimo, or “Ronnie,” who is now a priest, continued playing piano, Marcelo said.
He made several trips to the United States, including Hawaii and California, and to Rome and other places in Europe to help his friends from college put on concerts, Marcelo said.
In the Valley, he has helped make three CDs, two of church music and one of Christmas music, with his friend Jo Emma Danini singing, he said.
He hopes to continue working with the choir and other musicians in the Valley, as well as helping to produce more concerts and recordings, Marcelo said.
“That’s a plan,” he said. “I hope to move here, if everything goes well. I pray for that.”