In a chat with this writer recently at the press conference for her upcoming post-Valentine two-night concert, "Songs from the Stage," Lea Salonga can’t help marvel at her only child, Nicole, 10. Her eyes widen in delight when the talk turns to her daughter's current fave book.
“She’s started reading The Little Prince, and she reads it with drama when she reads the part of the fox, the king, the geographer, or whoever,” Lea explains, grinning.
“She reads the part of the little prince; it sounds like her. But when she reads the part of the king, she makes her voice like that,” Leah adds, her voice turning big and booming. "And she finishes it on her own, by herself.”
Since Nicole already knows The Little Prince by heart, Lea feels that it’s time for Nicole to discover other books such as J. K. Rowling's popular Harry Potter series. “So, I placed [the first] Harry Potter [book] on top of her breakfast place this morning,” she says of her not-so-subtle way of telling her little one, “You will start with that today. That is your new adventure.”
While Lea is involved with her daughter's book list, the working mom admits she leaves Nicole to her own devices when it comes to reviewing for school.
“She does have a tutor for Filipino because I don’t have the patience,” Lea says. “But I try to speak to her in snippets of Tagalog, so she gets used to the sound. And I know how bad I was, so I have hope for her.”
Like her mom, Nicole is smart, and that's probably why "she kinda gets tamad with school work," as Lea puts it. "I think because she knows she’s smart. [Nicole] learns pretty fast. She’s a quick learner when she puts her mind to doing something.”
“For me, it’s more important to raise a good, kind, empathetic, solid human being because everything else just catches up, anyway, in the end,” Lea says.
As far as gadget use is concerned, Lea and her husband, Robert Chien, an American of Chinese-Japanese descent who heads the animation and audio-video production house Ambientmedia, only give Nicole access to an iPad on weekends.
Lea relates that Nicole usually checks out educational sites to learn on topics like crafting and look for ways on how to do individual projects. Lea points out, “It's educational [so] I don’t put a stop to it, and we still hear what she’s watching. It’s pretty much a free-for-all, but she’s pretty disciplined because she’ll end up using the iPad with a YouTube video to teach herself how to make something."
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In fact, Nicole joins her mom in her new hobby, crocheting. “She’s been interested in learning how to do it,” Lea says of her inquisitive offspring. “Medyo messy pa how she does it. Hindi pa yung tama. But I will still encourage her. ‘Yeah, that’s correct. Keep doing it.’ But with a big needle and thicker yarns, it’s easy for her to see. Ako kasi minsan, maliliit na, e.
“I like doing amigurumi, like a stuffed teddy bear. I made her a little elephant. I’ve made a scarf for her. I like scarves because I get to use it. Hindi lang sa madali [gawin], nagagamit ko.”
Lea also reveals you can count on Nicole to put the iPad away to read a book or watch a movie that her parents already pre-approved. Or, if she does spend a lot of time on her iPad, she usually ends up listening to the soundtrack of Love Never Dies, the sequel to Andrew Lloyd Weber's musical Phantom of the Opera. The romantic musical is a frequent source of the same conversation the mother and daughter have again and again. It goes something like this:
NICOLE: “Mom, can we listen to music?” LEA: “What do you want to listen to?” NICOLE: “You know what I want to listen. You don’t need even to ask.” LEA: “Like, again? Why?” NICOLE: “Mama, I love it! I want to listen to it. Please.” LEA: “Sige na nga.”
Lea turns to us, feigning irritation. “Kahit ako, purging-purga na. Sige, let’s play it pa for her." Lea says Nicole, who is already a huge fan of musical theater, never tires of listening to the soundtrack over and over again.
Nicole loves to sing, too, and she has performed in her mom’s past shows. She will join her mom onstage once again with Lea’s February gig, "Songs from the Stage," which will be on February 17 and 18 at the Plenary Hall of the Philippine International Convention Center PICC) in Pasay City. For tickets, head to TicketWorld.