From Strings to Service: Sir Nel's Symphony of Humility and Harmony
In the heart of the bustling University of St. La Salle, where the melodies of service and faith intertwine, Sir Esteban Neleus Gomez Dingcong, known as Sir Nel, serves as the maestro orchestrating the harmonies of Lasallian Ministries. As the CELAM Director, his journey from humble beginnings as a janitor of the Montelibano Chapel, to this esteemed position is a testament to the transformative power of choices guided by passion and faith.
Sir Nel's musical odyssey began in unlikely places, from the colorful sounds of the secular world to the hallowed halls of the Cathedral. Gifted with the ability to play various instruments, he found himself teaching music to the youth. It was during this time that the late Bishop Camilo Gregorio spotted him selling flowers in the Cathedral and invited him to share his musical talents with the church. This pivotal moment marked the beginning of Sir Nel's journey within the Lasallian community.
"I have found my calling. I think it is a wonderful path that God has laid out for me, making the crooked lines straight, for the mission that he wants for me," reflects Sir Nel on the unexpected turns that led him to the service of God through music.
For nearly three decades, Sir Nel has been an integral part of the Lasallian institution. Through the changes and challenges, his desire to serve the community has remained steadfast. As he proudly states, "I grew with the institution and saw many changes, yet my desire to serve this community remains unchanged."
His dedication faced a fork in the road when tempted to return to the worldly bars where he once performed. With guidance from Br. Gus Boquer FSC, he chose the path of service, solidifying his commitment to the institution that had become his home.
The transformation of Campus Ministries USLS into CELAM was marked by Br. Joaquin Severino Martinez’'s arrival, symbolizing peace with CELAM deriving from "Salam Alaikum." Sir Nel, never seeking higher positions, found himself appointed as CELAM Director, yet his approach is simple – to be the hands and feet, to serve. A role he fills not with the knowledge of everything but with a willingness to do what needs to be done.
Sir Nel's love for music is only rivaled by his passion for diverse interests—cooking, painting, drawing, and gardening—all serving as outlets for creativity. His artistic pursuits offer a glimpse into the multifaceted life of a man who finds joy in both the harmonies of music and the strokes of a paintbrush.
Sir Nel's composition, "Illuminate," serves as a celebration of the institution's resilience. The inspiration behind the song, he claims, was a divine force guiding his hand as he penned the lyrics. With gratitude, he emphasizes that the song is not solely his work but a collective effort representing the Lasallian spirit. Truly, he is the University’s ‘Yuletide Melody Maestro’.
To the hesitant youth, Sir Nel offers profound advice: "Don't be afraid to fall. It is in falling that God will catch you." His life story exemplifies the truth that every fall is an opportunity to rise, and fear dissipates when grounded in the presence of God.
In the grand symphony of life, Sir Nel's story is a reminder that choices, fueled by passion and guided by divine purpose, create melodies that resonate through generations, turning the ordinary into extraordinary harmonies.
Listen to Sir Nel’s latest creation, 'Illuminate,' the official 2023 USLS Christmas song, here: https://bit.ly/3T7KSTx