Growing up in ShowBusiness

Rachel Alejandro

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Why are the better acting jobs given mostly to younger, less experienced actors in the Philippines

Rachel Alejandro

Today as I contemplate my 25 years in Philippine showbusiness, I vividly remember a moment when I was 22 years old.

I stood before a jampacked audience at The Folks Arts Theater at my first major concert entitled PerfectTime, ready to rock the house with everything I’ve got. I was at the peak of my career  with gold and platinum albums, industry awards, leading lady roles opposite Robin Padilla and Raymart Santiago, to name a few. After weeks of rigorous rehearsals, we had a show that was going to be a visual spectacle.

I was ripe to be the Philippine’s new concert queen, or so I thought.  

Just seconds after the opening number began, to my utter horror, I noticed that I was having a “wardrobe malfunction.” The zipper of my bustier had opened and I had to clutch the back of my top to keep it from falling off. As a result I couldn’t do any of my choreography. In a dazed panic, I tried to keep going. I couldn’t believe that my dream concert was falling apart. After the song, I exited the stage and started sobbing.

I had to be coaxed out of it by my stepmom, Rio Diaz, and my manager Girlie Rodis. The audience doesn’t care, they said. They came to see Rachel and just  have a good time. I eventually continued the show but I had lost my voice- and all the joy that came with knowing that the people saw the very best performance out of me.

I’m, ahem, quite a bit older now and if the same incident  happened today, I would have gotten off stage, fixed the zipper and come back out joking about it with my audience. Why was I so hard on myself before? What do I know or have now that I didn’t before when I was young?

My friends, it’s years and years  of experience. It’s years of things not going exactly as planned with many happy surprises as well as heartbreaking disappointments.

I know what it’s like to walk on air as I perform for 50,000 Pinoys singing along to my song, Nakapatagtataka, in a park in London. I also know what it’s like to put my heart and soul into an album full of wonderful songs that hardly anyone will ever listen to or buy. I’ve felt the audience laugh and cry with me in the musical plays, Avenue Q and Xanadu as well as the urge to have the ground swallow me whole as I struggled to get through an entire show of Rent with hardly any voice.

Experience has sharpened my wit, my singing and acting skills and best of all, it has given me confidence. I know now that I can screw up and still turn things around! I look back and feel a twinge of regret that I wasn’t this good when I was at my most popular.

Philippine showbusiness definitely favors whoever is younger and newer. Whenever I turn on the TV and catch one of the latest telenovelas, I barely recognize anyone on the show because they are almost all new. I’m shocked to see my contemporaries, actresses my age, playing mother roles to 20-something-year-olds who are now the new leads.

It’s sad to think that just as an actor in the Philippines hones his talent and masters his craft, he is inevitably relegated to supporting, less meaty roles. Most of the time, he will have no choice but to accept whatever project is handed to him by the networks because otherwise, he won’t have work. To tell you the truth, I’ve already gotten a few offers to play the mom of a grown up star and I’ve actually considered it.

Some could argue that the obsession with fresh faces is just as present in Hollywood and anywhere else in the world. But I disagree to a certain extent. Eversince I got married and moved here to New York City,  I’ve become an avid follower of many of the local TV series.

There is no question. The best roles on US television today are played by actors in their 30’s, all the way up to even their late 60’s. Many have crossed over from film to television in the recent years. As a result you have the likes of Kate Winslet, Dustin Hoffman and Claire Danes in some of the latest shows. I watch and marvel at their ability to make their characters come to life, fully aware that it’s years of being an actor that has  prepared and given them the confidence to achieve such masterful, truthful performances.

So why are the better acting jobs given mostly to younger, less experienced actors in the Philippines? I personally can’t say if it is in fact the public that prefers newness over exellence or whether this is just the impression of the people behind the scenes, the powers that be. I can only speak for myself.

I hope something changes because this 37-year old singer-actress is far from being done. I’m still learning, growing and wishing to win that dream role.  After 25 years, I can still surprise you. –


Rachel Alejandro has been in Philippine showbusiness since she was 8, conquering the worlds of music, TV, and theater. She moved to New York after marrying Spanish reporter Carlos Santamaria.  She continues to perform for Filipinos around the world. This is her first blog for Rappler. Watch out for her next ones. 

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