Goodbye, New York. Hello again, Manila!

Rachel Alejandro
Rachel Alejandro blogs in RAPPLER about returning to Manila

A WALK IN THE PARK. Loving the sunshine at Central Park West. All photos from Rachel Alejandro

MANILA, Philippines – What happens when something we always wanted turns out to be different from what we expected?

You’ve probably been there. After months or maybe even years of planning, pushing and praying for something to happen, it finally arrives but you realize it doesn’t feel quite right.

It isn’t for you after all.

I am filled with mixed emotions as I write this blog, my very last one as a resident of New York. It’s hard to believe that in less than two weeks I will be back to my old life in Manila. Of course, I am excited to jump back into the thick of things with my singing career, my food catering business, and be reunited with friends and family. But as I watch our furniture being hauled away, cancel memberships and subscriptions, I can’t help but feel a tiny bit sad. Less than a year ago, I had a guy come in to install these air conditioners. Today we’re ripping them out of the wall. 

It’s unsettling to think, “I’m undoing everything, undoing the life I’ve created here.” 

TRAIPSING AT THE SQUARE. Enjoying the energy of Times Square.

Months ago when I first came upon this social news network, I wrote on my friend Maria Ressa’s Facebook wall to congratulate her. I’ve always had great respect and admiration for her as I tend to have for people who never stop pushing the envelope in journalism or any other field. Reciprocally, she has watched and shown support for many of the musical plays that I’ve performed in over the years.

I was thrilled when almost immediately she replied to my message and suggested that I write a monthly blog for RAPPLER.

She said that my thoughts as an established artist  from the Philippines moving to the Big Apple might be an interesting read. Happy to have found an outlet, I shared my personal experiences on coping with life in a new city.

Now as another chapter of my life draws to a close, I ask myself the true reason I am walking away from this city that I love. I’ve been planning and talking about moving here for as long as I’ve been old enough to know that if you wanted to be a movie star you move to Hollywood. If you wanted to be a stage actress, you go to Broadway, and I learned to tap dance when I was eight. I also believe that for some reason I sound so much better singing for a live audience than I do on any of my recordings. I’ve never felt more at ease, more like I belong than when I’m on stage. 

PROUDLY FILIPINO. With fellow Filipino and Broadway star Anna Maria Perez de Tagle of 'Godspell.'

I’ve been convinced New York was where I had to be. 

Am I giving up on a dream? Is it because I couldn’t cope with the loneliness? Had I made the transition too late and therefore feel too old, even lazy to be auditioning and starting from scratch like the thousands of struggling artists here just trying to catch a break?

I realize there isn’t one easy answer to why some of our best laid plans change. But perhaps the simplest and most honest reason is that we’ve changed, and so do the desires of our hearts. The things we thought we couldn’t live without are replaced with other priorities.  

One habit I have that helps me put things in proper perspective is that I like to recall where I was, what I was doing, exactly one year ago. I recommend this exercise to anyone who feels desperate for a certain outcome in his life.

In May of last year my husband and I had just gotten back from our honeymoon. Every few days, I would fly to and from Bangkok because that is where he worked. It was tiring and expensive with no end in sight. We had no inkling when or even if he would get assigned to New York. I wanted so much for us to finally be living and working in the same city. I thought to myself, “If only we could move to New York…”  

SINGING FOREVER. Performing in Tony-award-winning musical, 'Avenue Q.'

Fast forward to today. We are all packed and ready to go back to the Philippines.

Sometimes we are misled into thinking that we can only feel completely happy if we achieve a certain thing. But it only takes for us to look back into our recent past to learn that our issues yesterday may not be relevant anymore today. I’m excited and anxious about getting back on track with my career in Manila. I’m married now so I would like for us to move to a bigger place. More likely than not I’ll be pining for something completely different in 2013. 

Our hopes and dreams may evolve in time but there are certain basic things I believe all of us will always crave — to be in the arms of our dearest family and friends and to have the opportunity to do what it is that we love.

I will be performing ‘til I’m old and gray. And I can do that anywhere for as long as anyone is still out there watching and listening. –

Click on the links below for more of Rachelle Alejandro’s musings.

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