[Father's Day] Lessons from dad

MANILA, Philippines - Recently, in a one-on-one interview for her talk show Moments, telenovela star Gladys Reyes asked me a question I’ve heard often — “What is it like being the daughter of such a famous singer like Hajji Alejandro?” 

She proceeded to inquire about what kind of relationship we have and, finally, what the most important thing my dad has taught me.

At that moment, I suddenly found it hard to encapsulate my thoughts into short, coherent sentences. There is just so much to say about dad, my Daddywaps…

In a previous RAPPLER blog, I mentioned how fortunate I was that — when I was very young and just starting out in this industry — stardom was pretty much handed to me on a silver platter. Being the offspring of a Philippine music legend like my father can be compared to being born Lisa Marie Presley, daughter of Elvis.

Of course, it was up to me to make something of that opportunity. With my dad’s guidance, the help and support of so many people coupled with my own perseverance (I am well known to be extremely makulit), 25 years later, I’m still here.  

It’s normal to expect that, perhaps, growing up with such a successful, in-demand performer for a father meant that I barely spent time with him. But in fact, the opposite was true.

My sister and I spent every waking minute with him after we got home from school. We were like his shadow, official alalays (assistants) who went with him to all his shows, rehearsals, even basketball practice. It was so much fun when he would play Ken and pretend to be the host of a beauty contest for our Barbie dolls. He also told the most imaginative magical bed time stories! 

Somehow he always managed to sneak in a moral lesson on good behavior like being honest or being good about brushing your teeth.

DADDY'S GIRLS. Rachel and Barni with dad Hajji on the cover of an old entertainment mag. Photo from Rachel Alejandro

DADDY'S GIRLS. Rachel and Barni with dad Hajji on the cover of an old entertainment mag.

Photo from Rachel Alejandro

In fact, Hajji Alejandro was just a kid himself when he had me. He was 18 when he started out as one of the star vocalists of the popular ‘70’s band, Circus Band. Barely a year later, I was born and, soon after, my sister Barni. When I was four, at merely 45 years old, my dad’s father, Lolo Eddie, passed away from a sudden heart attack.

Completely unprepared and devastated beyond words, my dad found himself responsible not only for us, his own family, but for my Lola as well. Without his rock, who was my grandfather, he realized quickly that we were all relying on him to provide and be the man of the house. Thanks to his immense talent and charisma, he was blessed with hit after hit.

We wanted for nothing and yet he often reminded us: all of this is God’s providence. What has been given can also be taken away. He says that he never stops being thankful for and in awe of the fact that year after year, people out there still think of his name when they need a performer and give him work. After all, any of us in this business could wake up one day and it’s over. There is always someone newer, younger and willing to do the same job for less money. Of course, that someone isn’t Hajji Alejandro! 

TIGHT FAMILY. Ali, Michelle Angeli, Rachel, Hajji and Barni. Photo from Rachel Alejandro

TIGHT FAMILY. Ali, Michelle Angeli, Rachel, Hajji and Barni.

Photo from Rachel Alejandro

It still amazes me to think that I was raised, fed, clothed and educated on nothing else but this one man’s golden voice. I also know that the consummate performer I’ve become was largely influenced by him. I have never taken even a small gig for granted. Friends would tease me that it’s like some other spirit or being would take over my body the minute I step on stage. I become a completely different person from shy, awkward Rachel. I always give it my all. 

Everywhere I go, I still hear people point at me and say, “Oh, there’s Hajji’s daughter.” I’ve never minded and I’ve always been proud.  

One vivid memory I have with my dad was when I was about 15 and I was visiting him in his house in L.A. We came from a night out where all the adults had a bit of wine. I fell asleep quickly when we got home but later, when I fluttered my eyes open, there was my dad beside my bed, watching me sleep. 

I asked him what was wrong. I’ll never forget how young and sad he looked all of a sudden. He said, “I miss your Lolo… he was the most alive, fun-loving person you could ever know. What I would give to turn back the clock... If I had a time machine, I would go back in time to the year before your Lolo died. I would convince him to eat healthy and exercise… Maybe then he wouldn’t have had the heart attack. Our lives would be so different if he were only here now.”

Ever since then, I inculcated in my mind and heart that time is precious. Today, I take every opportunity to savor time with my loved ones and enjoy my life. I find every little reason to celebrate. I take care of my body because it’s the only one I’ve got. 

FATHER OF THE BRIDE. Rachel gets a big hug from her dad on her wedding. Photo from Rachel Alejandro

FATHER OF THE BRIDE. Rachel gets a big hug from her dad on her wedding.

Photo from Rachel Alejandro

This Father’s Day, I wanna say — Thank you, Daddywaps! Thank you for teaching me to love life! - Rappler.com

 

(Rachel Alejandro is a singer-actress who will be having a Father’s Day concert  with Hajji Alejandro at McKinley Hill Venice Piazza tonight. She is co-owner and VP for Marketing of The Sexy Chef, an OBC 5 Star company, a health food caterer.) 

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