In an interview last December 18, at the Imperial Palace Suites in Quezon City, singer-actress-entrepreneur Rachel Alejandro announced that she is back in Manila for good.
The "Paalam Na" singer has spent the last couple of years living in New York with her journalist husband Carlos Santamaria, who is of Spanish descent.
And now, she shares her experiences on being a wife and living far away from home.
I MARRIED A FOREIGNER. Rachel aptly described her married life as both "good" and "challenging."
She explains, "Kasi I'm used to... kind of making your own decision, and not having to take another person's input into what you do.
"Like, for instance, I've been living in a very small space. I'm not really so into having a big house.
"I live in The Fort, pero maliit lang yung apartment ko. It's always been enough for me.
"But my husband likes space so, sabi ko, 'What do you mean space? You don't have things!'
"Niloloko nga ng mga nakakakita sa kanya sa Facebook, sabi sa kanya, 'Does he own, like, four shirts?'
"Kasi he wears his shirt over and over again, na favorite niya, that he wears all the time.
"He has a lot of shirts, pero he just wears the same outfit. The same shorts, the same T-shirt.
"Wala siyang kahilig-hilig sa gamit, so I don't know what he wants space for.
"He just have books, iyon iyong mga hilig niya."
Having settled in New York during their first year of marriage, Rachel found it quite stressful to adjust again to their new living conditions in Manila.
"I guess I had more, like, a really different kind of life when we were living in New York.
"It was just the two of us. I was already starting to kind of cook for us, ganyan, do our groceries, 'tsaka naglilinis ng apartment, naglilinis ng banyo," she says.
The points of adjustment— or sometimes argument— between the couple usually stems from their cultural differences.
One example that Rachel cited is their different opposing preferences for the level of privacy they want to have for their home.
Rachel relates, "Of course, back in Manila, I'm back to my own habit, di ba? May maid.
"Kasi ang mga puti, ayaw nila ng stay-in, so iyan, isa sa mga argument iyan.
"'Gusto ko maglilinis lang tapos aalis na siya,' ganoon, 'I don't like to have people around at night.'
"Because they're not used to it, our culture as Pinoy, it's an adjustment for him as well to have a person, who he thinks is a stranger, you know?
"Pero it's so funny kasi, when we go on a trip naman, ganito naman siya: In a backpackers' style na gusto niyang magtipid, if we're in a taxi and we're gonna go somewhere...
"Una sa lahat, gusto niya mag-bus. The more na walang air-con, may mga manok, mga ganyan, iyon iyong gusto niya.
"Of course, hindi uubra sa akin iyon, di ba? 'O, sige mag-hire tayo ng taxi, let's split the cost.'
"Mag-iinvite siya ng kung sinong hahanapin. Maghahanap siya ng ka-share.
"Okay? Ako naman, 'Hindi natin kilala iyan!' Di ba? 'Bakit sila sasakay sa atin?' Alam mo iyon?
"Iyon iyong mga differences.
"Siya, hindi niya ma-imagine na may nakatira sa bahay na ibang tao.
"Ako naman, hindi ko ma-imagine na some stranger sa airport, pasasakayin niya sa taxi, di ba, na mag-share tayo.
"Mga ganoon, hindi ko kaya. Naloloka ako!"
Another issue they disagree upon, which Rachel told PEP (Philippine Entertainment Portal), is their debate on whether or not to use airconditioning.
"Iyong mga European, ayaw nila ng aircon.
"E, tayong mga Pilipino, ayaw natin ng naiinitan, ayaw natin ng malagkit. Sila, ayaw ng aircon... my God!
"Iyon nga, iyong sa taxi, which we shared with a French couple, ayaw nila ng aircon.
"Iyong lalaki nasa harapan, so sabi ko, 'Doon kayo sa likod! Itatapat ko yung aircon sa mukha ko!'"
Petty as they may seem, Rachel finds that these little matters are being magnified now that she and Carlos are married.
However, no matter how different they are, Rachel and Carlos try to compromise and learn to adjust to each others' needs.
"So iyon, mga ganoon, you learn to adjust. You learn to be more flexible.
"Kasi, give and take kailangan ang being married,” she says.
FROM MANILA TO BANGKOK TO NEW YORK AND BACK AGAIN. In the course of the interview, Rachel also tried to look back at the early days of her marriage.
After their intimate wedding in 2011, held in Boracay (CLICK HERE to see related photo gallery), Rachel and Carlos moved back and forth from Manila to Bangkok.
"Nagkakilala talaga kami dito [Manila], he was working for a Spanish firm. That office got moved to Bangkok.
"He was working in Bangkok for a year. Ang hirap nga naman, kasi we were travelling back and forth between here and Bangkok, so we decided to ask for a transfer.
"Kasi I'm a US resident, so parang naisip namin na, 'Well, we can get transferred to New York.' At the same time, I can look for work there also."
But their plan was all easier said than done, as Rachel found it hard to land a job as a performer in New York.
"While I was waiting for things to get into place, hindi naman siya naging happy doon sa office na pinasukan niya.
"[Nagkaproblema] sa boss, medyo different style," she said.
That's when they decided to fly back to Manila.
"My sister got married in February.
"Pinauna lang namin na... eksakto naman, we found out that Maria Ressa, who's a friend, opened her own news website for social media, iyong Rappler.
"We thought na it, well, maybe, it would be a good stint for him to try, to apply for that job.
"Now he works for Rappler. Parang pinauna lang naman na, since it was my sister's wedding, he applied for the job and nakuha niya iyong job.
"Kaya, it's an opportunity for us to be working now in the same city."
RACHEL'S SHOWBIZ COMEBACK. The couple's decision to permanently settle in Manila signaled the revival of Rachel's career as a singer and theater performer.
Since February last year, Rachel has worked on several concerts and gigs, including a Valentine show with her music contemporary Dingdong Avanzado.
She's also returned to the set of the musical Avenue Q, which had its run in Singapore last September.
Rachel was the only cast member there, who was retained from the former Manila production.
Also, her return to the Philippines allowed Rachel to put more energies into her family's healthy food business.
"Talagang win-win for me dahil eksakto naman, The Sexy Chef naman is also taking off.
"Nag-expand kasi kami about a year and a half ago, and parang inasahan din syempre ng mga parents ko, kasi sila yung nag-invest, e.
"Nag-invest ang mom ko and stepfather ko into making the business bigger. Family-owned corporation na siya.
"And parang eksakto naman, when we decided to invest, biglang nag-desisyon akong mag-asawa.
"So sila, parang, ‘Ay, we thought we're gonna do this together.’
"But it all worked out. Now I'm back here doing Sexy Chef, and of course, balik showbiz din ako sa Pilipinas."
HAVING A BABY. With their marriage and respective careers doing so well at the moment, do Rachel and Carlos still have time to plan for a baby?
"Wala!" was Rachel's quick response.
"My husband is very busy, sobrang whole day hanggang gabi, he's out.
"I don't know when he wants to have it, but not now.
"Ako naman, I never saw it. Hindi naman siya naging priority, so it's kind of...
"A lot of people would say you'd have, as a woman, a window, like, biologically.
“My cousin now has a little girl, my sister Barni is about to give birth.
"Iyon namang isang iyon [Barni], she said she doesn't wanna have kids.
"All of a sudden, after she got married, she decided, 'I wanna have a baby.' Nainggit kasi dun sa cousin ko.
"And within, like, two months, she's pregnant. So, may baby kami.
"But we'll see. From the beginning naman, I told my husband na it's not something I really planned on for myself.
"I mean... but being in a marriage, if he wanted to have a child, I wouldn't deprive him.
"He knows naman how busy we both are, so parang hindi talaga namin mahanapan ng time."