Behind the Music: 'Paalam Na' by Rachel Alejandro


Posted at Feb 13 2021 12:00 PM

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Songwriters can understandably write a break-up song perhaps easily. However, if the composer personally went through the heart-breaking parting of ways, wrapping up a song can certainly be difficult as there is just “no easy way to break somebody’s heart.”

With former sweethearts Rachel Alejandro and Dingdong Avanzado, they both channeled the pain they experienced in their break up through a heart-rending ballad, “Paalam Na,” released in 1994.

The song, that admirably became a creative collaboration of the two best-selling artists, was originally recorded by Alejandro. “Paalam Na” became the carrier single of her 10-track album, “Sentimental,” released under Alpha Records.

“Dingdong and I had been together for three-and-a-half years when that final breakup happened,” Alejandro told ABS-CBN News. “Then we wrote ‘Paalam Na’.”

She created the Tagalog lyrics based on the letter in English that Avanzado left on her bed that fateful day. “I made a Tagalog poem out of that letter,” Alejandro shared. “The sentiments are exactly as he had written. When I was done, I sent the letter to him and asked him to create a melody for it.”

“Paalam Na” was Alejandro’s songwriting debut. Although Avanzado is known to be a songwriter, too, Alejandro only wrote her first composition that year (1994). She included “Paalam Na” in “Sentimental,” her fourth and by far, most successful album.

“The song tells the story of a love that, although doomed to end, was still very much real at the time,” Alejandro said of “Paalam Na.”

“I think many people related to it. Just because you break up with someone doesn’t mean you don’t still love them and want them to be in your life. It was a painful process to go from being a couple to being close friends, but with mutual respect and admiration, you can. That’s what Dingdong and I were able to do.”

To this day, Alejandro and Avanzado have remained good friends, even if they are now both married. She with Spanish journalist Carlos Santamaria for close to 10 years now and he with singer-actress Jessa Zaragoza for two decades this year.

Early last year, Alejandro and Avanzado even recorded a duet version of “Paalam Na,” that was released on Spotify.

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“Paalam Na” became not just a huge OPM hit, but a multi-awarded song. It won the Awit Awards Song of the Year in 1994 and Best Ballad Recording. Admittedly, Alejandro was really proud when the song won awards.

“To be honest, I was so confident ‘Paalam Na’ would win those awards,” Alejandro confessed. “Proud much? [Laughs]. I prepared an acceptance speech for the Awit Awards and sent it to Dingdong before I left on vacation to the US. He read it during the award ceremony that year when the song won.”
Even before “Paalam Na” became a huge OPM hit, Alejandro already charted early hit records with “Mr. Kupido,” “Kay Tagal” and even the re-imagined version of his father Hajji Alejandro's “Nakapagtataka.”

“From 1989 to 1995, those hit songs that were mentioned, along with ‘May Minamahal,’ ‘Don’t Know What To Do’ and ‘Much Longer’ topped the charts, but ‘Paalam Na’ was my most iconic song,” Alejandro said. 
Interestingly, “Paalam Na” has other re-imagined versions by other local artists. “I’m always so thrilled whenever my song gets revived by another artist,” Alejandro granted.

“I believe Martin Nievera and Jay-R have versions of it,” Alejandro offered.

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Although “Paalam Na” is such a huge hit, Alejandro singles out “Kay Tagal,” as her personal favorite among the many songs she recorded. “Kay Tagal” is Alejandro’s first hit ballad from her debut album, “Just A Minute,” released in 1989.

“Through the years, I’ve come to appreciate ‘Kay Tagal’ more,” Alejandro said. “It’s what people request from me the most recently. The melody is super memorable and it just brings many fans of my generation back to our younger days.”

“Paalam Na” ultimately landed in the roster of local and memorable songs of all time. It has undoubtedly become a sentimental favorite by many and embraced by individuals.

“One summer in the early 2000s, I sang ‘Paalam Na’ to an audience of about 50,000 Filipinos gathered at a park in London,” Alejandro recalled. “Practically everyone sang along.

“I couldn’t help but feel completely overwhelmed with emotion. I will never forget what that felt like, to see that sea of people singing and immortalizing that piece of original Filipino music.”

Through the years, Alejandro has done concerts, films, TV shows, theater plays. “I’ve been in show business for over 30 years now, depending when you started counting,” she said. “I was already doing theater when I was only eight years old.”

She is slated to release a brand new single, “Takipsilim,” produced by Rebel Records Philippines, headed by her cousin Niño Alejandro under Warner Music Philippines.

“The plan is for ‘Takipsilim’ to drop on Spotify by Valentine’s Day,” Alejandro said. “The music video should come out shortly after.

“This is my first original recording since the duet songs with Ebe Dancel and Joanna Ampil, which were the contemporary pop songs that were part of the ‘Ang Larawan’ album in 2017.”

Alejandro was about to start filming “Song of the Fireflies” last year when the pandemic hit. It has been shelved indefinitely.

“Until we can safely shoot big crowd scenes and with children as our lead characters again,” she said.

A teaser trailer of “Song of the Fireflies” is already on YouTube, featuring Alejandro and co-star Morissette Amon. 

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Alejandro also wrapped up an indie, “Songs for Selina,” in late 2019. It was originally scheduled to be shown last year.

“Our director is still waiting to complete the film,” she said. “I am hoping that both projects will be back on track soon once we have relaxed COVID-19 restrictions in the Philippines.”

Alejandro spent the lockdown in New York with her husband, Santamaria. She returned to Manila for the holidays to visit her family, but flew to Big Apple again in January.

She keeps the faith that the entertainment scene will be alive and bustling again once this pandemic recedes and everything returns to normal. 

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