Celebrating her 30th birthday last week on July 25, Filipino pop sensation Sarah Geronimo could have been anywhere else in the world. But she chose to mark the occasion at a simple fast-food restaurant in Manila alongside some of her biggest fans.
“This is why we love her,” says Annalyn Dominquez, a 23-year-old “popster”, as Geronimo’s devotees call themselves. “After all these years, and no matter how successful she has become, Sarah’s feet remain on the ground – she’s here with us.”
Indeed, Geronimo has come a long way since winning the television singing competition Star for a Night, back in 2003, at age 14. Since then, she has released multiple chart-topping albums, starred in several blockbuster films and won various local and international accolades for her musical and acting ventures. Billboard magazine also recently described her as "Filipino pop star royalty."
In celebration of her 15-year anniversary in the entertainment industry, Geronimo has embarked on a global tour titled This 15 Me, which began last April and will feature a stop at the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Stadium on September 20. Fans who purchase the VIP ticket, priced at Dh550, will get a backstage meet-and-greet with the singer. Geronimo says of her return: “I can’t wait to be back in the UAE. My last concert there was back in 2014, so I’m looking forward to returning to perform for our hardworking countrymen who are living there.”
At her Dubai show, Geronimo will be singing many of her hits, which include Tala, Dulo, Kilometro and Duyan, a track from her latest album, also called This 15 Me. She will most likely perform her most popular covers, too, such as To Love You More, That's the Way Love Goes and I Have Nothing.
Geronimo launched her international concert tour on April 29 in Las Vegas, where she made headlines after breaking down in tears and struggling to sing through her track Forever's Not Enough. Tearful, she told the audience that the pressures of the industry have taken a toll on her. "I'm not prepared for the things that go along with the success. It's too much. I've realised I'm not ready for it," she said, her voice shaking. "I ask myself why I feel empty. I'm tired. I'm so sorry."
Geronimo left the stage, but soon returned to finish the show – and went on to perform a handful of others across North America that same week.
While Geronimo has since taken intermittent breaks from social media and barely done any major interviews, she still pushed through with recording her latest album, which went straight to No 1 on the iTunes Philippines and Macau album charts on the day of its release. In early July, Geronimo released her most recent single, Sandata (Weapon), a song about finding strength amid life's challenges. The track's music video features the stories of a wife surviving physical abuse, as well as a teenage boy facing his bullies.
Geronimo has also taken the time to film Miss Granny, a Filipino adaptation of the 2014 South Korean blockbuster movie of the same name. She plays the title role, a grandmother who is magically transformed into her younger self. Directed by Joyce Bernal and co-starring James Reid, Xian Lim and Nova Villa, the film is scheduled to open in cinemas in late August.
Also coming up is a new single featuring Geronimo’s duet with co-star Reid, who happens to be a chart-topping recording artist, too.
At her 30th birthday celebration last week, Geronimo reflected on her career, saying: “Time flies. In the past, I felt like turning 30 was such a big deal – that I was getting old – but time has flown by and I’m just thankful. Whatever I have achieved now – I didn’t know any of this was even possible.”
Despite her pop stardom, Geronimo says she hopes to someday finish her Associate in Arts programme at the University of the Philippines Open University, where she enrolled almost a decade ago.
“It’s a challenge for me — I’ve stopped. But I will return to it so that I can finish my college degree,” she said. “There is still so much that I want to learn. I know I can be better.”
Sarah Geronimo performs at Dubai Duty Free Tennis Stadium on Thursday, September 20. Doors open at 6pm. Tickets are from Dh150 (silver) to Dh550 (VIP with meet-and-greet). Visit www.dubai.platinumlist.net