[Traveling Fangirl] Xia Tarantallegra

30 Dec

Sometimes, 8 minutes is all you need to like someone this much. So much indeed that you would gladly hop on a plane, brave a city even hotter than Manila, spend a month’s salary and spazz to the fullest on just about anything he does.

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5 months ago, I don’t even know who Kim Junsu is. I’ve been to Seoul twice, been riding the Hallyu wave for 3 years but I was completely oblivious to Junsu or JYJ. But now, he turned into someone who could make me wait for 4 solid hours! I took my chances to see him up close for the very first time at the VIP section of Suvarnabhumi Airport in Bangkok and it paid off. I didn’t care if I haven’t eaten or if my luggage has been circling on the conveyor belt for hours… a few seconds of airport Junsu is worth all of it.

My fascination with him started when he had a cameo on SBS’ drama Scent of a Woman. After 13 hours of drama-marathon, the plot lines bored me to tears but his 8 minute scene stood out and kept me intrigued. After some research, I found out that he was a member of DBSK and now JYJ. I began to deeply admire his vocal prowess but at that time it wasn’t enough to call it an addiction. It’s never an addiction for me until I started planning how to see that person in the flesh.

Then, I got a hold of 30 GB worth of DBSK/JYJ videos courtesy of hardcore Junsu fan friend, Timi. I became insanely addicted afterwards. I didn’t have a decent sleep for a week because I had this need to watch every single video as soon as possible. And oh my god sun, he is one hilarious guy!

He’s not just an artist whose talent I adore;

he is my moving and breathing happy pill.

 Everything he does appeals to me.

The way he talks, the way he makes up excuses,

his dance moves, his killer voice, his distinctive laugh,

his facial expressions, the way he treats his family and friends,

his failed English, his fascination for soccer, his love for coconut trees

and anything tropical, his competitive nature, his addiction to video games

and his kind heart.

After all that I realized, I need to see him up close. I need to see him in a concert. I need to experience his awesomeness on stage live!

April 16, 2012. CJES announced that he will be releasing his first solo album and he will be having a concert in Seoul and 6 other cities. After weighing all options like airfare and tour dates, I figured that the most convenient place to see him is in either Hong Kong or Taiwan. Out of curiosity, I tried to purchase tickets at Interpark for his concert in Seoul. And holy mother of god, it was fierce. The server crashed after merely 2 minutes!!! At that moment I realized that getting a ticket to see his concert is no joke. Fan girling is serious business after all. Plans were revised; I am now willing to go to any county where I could get a VIP ticket. A blessing came in form of Oat, Timi’s Thai friend who happens to be one of the admins of Junsu’s fansite in Thailand.  She agreed to book VIP tickets for us! We’re saved from the ferocious online battle. Hallelujah! Junsu, here we come.

May 25, 2012. A few hours before our flight, we got confirmation of Junsu’s flight details. It turned out that we could actually wait at the airport to see him as soon as he gets off the plane.  We naturally zoomed in to the airport information counter to verify the gate number for Asiana airlines. Timi and I were losing our minds because there’s no working internet connection at the time we needed it the most! Furthermore, all restaurants were outside the immigration. There’s no way we were going out of that area before we see him. Competition is too fierce outside! And any fan girl would probably risk getting ulcer than miss this chance! That’s just the way it is.

We had no choice but to position ourselves at Gate E3. We talked about how we would approach him just in case we get the chance. We even agreed that if he looked tired, we’ll just walk behind his team and will not attempt to say a word. After about 3 hours, a fellow fan approached us.  It turned out that she works at the Suvarnabhumi airport that’s why she got a special access. She got insider info too that Junsu might use the VIP exit hence there’s no way he would come out of Gate E3. She kindly led us to Immigration Premium Lane. There were more or less 30 people waiting there too. The situation was still good, the chances of seeing him up close is still high than waiting outside the airport which was surely filled with hundreds of fans!

Then came the moment we’ve been waiting for…

Airport XIA!

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Clad in all-white with his perfectly styled blonde hair, my heart jumped out of my chest. How can someone be so hot and charming with minimal effort is beyond me!!!  No matter how brief that encounter was, it truly made a mark.

May 27, 2012. Concert day!!! The word “excited” was not even close to describe what I felt when I woke up that day.

We had the chance to meet Mama Xia at the Grand Centera Hotel the night before so that moment even intensified the emotions!

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My biggest thanks to the helpful and friendly Thai fans who gave us some info that led to an instant meet and greet with Junsu’s beautiful mother. Others had to wait for 5 hours, but we managed to do all that in 30 minutes. Timing is everything.

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We arrived at Royal Paragon Hall about 2 hours before the concert. While waiting, we purchased concert goodies, left notes on the message board, and had a short appearance on a local music program.

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At Royal Paragon Hall
[photo credit: Timi Toledo]

At 5:30 pm, the ushers opened the main door to venue. When I saw our seats, my heart did a backflip. I never expected to be that close to the stage! Thank you, OAT! THANK YOU!!!!

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The one and only picture I took during the concert. Full concentration is required when Junsu is on stage ^_^

XIA TARANTALLEGRA CONCERT. The concert was all positive adjectives under the sun. Every move he made and every song he sang was heartfelt. He gave more than what an audience could ask for. From the moment he literally popped out on stage to perform BREATH up to his heart-wrenching FALLEN LEAVES, he was on top form. I probably screamed more than I intended to. And yes, I cried.

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That moment when my heart stopped from beating ~ Lullaby and Intoxication in BKK. [photo credit: OHMYJUN.COM]

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Genie Time… Junsu Time! So Cute [photo credit: OHMYJUN.COM]

It’s hard to pick a favorite part because every single moment was intense. LULLABY and INTOXICATION probably squeezed the life out of me. Junsu, why did you perform these songs back to back?  Do you have an idea how many noonas, including me, suffered from minor heart attack? The moment I heard the intro for YOU ARE SO BEAUTIFUL, I got goose bumps. I was able to sing along but mostly I was just gaping at Junsu, hands on my chest, tightly gripping my red light stick with this wide smile on my face. And then I chuckled and whispered, “It’s the song that got me here”. Truly, a Go Mi Nam moment for me.

During Junsu’s talk time, he granted three wishes from the audience. 1st request: Do the Angel Xiah pose. 2nd request: Write his name using his butt. 3rd request: Do the bbuing bbuing. Nothing could possibly turn me into a puddle of goo more than Junsu acting all cute and shy. He did all three in the most endearing way I have to hold on for dear life as I was this close to bursting into pieces.

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Fierce Junsu [photo credit: OHMYJUN.COM]

As expected, witnessing TARANTALLEGRA is beyond marvellous. This song is meant to be experienced live. It’s safe to say that we all went ballistic on this one. Though I have to say, I got a little worried (ok, a lot worried) when I saw him dancing with all his might on a moving platform. My concerned noona instinct kicked in. I said to myself, “I appreciate the showmanship Junsu, but please take care and do not fall from that platform!” FEVER is another blood-pumping performance! Where did he get this kind of energy? Intense dance numbers in rapid succession!

If the dance numbers pumped up my energy, the ballads completely wrenched my heart. Seriously, nobody could do heartfelt ballad the way Junsu does. His voice contains emotions that could melt even the most jaded person. He also sang a few songs from his hit musicals.

I came out of Royal Paragon elated, satisfied, impressed and deeply moved. Kim Junsu is a world class artist indeed. I may have gone through a lot for the sake a 2-hour concert, but given a chance, I will definitely do it again.

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Postcard to self #1

8 Sep



[Coffee Project] Hello Kitty Cafe

5 Aug

It was love at first sight…

Hello Kitty Cafe ~ Hongdae

Situated in the hip Hongdae area in Seoul, this lovely cafe is bound to get anyone’s attention. Especially, if you are like me who tends to like anything pink.

 

The interior just melted me, I almost didn’t want to leave this place. I am very glad to say that the food and the coffee didn’t disappoint; both your eyes and taste buds would definitely be satisfied. It was reasonably priced too.

Bursting with all things pink and cute

 

How to get there: Get off Line 2 Hongik University (Hongdae) station exit 9. Walk straight to the intersection. Turn left and walk up the street then turn at your second right. You’ll find a narrow street and Hello Kitty Cafe is right there.

Tiramisu + Cafe latte

[Traveling Fangirl] Road to End Vacuum Part 2

31 Jul

New York City, here I come!!!

After 17 hours, I finally made it to New York City! I arrived about 3 weeks before End Vacuum at the other side of America. I still didn’t know at that time how I was going to bring myself from East to West coast but I thought I already managed to travel 9,000 miles from my hometown, figuring out how to cross a country would be a piece of a cake. Or so I thought.

I got too excited in exploring New Jersey and New York that I got a bit side-tracked and procrastinated on buying my plane ticket to LA.  Funny how a few days before buying my plane ticket, I was sort of thinking twice if I should push the trip through.  Crazy hormonal imbalance! haha! But seriously, for a brief moment I felt that it was too much. I was already privileged to see the sights and have this vacation, do I really need to travel another 3,000 miles more to follow my fangirl heart?!  The inner struggle didn’t last long. Haha! Who I was kidding? When did my practical self won over my fangirl self? Never.

August 21, 2008. I was off to LA. I didn’t have enough money to buy a direct flight to LA so I had to settle for a flight with one-stop over in Minneapolis. Stopovers never really bother me. The biggest mistake was not checking the plane I’d be riding to from Newark to Minneapolis. To my surprise, it turned out to be a 50-seater aircraft.

*breathe in, breathe out*

I really thought I’d be in a 200-seater airbus. Then I’d transfer to a 747 once we get to Minneapolis, but no. I am not a nervous flyer but if there’s one thing I really dislike, it’s riding a small aircraft. I believe in kung oras mo, oras mo na. If it’s your time to die, even if you are in a military jet or even staying comfortably at your house, you will die.

But still, small aircraft makes me nervous and I want all my trips to as enjoyable as possible. But I had no choice, I already handed my boarding pass to the ground steward.

One hour. I only had to endure it for 60 minutes, I said to myself. Calm down Aissa, people ride 50-seater planes everyday around the world.

LA bound… Incubus mode all day, all night

When the pilot announced that we were on our final descent to LAX, my heart flew to the moon and back. Incubus, I finally arrived at your hometown.

I’d be staying with my relatives in Anaheim which was an hour away from the venue. I didn’t want to be an inconvenience to anybody so I tried to find a way to go to UCLA by myself. Commuting in LA though was not that easy compared to New York. Luckily, my cousin offered to give my a ride. I’d be meeting Kat, fellow Filipina fangirl slash Incubus soul mate, on the venue. I went there quite early so I’d have ample time to explore the place. I met a few Incubus fans from all parts of the globe and everybody has their own Incubus stories to tell. In their company, my adventure going there sounded a little less crazy. Only fellow fans can truly understand how happy I was to be a part of this event.

At Royce Hall, UCLA

When Kat arrived, I was close to tears. Seriously, another Incubus dream is about to come true. Before the concert started, Mr. Steve Rennie himself went on stage to thank the fans and even mentioned where they came from. Kat and I couldn’t hide our delight when Renman mentioned the Philippines and we realized that we travelled the farthest among all the fans there. Kami na ang pinaka-nageffort!!

The concert itself was one hell of an experience! Mr. Einziger, you are a genius indeed. We even wore 3D glasses to enjoy the visual effects. In Mikey’s words, “It’s an insomnia-induced orchestral anxiety-attack! The concert began with a lecture from Brian Cox, a world renowned scientist and BBC correspondent, about particle physics. Basically about Large Hadron Collider at CERN. If you’ve read Dan Brown’s novel Angels and Demons, you might have an idea about it.

After the concert, we immediately stood up to go to the party hall but I was distracted by a pretty, young lady walking in our direction. “Is that Anne Hathaway?!”, I asked myself. When she was at arm’s length, I was able to confirm that she’s Anne Hathaway indeed. I wouldn’t hide the fact that I get giddy over the fact that I saw a Hollywood celebrity in the flesh. That close, for free. Even if I was never really a fan of hers.

Kat and I went to the party hall and you could say that both of us had a minor heart attack by the time we stepped in. Same party with our favorite rock stars, their close friends, their families, their celebrity buddies…….

*breathe in, breathe out*

We tried our very best to be calm and cool about it, but deep inside  we were hyperventilating. We had a pact that we’re going to sedate ourselves to blend in. The first one I saw was Chris Kilmore, he was talking to some people and we didn’t want to appear as too eager fans so we waited til he was alone. “Hi Kilmore!”, I said. He said hi as well and before we could even even introduce ourselves, he smiled at us and gave us a hug!!! We then told him that we came all the way from the Philippines just to see the show. “Wow. That’s cool, that’s great.”, he said.

With Incubus’ DJ Chris Kilmore

We saw Ben Kenney after that but he was with his girlfriend and we didn’t want to intrude so we just let them be.

There was a lot of people talking to Mikey, he was the star of the show anyway. We waited for the perfect time to approach so we could talk to him.

“Hi Mikey! I’m Aissa. I’m from Incubus street team Philippines. I flew 11,000 miles to see this show and it was worth it. You’re really great”, I said without pausing nor breathing.

“Wow, thank you. I really appreciate it. Thanks”, he said. He hugged me and then I asked to have a photo taken with him.

I loved how sincerely thankful he was for getting support from fans all over the world. It makes everything worth it.

I almost gave up my hope to see Brandon but the universe was with us at that time and the party didn’t end without a glimpse of him. We spotted him, but he was with his girlfriend Baelyn. As much as we’d like to talk to him, we just let him be. We were the sedated version of ourselves anyway, so we acted as if being in the same room as Brandon Boyd didn’t have a blissful effect on us.

We also had the chance to meet Steve Rennie. The coolest band manager in the planet. We gave him the same introduction.

“There’s a hospital across UCLA, I’m gonna have you girls checked because you girls are crazy”, he said. He was obviously amused after hearing how far we’ve come.

Well, flying 11,000 miles to see a 45-minutes show can be classified as crazy but then, in fandom world, it was the normal thing to do.

He even added “That’s why I tell the guys that they are lucky. They have the best fans in the world”.

I couldn’t agree more.

Kat and I with the BEST manager in the planet, Steve Rennie.

When we were about to leave, we saw other fans entering the backstage which was meant for the band and their families only. We didn’t try to do so because we’re completely satisfied with our encounter. We didn’t want to invade their privacy as well.

We were on an all time high after all that. Another priceless moment with my favorite rock band which not too long ago, I only watched on screen.

Fangirling takes me places, makes the impossible possible. I came such a long way for this experience and every time I think about it, I am so glad I did. ^_^

With Incubus’ genius guitarist, Mike Einziger

[Traveling Fangirl] Road to End Vacuum Part 1

15 Jul

Off to the US

I have fangirl blood running through my veins. And when I get hooked on a certain fandom, I tend to go nuts. Perfect example would be my eternal love for American rock band, Incubus.

Anyone close to me knows how much I LOVE Incubus. I practically breathe their music. In 2008, I went to another continent just to see them.

Feel free to tell me how crazy I was.

Three months after I finally met and watched Incubus for the very first time during Light Grenades World Tour in Manila, I received a newsletter from the band that their guitarist, Mike Einziger, would be having a once in a lifetime show called End Vacuum at Royce Hall in California, USA. The management would be conducting a contest and up for grabs is a pair of ticket with after party pass. One winner would be selected from each country and state in the US.

Of course, my initial reaction was “I want to join this contest!!” Who wouldn’t? AFTER PARTY PASS at stake! But yeah, too unrealistic. It was more than 10,000 miles from where I live, I didn’t have enough money nor visa to support that fangirl craving.

The idea of letting that chance slip away didn’t sit well with me. So after bursting all these thoughts that it was a crazy idea, I applied for a US VISA.

Everybody knows how hard it is to get a US VISA. At that time I was 24, my savings weren’t big enough, the stamps on my passport weren’t that many. As a traveler, I did have plans to apply for a US visa but I was holding it off until I have a better shot at really getting one. But that was the beauty of being a fangirl, you get extra guts to do things you initially thought were impossible.

So I paid 5,000 pesos in BPI, filled out the application form, asked my brother who was working at a travel agency to schedule my interview and gathered all the  requirements needed.

I made my entry for the video contest and submitted it a few hours before the deadline. I just have this positive feeling that I could make it all happen.

The day of the interview came. I went to the US embassy in Manila after my shift. I got no sleep and Godzilla sized butterflies were flying in my stomach. I didn’t want to get my hopes up but at the back of my mind I was really really hoping I’d get approved to the point that I could see myself in tears if the consul said to my face, “I’m sorry but I have to deny your application” To pacify myself, I just thought that if I did get denied, I’d just wait for another world tour and watch them at least 5 times in all cities in Asia that don’t require visa.

After the crucial waiting game that lasted for almost 2 hours, my turn came. I tried to appear as calm and non-chalant as I stood in front of the consul.

Consul: How long have you been with Ingram Micro?
Me: 3 years.
Consul: Your office building is the same with the US embassy call center.
Me: Yeah. and it’s actually located at the same floor.
Consul: So what’s your purpose for visiting the United states?
Me: Vacation. And to watch a concert in LA.

He examined my application form and passport, then typed something in the computer while I try  not to pass out.  I was clutching on my documents real hard, anticipating for the consul’s signal to pass it to him so he can check my COE or savings account. After a few seconds, he looked at me and  smiled, “Ok. Enjoy your vacation to the US”.

*insert squeal*

That was it?!! No tear-inducing interrogation, no belittling about how I dared apply for a US visa when I only got Php46,000 on my account which was not even sufficient to buy a RT plane ticket.

Pure blisssssssssssss!

He gave me a piece of paper which contains direction on how to pay the courier that will deliver my passport plastered with my newly acquired US VISA! Oh yeaaahhhh!

After 3 days, I received the packet from the embassy and got another surprise. I was granted a 10-year multiple entry visa! Again, *squeal*

Thank you Lord for this blessing. Thank you dear saints of impossible wishes.  Thank you universe for conspiring to make this dream come true.

So the next blessing came in form of an e-mail from Ren management. I won the contest! I’ll be representing all Incubus fans in the Philippines. I’d see them in their hometown and I’d get to party with them!!!

Breathe Aissa. Breathe.

You know this very cliche saying that if something is meant to be, everything will just fall  into place?

Everything, literally, fell into place. At the back of my mind, I was getting paranoid. So many good things were happening, this couldn’t be real. Somebody please wake me up!

But I wasn’t dreaming. I was wide awake…. living my fangirl dream.

July 27,2008. 1 month and 12 days after I received that newsletter, I found myself at NAIA, bound to USA…

Insane? I know…

Backstory

17 Jun

Traveling makes me oh so happy [nami island, south korea]

I got very strict parents growing up – the type who never allowed me to watch movies with friends until I was in 1styear college. Dapat kasama lagi ang ate o kuya.  I had those no boyfriend til you finish school, need to be at home by 7pm and all that. Pag mas late pa don, my dad would pick me up wherever… parang taxi yun, any point of Luzon kasi bawal ang sleepover. I was 19 when I had my first taste of sleepover, kailangan ko pang magmakaawa!

So when I finished school and entered the so called real world, I ached for one thing… FREEDOM! Not the I wanna be free, wanna live alone and be totally independent type. Saktong freedom lang haha! The freedom to go out and see the world on my own terms. My first job didn’t pay me enough to even buy a domestic ticket, but even if I was clearly underpaid, I stayed for 6 months because it was inspiring enough. I was a travel agent then. Yes, I arranged other people’s trips. Hanep, ininggit ko lang ang sarili ko. But it also inspired me to make my dreams come true – GO OUT AND SEE THE WORLD.

When I realized that I didn’t like to just plan and I wanted to experience it myself, I switched to a better paying job. I told my friend Anne that we should take a trip abroad for Thanksgiving holiday. Even if that trip turned out more expensive than it should have been since everything was planned in less than 2 weeks, it truly changed my life! Haha! Sounds pretty dramatic but true nonetheless.

Fast forward to present, I’ve…

…been to 8 countries, 2 continents, numerous cities, different states, several provinces

…experienced what it was like be completely lost

…been thrown off in the middle of the sea

…been suspended 4,000 ft above sea level

…travelled alone

…travelled for the sake of fangirling

…met fellow wanderers

…seen penguins, pandas, polar bears, dolphins, whales, tarsiers and other rare species

…(sort of) conquered my fear of heights

…survived language barriers

…enjoyed different cuisines

…got severely drunk on the beach

…been at two places at one time

I may not have a major investment under my name but I am happy because I am living the life I want for myself. My travel bucket list keeps on adding up and I hope I’d be able to make it all happen.

This blog is my attempt to document my adventures as I leave footprints around the world ^^

“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines, sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.”

– Mark Twain