There are two things that I was able to prove from my recent trip to Hong Kong:
(1) God has a wicked sense of humor; and
(2) If it’s meant to be, it’s meant to be.
I was all ready to accept the fact that there’s no way we’re gonna end up in Hong Kong to attend Rain’s fan gathering/showcase/whatever because we weren’t able to get passes. As the days went on – with me calling Universal Music HK names and Marissa and Rizza putting up their hands in defeat – our chances became slimmer and slimmer. Our contacts never replied back. Nothing is happening. We were all ready to cry come July 4 at the thought that 2,000 screaming fans will be with Rain in HK while we’re stuck here in the Philippines with an 800-peso Rain poster and a second copy of It’s Raining.
But as I said, God has a wicked sense of humor.
Friday, July 1, 2005. Marissa texted me in the morning to ask about any news re: the HK trip. As usual, I replied that no one from our contacts has replied. That was the only time Marissa has declared defeat (Rizza and I have pretty much given up by that time, coz let’s face it, it’s a couple of days till the event already!). I just consoled her by saying, at least we won’t be dead broke and we’ll still have a few extra cash to bring to Korea in October.
6:30pm. I was on my way home on a passenger jeepney when Marissa texted: “call me please.” So I called her. “Paulette, I got a call! We got passes!” She said she was told that if we are pushing thru with our HK trip, we should call this person from Universal HK to claim our passes. Now at that time, we have already cancelled our booking. But Marissa, without thinking twice, told the person who called her that we are indeed going to HK that weekend to see Rain. Omigod. I was shocked. It’s Friday night already! What to do, what to do… I told her I’ll call Rizza and ask her what we should do (though in my head, I was already thinking, I don’t care what she says, I am going to HK by hook or by crook!). I hung up and dialed Rizza’s number. Her cell was ringing, but no answer. I tried a few more times and she’s still not answering. I figured, since it’s Friday night, she might be watching a movie and her cel is on silent mode. I told Marissa I’ll give her until 10pm to reply and if she won’t, would she (Marissa) be willing to go with me the following morning (Saturday) to try and book for a flight. I was thinking then that we’ll try to look at bookings on Saturday and fly on Sunday since the event is on Monday. But Marissa has other plans. She called me and said, “pack your bags NOW. I’m re-packing my stuff (she was in HK the week before, basically to claim the passes that never came with the CD). Meet me at my office tomorrow at 9am so that we can make calls.” And this was at around 9:30pm. I was so giddy – more at the thought that I’ll see Rain on Monday than at the thought that we’re flying to HK on very very very short notice and we haven’t even booked a flight and a hotel yet – that I was running around like a headless ‘joryu’ instead of packing my suitcase. :) After composing myself, I went to my mom and asked if they could bring me to Bangko Sentral (Marissa’s office) the following morning coz we’re going to HK. My mom didn’t even know that we were planning to go to HK. :) Rizza finally called at around 11pm and said she will think first if she will go with us or not. I told her, if she decides to go, she should meet us at Marissa’s office at 9am the following day, with her bags, coz we’ll be leaving that very same day.
Cut to Saturday, July 2. Marissa and I met at her office with our bags and she frantically called every travel agency she can find on the phone book who can book us a travel package to HK at short notice at the low price. This is where the “if it’s meant to be, it’s meant to be” part comes in. We got lucky that Philippine Airlines has a lot of vacant slots left on the 6pm flight, and there’s a cheap hotel available. The only problem is that, the hotel is on the New Territories area of HK, very far from Hong Kong Convention Center where the event will be held. It is tantamount to living in Bulacan while the event is to be held in Parañaque (apologies to non-Filipinos who will read this; what I meant was, the hotel is in the far north while the event is down south). The ones near the venue are all insanely expensive, plus they will charge extra for late booking. Since we don’t have much time to decide, we just took the cheap-but-far hotel. Meanwhile, Rizza has decided not to go. So it’s just Marissa and me to HK.
Hong Kong, ’round 9pm. After checking in at Rambler Garden Hotel, Marissa and I went downstairs to buy some stuff at 7-Eleven when we passed by this magazine-cum-bookstore and what did I see? The famous Rain poster from Full House (you know, the one in Lee Young Jae’s room). I barely stifled a scream (gosh, I’m such a teenager. hehe), I just HAVE TO HAVE THAT POSTER! Apparently, that one wasn’t for sale, but there’s a set of 12 posters of Rain that can be bought for HKD35 (which, for me, was hella cheap) that has that same poster, only a bit smaller. Works for me. There were also several magazines featuring Rain that I ended up buying and I also found some Full House stickers for only HKD4 per sheet (I bought several which I gave away to friends who are FH fans). On my first hour in HK, I’m already about HKD100 poorer, and it’s all on Rain stuff. And it’s only the beginning.
Sunday, July 3, 2005, around 10am. Marissa called the contact person from Universal Hong Kong to confirm the passes. The girl on the other line said we do have passes, and she apologized for the confusion that arose when our Hong Kong contact went to their office to claim the passes. Suddenly, I felt so guilty for calling them names at the height of my anger during the showcase-pass-claiming fiasco (I’m sorry, Universal-HK!). Then, I heard Marissa telling the person on the other line, “no, we’re not from the press, but we’ll be glad to join the presscon.” I literally picked my jaw from the floor. Did she just say what I thought she said?? Marissa then said we’ll be there at 2:30pm on Monday, then she hung up. Yes, we are going to the presscon! I happily jumped around the hotel room and in my excitement, I forgot that phone calls made on cellphones which are on roaming are expensive. Without thinking twice, I dialled Rizza’s number and when she picked up, I screamed, “Rizza, we’re going to the presscon!!!” She got so excited and jealous that she ended up frantically booking a flight to HK (not easy on a Sunday). She was on standby for Sunday, 6pm, but she was not accomodated. She flew in Monday morning.
Monday, July 4, 2005. THE DAY. I injured my shoulder the day before, so when I woke up, I can’t lift my left arm and I was feeling a bit feverish. I told myself, “no way you’re gonna get sick now, Paulette, you’re meeting Rain today!” I ignored the pain in my arm and went to Hong Kong Convention Center with Marissa as early as 11am so that we can check out in advance where Hall 7A is. We also told Rizza to go straight to HKCC with her bag (we assumed she might just be carrying an overnight bag since we’ll be going home the next day).
12:00nn, we found Rizza at the lobby of HKCC with her luggage. Apparently, she will be staying until Friday, hence, the big bag. Which she lugged around everywhere we went that day, including the presscon and the fan gathering. Wow, and I thought Marissa and I are crazy. Rizza is crazier. :)
2:00pm, we went up to Hall 7A to look for our contact at Universal HK. We found her (she’s easy to find coz she’s the tallest. hehe) and she gave us the passes. She again asked if we wanted to join the presscon and we said, as nonchalantly as we can, that we’d love to. :) We joined the line for the press and as soon as we did, we already got stares from the media present coz we were the only non-Chinese people there. Well, we found out later that there’s one Korean from the TV station YTN, but I guess that doesn’t count. Aside from that, we were the only ones not carrying huge photographic equipment. Gosh, I’ve never seen so many bazooka-like lenses in my life (I guess being a paparazzi is a lucrative profession in HK, huh) and since I’m a photography buff, I was literally drooling. They even brought step-ladders aside from the usual mono/tri-pod. We felt like total aliens there, so I just told Rizza, “let’s just pretend your luggage contains our tripods and cameras”.
2:30pm, the line is getting longer. Here comes the Universal HK people distributing presskits and press IDs. This is where the excitement really started for us. Now from my experience with HK presscons (I was able to attend one in 2000 for Ricky Martin), I know that photographers are usually at the back, but they will be given time to go to the front to take publicity shots of the artist. And those with no PHOTO passes will not be allowed to take pictures. I told Rizza beforehand, if ever we do get to go to Rain’s presscon (this was before the pass fiasco happened and we were negotiating with the local Universal office for presscon access), I’d be willing to get a PHOTO pass coz it’s the only way I can take really good photos of Rain. Nevermind if I stay at the back afterwards. However, I also thought, if ever I get a chance, I’ll ask Rain a question.
So anyway, when the Universal people were distributing IDs, I asked for a PHOTO pass. But for some reason, Marissa and Rizza also asked for PHOTO passes instead of PRESS. I never figured out why, coz they didn’t bring cameras (hmm… must ask them some time). It turned out to be moot and academic anyway, so no biggie. We sat at front row center and they didn’t drive us away from there. And those with PRESS passes also brought their personal cameras. So it didn’t matter.
Next to be distributed are the presskits. Included in the kit are the following:
– Rain’s profile, in Chinese.
– Some FAQs in Chinese and English, with a note that says we shouldn’t ask those questions anymore. If I was the one making that FAQ, I’d include this question: “How different is Rain in real life from the character Lee Young Jae in Full House?” coz I swear, that question was asked about a jillion times in China and another million times in HK. There’s also a note below that says we shouldn’t ask personal questions about his relationships, rumors, etc. Yeah right, like the HK press actually wrote stuff that happened in the presscon instead of following him around with their bazooka lenses and invading his house in Korea, among other nonsense rumors. (Well, apparently, that’s why that note was written on the presskit. Coz the HK press loves invading personal space.)
– A blown-up publicity photo.
– A copy of It’s Raining (my 3rd copy! not that I’m complaining…)
– A cd containing artist publicity shots (that is, ultra-mega huge photo files of Rain; I could make tarpauline posters out of those) and the It’s Raining CD cover in digitized form.
The presskit (with the Lotte bag – the story behind this is somewhere down below)
3:00pm, we were finally lead to Hall 7A where the fan gathering will also be held. As soon as I entered the hall and saw the stage, I already felt my hands clamming up due to excitement. I saw the photographers being led to the platform several rows away from the stage. I thought, there’s no way I’m gonna stay there, not with my puny camera. However, I saw Marissa and Rizza going straight to first row center, so I followed them. We ignored the security people telling us to go to the platform for photographers; we just employed the classic tactic called ‘dedma’ (dead malice = just pretend you didn’t hear anything). Well, they didn’t insist or anything; they probably thought we didn’t understand them coz they spoke in Chinese and we’re clearly not Chinese. Several female reporters were also carrying their own cameras. I bet those were for their own personal use. :)
Marissa and me at the presscon
3:10pm, finally, the presscon starts. Every second was pure agony as we waited for Rain to alight the stage. Finally, after a million years, the hosts introduce Rain. As soon as he stepped onstage, my first reaction was: “oh, nice hair”. And then, “I lurve his coat”. Some reaction, huh. It’s not like he’s not gorgeous coz he definitely is. Cameras don’t do justice to his real physical features. Even Marissa, who, in reality, is not a Rain fan though she likes his music, said that he’s so ‘gwapo’ (handsome) in person. And this is a person who nastily calls Rain as someone who looks like a shoe. But the main difference between Rain and, say, someone like Ricky Martin is this: when Ricky appeared onstage during his HK presscon five years ago, we were breathless at the sight of him. He’s drop-dead gorgeous, but the type that’s god-like, unapproachable. Rain, on the other hand, is incredibly cute, but more of the down to earth type. He looks like someone whom you could hang out and be friends with (though I bet most heterosexual women would rather be more than friends with him).
As he approached the table and shook hands with the Universal Music executives, I immediately noticed his manner of greeting people and remembered Song Hye Kyo’s five-word description of him: “a man with good manners”. It’s very evident in the way he bowed to the press and shook hands with everyone onstage. Also, I don’t see any reason why some people would think he’s gay. Sure, he’s mild-mannered, shy and very polite, but there’s absolutely nothing effeminate with his actions. He’s all man, folks. hehe.
Now here comes the part where I don’t know if we were fortunate or unfortunate. The question-and-answer portion started, and it’s in Chinese and Korean. And since we don’t understand either language, we have absolutely no idea what the heck they were talking about. I just continued clicking away, capturing Rain’s facial expressions whenever he was asked a question in Chinese, then waiting for the interpreter to translate it in Korean, then during his turn to answer, then waiting for the interpreter to translate his answer in Chinese. But this inadvertent cluelessness gave us the chance to really observe Rain. Here are the highlights of the short repartee with the press, with some of my own observations:
(1) He seems to have this tendency to be spaced out when everyone is speaking in a language he couldn’t understand. Having had that very same experience of listening to a press conference and not understanding anything, I could totally relate. It’s not because he was a snob; it’s just that, what else can you do if you don’t comprehend what everyone around you is saying?
However, I should stress that whenever someone asks a question, he would look at the person asking. However, there is a certain “eh?” look in his eyes, then it will shift to a hint of boredom, but it will shift back to a look of comprehension once the interpreter translates it for him.
(2) He looked at our direction several times during the presscon, sometimes even giving a small smile especially during those times when people are speaking in Chinese. It’s like he knows we were aliens and just like him, we have no idea what the heck is going on. I’d like to think of it as his way of telling us, “ladies, don’t worry, I’m just as clueless as you are.” :)
(3) A lady reporter behind us asked a question and everyone – with the notable exception of the three Filipinos in the audience and the Koreans onstage – laughed. We don’t know what exactly she asked, but I heard the word “sexy” on it. When the interpreter translated it in Korean and Rain heard the word “sekshii”, he gave this really embarassed laugh, blurted out a soft “tshh” and took a few seconds composing himself before he was able to answer. His first few sentences were peppered with “kamsahamnida”. We figured, maybe the lady reporter asked him about his reaction about people saying he is sexy, and he was really embarassed at that comment. He gave a lengthy two-part answer to that one; I wish I knew what the question was and his reply.
(4) Some physical observations: his hands are HUGE and his fingers are very very nice (pardon me, I’m a hands person. And one of the reasons I adore Rain is because he’s got nice hands). And the hint of a goatee on his chin killed me on the spot. I also love his eyes. Small as they are, they’re very expressive. I can almost tell what he’s thinking just by looking at them. This is also one of the things that made me love Rain more: he’s so real. What you see is what you get. There is no air of phoniness on him. He’s clearly a star, but he doesn’t act like a star. Get what I mean?
The question-and-answer portion lasted for only about 15 minutes. It was followed by the awarding of the Gold Record Award for the sales of It’s Raining.
Now here’s the part that endeared me to him some more (as if he hasn’t endeared me a lot already). When the media asked him to pose with the award, he looked like an innocent boy onstage, giving a very timid smile and he just stood there, looking embarassed at the whole thing. It’s like there’s a thought bubble near his head that reads, “guys, it’s not a big deal. I’m just here to sing and dance. Don’t make a fuss, you’re embarassing me.” I found it kinda weird in a way coz he’s acting as if he has never posed for the cameras before. The photographers then urged him to smile some more and when he did, it was again a very embarassed smile, not a phony one that says, “ok, fine, I’ll smile, let’s get this over and done with”, but more like “oh no, I forgot to smile! Sorry!”. I swear, he looks like a teddy bear I so wanted to hug.
“He’s looking at you, kid.” :) (and I have died and went to heaven…)
The presscon was over in a little over 20 minutes, but in those 20 minutes, I felt like I know more about Rain that I would ever know from reading all the articles written about him (especially if the articles only contain worthless crap and unconfirmed rumors). And I didn’t even understand what he said (well, except for a few like sekshii and kamsahamnida). We were then ushered back to the Hall 7 lobby, where we were asked to line up again for the fan gathering. We had a choice between lining up with the rest of the fans (since we’ve got regular passes) or staying with the press. What the heck, we stayed with the press. :) The Universal people then started distributing loot bags to the media, which, we assumed, contained food and/or drinks. Marissa asked us if we wanted to get the food and I said, “I don’t feel like eating in situations like this.” Besides, it’s probably just some stuff from HK which I can sample later. Marissa quipped, “No, those stuff are from Rain! The bag says Lotte, it’s Korean!” That’s it, we scrambled for the loot bags. hehe. It contained three cans of Chilsung Cider, a soda that tastes a lot like 7-Up.
While waiting for them to let us in for the fan gathering, Rizza called up the girls from Rain Philippines just to check if they also made it to HK (apparently, they did and they even went to Rain’s TV guesting the night before. Oh, such lucky gals…). Meanwhile, there’s a lady in purple jeans behind us rehearsing with her cue cards. We greeted her, she greeted back, and before we knew it, we were chatting with her. We learned that she’s a HK correspondent for YTN network, a Korean news network that’s also being aired in the Philippines. She even recorded a short interview with Marissa. So to all of Marissa’s friends who are reading this, tune in to YTN coz you just might see someone familiar on your TV screens. :)
Hi! I’m Marissa and you’re watching YTN…”
A little over 5pm: finally, they let us in. Ack, the media will be behind the audience, waaay at the back! There was mad scramble for good positions on the platform, and since I’m not really a media person, I wasn’t able to get a good place. Rizza told me to climb the steel barriers to get a good view in case people stand on chairs. I suddenly remembered what Master Atsushi has told me before during the height of my bandstalking days with his former band: if you need to stand on chairs or climb up something just to get a good photo, just do it! So despite my shoulder injury (hmm, come to think of it, I totally forgot about that during the event) and my utter lack of balance (physical, ok, PHYSICAL!), I climbed up the steel barrier and balanced myself with one foot on the barrier and the other on the platform, being very careful that I’m not blocking the photographer behind me (hey, I know shouldn’t care, but I’m considerate with others coz I also hate it when people stand in my camera’s way). However, things changed when Rain came out. Everyone, no matter how tall she is, stood on chairs, totally blocking all of us in the media platform! Even those with bazooka lenses on stepladders groaned loudly and complained to the security people. I thought, ugh, there’s no way I can get a good shot if I stay on the platform. So I jumped down, whipped out my pass and went to the audience area. The security people was quick to tell me I’m not allowed to go there, but I showed him my pass and he quickly slinked away from me. hehehe. BUT! Even if I stand on my designated chair I’d still be blocked by the taller people in front of me, so I went beyond the barriers of courtesy and walked towards the steel barriers closer to the stage and stayed there until security people told us to go back to our seats. We did, but after a while I went back to the barriers and took more pics. At that point I don’t care anymore if people think I’m “pasaway” (incorrigible), I just had to have a good view of Rain!
Finally, the moment I’ve been waiting for: I’ll finally see Rain perform in the flesh. I switched my camera to ‘video’ and waited for magic to happen. The moment he started dancing, the shy and timid Jung Ji Hoon disappeared and the electrifying Rain took over. Wow. That’s all I can say about that. His energy reverberated to all corners of Hall 7A that no matter how far or how near you are, you can feel the magic of his performance. The guy’s got amazing stage presence, I tell yah. Then the thing all performers are dreading for happened: his headset conked out. He sang the first line and nothing came out. Even from afar, I saw the frustration in his face. His dancers also got a bit confused and they stopped dancing while Rain went to the side of the stage. I stared in horror with the thought that he might walk out or something coz I saw that he’s kinda upset. I switched off my cam coz I don’t wanna capture something like that. Thankfully, it turned out he just went there to get a handheld mic, but about half of the song had already passed. He said “yo, yo!’ on the mic and finally, we could clearly hear him. Well, at least it was proven that he wasn’t lipsynching. And what’s so amazing about him is that, despite that terrible technical booboo, he still went on with the number with even more intense energy than when he started. I gotta give it to this guy. Any lesser artist would’ve walked out or gave a half-hearted performance, but not Rain. He still gave it his all. And he sang really well despite the complicated dance steps. I’m such a bitch when it comes to singing, and sorry to tell all his detractors, but the guy can really sing. And the dancing is simply awesome. Even his dancers are all fabulous. I can’t wait to see him in a full concert.
Unfortunately, that one number was the only one. Suddenly, there was a mad rush to the doors and we were like, “what the hell is happening?” Marissa said, “just follow them! Run!” So I ran out of the hall, only to realize that the reason everyone was rushing out was because they are either gonna try and catch Rain downstairs (which is so impossible coz there’s no way Rain will go pass the lobby with all those people waiting for him) or they’re gonna rush to the next venue which is the mall in Tsuen Wan (which is on the other end of Hong Kong, and is actually just a couple of subway stops away from our hotel). I waited for the throng to go out of the hall and I swear, I really thought the swarm of females will never end. And yes, all 2,000 people are FEMALES. The only males I saw there are probably the security people, the media and the organizers. After a long-ish wait, I finally met up with Marissa and Rizza (who both looked shell-shocked but pretty much satisfied) and we discussed if we should go follow him to the mall. Marissa called up our contact with Universal again, basically to thank her and to inquire about the next venue. She told Marissa that going to the mall probably might not be worth it because it’s open to the public and it’s bound to be crazier. So we just decided not to go, especially since Rizza is still carrying her luggage in tow.
Walking back to the ferry terminal to go back to Kowloon island, we recapped what had happened. I must admit that at first, I felt shortchanged. The presscon was short, the fan gathering was short, and I felt I didn’t see enough Rain. The other two had to bop me in the head to make me come to my senses. Only when I switched my camera on to review the pics and saw that I was able to take really good pics of Rain that I felt so happy and satisfied. In a way, I was also concerned that Marissa and Rizza, the two who really did all the work in negotiations and everything, might also feel shortchanged. But they both had smiles on their faces. Even Marissa, who’s not a Rain fan, was happy with what happened. Therefore, I should be more than thankful that we took the risk and went ahead with this trip. Seeing Rain, even for only a few minutes, made it all worth it.
Mush corner: Mega-thanks to Universal Music HK and to Marissa’s friend Allen for making it all happen. We hope to do business with you again the future. And of course, to Rizza and especially Marissa who never faltered, never lost hope, never hesitated. Aja aja fighting, ladies! Till our next trip!
**NOTICE: If you are going to re-post the pics somewhere else, please credit BANDSTALKER.COM or PAULETTE ESPIRITU for them. Also, please upload on your own server. I only have limited bandwidth on me. KAMSAHAMNIDA! SALAMAT! THANK YOU!**