Aftermath: Lee Min Ho Benchsetter Funmeet
16 November 2012 – SMART Araneta Coliseum
Now it can be told: the most popular Korean actor in the Philippines today is none other than Lee Min Ho. Just look at this sample of the seething mass of digital-camera-toting humanity that trooped to the SMART Araneta Coliseum to attend his fanmeet organized by the clothing brand Bench.
Note: I wasn’t able to take a photo of the whole crowd because this area is just about what GD-TOP (using TOP2, the 55-250mm lens) can cover at its lowest zoom setting. Yes, I’m gloating about my camera; why not, when it was able to take more than satisfactory photos despite our seat being just a few feet away from Mt. Everest?
I was monitoring how things were at the Araneta practically the entire day yesterday. From what I gathered, people have lined up as early as the previous night just to get first dibs at exchanging their Bench invites to actual tickets. Seating is first come, first served, so the earlier they got to the venue, the better. However, after seeing how the moshpit looked like one huge lump of hot oatmeal from where we were seated, I was actually glad that we got nosebleed seats. (Well, actually, we had no choice but to get nosebleed seats because we were late in getting our invites. ) Yes, that also means we’ll be seeing an ant-sized Lee Min Ho, but at least there was no threat of heatstroke, or worse, death by stampede.
So anyway… I was almost late for the event despite leaving the office one hour earlier because traffic was two hours worse than normal. I was afraid that I’ll be experiencing Big Bang Alive In Manila Part Deux: Missing The First 15 Minutes, and this will be worse because, what if Lee Min Ho would go up the stage just to smile, wave and say hello and then the event will be over in 10-20 minutes tops? It’s possible, you know. When I reached the Green Gate of Araneta and was frantically calling Lou to tell her to come bring my ticket, I can already hear screams from inside the venue. Thankfully, it’s just them reacting to whatever was being shown on the big screens. I only had to wait about 10 minutes before Hans, the audience jester, appeared on stage to make some announcements and basically prep the audience up with what’s going to happen. This went on for about 30 minutes before the event officially started.
The show opened with some cover group performing… Nobody by the Wonder Girls. Uh, are we in 2009?? It was followed up by a Super Junior cover group performing… Sorry, Sorry. Seriously, people. It’s nearly the end of 2012. It’s the Gangnam Style era. Why are we stuck in a time warp that happened three years ago?
Also, I find it really sad that we’re all very proud of the fact that Filipinos are good entertainers, and I know for a fact that there are so many really good K-pop cover groups around. And yet we are stuck with these two, uh, not-so-good performers as opening act for Lee Min Ho.
Thankfully, the next two groups were really, really good. The 2NE1 girls (who performed Fire – seriously, 2009?) were soooo good and soooo hot, and the Gangnam Style guys (finally, something from this era) weren’t as good as them but still infinitely better than the first two. At least their segment ended with a bang.
After that, TV host Sam Oh went on stage, which means that Lee Min Ho is up next. To say that there was Pandemonium is an understatement. My ears are still ringing from all my seatmates’ screaming.
Musings, Comments and Observations (wow, I sound like my audit reports):
1. I know what you’re going to ask: is Lee Min Ho good looking in person? My answer: I have no idea. We were too far from the stage and his face was kinda small, so he looked like a small blur from where we were. I only saw his face up close (well, not so much) through my camera’s viewfinder, which basically does not count as ‘seeing Lee Min Ho in person’.
2. Lee Min Ho does seem to be sincerely nice, though. His face was beamed on several large screens on the stage and at the scoreboard hung in the middle of the coliseum rafters so we can clearly see his reaction to everything. Also, can I just say that the cameramen did a splendid job in emphasizing all of Lee Min Ho’s best camera angles? Then again, maybe all of Lee Min Ho’s camera angles are good in the first place?
3. One proof of Lee Min Ho’s immense effect on the Filipino fans: all he did was exhale, and 20,000 ovaries exploded. Crazy, I tell yah. A lot of people have compared him to Jerry Yan who also endorsed Bench years ago and had a fanmeet here.
4. Save for “thank you”, “one, two, three” and “mahal ko kayo”, he spoke entirely in Korean. What’s good is that, unlike some other Korean stars, he didn’t space out while the translator (in this case, Sam Oh) was speaking in English or Filipino. In fact, there were moments when he would react as if he knew exactly what Sam was saying, even if she was talking to the audience in Filipino.
5. Two things I truly appreciate about Lee Min Ho at the event last night: (a) when he was asked if he wants to try any Filipino food/dish. What he did was to ask the fans to recommend a particular Pinoy dish to him, and whatever we recommend will be his dinner after the show. Naturally, the general consensus was to recommend adobo which, I think, was pretty lame. Why not something more adventurous? Nothing extreme like balut; sisig or kare-kare would’ve been more fun.
The best part was, LMH fulfilled his promise. He Tweeted a photo of him having adobo for dinner after the show. He even paired it with San Miguel Beer.
I would like to say thank you to all the fans who made out to the Bench event. Adobo ^^ Masarab!반가웠어요 ^^twitpic.com/bdqifg
— Lee Min Ho (@ActorLeeMinHo) November 16, 2012
6. The second thing that I appreciated about Lee Min Ho: (b) When approached the fans at the moshpit to ask for food recommendations, naturally, everyone pushed and shoved in an attempt to get closer to the stage. Lee Min Ho paused for a moment and said something away from the mic to Sam. It turned out, he was concerned about the safety of the fans at the moshpit area, particularly those in front who are being mashed by those barreling in from the back. He even asked in Korean (and then translated by Sam) if they’re ok, if they’re sure that no one was getting hurt. I saw the real concern on his face through the lens of my camera. I must admit – and yes, Bitter Nimbus Cloud coming – that I got a lump on my throat and got a bit teary eyed at that gesture. Here comes another proof that not all Korean A-list celebrities are cold and all ‘business as usual’ toward their fans.
7. And speaking of fan service, Lee Min Ho definitely has it. He knows how to tickle the fans’ fancies. He knows exactly how to angle his face and give that killer smile. He knows what gestures will make everyone scream. He even leans in closer to the fan during photo ops. And when he hugs someone, he REALLY hugs them. It might seem a bit too ‘showbiz’, though, but this guy knows his business.
8. Is it really customary to ask any male foreign visitor if he would consider having a Filipino girlfriend? Does anyone really expect that said foreign visitor would not answer with, “not a chance, Filipino women are not my type”?
9. This is the part where things will get ugly and I will go up my soapbox again.
In the beginning, me and Lou were applauding the fans – all contest participants/winners – who had the chance to go up the stage and have an up-close encounter with Lee Min Ho. Everyone seemed to be aware of the do’s and don’ts of meeting a Korean celebrity: Keep your distance, no inappropriate skinship, definitely no kissing. Everyone was either giving a respectful bow or just waved, and would only shake hands with or hug Lee Min Ho if he’s the one who initiated it. There was even one finalist in the Lee Min Ho Act A-Like contest who was all excited and screaming and everything when she got onstage, but she never did anything inappropriate. She just unleashed her excitement on Sam Oh instead of on LMH.
I thought this event will be free of any praying mantises. Nope. Spoke too soon. Everything was proceeding smoothly… until the very last contestant of the night.
Since she was the last contestant in the Spin-The-Wheel game and the only prize left was a handshake, she must’ve thought that getting just a handshake from Lee Min Ho would be totally lame. She probably wasn’t aware that all contestants before her got so much more than their actual prizes. The other fan who also won a handshake did the right thing: she asked permission from Lee Min Ho if she could hug him, as well. LMH himself opened his arms wide and gave her a hug. See? He’s very gracious towards fans as long as they ask nicely. In most cases, he’s even the one initiating the hug and the cutesy moments if he observed that the fan was distancing herself from him. However, this woman, whatever she was thinking, decided to take matters into her own hands. As soon as she entered the stage, she made a beeline towards Lee Min Ho and gave him a big hug on his waist.
One surprise hug would’ve been enough, and LMH seemed to be okay with that. But nooooo, she simply was not contented with just one hug! She hugged him again. And again. And again. You can see in the photo below that LMH was already struggling to free himself from her cudgels.
After the gazillionth hug, one Filipino staff approached them and escorted her away from LMH. Sam Oh, who looked like she wanted to hide under the stage from second-hand embarrassment (and I assume, because everyone within her hearing distance were already hurling not-so-nice words at the woman), spoke about trying to understand the fan for wanting so much more than what she is supposed to get because Filipinos are passionate fans (ehrm, Ms. Oh, ‘passionate’ is different from ‘stupid’). That should’ve been the fan’s cue to stop embarrassing herself in front of Lee Min Ho and thousands of other people and behave properly. But noooooo, she’s not done yet! Sam said it’s time for her to claim her actual prize, which was the handshake. She shook LMH’s hand, and then hugged him again. This time, LMH’s personal bodyguard approached and literally pulled her out of there. Someone Tweeted me to say that she was observing LMH’s manager as this was happening and the manager was visibly irate at the fan.
What’s sadder is that, this fan is not exactly young. The other handshake winner, the one who knows her manners, was young enough to be her daughter.
The saddest? After that incident, it was very clear from Lee Min Ho’s face as beamed at the big screens that he was affected by what happened. There was a hint of panic in his eyes, and his smiles were not as bright as it were before the incident. It took a while before he was able to recover and said his goodbyes with a happier composure.
So yeah, I’m going to ask this question again: what is it about Pinoys and our mentality that we could invade the private space of any celebrity just because they’re celebrities? And why are there people who simply ignore all rules and even basic GMRC just because they think they can? Do they even pause and think how his/her action will affect the whole fandom? Do they care at all?
I sincerely hope that this isolated incident will not affect Lee Min Ho’s next public appearances on Sunday. I’m not too confident about that, though. In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if his bodyguard will be standing close to him at all times while they’re still here in the Philippines.
Here are the photos I took from the event. For better viewing, you may click on ‘FS’ to load the photos in Full Screen mode. Feel free to share them, but will full credits, please. Thank you!