Wednesday, 29 June 2016

Seoul Spot: Gangnam Station's Exit 11

Gangnam Station is one of Seoul's busiest stations. During weekdays, commuters crowd this station on their way to their work at buildings and establishments located near the station. 
          (I forgot the name of this K-pop girl band)

On weekends, couples and friends wanting to meet up at cafes and restaurants in Gangnam pass through Gangnam Station as well, although some would also get off at Sinnonhyeon Station, which is right next to Kyobo Building. 
                 (Gail, Therese and some Korean guys 
                     giving away free t-shirts)
But with the addition of the Shinbundang Line that connects the Green Line through Gangnam Station, this station even gets more pedestrian traffic every day! And night!

And speaking of traffic, that spot at the main Gangnam intersection, the one next to Exit 11 where Psy's silhouette stands under 'GANGNAM STYLE', the words he made famous with his monster hit, has become a venue for marketing events. 
          (A very crowded Gangnam Station spot)

A few years back, when I toured my friend Maria around Gangnam one early morning, it was only Psy who welcomed her to the spot. But last week, when I toured my friends Gail and Therese, there were some upcoming Korean actors, and K-pop boy and girl band members, who were promoting an advocacy and giving out t-shirts. And since we were already there, why not join the crowd and get some freebies as well? Ha-ha-ha!  

Gail and Therese had fun mingling with the celebrities (we didn't even know their names!), asking for photos with them and their autographs on the free t-shirts. I also got a t-shirt but I didn't have it dirtied with autographs as I plan to wear it during weekends and I don't want my neighbors to think that I don't know how to wash my shirts. Ha-ha-ha!
                        (A mime in orange)

So, if you're passing through Gangnam Station this summer, you might want to swing around Exit 11. Who knows? You might get a free shirt, too!

Monday, 20 June 2016

Ballet Philippines Dances in Seoul!

And it was a full house! 

The Hoam Art Hall in Seoul should have had more seats to accommodate more guests that night, a special night to celebrate the 2016 Philippine Independence Day in Seoul, Korea.

What made the night extra special was the visit of Ballet Philippines to Korea "in celebration of mutual understanding and respect for distinctiveness and in furthering awareness of the artistry and genius of Philippine dance", according to the Philippine Secretary of Foreign Affairs Jose Almendras.

Ballet Philippines is regarded as the country's premier ballet and contemporary dance company, and I wasn't surprised that empty seats inside the Hoam Art Hall became scarcer and scarcer as the clocked ticked six in the evening. By the time the lights dimmed, it was a full house!
Ballet Philippines treated its audience in Seoul to a collection of 'Masterpieces: Celebrating the Tapestry of Filipino Culture and Friendship', that ranged from the neo-classical, to pieces from full-length ballets, to a suite choreographed by no less than Miss Alice Reyes herself, Philippine National Artist for Dance, and to a mesmerizing piece danced to an upbeat 'Lahat ng Araw' kundiman with male dancers playing with their red Chinese abanicos while wearing red ruffled skirts.

But the performance ended with a bang! Literally. Banging of bakya, that is! With all the dancers wearing wooden slippers (or bakya in Pilipino), the whole stage turned into a party place of rhythm, dance and fun! A typical Filipino party to celebrate the Philippine Independence Day!
And for this rare night of a Ballet Philippines performance in Seoul, we thank the dancers, Paul Alexander Morales, its artistic director, Miss Margie Moran-Floirendo, its president, Ambassador Raul Hernandez and the Philippine Embassy in Seoul!
    (Jean Marc Cordero and Jemima Sanielle Reyes 
                       as Diana and Actaeon)
At the reception following the performance, I chatted with Miss Margie Moran and thanked her for bringing BP to Seoul. She told me she and the company were able to visit the Seoul Tower and a palace during their stay in Seoul. The company was to fly to Indonesia for their next performance.
                                  (Tambol at Padyak!)
                    ('Drum and Beats' number)

We also chatted with Jean Marc Cordero, principal dancer, and Rita Angela Winder, junior principal dancer, and thanked them for this rare treat. Jean Marc educated me on how a 'prima ballerina' title is earned, while I told Rita that someday, the words 'prima ballerina' will follow her name. 
                                          (The company)
This year's Philippine Independence Day  was indeed special with the visit from Ballet Philippines. We hope, in the years to come, more performances showcasing the Filipino talent and culture will be enjoyed here in Korea.

My friends and I salute these Filipino artists and their artistry!


            (Margie Moran, Ambassador Hernandez 
                  and Paul Alexander Morales)

   (Miss Margie Moran-Floirendo with well-wishers) 
      (The reception hall filled with members of the                   diplomatic corps, the Filipino community 
                  and Korean friends)

Saturday, 18 June 2016

Grimm TV Series: Aswang, The Imported Witch

               (An aswang husband)

I grew up listening to stories about ghosts and witches. In the Philippines, witches are called 'aswang' and my childhood was filled with scary stories not just about aswang, but of other night creatures of the Philippine folklore

And if you're a fan of the American supernatural TV series Grimm, you probably have been educated about those night creatures that make the Portland police department's work more interesting.

And one night, as I was switching channels to avoid those Korean reality TV shows full of faces fresh from plastic surgery clinics in Gangnam, I chanced upon Grimm. And to my delightful surprise, the show was about aswang!

The storyline was simple: A Filipino couple living in Portland; the wife was pregnant; and the husband's mother was the aswang, who was after the fetus of her daughter-in-law so she could eat it to live longer! And of all the titles they could think of, they named the episode 'Mommy Dearest' (Season 3, Episode 14). Ha-ha-ha!

Mommy Dearest Is Aswang, if you asked me. Ha-ha-ha!

Although I know it was difficult for the Grimm writers to fit a Filipino aswang into a stateside setting, I was impressed with two things in the story: the aswang made the 'tik-tik' sound at night when it's near its prey, and the grandmother, the aswang, sang 'Ili-ili, tulog anay', an Ilonggo lullaby!

That 'tik-tik' sound is true. I have actually heard it from numerous aswang stories and I must have heard it myself when I was in my teens.

And the lullaby? I grew up listening to that haunting melody!

The Ilonggo language is spoken in the provinces in the middle part of the Philippines where I grew up and I could not believe that the aswang was actually Ilonggo! The aswang made me feel...scary proud! Ha-ha-ha!

The grandmother was played by Fredah Foh Shen, and if it was really her singing the lullaby, then I am aswang-ishly impressed!

But I wished they did more research on how the aswang actually looks like because when the husband (played by Alain Uy) and his mother transformed, they simply looked like one of the creatures from Constantine, the movie. They didn't look like the Filipino aswang.

So, if you haven't seen the replay of that episode, you can probably search it online. 

Thanks to Grimm and Reggie Lee (a Filipino actor in the series who plays Sergeant Drew Wu), I enjoyed watching this episode about an imported witch. 

Now, can you please feature a kapre? 

(Credit to Grimm Wikia for photo above)

Monday, 13 June 2016

Philippine Independence Day 2016 @ Banpo Park in Seoul!

In Cavite, the Philippines, on June 12, 1898, the Acta de la Proclamacion de Independencia del Pueblo Filipino, or the Act of the Proclamation of Independence, was read by its author Ambrosio Rianzares Bautista in an event led by Emilio Aguinaldo, the first president of the Republic of the Philippines.
       (Stumbled upon this happy bunch of Filipinos)

Today, June 12, 2016, Philippine Ambassador to South Korea, Raul Hernandez led the Filipino Community in Seoul to celebrate the 118th anniversary of the historic declaration of independence from Spain.
                   (Ambassador Raul Hernandez having 
            his photo taken during the celebration)
              (The Ambassador and Mrs. Hernandez)

The celebration, held at Banpo Park just next to the man-made floating islands, kicked off with a Holy Mass early in the morning and continued on until late afternoon with speeches, a short parade, entertainment and performances, and raffling off of fun prizes. 

The parade featured several Filipino organizations, including participants wearing Igorot costumes, Santa Cruzan gowns, as well as colorful Masskara, Ati-Atihan and Kadayawan costumes. I would have wanted my photo taken with the Masskara costumed-participants, but forgot about it with all the fun around. 

And as in any huge Filipino gathering, there were food stalls selling Filipino food and desserts; there was even a lechon stall!
                        (The popular lechon)

The Seoul Global Center and some businesses that cater to the needs of migrant workers also had their own booths.
                   (The Masskara festival costumes!)
The Banpo Park was also the venue when the same Filipino celebration was held years ago in Seoul.

Thanks to the cloudy weather, the hot summer temperatures cooled down today and sitting on the park enjoying the entertainment and Filipino food was comfortable.

But in 1898, at Cavite, the weather during that time must have been warm and humid as the declaration of independence was read and the Philippine flag was first unfurled. That day, only a handful of Filipinos witnessed the Republic's historic claim of freedom and independence. Today, in 2016, we Filipinos in South Korea join the millions of Filipinos all over the world in remembering those who fought for our freedom and keeping in mind that it should not be taken for granted.

And although we have always waved and displayed our national colors every June 12, we should not forget that the freedom that came with it was not handed to us for free; it was paid with blood and lives of those who came before us. That we should always remember not just on this day, but every moment we identify ourselves as Filipinos.
Maligayang Araw ng Kalayaan!

Happy Independence Day!

                       (A short clip of the parade)