Before anything else, what’s an ‘ahjumma’? It’s the Korean word for ‘Manang’ or for married women, or for women in their 30s and above, married or not [unless or until they become grandmothers that the ahjumma becomes a halmoni]. ^___^
Korean Kpop Superstar Rain [Bi in Hangeul] or Jung Ji Hoon [in real life] became widely popular when he starred in the kdrama hit ‘Full House’ in 2004. Rain starred in Hollywood’s Speed Racer [2008?] and Ninja Assassin . Me and my sister [the other ahjumma, and my partner in my asiandrama foolishness, hehehe], were already fans of Rain way before Full House in the drama ‘Sangdoo, Let’s Go to School’. I have to admit though, that it was in Full House that I became his fan to the highest level. Yeah, my sister and I went to South Korea and visited the set of ‘Full House’ in 2008.
I was scheduled to be in Manila from Sept. 10-12, 2010 coming from a court hearing in Dumaguete. I did not hear of Rain’s Intensity Concert in Manila slated in September 11, 2010. I thank my friend Kristine who took time to ask me if I were watching. It did not take two hours. I bought our VIP tickets immediately.
September 10 was later on declared as national holiday because it was Eid’l Fitr [the end of Ramadan]. Therefore, my trip to Manila should have been canceled. Thank God for my supportive, generous and understanding husband, he told me to proceed to Manila nevertheless and make the trip to purposely watch the concert. He paid for my sister’s and mine’s [pricey] VIP tickets and my plane fare. Well, hubby is not new to my kdrama and kpop fixations, hehehe. He watches kdramas with me. He traveled to South Korea [and to Japan] with me too. He was thrilled for us that we were finally meeting Rain – he knows Rain belongs to the top of my list and is VIP in my kpopworld!
The concert was finalized barely three weeks from its schedule. Yeah, so sad to hear the groans of the students who did not have time to save and buy concert tickets. I bought our tickets three days after the formal announcement was made.
After I bought our tickets, I somehow found myself stumbling into the facebook page of CloudPh, the official fan club of Rain in the Philippines. Thank goodness, I found it. I registered and paid for my sister and me as members. CloudPh facilitated buying of tickets for fans especially those from overseas who were flying in to watch the concert. CloudPh was able to make arrangements that the tickets be discounted at 50% for the members. I was like, WHATTTT!!!, hehehe! Members of CloudPh told us that their tickets were not discounted too and yeah, sometimes, being fans of Rain come with a hefty price tag. CloudPh was even making arrangements that fans get certain discounts at some hotels — and I think this included Manila Hotel where Rain was staying. CloudPh likewise worked for the printing of our shirts and the procurement of our light sticks. When some 60-70 Rain fan members from Japan arrived, CloudPh personally assisted them. Whoa, good job to CloudPh, especially the officers!
As the official fanclub, CloudPh was also told and requested to keep Rain’s stay quiet, meaning no picture taking, autograph signing, etc…of course, we fans obliged. I would have wanted to linger at Manila Hotel and stalk him in the shooting of kdrama “Runaway aka Fugitive” but being a fan, we had to obey the request. This notwithstanding, the officers of CloudPh were silently there in the sidelines – presscon, the shooting, the airport, etc. I think two of them appeared on national TV during the [first and postponed] press conference of Rain where one even sang Rain’s song, omo, omo!
The day before the concert, we went to Mall of Asia to claim our tshirts and our light sticks. It was nice being in the company of the fans. You know, it was so liberating being with everybody who shares your passion. We understood each other. We spoke of Rain, dropping phrases of Korean and laughed together. A lot of ahjummas in that meeting. Rain was already asked in an interview I saw on Arirang Channel about his fan base mostly composed of older women to which he answered he was flattered and grateful. It’s really true, the ahjummas thing [including us]. In fact, the officials of CloudPh appear to be in their late 40s [no offense made if they’re younger, hehehe]. I say, ain’t it better his fans are older and earning money? I later heard his Japanese fans hoarded Rain’s Back to Basic album in Odyssey the day before the concert. The cd costs P 650.00 but I think compared to the price in Japan, they found it very cheap. We got our copies too.
After buying his newest album, my sister and I stayed up late that night to memorize the songs [hip song, hip song, hip song ♪♫♪] so that we can sing with him the next day. We only memorized the English version of Love Song [but Rain sang the Korean Version, aigoo!].
CloudPh told us to be at the venue by 9AM. My sister was still doing rounds in Philippine General Hospital and I was still accompanying my beloved niece to her ballet class after which we met my friend JC Guapo and had lunch together. It was only around 2pm that we arrived at the left side VIP entrance. First on the line were the Japanese fans [who were around 70 in number]. The guard told us they already camped out at 2AM of September 11.
It was the plan of my sister that while waiting, we will listen to the new songs of Rain and memorize the lyrics too. The songs are not new to me but I did not bother to memorize it word for word before : ). She copied the songs from the cd to her new Samsung phone. The lyrics also. Ending: fail — the files won’t open!!!!
Waiting outside the MOA Open Grounds, we could hear UKiss practice the song “One Sweet Day” and some of their songs. UKiss, a pop boy band from Korea was also a front act of Rain [the other being Christian Bautista]. The website of ticketworld said gates open at five, but at about 5pm, we suspected it was Rain who was practicing/trying the microphones. Over and over again. He did not sing the whole songs, just some intros. We heard him outside and us, we started screaming. It was at that moment that it finally dawned to me that I was finally seeing him for real. The familiar melody of Hip Song played and us fans shouted and jumped. Tears were already forming in my eyes and goosebumps filled my arms. I already told my sister I was gonna cry when I see him sing live.
A few minutes after six in the evening, the gates were opened. Hya and I ran and managed to be in the front of the VIP area. In front of us was the moshpit [for the sponsors and some fans who managed to buy tickets with only 300 slots — the slots closed before I even bought our tickets]. From where we were, the stage was about twenty meters. My sister was worried because it looked like the people weren’t filling the open grounds fully. I wasn’t worried because I know it will soon pack up in Filipino time. As expected, it was only around 7Pm that people began arriving. Whoa, the fans came in all ages. The ahjummas, the teenagers and the tweens. The girls at my back came with their lola [grandmother] who was also a fan of Rain. I understand the lola. A lot of lolas [halmonis] there as well. My mother even wanted to watch Rain too. jeoltero andwae! She has a bone problem so I told her to stay put.
While waiting for the hands of time to turn 8PM, it was so weird that the songs played were songs of Michael Jackson [wth!]. Thank goodness, it was latter replaced by ads of ABC-5 and other major sponsors of the concert.
A few minutes after 8:00PM, KC Montero appeared as emcee. He first introduced Christian Bautista who walked in singing his version of ‘Beautiful Girl’. I was afraid the impatient fans of UKiss and Rain will boo. Thankfully, the crowd cheered for him and even sang along. He got some Japanese fan from the front to come up the stage. The Japanese girl kissed him, whahahaha! I honestly liked Christian. In between the three songs he sang, he was particularly making it clear that he was only there to open the concert. He kept saying ‘okay, one song down, two songs until Rain’. I applaud him for that — in the local scene, Christian belongs to the cream of the crop, but he was so humble to give the moment to Rain.
When Christian finished singing his three songs, KC came out again and introduced UKiss. It was Ukiss’ third time in the Philippines so I understand the thousands of fans as well, mostly made up of teens and tweens. Just to be clear though, the fans of UKiss are likewise fans of Rain — I asked the fans while we were lining up. I mean, yeah in Kpopworld, Rain is like God; the younger singers idolize him and of course, no kpop fan does not know Rain.
When UKiss came in, OMG, Hya and I screamed along. I am no stranger to UKiss since I am also a sucker of KPop and their songs are familiar to me too. What got us screaming was that they were all so beautifully handsome kids! They were so near us, omona, I felt like I was watching KBS World’s Music Bank. They only sang four songs, but since majority of the group spoke English, we had so much fun in their adlibs. They were even imitating the dance moves of Miss A [Kpop girl band]. It was at this point that I noticed the guys in front of us in the company of a local celebrity mock them, commenting they were gays. It took all my strength not to correct them or not to tell on them to the girls at my sides and at the back who were wildly screaming ‘oppa!’ to the boys. I wanted to tell them they weren’t gays. They were presented as metrosexuals consistent with kpop culture, but certainly, not gay, damn you ignorant folks [get out of here if you’re not a fan!]. Ukiss likewise imitated the dance moves of Rain in Love Song and they couldn’t quite get it right, they apologized. That dance move looked so easy on Rain to me but Hya said it was so difficult. After seeing UKiss, I concede it was a tough dance to follow.
After UKiss bid goodbye [btw, after that performance, I’m now a fan of UKiss!], the sponsors to the show had to plug some more. While the screen kept showing future TV 5 shows, the crowd started screaming. I looked up front. Rain [or his shadow, hehehe] was already at the side of the stage that was only covered by a flimsy black screen cloth. At first he was merely sitting down, but as the ads went on, he began stretching his body. I was getting ready to faint. Or die in a few seconds.
When the familiar set up of his concerts came about, like the clouds forming on the large screens and audio effects, the crowd got crazy. In a bat of the eyelash, suddenly, he was in the stage. My God! I could clearly see him! It’s as if I’m watching TV, he was so near. The beginnings of It’s Raining filled the grounds and then, I totally lost it! I stopped taking pictures and just focused all of me to him. I was etching it all to my memory. I was screaming so hard that I had to stop because I was finding it hard to breathe. Then I got dizzy. I had to stop and calm down. Lord God, when Rain removed his shades and flashed his usual childish grin, I had died and gone to heaven. Promise.
Rain sang around 10 songs and performed non stop for 50 minutes. He only spoke once [in Hangeul!] at the start of the show. The rest of the time, he danced passionately and powerfully. As my sister said, his body was fluid. It was like seeing the videos on TV. He performed fantastically. The level of his energy was constant, steady, the same from start to end, amidst all the difficult dance moves he had to do while singing. My sister and I danced with him the night before in the Hip Song video and sang too. We got dizzy and out of breath. But Rain, omona, he pulled it off 50 minutes straight. I have gone to concerts of local artists and somehow, what we hear on the cd and what we see at the TV differ from the live performance. Artists even have to talk to the audience several minutes to catch their breath. Not Rain. My gosh, his voice, his voice, his voice! I’ve been listening to that voice for years. It was booming across the whole open ground. The same quality. The same timbre. I’m currently listening to Rain’s songs while writing this entry and I’m going crazy, chungmal.
The stage effects were likewise the same with his usual concerts abroad. The out of this world fireworks which coincide with the songs and his dance moves, the confetti at the end of the show, the visual presentation on the wide screen accompanying his songs too. The props and the costumes to his music videos were maintained as well. Like I said, it was watching a live music video.
I had predicted the songs he will likely sing and I’m proud to say, I got 90% correct. He sang my all time fave “I Do” and “Instead of Saying Goodbye”. The songs were all memorized from the heart and I sang with Rain at the top of my lungs. The younger fans around me memorized each Korean word of the songs, omo, omo! In fact, when Rain was speaking in Hangeul, apologizing that he will only speak in Korean, the fans around me were screaming ‘gaenjanayo’ [it’s okay] and fluently mumbled something more. The young girl beside me was screaming ‘it’s ok, i learned korean for you!’. hmmm, this ahjumma got envious [and has since resumed studying the language].
The concert was finished too soon. The seconds ticked so fast! I didn’t mind though. Rain was already bathe in his own sweat heavily. He was even sprinkling the sweat from his hair to the fans, hahaha! I saw him, performing his best, without fail and I said to myself, I want him to rest already. I could see how he was giving it his all and I was so happy to see him sing and dance live, but as a fan, it was enough for me. I didn’t want him exerting more energy. There weren’t any adlibs and he only left the stage three times to change and came back in less than two minutes to spontaneously continue with the bombastic show.
When he sang his song ‘Instead of Saying Goodbye’ …[ smile a little smile for me ♪♫♪], I knew that was the last song. Said song was always the last song in his concerts. Funny, I thought I would cry when I’d see him. My tears were even on the brink of falling while he was still practicing. When I saw him, I was so starstruck, I was so consumed by his mere presence, I was in the state of disbelief, that my brain could not process the fact that it was time to cry. I just watched his every move, every smile. Up to this day, his face that night lies vividly in my memory. I need only to close my eyes, and it’s that night all over again.
I went to Manila and watched Rain because the mere thought of not going already brought a dull ache in my heart. My sister and I thought that experience will be enough to last a lifetime. After the concert, while walking to find a taxi, we resolved that was just the beginning. Definitely, we shall be seeing Rain after he comes out from mandatory military service two years from 2011 and watch him live again. In Korea. Or anywhere he may be.
♥♥ Rain ♥♥