Saturday, 28 August 2010

The Myeongdong Cathedral

For Catholics, attending the Holy Mass on Sundays is sort of a religious obligation. Sort of. (I sometimes miss it! Forgive me, Father, for I have…overslept! Ha-ha-ha!)
And where do most Catholics in Seoul go to hear the Holy Mass? Where else but at the Myeongdong Cathedral!

The Cathedral is the seat of the Archdiocese of Seoul and is perhaps the most popular of the Catholic churches in South Korea. How can you go wrong with such a location when you’re located next to the most popular shopping spot in Seoul: Myeong-dong?

As they say, God is all-knowing and very wise. I'm pretty sure He has a hand in picking up the location of the Cathedral, because, after hearing Mass, his chosen people can just go down the main road and head down to the Myeong-dong shopping lane and reward themselves with some shopping at the stores and boutiques for the latest trends in Korean fashion!

Of course, whenever I visit Myeong-dong, I always make sure I also visit the Myeongdong Cathedral. And the best view of the Cathedral is at the steps, where one can look up and admire its Gothic architecture and its towering 45-meter high steeple imposing its presence against the backdrop of the clear blue skies.

Its construction started in 1892 and was inaugurated in 1898. Standing there, right in the middle of Seoul, the Cathedral has witnessed for more than a hundred years, how this city and the Catholic faithful were persecuted, survived and eventually flourished to what they are now today.

On certain church holidays in the Catholic calendar, I visit the Cathedral to celebrate with the rest of the Catholics, both Korean and foreigners, sitting there at the nave among the congregation, professing both faith and religion.

But on certain weekends, when the Cathedral has become a venue for weddings, it is turned into a mall by noisy guests and friends probably of the groom and the bride as they stand and chat with each other right in the middle of the aisle like it was another high school reunion.

As I understand that at Korean weddings which are usually held at wedding halls, guests and well-wishers can chat all they want, I hope that these people would show respect and reverence for the Cathedral, where other people sitting at the pew are there to perhaps pray and commune with God. Sadly, how can one silently do this when its all chaos and noise all over. Disgusting. I guess this was one thing God failed to foresee: wedding gatecrashers. I hope just hope He does something about them.

So, the next time, I visit the Myeongdong Cathedral, I'll do it during vespers. No noisy disrespectful, wedding people. I'm sure the whole hallowed place will be quiet, when the only things one can hear are one's prayer and the voice of God.

Sunday, 15 August 2010

Open The Gwanghwamun!

“Jonesy… the gate!”

Those were Norma Desmond’s words when she wanted to enter the Paramount Studios. Not exactly the words of the Joseon dynasty king when he wanted to enter or leave his palace.

And after four years of restoration, finally today, August 15, 2010, on the 65th anniversary of Korea’s liberation from the Japanese colonization, everyone in Seoul can say just that: Open the Gwanghwamun!

The Gwanhwamun was built in 1395 during the Joseon dynasty, by the way, as the gate of the Gyeongbok Palace. (‘Mun’ means ‘gate’).

I have yet to see the newly restored gate yet. And I’m not planning to soon as the summer temperatures are not that enjoyable during the day. Perhaps, in the early autumn, I would.

In the meantime, here are the photos I took of the covered Gwanghwamun last year while it was still under the restoration.

I stood there, staring at the orange mosaic cover, expecting it to come down and expose the fully restored gate while I was there that day. Instead, I saw a traffic of colored city buses passing. (And smelled their exhaust fumes during the process).

The next time I stand there, I’m sure I will see the Gwanghwamun, in its full splendor, just like what the Joseon king saw for himself when he commanded.…

“Open the Gwanghwamun!”

Wednesday, 11 August 2010

Jose Antonio Nigro's Photo Exhibition at Jay Gallery, Insadong

Jose Antonio Nigro, an Italian-Venezuelan friend living in Seoul, is exhibiting a collection of his photographs in an exhibition he calls Paths and Reflections, which opened yesterday, August 11, 2010, and will run until the 17th.

Displaying his favorite photos from his travels around the world, Jose Antonio lets his audience into his reflection on his journey of life and places.

Being a photography enthusiast myself, I am always happy to lend support to fellow photographers and discover (through their eyes and lenses) the artistry in their photographs.

His friends, including me, were thrilled (and honored) to have been invited to his first exhibit (and definitely not the last!) and share in his excitement to finally let the city of Seoul get a glimpse into his photography.

Felicidades, Jose Antonio!

Congratulations on your successful exhibit!

Jose Antonio's exhibit is at Jay Gallery, located at B1 of the SK-HUB Building, between Exit 5 and 6 of Angguk Station (near the Insa-dong area). For more details of his exhibit, do check out his website:

Saturday, 7 August 2010

The Rainy Weekend and Se7en Are Back!

It was supposed to be quiet, lazy Saturday morning.

I expected birds to be singing while perched on my neighbor's persimmon branches under the bright summer sky.

I also expected to see around the neighborhood moms taking the kids on a walk and on strollers, enjoying the weekend morning while their dads were still in bed trying to catch up on sleep.

I also expected people leisurely having brunches at the restaurants along the main street in the neighborhood (in Hannam-dong), starting their relaxing weekend with pancakes and omelettes.

But....the weather made sure those were not to be.

Instead of birds singing, I heard the deafening thunder which became my alarm today, waking me up from a very restful night's sleep.

Instead of families strolling down the main street, heavy rains showered all over the neighborhood (and the city), drenching rooftops and unfortunate pedestrians caught in the deluge.

And instead of filled brunch restaurants, customers were scarce.

With thunder and lightning brandishing a sound-and-light show over the city's skies, coupled with the heavy rains threatening to inundate the neighborhood all day long, who wouldn't want to stay indoors?

And indoors, it was.

Trapped with only my laptop and the television, I was reduced to sending emails and flipping TV channels....until I stopped on a channel playing some Korean pop music.

It turned out that the show featured the top songs in this part of the peninsula for the week. And the number 1 song? "Better Together" sung by Seven, or as he writes it, 'Se7en'.

I thought he looked familiar. I suddenly remember, I have met this guy! Not in Korea, but in a restaurant in Koreatown in Los Angeles!

It was in a tofu restaurant where my friends treated me to lunch while I was in LA.

I remember Se7en was seated with his companion across our table and I told my friends he looked familiar. It took me a while to recall who he was, and when I did, I told my friends who became more excited than I was! They wanted to meet a Korean pop singer!

So, after Se7en got up after finishing his tofu and crab with chili sauce, I went up to him and asked, "Are you Seven?" At that time, I was also done with my tofu; no crab with chili sauce though. Ha-ha-ha!

Perhaps, he was surprised with my very simple question as he wasn't able to immediately answer. So I just blurted out another sentence - a declarative one this time, "Okay, you are Seven!" Ha-ha-ha!

So there we were, in the middle of the tofu restaurant posing with Se7en, even with the smell of Korean food coming out from our breath as we smiled. Ha-ha-ha!

As expected, other Korean customers asked to pose with him, too, after seeing us grinning next to the Korean singer. He was friendly and accommodating considering he was still digesting lunch. But I guess he was already full at that time.

He was cool. And so is this summer weekend, with the rains bringing the high temperatures down.

Well, congratulations to Se7en on his new hit song, which I found likable as some parts sounded a little bit of American pop, unlike the current Korean pop songs which all sound like monotonous, tuneless cheering to me without the 'rah-rah-rah' part. Ha-ha-ha! (Oops!)

I'm sure my friends would also want to wish him success in his comeback to the Korean pop music scene. I'm sharing one of the photos with him.

By the way, 해물순두푸 (tofu in seafood stew) is my favorite dish nowadays.

Back to bed...

Tuesday, 3 August 2010

Angelina Jolie's SALT -- the must-see movie of 2010!

And she didn't disappoint! Angelina Jolie's SALT, that is!

As if seeing Angelina Jolie at the SALT press conference wasn't enough, I had a ticket to the premiere! And thanks again to some wonderful friends who made sure I had premiere tickets, I hurried to Times Square, that huge mall next to the Yeongdongpu Station, where Angelina would show up again!

The Starium, CGV Times Square's showcase cinema, which reportedly has the widest screen in Asia (and it was indeed w---i---d---e!), was where the SALT premiere was going to be.

And when I got there, the area and the escalators around the red carpet where she would pass and greet her fans were all filled with screaming fans awaiting her arrival.

And you can just imagine the chaos when she did arrive! The screams got louder and the pushing got harder! I pity the CGV personnel who were trying to block the path leading to the red carpet, trying as they could to limit the fans into the area. The security guards must have had a tough time trying to get the fans off the escalators leading to the Starium.

But after she greeted her fans, she went into the Starium to greet the lucky ones (me included) who had tickets to the premiere! She was gorgeous (as usual) in a black dress. There were a couple of fans who created statues for her; one was pregnant, the other not. She was visibly touched by the efforts (it took them three months to make the statues) that she asked them to come up the stage. She talked to them and gave them a hug. Luckily, they didn't faint! Hahaha!

Well, she didn't stay long. She promised to back next September though, with the whole family! And before she left, she wished everyone a great time watching the movie...and this lucky fan did enjoy it!

It was a different Angelina movie. Full of action and twists and guns! I love it! I couldn't tell you about it here in case you haven't seen it. But I highly recommend that you do watch it!

SALT is the must-see movie of the year!