Monday, 21 April 2014

Rodfest 2014: A Peek Into Hongdae's Rock Scene

The last time I watched a rock concert was on September 2011 at Seoul's Olympic Park when my friend Cathy invited me to join her. Being a reporter for a national daily, she had press tickets to Linkin Park. That night, Chester Bennington, the lead vocalist of the band, blew everyone away with his range and screams.

          (The guitarist of Silent Y wears a skirt and stockings)

But tonight, I ventured into a smaller venue in the Hongdae area of Seoul. Hongdae is known for its club culture where independent musicians perform in bars, clubs, cafes or even on the park, sharing their art with passers-by and fans. And on the last Friday of every month, the 'Club Day' event is held where one can enter multiple clubs in the area with one single ticket purchase, and that's from 9PM until 6AM the next day. 

At Yes24 MUV Hall, which is just a few minutes from Hapjeong Station's Exit 3, Rodfest 2014 celebrated Korea's rock culture by gathering the most popular Korean rock bands: Black Syndrome, NATY, Transfixion, Diablo, Silent Y, Noeazy and the Power Up Project winner, Satellights.

Honestly, I know little about the rock scene in Korea, but luckily, that night at the concert, I was able to chat with Satellights' guitarist Sungwan Bae, drummer Jaehoon Lee (who wasn't able to join the band as he was serving in the military) and Mingeun Song, the vocalist of another rock band, Monday Until Now, Gone - MUNG. Their bands usually perform around the Hongdae area. I learned a few things about Korea's indie rock bands, which made me decide that I should write more about this genre. A million blogs have already written about the K-pop music; it's time to write about another kind of music. As I watched the bands perform, I told Sungwan that rock artists and musicians are the real performers. Every time they were on stage, they gave their all: their vocals were all stretched, their strings and percussions truly expressed their personalities, their connection with the audience very intense and their music was truly their own. Although my eardrums were hammered that night, all the screaming, very loud drumming and intense power chorus on the electric guitar were all rock education for me.

              (Diablo fans running around the hall)

And as I expected, these rockers always had a huge female following, which reminded me of rock singers marrying those gorgeous supermodels: Ric Ocasek and Paulina Porizkova; Rod Stewart and Rachel Hunter; Mick Jagger and Jerry Hall; and David Bowie and Iman, are a few I could remember. Although I didn't spot any supermodel in the crowd, those girls were just as devoted to their favorite rockers as everyone else. One female fan gave a towel to the sleeveless-shirt-wearing guitarist of Diablo, who then wiped his face and neck with it. But before throwing it back to the fan, there was one more surface he wiped the towel with: his left armpit. Eeew! :-) That towel must now be a prized possession: a thick fabric with her favorite musician's sweat, tears and well, a few other scents! Ha-ha-ha!

                                (Jang Hak of Diablo)
I guess Diablo was the more popular among the bands as the fans in the crowd suddenly reacted to each of their song by running around the free space and chest bumping. I guess headbanging wasn't enough. Their running around in circles was as if on cue with the first bar of the rock song started. I would have joined them had I not run for two hours on the tennis courts that morning. Or had I wanted to go home dizzy. Ha-ha-ha!

As I walked around the Yes24 MUV Hall area before I headed home, the restaurants, cafes and bars were just getting crowded. Typical Hongdae on a weekend. I knew that already. But what I wanted to know more was the independent rock culture of the area, which made me think, maybe a few more rock concerts would add to my continuing education on rock music.

A Happy Easter BBQ Party!

After weeks of abstinence, fasting and sacrificing, most Catholics celebrated the Easter Sunday with going to Mass, Easter egg hunting and...eating!

And so, my fellow Filipinos in Seoul and I just had to stick to the tradition!

My first stop was the Myeongdong Cathedral. Of course! Easter Sunday is the most important holiday in the Roman Catholic Church calendar, and this feast day should not be missed by any Catholic. On the Cathedral grounds, the church organizations sold Easter Eggs, the parishioners waiting to get inside the church were lining up by the church doors, and tourists were busy taking photographs. I actually volunteered to take a picture of a Pinoy couple. I made sure their photograph together turned up well.

After Myeongdong Cathedral, I rushed to the Pinoy Market in Hyewha-dong to get the banana-cues I pre-ordered from a Pinay vendor, Junila. Junila's Filipino delicacies are especially yummy and her fried lumpia is the best in the market. Her covered stall is the one nearest the Catholic church, and I told her that I will feature her in this blog soon. After I got the banana-cues, which were mainit-init pa (still warm!), off I hurried back to Hannam-dong on the Blue Bus 140. Fortunately, the smell of caramelized fried bananas did not waft throughout the bus. Otherwise, the other passengers would have asked me where I got my yummy delicacies. Ha-ha-ha! I had to meet up with the Sabados at the Hannam Catholic Church so I could ride with them to the Nardos residence in Itaewon, where we were having our barbecue party.

Everyone brought dishes to our Easter Sunday party: kare-kare, shrimp curry, inihaw na baboy (grilled pork chops) and sausages, pork barbecue, beef tapa, pasta, baked shiitake stuffed mushrooms with cheese, tomato slices with salted egg, eggplants with bagoong and a few more dishes, whose names I forgot but whose taste my tongue could definitely remember. Ha-ha-ha!

And if there's a Pinoy party, there are always Pinoy desserts: bikoputo kutsinta, cassava cake, creme de fruta and of course, banana-cue. Well, there were strawberry cakes, too, but the delicacies were already too much to handle!

But the most fun was not always on the table, it was outdoors, where the kids did some Easter egg hunting, Easter egg-relay race and musical chairs. Although everyone brought prizes for the games, the kids got more interested to join when they learned about the cash prizes.
Thanks to Seoul's spring weather, everyone had fun on our first outdoor party of the year! Spending time with family and friends is definitely memorable, especially on Easter Sunday!

Happy Easter, everyone! 

Wednesday, 16 April 2014

Myeongdong Cathedral: The Lights And Silhouette Of A Religion

It's a different experience visiting the Myeongdong Cathedral at night. The whole structure that is bright, noisy and full of parishioners during the day transforms in the evening into a sanctuary of serene solace this place of worship is meant to be.

When you're standing at the foot of the hill on your way up to the Cathedral, its presence is imposing and its silhouette is very familiar to any Catholic. Or to any Myeongdong tourist. 

And as you enter the Cathedral at night, especially after the Mass when most parishioners have gone, the whole church is so quiet that the only sound you'd hear is your footsteps. Although the whole place looks empty, a few souls silently praying on the pews are actually joined by saints at the altar, reminding everyone that someone somewhere up there is intently listening to the whispered prayers and the most ardent of supplications.

It's Lent.  For Roman Catholics, its the time to pause, reflect and ask 'to forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespassed against us.' And for some, maybe a lot more.

As observing Lent here in Korea isn't that widespread as in the Philippines, a visit to the Myeongdong Cathedral at night after work has become a tradition for me. And when I do visit, the lighting, the shadows, the silhouette and the aura of the center of the Catholic faith in Korea never fail to amaze me or everyone else who walks up the hill and enters the wooden doors of this church.

And in this Holy Week, Catholics will again fill the Cathedral with hymns and prayers, and the traditional Via Crucis, or the Way of the Cross, celebrating each station below the colorful stained glass windows of the Cathedral.

Pope Francis will visit Seoul this year, and when he drops by Myeongdong Cathedral, he'll see what I see: the lights and silhouette of our religion.

Monday, 14 April 2014

Studying The Korean Language with WILD KOREAN!

Lately, I went back to studying hangeul...again!

I actually have studied years ago by enrolling in classes at one of the language institutes in the Jongno area. And these days, I just want to polish and level up on my skills in the Korean language.

Having a full-time job, I found it difficult to squeeze in classes at night far from my workplace, or even during the weekends. Luckily, I stumbled upon this website, where volunteer teachers conduct free Korean classes!

Kongbubang - is just by Exit 2 of the Sookmyung Women's University of Line 4, and they conduct classes on Thursday night and Saturday afternoon.
                                     (At the bus stop!)

As I have been attending these classes, I found a Korean language book to complement my studies. It's the Wild Korean book, which was written by one of our Korean teachers, Mr. Sanghyun Ahn. Compared to the other Korean language books I used before, this one helps me navigate through daily experiences as it provides the vocabulary, grammar and usage for specific situations. It also provides insights into the Korean culture. These days, I carry this book with me: on the bus, in the subway and everywhere else!

But before you use this book, one must have the basic reading skills already as this is NOT for beginners. You must at least have basic knowledge of reading the Korean alphabet and must have a few Korean classes under your belt. It's a highly recommended book for anyone who needs to use the Korean language in his or her daily living...especially for me living in Seoul.

I think this is available in bookstores in Korea. But if you're overseas, here's a link to its page in

So, if you're studying hangeul, too, good luck to our Korean language studies!
                       (With my book in Myeongdong!)

Sunday, 13 April 2014

Avengers Age of Ultron Goes....Gangnam Style!

Maybe Joss Whedon, the director of Avengers: Age of Ultron is a fan of Psy's Gangnam Style. Why? Because he included Gangnam in the select locations for his movie. I wonder if the Avengers superheroes are fans, too.

I like Gangnam. If you like to people-watch or enjoy dinner and drinks with friends on a Friday night or weekend, this place has lots of restaurants, bars and cafes

           (Captain America shuts down Gangnam-daero.)

In 2013, I included this place as one of the stops my friend Maria had to see during her five-hour stopover in Seoul.  I made sure she set foot in the place Psy made famous worldwide. In case you don't know yet, at Exit 11 of Gangnam Station, Psy is there, or at least his silhouette, waiting for anyone to pose with him for picture doing that Gangnam Style pose.

But on April 6, 2014, a Sunday, there wasn't any posing with Psy at Exit 11. Everyone's attention was on the location shooting at the main Gangnam Avenue, or Gangnam-daero.  A week before that, when I ventured to take a peek at the location shooting on Mapo Bridge with my friend Andrew, we didn't see anything from the vantage of Yeouido Park. 

                          (Crowds waiting for the shoot)
           (If the chicken crossed the road, so did this crowd.)

This time, since it was in the middle of Gangnam, I was luckier and closer! I simply took the Blue Bus 241 from Hannam-dong, my neighborhood, crossed the river and got off at the Yeongdong Market bus stop, and just walked towards the Gangnam Station.

As they closed the northbound lane of the main street, it was weird finding the lane empty and without any car, taxi or bus on it. I would have wanted to take a selfie right there in the middle as it wasn't every day the whole place get to be empty, but I wondered whether the Incredible Hulk was just down the road and would slam anyone ruining his shot. Ha-ha-ha!

                 (The silver gray jeep stars in the scene!)
                      (Followed by a black van with a jib.)
(Looking forward to watching this scene in the movie.)

As expected, people were walking towards the middle of the block and I could see that crowds were already there watching whatever was going down, and even the bus stop in the middle of the road was full, mostly of curious onlookers and people who seemed to work in the area and were just waiting to cross. 

When I got to a spot on a sidewalk, right in front where I thought the scene would be shot, I joined the crowd and waited. I chatted with Ja-Yeon, a store manager for a sportswear brand, who was standing there and taking photos as well. He told me that they were already shooting scenes a few times already; so, I stood and waited, too.

And a few minutes later, it started. Silver, white and gray cars, an orange taxi, a few vans started rolling slowly, followed by a silver-gray jeep, which was trailed by a black van with a mounted jib or camera boom. "So, this is Hollywood," I said to myself, "right in the middle of Gangnam". But I wondered, why were the vehicles running slow? This is Seoul, where even the delivery guy from the Chinese restaurant riding the motorbike runs 60 KPH on the sidewalk! Ha-ha-ha! 

                   (Cars and drivers waiting for their cue)

                (Cameras and crew on a Gangnam alley)

After watching the shoot at the main street, instead of going back home, I was tempted to walk around the inner alleys. And I was happy I did! There was another scene being shot! Right on the alley where, at its corner, there usually was a dakko-yaki stand that sells my favorite street food at night. And here, there were more fans watching! 

This scene was even more interesting than the one with cars on the other side of the block. This one has extras!  The movie production hired a few Korean background actors, who were required to walk up and down the sidewalk during the scene, which made me wonder again. Why on the sidewalk? In these Gangnam alleys, nobody walks on the sidewalk; everyone walks in the middle of the road! Ha-ha-ha! Mr. Whedon should have hired me as assistant director; I was free that day.

                      (A thicker crowd watching here)
(Background actors on the sidewalk waiting for their cue)

So, there. I was able to finally take a peek into one of the location shootings of Avengers 2 while it was shot in Seoul. 

I am looking forward to watching the movie, especially these scenes shot in Gangnam. Would there be any Gangnam Style dancing inserted in the film? Or would that song end up in the soundtrack? 

I guess, we'll all just have to wait until next year. Its scheduled release is May 2015. By then, we can all be sure that all the Avengers superheroes will fly into town for the premiere. 

Paging Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures! Can I score a movie premiere ticket, please?

                                        *  *  *  *  *

Today, November 12, 2018, Stan Lee, the man behind Marvel Comics and the creator of the superheroes on this film that was shot in Gangnam, died.

Rest in peace, Mr. Lee. All your fans and superheroes will miss you. :-(