2015 KCC Korean Speech Contest

The Korean Cultural Center in the Philippines holds a Korean speech contest every year since 2011. Each year, they give out a free trip to Korea for the grand prize winner of the said contest.

I’ve always wanted to join the speech contest not mainly because I want to try my luck at winning the free trip to Korea, but it’s also because I want to stand on stage and tell my story to the audience. But since my Korean skills were still very 부족해 (lacking) to make a speech, I decided to wait a year or two.

After a couple of years, I finally had the guts and gathered enough courage to join. My friends from Araw Contingent and the Korean people who live in my city encouraged me to. And so I made my speech and submitted my application to join the regionals in Cebu. However, I was not notified on time that I qualified for the Cebu contest. I got a call a day before the competition, around 3 o’clock in the afternoon. I didn’t get to book plane tickets to Cebu and if I went by boat, I would have arrived an hour late. I sent an email to KCC explaining my situation and I’m glad it went well. I had to pay for my airfare but they offered to shoulder my accommodation. And because of this contest, I finally got on my first plane ride after 6 years.

When I arrived at the airport, my sister and I made a quick stop at the restroom just like all the other passengers. Normally, I can survive hours without feeling the need to pee and I don’t understand why I always have the urge to do so after a plane ride or when in the movies. It had been 30 minutes since they started loading the bags onto the conveyor. We waited around until there were no bags left. I panicked a bit because I thought we lost our bag but I was relieved to find out that the staff said she took it aside for safekeeping before someone else takes it by mistake. I had a mini heart attack. LOL!

Inside the KCC car.

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The KCC events coordinator, Miss Paola, was already there to pick me up. Then I met the winners of the regional contests. She briefed us on our schedule as we headed to KCC. We walked from KCC to a nearby Korean restaurant. For normal and healthy people, it wasn’t that far but for someone like me, it was almost as if I went on a hike in the mountains. They were walking fast and I struggled to keep up because I didn’t want to get left behind because I was afraid of getting lost since I’m not familiar with the surroundings. I could already hear my stomach demanding to be filled with food.

As we filled our tummies with delicious Korean food, we had a chitchat in Korean with the KCC director, the senior manager and the junior manager. I told the director that I saw him a year ago in Tacloban during the Araw Dance Competition. I told him that the deputy commander of Araw Contingents says hi. Then the senior manager said that he already met me last year during the TOPIK exam in Tacloban and told me to send his regards to the interpretation officer of Araw Contingents. We had Korean ice cream for dessert before heading back to KCC where they gave us a tour.

KCC Tour #koreancultureph @kccphil

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I’ve been to KCC a couple times last year but I had no idea that the rooms have a concept. The kitchen where they hold cooking classes has the summer concept. The culture classroom with the hanok door has the autumn concept. The language classroom has the winter concept and the library has the spring concept. I wasn’t really interested with the classrooms because there’s nothing much to see. I was looking forward to go to the library and check out any new Korean language textbooks.

After the tour, we headed to our hotel. I shared a room with the contestant from Iloilo because we decided to let the contestant from Cebu and Davao share a room since they both speak Bisaya and BTS stans. The room was really nice and cozy. Too bad I forgot to take a picture because I badly wanted to lie down and stretch my legs. For dinner, I went to Kenny Roger’s with my brother and sister. Then went back to the hotel. I talked to my roommate before I feel asleep. It was the first time I stayed in a hotel with a person I just met.

The next morning, we woke up early, had breakfast and prepared to leave. The van arrived around 10 o’clock and we went to KCC. We were supposed to watch the screening for the Manila contestants but it was already over by the time we got there. Miss Paola let us pick a number. I was very unfortunate to get the paper that has 1 written on it.

We went to the contest venue and took pictures of the stage while there were still no people around other than the KCC volunteers and the contestants. We got a chance to talk to the other contestants over lunch. The food was delicious but we couldn’t finish it because we were too nervous about the contest.

It seems like I was the only one who had no formal schooling. Some got a short course on Korean language and the rest were students majoring in Korean language. Well, as you can see, it was a tough competition and I was on the losing side so I just prayed that I don’t forget my speech and that I get to deliver it well.

The program started and soon enough it was time for me to go on stage. I was so nervous, it was like I was next in line for the lethal injection. LOL! I stood in front of the microphone stand and just blabbered away. As soon as I started talking, I went stiff. I get nervous when I stand and talk in front of a crowd but oh well, at least I got to finish delivering my speech. Halfway through the speech, I could hear my voice faltering, feel my knees trembling and my palms sweating. I thought I was gonna faint. But I continued talking even though I was struggling with my faltering voice. When my speech came to an end, one of the judges asked me questions. This was the dreadful part of the contest because we had no idea what questions they will ask. I was glad I was able to answer all the questions he threw at me. Then I went back to my seat and heaved a huge sigh of relief. I didn’t like how I delivered my speech but I was just glad I didn’t forget my speech and that it was over.

As the contest went on, I wasn’t able to pay attention on the speech of the others because I was still shaking from having to stand on stage in front of people. One of the contestants had to stop halfway because she couldn’t remember the rest of her speech. She stood there for about 30 seconds or so before the KCC director told her that she could stop. We felt sorry for her. When everyone had delivered their speech, a famous group cover called Se-Eon performed on stage to entertain the audience while the judges tally our scores. Well, I wasn’t counting on getting into top 3 because I think I performed badly than the others. So when they announced the winners, I was shocked when they said the 3rd place goes to the contestant from Tacloban. I couldn’t believe it and I looked around and asked if any of them was from Tacloban too. LOL! I got up with a I-can’t-believe-it face. When I stood on the stage with my trophy and other prizes while they went wild with their cameras, I was actually waiting for someone to come out and say “Gotcha! You didn’t actually win. I’m sorry. We were just kidding.” Then I got off the stage with my brain still on the process of understanding the situation. And they laughed because the MC had been calling me to go back up and stay on the stage but I was so caught up in the moment and didn’t hear her.

I got off the stage with my prizes: a trophy, a LG bluetooth speaker and Sogang Korean 3 books. There was cash too but they sent it to our bank accounts. I didn’t get to say a proper goodbye to the other regional contestants because they were whisked away to the airport as soon as the contest ended. I got on the other van with the members of the cover group Se-Eon and talked about their performance at the Araw Kpop Dance Competition last year. I even took a photo with one of the members. We arrived at KCC then I changed clothes because I’m so not comfortable wearing a dress. Some of the judges talked to me and complimented me for being the only self-learner among all the contestants. He said I could have won 2nd place because the content of my speech was different from the others and it contained more complex sentences and grammar patterns. Oh well, at least I didn’t go home empty handed.

=^ㅅ^= #koreancultureph #kccph @kccphil

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Then I went to the Jollibee branch near KCC where I ate with my friends while I waited for my brother and sister to pick me up.

Even though I didn’t win the grand prize, I’m still happy for placing 3rd. It’s the experience that counts and what I’m more excited about is I can ride a plane now! If it weren’t for this contest, I wouldn’t have gotten on that airplane and would probably still be scared of planes. Now that I know that it’s safe for me to get on a plane, I’m sort of planning to go to Singapore or Seoul next year. Saving up for it. *fingers crossed*

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Facing My Greatest Fear

Guess where I’m going. My first plane ticket after the traumatic plane experience 6 years ago.

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It’s been a while since my last update. I haven’t worked on Day 2 of my Real Men fanaccount. I’m terribly sorry. I’ll get to that as soon as I get time to put watermark on the photos. There’s just a bunch of pictures to go through and I’m not always on my laptop.

Anyway, I’m not here to talk about the fanaccount but I’m here to write about something else more important, well at least for me.

I used to travel by plane but 6 years ago, I had a bit of a horrifying experience during a flight. I was on my way back to Tacloban after a short trip to Boracay with my parents and sister. When the plane took off, I felt like someone’s hands were tightly wrapped around my neck strangling me to death. I couldn’t breathe and I was struggling for air. It felt like all my blood vessels were going to erupt and I could feel drops of sweat trickling down the side of my face and neck. And since the weather wasn’t good that day, it took a bit longer for the seat belt sign to go off so my sweaty palms gripped the armrest tightly as if my life depended on it while I waited for the flight attendant to come. I spent the rest of the flight inhaling oxygen from a mask connected to a small oxygen tank. But it didn’t help to bring my breathing back to normal. I only felt better after we landed. Since then, the thought of getting on an airplane again scares me more than a horror movie scares me.

From then on, I refused to get on a plane even when my cardiologist told me it was safe for me to do so but I was just too scared to give it another try and so for a couple of years, I traveled to and from Manila by car. It was definitely not the smart choice because not only was it expensive but I also had to travel for hours. Like why suffer for hours when you can get there in an hour by plane? People told me that several times but I just wasn’t ready. There had to be some good reason for me to be brave enough to willingly take the risk.

And I finally got that good reason. There’s a Korean Cultural Center here in the Philippines and every year, they hold a Korean speech contest. It used to be open for their language students only but couple of years ago, they started accepting applications from non-KCC students. I so badly wanted to join the contest so I decided to give it a try. And because of that, I finally gathered enough courage to face one of my fears which is getting on an airplane.

I was having second thoughts actually. I wanted to back out because I was starting to get scared but the flight was already booked and there was no turning back. The night before, I prepared myself emotionally, mentally and physically. LOL! And when I woke up the next day, I tried not to freak out. I just thought it was just like any ordinary day and there’s no reason to get worked up. My mom arrived from Manila that morning. I was about to leave when she arrived. I tried not to cry when she told me to be brave and pray. Everyone in my family knew how big this moment was for me. Before I left the house, I gave my parents a tight hug just in case it was the last.

“God, please don’t let this be the last hug.” was all that I could think of that moment.

I thought I’d never get to see the clouds from above again.

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To be very honest, I was secretly wishing that time would freeze or slow down so I’ll have more time to prepare myself. I tried to distract myself. I was at the arrival area waiting for Paul oppa’s plane to land. When he arrived, I talked to him for a bit until it was time to board the plane. I was half excited and half scared as I climbed up the stairs. When I settled down on my seat, I listened to some upbeat songs on my ipod and closed my eyes and offered a silent prayer. I’m not very religious but I prayed hard to God to keep me calm and not to panic and take away all the anxiety I felt that moment. When they closed the doors and the plane started heading towards the end of the runway, I started to panic a little for a fraction of a second. But I just concentrated on the song that my ipod was playing. I don’t even remember what song it was. When the plane picked up speed, I had a smile on my face. I was thinking if I die right this moment, well at least I gave it a try and I was proud of myself. I was getting ready for that moment when the plane’s wheels finally leave the ground and when that moment came, the sudden change in altitude made me struggle to breathe for a few seconds but I was able to recover from the initial shock. I opened my eyes and looked out the window. I was so happy and I wished my mom was there with me that moment. I would have hugged her and cried happy tears.

When the plane finally landed, I hurriedly sent a series of messages to my mom and all my friends. I was like a kid who had way too much sugar. I was very hyper I could’ve jumped up and down if it weren’t for my heavy bag. I received a lot of “I told you so” messages and all I could do was just laugh at myself for being such a coward for years. It felt very rewarding that even if I had won that speech contest, I bet it will not beat the feeling I felt when I alighted the plane. I wish I had done this earlier but well, better late than never, right? Mission accomplished.

I will be talking more about the speech contest on my next post.

 

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DAY 1: Working with the Real Men Cast and Crew

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Disclaimer: I kept my distance from the celebrities so that they wouldn’t feel awkward or uncomfortable or harassed.
Before I met Henry, it never occurred to me, not even in my dreams, that I would get the rare chance of working with a very popular Korean idol, let alone meet them or even lay my eyes on them. So I’m very thankful that I got a job as an interpreter and Korean language teacher at Araw Contingent, a group of South Korean soldiers deployed to help rebuild the schools that got damaged during typhoon Haiyan. Out of the few Filipino interpreters who worked for Araw Contingent, I was the only one who could communicate in Korean. I’m glad I decided to self study Korean. If I didn’t, I wouldn’t have gotten that job and I would have missed the chance of working with Korean celebrities.

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I knew about the filming way before Allkpop or any other kpop news sites published articles about it. It was mentioned to me during my job interview that a Korean variety program is coming to film a special episode. Prior to my interview, I have never heard of Real Men (진짜 사나이) so I didn’t know who were in the cast. I assumed they were celebrities that I have never heard of or not very familiar with. So after my job interview, I got home and did a little research about the show. And I was surprised to see the names Henry Lau, Park Hyungsik and K.Will on the list of cast members. And the first question that entered my mind was would they really come here just to film an episode of their show? The thought of Henry Lau, Park Hyungsik and K.Will coming to Tacloban for a filming sounded so surreal and absurd, I just thought that maybe I just misinterpreted what they said. My Korean is not that good so I just convinced myself that I probably have heard it wrong.

On my first day of work, I was given a bunch of papers. Printed on those papers were the IDs of the celebrities. I was told to cut and laminate the IDs. When I saw the names of Henry, Hyungsik and K.Will, I was trying my best not to let my excitement show. I secretly was spazzing inside. I could feel my stomach churning in excitement. There were so many things going on in my mind while I was cursing under my breathe because the laminating machine didn’t cooperate with me. Is this for real? Henry? Hyungsik? K.Will? Will I get to see them? If I see them, what should I do? Would my boss scold me if I get an autograph and selca with them? Questions popped in my mind one after another. I really didn’t expect to see them, it was enough for me that I made the IDs that they will putting on and will be using for the duration of their stay here in our city. That alone made me happy and contented. I wasn’t expecting because I didn’t want to get my hopes up.

News started to spread on kpop news sites as the cast of Real Men were spotted filming at Ninoy Aquino International Airport in Manila in their military uniforms. People guessed that they will come to Tacloban to film a show since there’s a Korean military base camp here. And as soon as the news spread like wildfire, my phone went off the hook. My friends started texting and calling me nonstop to ask me if it was true and they were trying to get inside information from me but I kept my mouth shut. I wanted to tell everyone but I couldn’t because I have a contract and in that contract, it stated that I am not allowed to spill information seen or heard inside the camp. And there was nothing much to spill because the only thing I knew was that they’re coming but I didn’t know what the plan was or what their schedule was.

That afternoon, my boss and two other soldiers were rehearsing for their parts. I was supposed to go home already but I was still waiting for my mom to pick me up after work. My boss was assigned to make a presentation to brief the celebrities about Philippines and our culture and tell them how popular Korean entertainment is in our country. The two soldiers were to do a re-enactment in Tagalog of some scenes in the drama Jewel in the Palace and Endless Love: Autumn in My Heart. They were asking me how their Tagalog was. It was cute and funny and I think it was pretty damn entertaining. That time, I didn’t know what it was for. I just enjoyed watching them rehearsing. Then my boss said that the celebrities have arrived and were on their way to the camp. That’s when I got up and grabbed my purse. I was preparing to leave. My boss asked me if I wanted to stay and watch the celebrities. I was blushing. I wanted to say yes but I wasn’t ready to meet Henry, Hyungsik and K.Will yet plus it was my first day of work, I didn’t want them to see me as a crazy fangirl. I was trying to behave on my first day.

The next day, I didn’t get to see the celebrities. My boss told me that they will come to our office. The plan was that they will make a quick stop in our office to claim their IDs, we’ll get to shake their hands and he said he’ll try to talk them into letting us take a picture with them. So we cleaned and tried to make the office decent. And while I was sweeping the floor, all I could think of was ‘OMG, I’m going to get to see them and shake their hands. You are one lucky bish!’ But at the end of the day, I’ve seen no celebrities and I went home hoping to get even just a quick glimpse of them the next day.

DAY 1 

And my prayers were answered! May 7th 2014, I finally met them. All I was asking for was a glimpse but I got way more than what I had hoped for. I went to work and sat in the office, waiting for instructions. I was expecting my boss would let me clean the office again. But he came in together with a female PD who wasn’t really friendly. My boss told me that the staff of Real Men wanted me to do something. I was like… ‘Okay… Is it time to panic yet? Can I go home now?’ Then he left me alone with the unfriendly PD unnie. We were quiet for a few minutes and after gathering a lot of courage, I decided to break the silence and talked to her in Korean. I asked her what it was that they wanted me to do and she told me in a very arrogant manner to wait. ‘Okay… mommy… Boss, where the hell are you?’ Then a more friendly and cute PD unnie with a blond hair cut in a bob came inside and greeted me with a smile. She told me that I have to introduce the guests to the students and I was supposed to ask them to say something to the students to make them feel comfortable and at ease to keep the atmosphere lively. And they told me to speak in Korean. In front of the students, celebrities and….cameras. CAMERAS! Okay, I’m doomed.

I was told to go to the school first. I wrote down what I would say in case I messed up. The students were asking me who the special quests were and I just told them to wait. Then a military truck arrived and out comes the celebrities in their military uniforms and they were marching with my boss towards the classroom. My boss introduced them to the students one by one and he gestured for me to come up front and left the classroom with some of the students for the Korean language class and K.Will, Sam Hammington and Cheon Jung Myung. Henry, Seo Kyungsuk, Park and two Araw soldiers were left behind to teach the music class. I stood in front. Henry was standing beside me. I was waiting for a cue or signal from the PDs for me to start talking but I got nervous to see 3 huge cameras pointed at us. Then Henry turned his head and looked at me, flashing me a friendly smile. And he said, ‘Hey! Hello, who are you?’ and I lost my words and I stuttered and instead of saying that I’m a teacher, I said I was an interpreter. I didn’t know what made me more nervous, the cameras or Henry standing beside me with his elbow brushing against mine. No words came out of my mouth after that. So they just introduced their selves to the students while I quietly stepped back and made my exit and stood behind the cameras at the back of the classroom. I’m so sorry for not doing my task, friendly PD unnie. I love you. Then friendly PD unnie handed me the attendance sheet and told me to check the student’s attendance but Henry took it and my pen from me and told me (with a very sweet smile) that he’ll do it instead. He apologized in advance to the students for butchering their names. Lol.

They started talking then Henry sat on a chair and played the keyboard. It was magical. I couldn’t explain how I felt watching him play the keyboard. Thousands of girls paid thousands of money to see him play the piano but didn’t get a chance to get close to him but I, on the other hand, didn’t pay a single cent but I got to watch him play the keyboard up close and I got to talk to him and make eye contact with him and feel his elbows against mine. I was thankful.

It was summer and the heat was more than what I could handle. Feeling exhausted, I sat on a chair with two of the cameras just a foot in front of me. I looked at the ground and heard Henry and Seo Kyungsuk calling me, ‘선생님! 선생님!’. I got startled and when I looked up, all 3 cameras were pointing at me. Could you imagine how I felt when I saw the cameras inches away from my face? I was sweating and I silently prayed that they cut my part out because it was so embarrassing. I hate being in front of a camera. They were asking me who were the most talented in class when it comes to singing. I told them that it’s only been 3 days since I started working so I don’t know the students that well yet. Sorry for being useless, Henry. Lol.

I tried to take pictures of them with my phone camera. I tried to be as discreet as possible because some of the school’s teachers got told off when they tried taking pictures. They probably didn’t want the viewers of the show to see what’s in store for this special episodes. But when they saw me taking pictures, they just smiled at me. Later that day, I learned that it was okay for me to take pictures since I work for Araw Contingent and my boss told me not to upload anything until after the episodes got aired. It was scheduled to air in July so I have to wait 2 months. If I uploaded before that, I’d be severely punished. Lol. Just kidding but they would take legal actions against me if I did.

While they were filming, my co-worker came and told me my boss was looking for me. I went to the other classroom. I found him standing at the back. He was teasing me and asking me how I feel seeing Henry and working with him. I couldn’t contain my feelings and I punched his arm playfully. Since he knew that I like Henry, he purposely assigned me to handle the music class. Then I went back to the music class.

The students asked to see K.Will so Park Geonhyung went to get him from the language class. They were squealing upon seeing K.Will and he sang a short part of Alicia Key’s If I Ain’t Got You. Too bad I didn’t get to take a video of that. He has an amazing voice and hearing it in person, I was speechless.
During lunchtime, the students were asked to come back in the afternoon while we stayed behind. The celebrities continued filming while eating their lunch. I ate lunch in a different classroom. It was my first time to eat military food. You know… the meal in a bag. It tastes… Well, it was tasteless. I don’t ever want that food down my throat ever again.

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I felt sorry for the celebrities. They looked very exhausted and the heat wasn’t helping. I would understand if they got irritated. I’d be irritated too if I were in their shoes, filming nonstop for days in the terrible heat. During breaks, they were either chit chatting or just sitting quietly. I was expecting they’d show some attitude but I didn’t see them complaining or lashing out on the staff or do any mean things that you’d expect a celebrity would do when the camera is off.

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That afternoon, the celebrities changed into their taekwondo uniform and gathered in the school field with the students. I finally took my camera out and started taking pictures and videos. Since Henry and Sam speaks English, they built a connection with the students while the other cast members just depended on the two for translations since they can’t speak English well.

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They took out some wooden boards. K.Will sang If Ain’t Got You before punching the boards, breaking them in half. Then they each took a board and Cheon Jung Myung kicked them all in half. At first, I didn’t know who he was but when I saw him, I squealed upon realizing that he was the lead guy in Cinderalla’s Sister. He is so handsome in real life. K.Will held a board and let Seo Kyungsuk break it with his forehead. Ouch.

Then the staff started packing up, the students left and we all headed back to the base camp.
That’s the end of my 1st day with the Korean celebrities. Park Hyungsik and the others went with the marines so I didn’t get to see him that day.

I will post Day 2 soon. ^^ Subscribe to my blog for updates. Or if you’re a wordpress user, follow me. ^^

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