Sparks fly with Park Hae Jin in Manila

On November 23, there was no doubt that all roads lead to Araneta City. (Unless you were at the Ateneo celebratory bonfire, that is.)  After all, there were two major events happening that day. One of them was actor Park Hae Jin’s Manila fan meeting at the New Frontier Theater.

I will be the first to admit that I wasn’t very familiar with Park Hae Jin other than his roles in “My Love From Another Star” and “Cheese in the Trap”. With this in mind, I wasn’t sure what to expect from this fan meeting.

Before the show began, there were several opening numbers to keep the audience entertained as we all waited. First up was the winner of the World Championships for Performing Arts in the female rap category. Then, ex-Idol Philippines contestant Fatima Louise serenaded the audience with her powerful vocals. Finally, the ALM Kids performed “Paraiso” for the audience.

The fan meeting finally began when host Sam Oh took the stage. She then instructed everyone to shout “Park Hae Jin! Saranghae!” so that the actor would come out. When the audience obliged, Park Hae Jin came out waving to all these fans who have waited for him.

Park Hae Jin

Park Hae Jin talked about how this wasn’t his first time in the Philippines. After all, he had filmed his upcoming drama “Secret” in the country last May.

Living Like A Local

Next up, Park Hae Jin got to try local food. Before getting to try any of the dishes, he revealed that he has quite the adventurous palate. “This is my second time in Manila. I like trying the local food of the places I’ve been to, as my fans know.” Sam Oh also taught the actor to say “Masarap!” for the dishes he enjoyed.

For savory dishes, Park Hae Jin got to try adobo, sisig, and lechon manok. Park Hae Jin said that adobo reminded him of dwaeji galbi.

As for the sisig, he got a huge spoonful without hesitating. “It should be eaten with rice,” he said once he had swallowed that spoonful. (Spoken like a true local. I like it.) Sam Oh only told him what it was made of once he had eaten it. Once he found out what sisig was made of, Park Hae Jin didn’t even blink. He added that Korean dishes also used similar ingredients, so he wasn’t too shocked.

Upon trying the lechon manok, it was clear that this was his favorite among the three savory dishes he tried. He revealed that the flavor of the lechon manok is the kind of flavor he liked best. He also had lechon before, so he was rather confused as to why this one was different from the one he had. Luckily, Sam Oh was there to explain that the one he had before was made from pig, and this one at the fan meeting is chicken. Park Hae Jin liked it so much that he asked the staff to save the lechon manok leg for him to eat later on!

As for desserts, he got to try bibingka and sapin-sapin. Upon trying the bibingka, Park Hae Jin said that it reminded him of a Korean rice cake at first. Host Sam Oh asks which one, since as a Korean person herself, she couldn’t think of any that was similar to bibingka. Eventually, Park Hae Jin reveals that it’s something very similar to what his mother makes at home.

Park Hae Jin tries bibingka

The last dish he got to try was sapin-sapin. Before trying it, he made an observation that the names of our desserts are very cute. He also noticed how the spoons here in the Philippines are a lot lighter in weight than those in Korea. Upon trying the sapin-sapin, he was surprised at how sweet it was. After the actor asked why it was so sweet, Sam Oh replied with “It’s because our love for you is in there.” (A total mood, sis.) But she went on to explain to him that it was just sugar that made it sweet rather than any other flavoring.

What was his verdict after trying everything? “Masarap!”

Next, Park Hae Jin had to say Tagalog phrases to four lucky fans who were going to be drawn randomly. He said “Ang ganda mo.” (You’re so beautiful.) to the first fan. To the next fan, he requested, “Date tayo, ah?” (Let’s date, okay?”) At that point, everyone was already screaming. The audience eventually lost it when he said: “Mahal na mahal na mahal kita.” (I love you so so so much.) to the third lucky fan. (Repeat after me: Sana all.) Finally, he personally thanks the last fan by saying “Salamat sa pagpunta.” (Thank you for coming) Although he threw in a “Mahal ko kayo!” (I love you all!) for everyone to end that segment.

While waiting for Park Hae Jin to get changed into his next outfit, a VCR of his upcoming drama “Secret” played on screen. I don’t know about the others, but seeing it made me look forward to seeing the drama next year. When that was done, host Sam Oh went around the audience to chat with some fans about their love for Park Hae Jin. A graduating college student said that Park Hae Jin has been her inspiration throughout her college life.

Living the K-Drama Life

When Park Hae Jin came back on stage, the second half started with Photo Time. This was the only time fans were allowed to take photos of him before their cameras and phones had to be kept. After that was done, Park Hae Jin chose two lucky fans to re-enact his iconic scenes from “Man to Man” and “Cheese in the Trap” with him. One of the chosen fans actually flew all the way from Wisconsin, USA just for this! Now that’s real fan love. Meanwhile, the other fan said that she has been a fan for a long time and that she was dedicating her thesis to Park Hae Jin.

Park Hae Jin had a surprise for his fans. This time, he wanted to recreate the poster from one of his other dramas, “Bad Guys”. The actor revealed that it was one of his favorite dramas that he worked on, that’s why it’s very close to his heart. In order to choose four lucky fans to join him, the actor actually went down from the stage and walked around the theater. (Though we all think it was just his excuse to say hi to everyone.) He ended up choosing four people who stood out to him as he made his rounds. One of them actually had a drawing of Park Hae Jin with her, while another actually flew in all the way from Turkey.

More Surprises, More Fun

After that, 15 lucky fans were drawn to take Polaroid photos with Park Hae Jin after the show. PH Jins were definitely spoiled that night.

As the night came to a close, Park Hae Jin thanked everyone for the very warm welcome he received. “I was worried at first that I might not have fans here in the Philippines. But, when I got here, I saw how passionate my Filipino fans are, and I’m happy for that.”

He had one last surprise for everyone. “I’m not a very good singer,” the actor admitted with a laugh. “But, I will be singing ‘As Long As You Love Me’. I’m not sure if you know the song. It came out probably before some of you were born.” (Full disclosure, I was already low-key approving of his song choice. Yes, lumalabas edad ko.)

Hello, Love, Goodbye

A video message from Park Hae Jin Philippines played. The video played messages from his many fans, as well as showed the many charity projects the fans have done in his name. Evidently humbled, Park Hae Jin said, “I see the community service that you guys do on SNS. It’s a bit embarrassing to see when people say I do a lot of charity work when I’m so busy. But I try doing it when I have time.”

“Thank you so much for supporting me. Because of you, I have the courage to come back here. I want to go back to Manila soon, also for my future projects,” Park Hae Jin said as the fan meeting was coming to a close. “My drama ‘Secret’ which was shot here will be coming out next year. I’ll try getting another drama next year, so you’ll see me at least two times.”

With that, the fans sent him off with a resounding “Saranghae!” before he said goodbye for one last time.

After that, all the fans in the venue got to hi-touch the actor before leaving the venue to cap off a fun-filled, memorable night.

I have to admit, Park Hae Jin’s sincerity and love for his fans won me over. I salute him for being so game to do everything asked of him. Maybe I should watch his dramas while I wait for “Secret” to come out next year.

We would like to thank Artist League Manila for inviting us to be part of this event.

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