How A Christmas Party Raffle Led Me To The Land Of Oppas

That night, I received a lot of compliments for my red dress. It was some time in December, I was in the media event of AirAsia. Actor Chuckie Dreyfus, the night’s host was calling out the name of the winners for the raffle. I was sitting among the other bloggers in a long table and most people who were on that table had already won something. Beside me was my friend and fellow blogger, Karla whose excitement was so high it was almost palpable. She kept saying that she wanted to win in time for her birthday in January. I kept my cool; I was in between hopes of winning and keeping expectations to a minimum. The next prize was a roundtrip ticket to any direct international destination, all eyes were on Chuckie as he called out the winner. The first name, he mispronounced, but the last name was unmistakable. I waited for him to reread the name just to be sure, he got it right the second time, “Marjorie Gavan.”

I caught a buzz from all the wine that I had been drinking yet it wasn’t enough to abate my glee. But I maintained my composure, stood up from my seat, and started walking toward the host. Before I even got there, I had predetermined my destination. “This is it, Marge,” I told myself, “you are going to South Korea.

The beginning of my South Korean dream

Following the rise of Asian Filipino-dubbed dramas in 2003, GMA 7, a local television network brought the first Korean series in the Philippines, Bright Girl. I came to watch this series in the middle of its airing because my cousins were so into it, curiosity got the better of me. I don’t recall much of the story’s details but I remember being instantly hooked the moment I started watching it. This is the first Korean series and the one that got me initiated to this whole Korean drama wave. Over the years I watched as many Kdramas as I could, preferring it over shows from other Asian countries. Among my personal favorites are Full House, Goblin, Scarlet Ryeo Moon Lovers, and Signal. 

Before the Asian dramas became popular in the Philippines, Filipinos were served with shows that have overused plotlines [the kid who grew up poor turned out to be the missing daughter of a rich family; “kabit” (mistress) series; the climax always in a warehouse and somebody getting kidnapped] for so many years. If that’s not bad enough, these shows also took forever to finish.

Koreanovelas, as we call them locally are such a breath of fresh air. They usually last for only 16 episodes, they have unique plot lines, and most of the time, even when there’s an evil villain they don’t end up in an abandoned building for the penultimate shoot down. Koreans are also better at making romantic stories; they don’t go for cheesy lines and even when their kissing scenes are usually rigid or too wholesome for comfort, the employ techniques that are effective in inducing that kilig (romantic excitement) feeling. Also, unlike in the Philippines, they don’t have loveteams. You don’t see the same actor and actress getting paired-up over and over again.

The Kdrama, My Love from Another Star being played on a TV screen at Petite France

The interesting plot lines are just one of the things I love about these shows. They often film in the most beautiful locations in South Koreaworst incidents and that’s what got me dreaming of going there. Wouldn’t it be amazing to visit the dreamy setting of the popular series, Winter Sonata?

But what the hell is an “Oppa?”

To the uninitiated, Oppa is the term used by a woman to refer to her older brother or men who are senior to her. Younger men use another term to address their older brother and that is “Hyung.” To refer to older women, young girls use the word, “Unnie,” while men call them “Noona.”

Now going back to Oppa, I gathered that this term has another connotation. Some women call men with whom they have a romantic interest as Oppa. In the Philippines, due to the influx of Korean dramas, the word has taken a new meaning. If you hear this from Filipino girls, chances are they are using it to refer to a cute Korean guy. Yes, he must be cute as the leading men in Korea dramas that we binge on.

Visa Application

There is a new Korean visa application process for Filipinos starting July this year, which I didn’t experience because I processed my visa in March. The old application involved submitting the required documents yourself to the South Korean Embassy in Taguig. Back then I had to fall and wait in a long queue outside the embassy. I haven’t the mind to bring an umbrella so I don’t even know how I was able to withstand hours standing there with the sun bearing down on me.

With the new process, visa application must go through a travel agency, meaning you don’t have to go through the penance-like setting that I had the misfortune of experiencing. For more information on the visa application, I found a pretty detailed guide on How to get a Korean Visa here.

Flight Booking

I emailed the AirAsia representative written on the voucher that I won in the event to book my flight. It was all a little bit last minute, I have yet to book my accommodation, but my leave vacation has already been approved that I got so worried when it took her a while to get back to me. Finally, it got sorted out; my flight was booked on the 27th of April to the 2nd of May.

Sidenote: This is not the first time that I won an AirAsia flight. As a matter of fact, I scored a roundtrip trip to Iloilo at another AirAsia event in the early part of this year. I have yet to write that story.

To continue, I usually fly at night where I encountered some of the worst incidents of turbulence in my life. Keeping this in mind, I requested the AirAsia rep to book me a morning or an early afternoon flight.

And you’ve reached the end of the first part. In the next few days, I will share to you what went down during my 6-day trip to the land of oppas.

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