My hands were cold and clammy and I’m not sure if it’s due to the air-conditioning of the plane or my flying anxiety. I was on a plane, on my way to Taipei. There was an Air Asia seat-sale last year and I took the opportunity to book a trip. Frankly, I had no idea what I would see in Taiwan before I hit that button, I just went with my gut feel. You know that feeling, when a place seems to beckon you and you decide to answer it. And I answer it I did.
I’ve learned about Taiwan when I was in college via the hit Taiwanese drama, Meteor Garden. I wasn’t a fanatic, but my cousins were. In fact one of my cousins would even draw a flower on her hand to mimic the tattoo of its female lead, Barbie Hsu. Back then my exposure to inked women were limited, so were my understanding. I used to think tattoos are gross, only meant for people in the jail. Barbie has definitely changed people’s perception of tattoos, as well as mine’s, she made it cool.
But I thought my cousin’s fake tattoo was ridiculous; she was obsessed. And though I liked the show, I wasn’t all sold to the romance of Shan Cai and Dao Ming Si, completely perplexed why any woman would want to be with a man who dominates, bullies, and hurts people. Dao was played by the very good looking member of a boyband called, F4, Jerry Yan and maybe, being good looking does have benefits. But men like Dao Ming Si are only good on TV. In real life, girls should avoid a Dao Ming Si; that man is trouble, in the literal sense of the word. Sure he is handsome and filthy rich, but come on, do you really want a bully for a boyfriend? This is what I told my cousin who was obsessing about Dao. Of course she didn’t listen to me, you can’t change the mind of a die-hard fan. And her obsession reaches to cult level, she owned posters of the show, knew every line of F4 songs (regardless if it’s in Taiwanese), watched and re-watched the Meteor Garden series over and over again, and yeah, she always drew that Shan Cai’s tattoo on her freaking hand every single day. It was madness and the thing is, she wasn’t alone. Those were the Meteor Garden era, and the show lit the entire Tagalog-dubbed Asian drama trend in the Philippines. The show is so famous, F4 went here for a concert with a ticket price so expensive you could buy a new phone.
Dao Ming Si has become the ultimate heartthrob, Hua Ze Lei the dreamboy, and Shan Cai the person every girl wants to be. I watched all the chaos in mawkish fascination. Before Meteor Garden, I don’t remember any other Asian celebrities being this big in my country. The Philippines before that was busy dubbing Latin dramas and crying every night watching their favorite local shows that made Judy Ann Santos insanely famous. Meteor Garden is iconic because it changed the face of local TV. When before we thought it was perfectly normal to see TV characters kill each other because of the love of a man, here comes Meteor Garden, which only bids for violence was Dao Ming Si’s acts of bullying in his school. Filipinos realized that a love story doesn’t have to be so depressing and they loved it, hence, the rain of all the other Asian dramas that succeeded the Meteor Garden success.
And had it not been for Meteor Garden I wouldn’t have known about Taiwan, I wouldn’t know just how beautiful it is, I wouldn’t have fallen in love with it. And I am excited to tell you all about it.