Filipina Plays Lead Role in Korean Musical, Arirang Fantasy!
Arirang Fantasy is a heart-warming musical that is currently showing in different cities in Korea. It tells the story of a Filipina woman, who fell in love with a Korean man. However, her story did not turn out to be like those Tagalized Koreanovelas that she used to watch on TV. Her husband died early and she ended up taking care of their farm, her daughter and even the mother-in-law.
I’m sure that the production is top-notch and I’d be able to relate to it, especially since I’m in a Korean-Filipino relationship, too. But what excites me more about featuring this musical is the fact that the lead actress is a very good friend of mine from way, way back – Ms. Cherish Maningat-Bae!
Arirang Fantasy starring 체리쉬 마닝앗 Cherish Maningat, 박해미 Park Hae-mi and 김한국 Kim Han-gook.
Cherish was my classmate in 1st grade and we were schoolmates until college! We both majored in Communication Arts in UST though we never became block mates. We were good friends in high school because we both were active in extra-curricular activities, including cheer dancing and theater. My gawd, she was my actress in both my junior and senior plays so we rehearsed in our house A LOT. Girl, you’ve come a looong way since our tuknene and 10-peso burger days!
The cast of our over-the-top play, Pen Pen de Sara Pen. We were only 15 years old. HOLY SHIT.
That’s me, 3rd from the left and her, 4th from the right. She was my mother in the play but I ended up killing everyone. Wahahaha. YES I LOOKED LIKE THAT IN HIGH SCHOOL OKAY DO NOT JUDGE ME. Our senior play was a fun musical called Park Reverie (which I wrote for my first love and first heart break)! I played the annoying lead, Cherish was one of the singing statues. I think we both won awards for that~
Production party at my best friend’s house! Define fun times! Spot Kring and Cheng.
Shucks I suddenly missed high school. But heh, this is not about me – this is about her. I’m seriously super happy for what she has accomplished so far. Right after college, she went to study at the Korean National University for the Arts and majored in stage directing. I think we’ve become close again recently because of this whole Korea-Philippines thing and we’d hang out every time I go to Korea.
I had the privilege of interviewing her about the play and her experiences as an actor in a foreign, non-English speaking country. Here’s what she has to say…
1. How did you get into musical theater in Korea?
I started acting in our university for repertory perfs. Then I auditioned for a children’s musical and became part of a children’s theater group for half a year and performed in many parts of Korea. Then I continued with my studies, graduated and finally landed this lead role. I still don’t consider myself an actor though. This is only the beginning and I’m just slowly starting to make my ultimate childhood dream come true. You know, to be like Lea Salonga. Hahaha!
2. Was it hard for you to be the only Filipino among the cast?
It was hard and easy at the same time. It’s easier because since I’m a foreigner, I’m much more free to move and to speak out than other Korean actors in the team. Well you know about the 선배 sunbae 후배 hoobae thing, right? The younger ones don’t usually have the freedom to express what they think and feel. They only follow what the seniors say. It’s actually driving me mad but it’s something I have to accept and adapt to if I am to pursue this career. It’s something everyone hates, but everyone’s practicing.
Also, because I can’t speak Korean as fluently as the locals, sometimes I feel they think I’m stupid and know nothing. Not being able to speak the language fluently doesn’t make me inferior. So yeah, it’s hard. But when I set foot on stage, I can’t even remember my name. And the frustrations help me a lot with my acting, too so I think it’s for the best.
Cherish Maningat, making her childhood dream a reality. Lea Salonga? Why not?!
3. Did you ever get discriminated against (not particularly for this project, but in general) in the theater industry because you’re not Korean?
Well, if there’s discrimination, I don’t think too much about it, though in a way, of course there is, especially since I’m vocal about what I think and feel. That’ how we Filipinos roll, right? But others take it against me. Sometimes I feel discriminated against sine I’m not white, I’m a Southeast Asian. As I always say, “you cannot NOT love and hate this country both at the same time”. Those who love you will love you a lot but those who hate you will definitely do some backstabbing.
4. How did you get the role and what made you decide to be a part of it?
I’ve worked before with the costume designer of this show. She informed me that there’s a new musical and it’s about me! Thing is, I was already preparing to go to the US that time, and I’m not really willing to skip church just for the play so I didn’t audition. But they asked me to join the team even as a consultant, so I agreed to meet the staff. But three hours before meeting them, I had to read the script and I couldn’t stop crying! I really can relate with the character and I empathize with her in many aspects. That’s when I decided to join, so I told the staff what I thought and what I’m willing to give up. Surprisingly, they agreed not to perform on Sundays! They said I was already accepted and I didn’t have audition.
5. I heard you’re working with some famous people! How does it feel to now be colleagues with them?
Yes, part of the cast is the famous singer/thespian 박해미 Park Hae-mi, who was the lead actress for Korean version of “Mama mia”. She was in the famous drama recently called 웃어라 동해야. With us also is 김한국 Kim Han-gook, who used to be a super famous comedian when he was younger. The composer and director of the musical was really big before 서태지 Seo Taeji became popular. His name is 송시현 Song Shi-hyeon and he has composed over a thousand 가요 gayo (popular music) songs like the one 윤도현 Yoon Do-hyeon sang for 나는 가수다 Na Neun Gasooda (I am a Singer). I feel so privileged to work with them, of course, and they are all so nice to me.
The cast of Arirang Fantasy. Our Pinay friend gets top billing!
6. In a few years, you might be the most successful Filipina in the Korean entertainment scene. What are your future plans for your career?
Wow, why not?! I actually want to be a famous musical actress and at the same time, use my experiences to teach. I still want to be a professor, I want to educate others and still do my first love. I hope I can be successful in both theater and the academe. Also, if there would be a chance, I’d like to act in a TV drama. I really, really want to try it. I have been acting in films and on-stage, but never in a TV drama. I hope there’d be an offer soon.
7. What is your dream project?
To write the play that I’ve been wanting and planning to write, perform it on stage in Korea and show it to the whole world. Hopefully with Xiah Junsu as the leading man. (The Filipino Cassies will definitely support you!! ~ Kring)
8. Do you intend to go back here and perhaps try it out in the local musical theater scene?
Of course! It might be awkward at first but I’d love to! Syempre sariling atin!
9. Why should Filipinos watch the Arirang Fantasy?
Because it’s about US and it represents US and this play is somehow also trying to show the world who Filipinos are. Because this play is about a typical Filipino living in Korea, and typical Filipinos, too have stories to tell. Because even if the language is in Korean, the message is universal, and everyone can and will be able to understand.
I want to break the negative perception of foreigners about Koreans (especially the Filipinos who’ve had bad experiences with them) – that all Koreans are mean and bad. They are not, and we should not treat them as a whole. It’s like saying that all Filipinos are prsotitutes, just because there’s a lot of them. We hope we can break these misconceptions.
10. Any message to aspiring actresses out there, who’d like to try their luck in Korea?
Learn the language first. It would be hard to even just live here without knowing their language. They are not like us who would try to adjust. Believe me, they would never adjust for you. When in Korea, do it the korean way, they would appreciate the effort and love you more. Be true to yourself and don’t think of this job as a job, but as a lover you’ve always loved. Anywhere in the world, there’s no money in theater, except if your Idina Menzel and you’re green. Everybody starts with tiny steps, including me. It’s still a long way to go but we have to stay positive.
Cherish Maningat would like to invite everyone to watch Arirang Fantasy, especially if you’ll be in Korea from now until July 30. It is supported by the Korean Racing Authority so admission is free. YOU HAVE NO EXCUSES, OKAY?!?! They’ll be in 20 different cities, even as far as Jeju Island! You can check the schedule here (or I can update this once I get the full sched). Talk to her after the show and tell her you’ve read about her on this blog! ^__^
It’s for Filipinos, Koreans and other nationalities but please, let us support our kababayan! And please spread the word about this so we can help promote more! This is good news for all of us!
I’m super proud of you, Cheng, not just as a friend but as a Filipino!!! You’re doing your part in spreading Pinoy Pride! Keep up the good work! I’m sure Filipinos would be delighted to know about your success there!
ps: We have a joint project on my other blog, a series on the common Misconceptions About Korean Men! Check it out!
UPDATE 6/15: Since I’ve posted this a week ago, Cherish has been all over the web and even on national TV! Click here to read her feature on Yahoo Philippines and my my my, here’s her interview on GMA 7′s Saksi!
Tags: Arirang Fantasy, Arirang Fantasy Korean Musical, Cherish Maningat, 나는 가수다, 박해미, 김한국, Filipina in Korea, high school, 체리쉬 마닝앗, Kim Han-gook, korea, Korean Racing Authority, musical theater Korea, Park Hae-mi, Sacred Heart Academy of Novaliches
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