My unexpected trip to the Philippines last August started as a sad one as it was to attend to the needs of my only brother who untimely passed at 60. I decided to stay longer to plan for my eventual retirement to the motherland. This decision turned out to be a blessing as it started my involvement with Philippine Chasters and the planned gathering on October 25th.
I met Tintol and Beda, the Chasters I affectionately describe as the Charice-size, fireballs of energy who are the cogs that keep the wheels in this group turning smoothly. Bluemax, Carol, Narita, abBonita and Julius showed up and details were laid out for the event. I learned that five underprivileged, musically talented kids who are fans of Charice were chosen to attend the dinner and the concert. It now dawned upon me that this get-together was not going to be a small gathering at all. After a second meeting to finalize the plans (where I finally met Artemis, our poetic Chaster who composed a song dedicated to Charice and to be performed in the dinner with Aki, the quiet rapper-dancer Chaster), I patiently waited for the eventful day.
I then received a message from Tintol about Charice’s arrival on the 24th. I went to the Mall of Asia, met Beda and a few Chasters and taxied to the airport where we met Tintol and a few more Chasters. Resigned to the fact that we cannot get near the arrival gate because of tight security, we patiently waited at the end of the driveway ramp, rubber necking at the convoy of black SUVs parked in front of the arrival exit, eagerly hoping to catch a glimpse of Charice. I became impatient and unsure of whether Charice will have the time to acknowledge us and ventured to ‘crash’ security. I casually crossed the driveway out of the guard’s sight, mingled with the arriving passengers at the various hotel reception suites facing the arrival exit, and then crossed again where the convoy was parked. SUCCESS! I stood around, hands akimbo to hide that I was the only one without a credential pass around my neck.
Charice then came out with dark shades and her trademark fedora! She was met by Mommy Raqz and was handed her beautiful Shih Tzu. I tried to approach her, snapped a couple of pictures, and yelled: “Charice, It’s I, RodBelt from New Jersey”. Charice glanced in my direction, smiled, waved and hopped into the SUV. I wondered whether she remembered me as I was wearing my now trademark red-striped Polo and Philippine flag-emblazoned baseball cap, my attire in all five times I met her in the past. I hurriedly returned to the Chasters crew and proudly showed them the pictures I took. The convoy then started moving in our direction. The SUV carrying Charice stopped and opened its window. Charice briefly acknowledged those who were lucky enough to be in front.
Knowing that Resorts World (the premier casino in the Philippines adjacent to Marriot where the DF&F crew were staying) was going to have a program honoring the music of David Foster where Charice was invited, I requested BlueMax to drop me off there. I was hoping that I might have the chance to meet and talk with Charice again. (With all due respect folks, this was not stalking, just an ardent show of love for our PRINCESS). I accidentally bumped into the band members on their way to dinner and had a brief conversation with the drummer who told me that Charice is the REAL DEAL.
A crowd started milling around the entrance of the club at about 7.00 when someone with a fedora arrived. It was CHARICE! I yelled “Charice!” pointing at my cap. She looked around, saw me, smiled, said “Po!” (Sir), walked toward me, extended her hand which I warmly shook, and gave me a hug! I was briefly star-struck again, and could hardly say “I’ll see you tomorrow”. She replied “Opo” (Yes, sir) and walked into the venue. I said to myself: My GOD, Charice remembers me! I left walking on cloud nine to the taxi stand still hardly believing what I just experienced.
I woke up the next day, turned on my computer to check my e-mails and for some CM news thinking that it will still be at 3:00PM that I will meet with the organizers. I did not check my phone messages until 1:00PM only to find out that there was a last minute M&G at Café Adriatico at 1:00 PM! Cursing myself, I hurriedly dressed up, grabbed a cab and texted Tintol that I was not going to make it for the M&G but I was coming anyway. I arrived at 2:30 PM. Missing the event with nothing to do but brag (again) about my adventures with Charice, I thought of showing them my pictures with Charice only to realize in horror that I left my camera in the cab! My spirits sunk as if I lost a dear friend, thinking about all the memorable pictures of Charice and Chasters lost with the camera. I was almost ready to cry in disgust only for Beda to console me.
The crowd started arriving at Max’s at about 3:30 PM with Beda and Julius manning registration. Other Chasters were preparing the sound system and cameras for taking pictures with a life-size replica of Charice. Chasters came from everywhere – Doc Ed from Guam, tsuki from Okinawa, Leigh from Dubai, stockpicker from California, Henry V, Wower, gunrunner, a couple of Singaporeans and so many others whose names I could not remember. Lantao then arrived and was mobbed like a real celebrity in his own right with Chasters jockeying to have pictures taken with him so much so that people in the restaurant started asking who he was! The program started with performances – Artemis playing her guitar and singing her own composition with a couple of Chasters; Aki doing an impressive rap mimicking various sound effects, an Adam Lambert imitation; a Chaster singing her version of All By Myself, Isaac from Texas on the piano who sang and gave some jazzy touches a la Ray Charles to some of Charice’s original recordings and of course, little Cutiesinger with her impressive imitation of a little Charice. It was almost total pandemonium. It was party time. It is hard to imagine that these 130+ former strangers were now bound together as one HAPPY FAMILY just because of the common love and adoration for Charice. The affair ended about 7:15 with attendees receiving souvenirs of beautiful hardboard cutouts of Charice in her performance outfits, their pictures with the life-size replica of Charice and memories of a wonderful event.
Photo courtesy of Wower
The arena was still half-full close to the starting time of 8:00 PM. I started to wonder if the Black Eyed Peas concert on the same night had seriously affected attendance. After all, BEP was heavily promoted with very heavy sponsorship. DF&F on the other hand had very little ads that I probably would have missed had I been a casual fan. My worries were unfounded because the coliseum was filled to 95% capacity.
The concert finally started at 8:30 with David’s signature St. Elmos’s Fire. Russell Watson, a tenor I confess I know nothing about, opened the show and had the crowd into a chorus with “Volare” after being advised by David that the Filipino audience is not the typical sort with no equal in the world. That we Filipinos can sing!
Ashanti sang her version of the Bodyguard Medley giving it her own personal touch to the delight of the crowd. No, I will not make any comparison here with Charice’s interpretation of the song. Philip Bailey brought the crowd to its feet with his rendition of old Earth Wind and Fire standards. Martin Nievera was invited onstage and sang a few notes. A girl seated in the upper box (who I found out later through YouTube that she is one lucky Chaster named Kimmie) picked by David from the crowd took a long time to come down that David said she had to wait.
Then DARKNESS….A BIG INTRO BY THE BAND…. LIGHTS ON…..IT’S CHARICE! Green glow sticks lighted a section of the upper box – THE CHASTERS. She opened with “A Power of Love” without belting but showing style and maturity. She happily acknowledged the presence of Chasters. She followed with “Stand Up For Love”, a David Foster song I’ll admit I am not familiar with, then a beautiful rendition of “Unbreak My Heart”. David made a nice introduction of Charice’s very own “LOUDER” which Charice sang with gusto, descending from the stage, walking along the aisles and mingling with the fans to the delight of everyone.
She was followed by Michael Bolton who entertained and pleased the crowd with his memorable ballads. Charice came out again and sang a beautiful duet of “The Prayer” with Michael. David then made a heart-touching description of the finale number – MJ’s “Earth Song”, relating its haunting lyrics to the current state of our environment before David’s “FRIENDS” appeared one by one and sang it with Charice as the last one to appear on stage. Some of the crowd started heading for the exits but most refused to leave clapping furiously even after everyone left the stage. I noticed that the lights were still not on and the band members were still on stage – meaning more was coming! David returned, sat on the piano, played a few of his songs with the AUDIENCE SINGING IN CHORUS IN THE BACKGROUND WITH EVERY SONG! It was not only a concert! It was a SING-ALONG LOVEFEST! As David said: “ONLY IN THE PHILIPPINES” did he experience this! David stood up and reminded everyone of the last audience singer he invited. Kimmee then came out and started singing “Because You Love Me”. Then CHARICE came out to the roar of the crowd and joined Kimmee in a duet – reminding me of a little of the Celine-Charice duet at Madison Square Garden. Kimmee was quite shocked and with tears welling around her eyes, sang impressively with her idol. Then, tremendous applause from the crowd as David and Charice left the stage. ……… THE PARTY’S OVER.
But it is far from the end. It is only a brief segment in the long journey for Charice whose music will hopefully bring more joy, love, camaraderie, and togetherness to millions for generations to come.
To all the nameless Chasters in the background who selflessly volunteered their time, efforts, and energy to make this affair a very successful and memorable one, you are the little Chaster Clauses in all Chaster’s hearts – THANK YOU VERY MUCH!
AND TO CHARICE: THE BEST PARTS OF YOUR STORY, CAREER AND MUSIC ARE YET TO BE WRITTEN!!
By Rodbelt, Charicemania.com
I first met Rod at The Coffee Bean (Araneta Center) last September 25, 2011 when he arrived as Tintol, Narita, Julius and I were planning the pre-concert activities on October 25, 2011. He commuted from Las Pinas City very eager to meet Chasters as they don’t seem to have a Chaster crowd in New Jersey. This nice man is a welcome addition to our growing “Senior Citizens” group (I know of over 15 whose names I refuse to share here).
I met Rod again on the 2nd and final meeting on October 16, 2011 at Max’s. He was late so I waited for him at the Coffee Bean (original meeting place). This final meeting was a bigger one where he met a great number of Chasters including Beda, A.B., Artemis, Aki, Nege, Dino, Sean, Kram, jonbudz, Leah, Chastin, Java etc. (Sorry for missed names. I have a “Senior” excuse)
Then I met with him once again on October 24th at the NAIA to meet Cha. I confirm all his related undercover activities and that I dropped him off at the Resorts World to continue his mission (it’s like he parachuted off from a helicopter). And now I hear of his exploits which, I am sure, were understated.
I write this response to confirm and attest to this genuine Senior Chaster’s adventure. Welcome Rod to the Philippine Chaster scene. I have already heard stories of your kindness, your story-telling nature and your innate passion for anything related to our princess from those Chasters who have spent moments with you.
Very inspiring article Rod. Thank you for sharing. – Bluemax
Posted/Edited by Mooffin, AnonymousFanatic & Schoen, Charicemania.com