Jewel in the Palace fever hits Manila

- Pearl de Jose () - March 31, 2006 - 12:00am
Jewel in the Palace fever surely has swept the land, but no one was more overwhelmed by the popularity of GMA Network’s top-rating primetime Koreanovela in the Philippines than the stars of the show themselves, Mi-Kyung Yang (who plays Lady Han) and Jeong-Eun Cho (who plays the young Jang Geum), who visited Manila from March 22 to 24.

"I’ve heard that Jewel in the Palace is popular in the Philippines, but when I went here, that’s when I really felt it," an ever-smiling Ms. Cho, 10, gushes to Tess Bomb through an interpreter during her interview for the GMA 7 morning talk show SIS.

"That’s why we’re here, to thank the Filipinos," says Ms. Yang also through an interpreter during the interview she did for the showbiz talk show Startalk. She and Ms. Cho said that learning of the show’s popularity in the country was what made them decide to visit. "I would like to thank the Filipinos for supporting the show and making it No.1," continues the actress as well-loved Lady Han, the wise and compassionate mentor of Jang Geum (Lee Young Ae), the show’s lead character.

Little did they know that they would experience the intensity of the Jewel in the Palace fever in the country first-hand, when they were surprised and overwhelmed by the throng of supporters that attended the Koreanovela Day last March 23. Over 8,000 fans flocked to the Market! Market! Activity Center at Fort Bonifacio to see Lady Han and young Jang Geum in the flesh. Some of the fans even wore hanbok (traditional Korean clothing) to the event. The crowd enjoyed the mini-show that GMA 7 prepared for them as they patiently waited for the appearance of the Korean stars. Ms. Yang and Ms. Cho happily shared to the GMA staff afterwards how happy they were that so many Filipinos came to the Fans Day.

Friendly and accommodating, Ms. Yang and Ms. Cho were as charming in person as they were in the hit drama series. They gave warm, easy smiles, and gamely and sincerely answered the questions thrown at them during the interviews for GMA 7’s talk shows. Ms. Yang is so beautiful and still young-looking in person, even at 44. And while Ms. Cho has grown so much since she did the series three years ago, she still looks very much like the cute little girl who fed her dying mother wild berries in one of the most memorable and tear-jerking scenes from the series. Both actresses wore the fine-looking traditional Korean outfits for most of their interviews.

Jewel fans would be delighted to learn that Ms. Yang and Ms. Cho find their characters in the series similar to how they are in real life. "I have many similarities with my character in the drama (Lady Han). In fact that’s really pretty much how I am. The only difference is Lady Han lived then, while I live in the present, and I am not a palace girl," Ms. Yang imparts readily. Likewise, Ms. Cho says, "I am outgoing and persistent, just like young Jang Geum in the series."

Both also love cooking. Ms. Yang often cooks for her family, and even offered Tess Bomb during the interview for SIS if they would like her to cook for them. Ms. Cho also feels she is already old enough to cook, and in fact enjoys doing so. She can cook simple dishes like noodle soup. Ms. Yang herself couldn’t help but serve Nelson Canlas a la Lady Han when he was letting her sample traditional Filipino dishes during a coverage for 24 Oras. She herself put adobo, sinigang, seafood kare-kare and bibingka on their plates, and even cut the meat for Nelson and put bagoong on his kare-kare before they sampled the food together. She found adobo and bibingka delicious and sinigang interesting, for she has never tasted anything like it. She particularly enjoyed the seafood kare-kare because of the bagoong and because she loves seafood.

Meanwhile, the series’ lead actress, Lee Young Ae, wanted to join her co-stars in visiting the country but was unable to do so due to other commitments. Yet hosts of GMA 7’s talk shows where her co-stars appeared like Startalk, S-Files, SIS and news programs 24 Oras and Unang Hirit wasted no time asking them what Lee Young Ae is like in person. Ms. Cho imparts, "She is nice and kind to all and her skin is as fair and pure as her heart." Meanwhile, Ms. Yang shares, "She is beautiful inside and out. Jewel in the Palace is the third series in which we acted together, but we became even closer after we did this, and that was already three years ago."

According to Ms. Yang, she and Ms. Cho are also here to "serve as envoys to strengthen the relationship between two countries," in commemoration of the 15th anniversary of the dialogue relationship between ASEAN and the Republic of Korea, in coordination with the Korean Embassy. In line with this, they also visited an orphanage in Quezon City and made a courtesy call to the Department of Foreign Affairs.

Both Korean stars said they would surely like to come back to the Philippines soon. "I would love to come back here with my son and the rest of my family for vacation, to see the famous beaches," says Ms. Yang. She says what she loves best about Filipinos are the warm, bright expressions on their faces and the energy they exude. Meanwhile, what Ms. Cho likes about Filipinos is how they are always smiling and are very kind. "I would love to come back here and meet some friends," she says. 

It seems Ms. Yang and Ms. Cho have fallen in love with the Philippines and its people in the short time they’ve been in the country, just as much as Pinoys have fallen in love with the characters they played in Jewel in the Palace. And while viewers no longer see their characters presently in the series, the mark they have left in the hearts of viewers remains, as proven by the warm welcome they got during their visit. It would surely be more of a delight watching the Korean series on GMA 7’s primetime block now that Pinoys have seen their much-admired stars in the flesh.

Jewel in the Palace airs weeknights after My Name is Kim Sam Soon on GMA Telebabad.

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