Travel and Tourism

Is there really such a thing as ‘happily ever after’?

SUPREMO - Tim Yap - The Philippine Star

It used to be that stories started with “Once upon a time,” but we live in a different time now, when everybody seems to know how the story started and everyone is more obsessed with how things ended, and if there’s a sequel or a prequel.

I was invited to the 10th anniversary of Hong Kong Disneyland (HKDL), where guests, cast members, and stakeholders all came together to celebrate the milestone and embrace the future by finding and living out their own “Happily Ever After.” Hong Kong Disneyland has been home to many Filipino cast members who have been shining on HKDL’s stage over the past 10 years and I was eager to see and experience what they prepared for this biggest celebration at HKDL. 

Feeling like a millennial, I skipped the starting point and went straight to the park’s 10th anniversary highlights. I arrived at the park post sunset, like how I always want it, to avoid the long lines for the rides. I wanted to see how they would be lighting that giant Christmas Tree — and so they did with Elsa doing her grand entrance, while a couple belts out a grand rendition of Let It Go and dancers paraded towards the tree, for a Frozen Christmas. The song is LSS-Ing in my mind right now as I’m sure it is in yours. 

Right after the tree lighting, as people lined the streets to wait for the grand fireworks display, I took this time to go and take advantage of the rides — no long queues at this time, and we were special guests of the park so we indulged. The kid in me comes out in these moments and once in a while it is really liberating to go on Space Mountain and just scream your head off, or go on the Grizzly Gulch and enjoy the ride, or even to Mystic Manor to savor the illusory magic that it brings. While you’re at it, go to the A Small World ride and relive your childhood moment in Disneyland. I sure did — all of the above and more!

During the day, I spent it semi indoors shopping for unique knick-knacks — Disney has a wealth of merchandise perfect for everyone from kids to “kidults.” I got stuff for my godchildren (yes, ‘cause everyone is giving birth to cute babies right now and they all want Disney in their lives) and neighbors and family and everyone and everything that I could possibly fit into my suitcase. 






That night, as a special 10th anniversary salvo, a new “Disney in the Stars” fireworks with all new castle projection was launched. I walked with Hong Kong and other Asian celebrities and got mesmerized by this dazzling new show, which makes the beloved cartoons we grew up watching come to life, projected on the walls of Cinderella’s Castle. A special 10th anniversary party at Fantasyland followed, with food stations from all over the world right smack in center of the park. It was wonderful, delightful and magical, to say the least.

Each day at breakfast, and then sometimes at special dinners, there would be a surprise meet and greet with the stars of the show — Disney characters in 10th anniversary outfits. I also had the chance to catch up with Filipino cast members Gian Magdangal and Raki Vega who are the stars of Mickey and the Wondrous Book, a musical revue of beloved Disney hits. I also got to talk to Rony Fortich, who has been at the park for 10 years now, as HK Disneyland’s musical director. 

I guess that’s how important the Filipino cast members and the Filipino market is for Disney — so much so that our final night was noche buena-themed for a very Pinoy Christmas, from the food, decor to host Felix River and a program that’s so heartwarmingly Pinoy. There was a part where the host gave the Pinoy cast members a surprise — by bringing the families of the cast members together for Christmas on the same stage. This, before we all joined in and sang Christmas carols together. 

So you see, there is a “happily” in there for sure. An “ever after?” I’m not sure. Too early to say and the story is still ongoing. 

And I guess that goes on for as long as we live — for as long as there are storytellers, the story goes on. 

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More stars and sparks @officialtimyap on Twitter, Instagram and Snapchat. Photos by TIM YAP













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