Monday, December 31, 2012

Living the Dream with a1 Live in Cebu

What started out as a little girl's dream has now become this young adult's reality.

(Note: Yes, it took me more than a month before I could post this, and it's not even finished yet. Expect the pictures in angle brackets to appear sometime in 2013. Other than that, try to enjoy this rather long droning of a fan girl.)

I am an a1 fan. I keep the A in a1 lowercased because that's how it's written in their album, but do correct me if there's a rule about capitalizing the band's name. Since probably the year 2000, I have been buying cassette tapes (because I disliked CDs for some reason) and song hits, texting music channels and radio stations to play their music, and trying to collect anything related to the band, be it pictures, cutouts, or information from the Internet. Yes, I am an a1 fan, and this fan's life has just stepped up a notch.

Who ever thought that such an internationally known band would ever visit the Philippines? Way back in 2000, I would only imagine flying off to some other country to watch these guys. But now, well, I guess I better start retelling everything from last Thursday before I start recounting my life with a1 since 2000.

The a1 experience started with this banner.



On November 16, Friday, for some unknown reason, I decided to go to Ayala Center Cebu. It was a spontaneous trip. I remember thinking, I miss Ayala. I haven't been here in a week. Yes, I visit Ayala every week. So on that particular day, I had no agenda. Then right after Islands Souvenirs, hanging in front of me was the picture of the three boys who have occupied my childhood dreams. My initial reaction was to stop and stare. Who cares if the people behind me had to swerve to avoid a collision? I'm sorry I didn't have a stoplight, but the banner was like a red light and a green light to me. I stared at said banner for a few minutes, taking in all the information I could muster before finally taking a picture of it. Needless to say (but I'm still going to say it), I had a silly smile on my face that may have scared a whole lot of people if I didn't decide to stare at the floor while walking.

Now because this is a big decision, and I mean that it sits at the level of choosing a course for college, getting married, and locating a house to buy, I had to consult my higher-ups. The details of the conversation will remain private, but by November 17, I had the go signal to buy the silver ticket. I would have bought the VIP ticket but my financier texted me too late. It doesn't matter much, though. You'll find out soon enough why.

So that Saturday, even though I was on duty due to a backlog of words, my mind was on an airplane that would take my boys to the Pearl of the Orient. From previous monologues I've been having since I was ten years old, to future dialogues with the boys in the flesh, to the words that I knew I would write on their fan mail, I admit that my productivity that day was a little bit distracted. (A little bit? Really?) Okay, I was so distracted I barely finished my job before we had to tap out.

When six o'clock finally arrived, I flew to Waterfront Hotel Cebu and bought the ticket. Yep, silly smile back on my face. Really, if I could have cartwheeled in the lobby, I would have. But of course I had to keep my dignity lest they ban me from the hotel premises, then where would I be when concert time comes?



The flying doesn't end there, though. There was still the matter of claiming the meet and greet pass at Ayala, and the night before, when I checked the Cebu Loves a1 Facebook page, there were only 20+ passes left. Panic attack! Off to Ayala I go. I was literally out of breath when I got to the Privileges desk, and yeah, the girl there can attest to my excitement as I was practically squeeing with glee. Squee. Finally! I get to meet and greet Ben, Mark, and Christian! In the flesh! Hah! In your face, people who didn't think it was possible!

The rest of the week passed with nary a thought lacking of a1. Sure, I committed my time to my usual day job and even did my sideline projects, but in my mind, it was already November 22.

Just to sidetrack a bit, I just want to point out how God may have worked this out as part of His plan. I mean, first, weeks before I found out about the concert, we were informed that we were on holiday by November 22 to 23. It was Thanksgiving, and it was our chance to have a long weekend that we have so longed to have. So being a holiday, I didn't have to file a leave or miss work or miss the chance of being on location at the right time to see a1. Second, if I didn't go to Ayala that fateful Friday evening, I wouldn't have known a1 was coming. I've heard that they were supposed to have a concert here last June but they cancelled it and I never even knew about it till last week. Yeah, I'm a bit behind on news like this, but a1 in concert here in Cebu? How would I miss that? Third, if I didn't know that a1 would be here on those dates, I would have asked to go to Dumaguete just for fun. Now it's not entirely a bad thing but going to Dumaguete is a difficult matter for me. Details need not be spelled out but that beautiful city shall continue to be a dream I need to reach again soon. And if I was in Dumaguete, how would I know that a1 was in Cebu? That would have just sucked big time! So yeah, God works in mysterious ways. Mysterious and funny and overall lovingly because He does know what's best.

November 22, Thursday

I barely slept the night before. You know that feeling when you're about to meet someone you really like and you're not entirely sure what they'll think of you? That feeling when you're so excited that all your energy starts draining out through your pores (not really)? Yeah, I had monologues in my head the whole night. I probably said "Happy birthday, Ben" a dozen different times in my head that night. And when I woke up, I could barely believe that on that day, I would be meeting the men of my dreams.

Sounds kind of like getting married, doesn't it?

Oh yeah, I also wasn't able to sleep early that night because of this.



Yep, fan mail. I wrote a draft and made sure that my handwriting could be read because anyone who's seen my penmanship would find it hard to believe that I chose not to type down such important messages. I wrote this fan mail because I'm old school. I like old-fashioned fan efforts like cartolina cutout banners and screaming like psychos on the streets, singing hit songs by the band. And this letter is doubly special because I get to hand deliver it to them. I don't have to worry about postage or getting it lost along with all the other fan mail they get. Anyway, I'll tell you what happened when I gave it to them a bit later.

So by twelve noon, I was already having lunch at Ayala. I was texting friends who wanted to meet and greet a1 since the pass allowed a group of four. I posted my announcement on Facebook, and it's funny how many people wanted to meet them but they were just too far away. Tsktsk. You'll get your chance someday, guys.

By two o'clock I already saw people sitting at the activity center. And I thought I was a crazy fan. The meet and greet doesn't start until 6:00 p.m.! So what does a girl like me do? I took my place front and center. I sat there without any hesitation. For events in Ayala, I'm usually the girl sitting on the floor near the cement column, carrying her camera and trying to take good pictures of the guests. For this particular event, I'd be crazy not to find a center spot where no one could block my view.

There I was, sitting, waiting. I look around and oh, they're selling CDs too. My first thought: marketing strategy. With the technology today, the music industry is competing with illegal downloads, and it's not uncommon for people to just look around cyberspace. And I admit I've already heard all their songs in the CD. But then, I realized that if the band's here and there are CDs, then they must be signing them later. Aha! Another opportunity! Besides, I'm already there, why not take advantage of it? In tagalog, lubuslubusin na lang. So I bought the CD. Only later did I realize that I must have been one of the first people in the country to buy their album since it was only on November 20 that it was released in the Philippines. Yey! And to add to the list of special moments, their album Rediscovered is the first album in CD that I have ever bought. I told you, I have a thing against CDs, and I still love cassette tapes. Sure, I have their a1 in the Picture VCD, but that was a Christmas gift way back in high school, so it doesn't really count.

By four o'clock, we saw a bit of rustling backstage. OMG! Looky looky! There they are!



My, oh my, they're early. And they didn't seem bothered at all by the fans that were squealing and screaming and asking to take their picture. They were smiling and sipping Starbucks. Mark even took a picture with a fan despite the railing separating them. Fans like me, who were still a bit scared we might scare them off, stayed where we were and waited until they came closer. Like this close.





By then, I had made new friends. Kate, who was the girl I saw sitting at the venue around two o'clock that afternoon, happened to be a concert fan. She's really nice and friendly and yeah, also an a1 fan. Juztine and her sister and mother came all the way from Manila just to watch the concert. I was like, Wow! They really spent that much just to watch a1! Talk about dedication! Then there was another girl from Manila who asked for a little help with her camera settings. I was glad to be of service to these fellow a1 fanatics.

Then the screaming and squealing and squeeing started to become louder as six o'clock struck the clock. The program started and I was about to scream my head off but realized I had to reserve some energy for the next day. I couldn't believe I was actually seeing them. It was like meeting my imaginary friends, only this time they're not imaginary anymore. They're real. I wanted to pinch them or to pinch myself to make sure this wasn't just another daydream. They were actually there, in front of me, making jokes and singing!

And since I wasn't in my right mind at that time and didn't have a thought to capture it all on video, here's a video from another fan froggy1286 (got it on youtube). You'll find that everything I wanted to report is on the video.

Christian: We just take the plane here and they find it for us.
*sigh Christian* <3


"Caught in the Middle," "Every Time," and "Like a Rose" took to the airwaves as the voices of these angels traveled through the mall.

Mark: Oh, do we sit down now? Are we that old? Are we like Westlife now?
*sigh Mark* <3



There you go. After bombarding you with five videos of what my imagination is filled with for the past days, I'll bombard you with a couple more pictures.


Super Ben!

These jackets are awesome. But I felt so stupid when I asked Ben through fan mail and FB if I could have his jacket, not knowing that the jacket was from the fans of a1 in the Philippines and abroad. hehe. Oh well, but if someone would give me this as a Christmas gift, I'm surely not going to refuse. =)





As of this post, I'm still waiting for uploaders of Ayala Center Cebu's page to go ahead and upload the pictures of a hundred fans who went ahead and hugged and kissed these boys to bits.


Meanwhile, you can see the face on this girl expresses absolute joy and euphoria at standing on stage, walking toward her dream. This, ladies and gentlemen, is the face of a girl about to meet and greet her dream boys, the face of a girl who has waited for so long for this day to come. This is the face of a girl who, despite boy band fans' opposition, continued to support her favorite boy band in the whole wide world! Yep, that's me.

Ben death-staring me. He's probably thinking whether or not to escape before this girl gets near him. XD

The feeling after? Well, honestly it was like riding a roller coaster. I felt so excited when I was still in line, pushing through the crowd and hoping there wouldn't be a stampede. I wouldn't want my obituary to say "She died before meeting and greeting her favorite boy band" although that would sound awesome (kidding). When I was on stage and only a few people separated us from them, I was thinking of how it felt like to hug them and know they're real. I was thinking of what to say. I was telling myself not to blink during the photo op because that would just be an epic fail. And when I was finally hugging them, it felt like the ride was picking up speed. But like all roller coaster rides, they end just before you realize what's going on. It was that fast. I felt like the adrenaline rush was causing me to float but my brain kept telling me it was over. They're just humans. Yeah, it was that fast but most memorable moments don't exactly last for long.

Detailed version of the meet and greet:

Me: Hi, Mark.
Mark: Hi.
Me: Nice to finally meet you.
Me: Happy birthday, Ben. (Yeah, I should have added that I loved him and hoped that he would be my boyfriend for the longest of times, but I didn't.)
Ben: Thank you.
Me: Hi, Christian.
Christian: Hi, how're you doing?
Me: I'm great. How about you?
Christian: I'm great too.
(Obviously I don't remember much of the conversation anymore boohoo)

Then the photo op.

Me: Thanks so much, guys. I'll see you all tomorrow.

Yeah, I guess that's what I said, but I don't remember. That's what happens to me when I'm too excited or too immersed in my dream state of mind. But I'm sure I didn't make a fool of myself and at least I didn't stumble on stage or anything embarrassing. I did wish I was standing between Ben and Mark, but now I realize it was better that I was between Christian and Ben because Christian's such an awesome person to talk to. (Mark and Ben are also awesome. hihi)

But my meet and greet did not stop there. No, of course not. There was the album signing, which I could never let pass. I've had a collection of their tapes and not one of those tapes are signed. Now that I have their CD, there's no way I'm not going to have it signed. So right after I got off stage from the photo op, I snaked my way through the crowd to the last man standing in line for the signing. The line was longish but the wait was bearable. Plus I got to take a picture of this lovely lady who is indeed the luckiest person in the area where we are concerned.



That's Ben's girlfriend. Yep. That's Sarah. Never mind that she's Ms. Norway 2009 or that she has an awesome smile or that she's partly the reason a1 is in Cebu. She has a heart of gold (this is an expression, which in this context means she is so kindhearted for supporting Young Life Health Care and Education Foundation). She is awesome!

Anyway, when I finally got on stage again, I just had to ask Mr. Christian (the manager) about the fan mail.



Me: Excuse me, sir. Can we give them fan mail? (note: the plural we is the effect of my day job)
Mr. Christian: Yes

Then there I was again with Christian Ingebrigsten of a1.

Look at the smile on his face while looking at the fan mail. <3

Me: Hello again, Christian.
Christian: Hi.
Me: I've got fan mail for you.
Christian: For me?
Me: For all of you.
Christian: Okay, thank you. (he was smiling and I have no idea what Norwegian thought was going through his head)
He didn't know where to put it and, at first, gestured to put it in his varsity jacket but changed his mind and sat on it.
Christian: I'll sit on it.
Me: Oh, you might forget about it when you stand up.
Christian (calling Christian, the manager): Christian. (turns to me) He's the manager. (turns to Christian) Make sure we get this after the show. (gives the letter to their manager)
Me: Make sure you get to read it.
Christian: Okay, I will.
Me: Thank you so much. I'll see you tomorrow. (with matching pointing hands the way I usually do)

Now I don't know if they did get to read it, but I guess the point is I got to finally give it away and not keep it locked up in a drawer in my room for ages to come.

Next to sign my album was Mark Daniel Read.

I can wait here forever if you want.

Me: Was that your last concert?
Mark: (looking at the screen then realizing I was there) Oh, I'm sorry (started signing), I'm sorry to keep you waiting
Me (in my head): It's okay. I've waited ten years for this. I think I can wait a few more minutes.
Me (out loud): It's okay. Thank you so much. I'm so glad you're all here.
Mark: Thank you too.

Of course, I don't really remember what else we said.

Then I'm back to Benjamin Stevens Adams.

Me: Hello again, birthday boy.
Ben: Yup, that's me. It's my birthday. (Though he seemed kind of bored, probably because so many have greeted him in one sitting. Maybe he feels he's older than he's supposed to be because of that.)
Me: Thank you, Ben. If you were only a little bit younger *sigh*

There's no use hiding the fact that I'm in love with Ben. Well, at least I mean in love in the fan girl sort of way. He has been the prince charming of many of my stories.It was their group that first starred in the stories that have made me want to do what I love to do today--and that is writing. So you can see how I'm a bit skeptical about our encounter, but I'll attribute that to the fact that he's not the young boyish heartthrob he used to be in the sense that he can't go around igniting girls' hearts on fire. He has an awesome girlfriend, and though we'd still want him out of selfish ambition, we'd also love for them to last forever.

Then I got off stage for the last time, all giddy and girlishly squeeing. "The flame that never died inside of me" was alive again (quoted matter from "I'll Take the Tears"). It was really cool to see all the different fans from Cebu and Manila and even Singapore gather there and support a band that has been gone for so long. There was even a group of boys who went ahead and took the photo op. We applauded them because most boys would just pass up the opportunity to be with boy bands. They were all awesome! (You might notice that I repeat the word awesome a lot in this post. Sorry for that. =)

That night, I was flying. My cousins can attest to that. Yep, cloud nine, baby. I couldn't wait for the next day. And sure enough, November 23 came at the strike of midnight.

November 23, Friday

D-day came. The day many girls and boys have waited for a long time coming.

I woke up still feeling the high of yesterday's meet and greet. I was excited, at the same time scared because I obviously would be going there alone. My camera's AF function is dead, so I needed to make sure my eyes were reliable enough to take great pictures. Plus I have no idea what the Grand Pacific Ballroom at Waterfront Hotel looked like. I needed to get a good seat. I needed to get contacts.

I was at Ayala that morning until the afternoon, contemplating on the contacts situation. Apparently, my eye grade wasn't high enough for contacts, which is good and bad. Good because my eyesight could still be fixed. Bad because I'd have to make sure my glasses are always clean when I get the pictures or else I'd be taking blurred memories the whole night.

My cousins and friend were with me too. They waited out the afternoon with me while my brain was already at the hotel. So by five o'clock, I finally decided to run off and start camping.

At the hotel, I still held the hope of upgrading to VIP. I passed by their counter and asked for that possibility. Unfortunately, the VIP has already been sold out. Later I found out that it had been sold out for quite a while already. Oh well.

I was third in line for the Silver ticket holders. I stood there and watched some of the VIP audience start to line up. I saw some of the same faces I saw the day before at Ayala. These were loyalists, and I could tell by the eagerness and endurance they had at standing in line for hours and hours before the show that they would do anything for love . . . or rather for the love of a1.

About six o'clock, a table that sold t-shirts had been arranged. The guy organizer told us that if we buy a t-shirt or an album (which was on another table), we could get it signed and take pictures of the boys before the show. Since I already have the album, the t-shirt would have been the only marketable item for me. How much was it? If I remember correctly, it was Php 430. Kinda pricey for a shirt we could just print for a lot less. And besides the fact of the price, if I did get to meet and greet them again, I couldn't take a picture of myself because, as I said, my camera's AF was dead and I'd have to manually focus the cam to get a shot of my face and the boys. Bad day to have forgotten to bring the trusty digicam. Plus I'd lose my spot in the line. So having no other choice but to stay, I looked at all the other a1 fans running to the backstage to get a picture with their favorite band. At that moment, I just really wanted a slave. (I'd have written that I wanted a boyfriend, but I don't really mean it. Ha!) Oh well, later events will change that.

I got to talk to have a very short conversation with the father of this kid.

<photo of child>

The guy recognized me as the one sitting in front of them during the Ayala show. I said, "Youngest a1 fan?" pointing at the child.

He said, "I don't know. His mom is the fan."

End of conversation.

I just had to place that because I find that so cute that they support each other's likes. I mean, I don't know the whole story, but I find it really sweet that since the mom is a fan and would be watching the concert, the dad and child would also be there. And note, these people came all the way from Manila. Such passion (to quote a workmate).

Soon enough, Juztine, the girl I met the day before at Ayala, also arrived. Her mom pointed out their many adventures at Waterfront with the a1 guys. Apparently, they stayed at the hotel for the reason that the boys would also be there. Obviously, they got a lot of pictures with the guys at various locations. Juztine even got to watch the band rehearse. Me? Oh yeah, I was a bit jealous, but I was extremely happy for Juztine. She's only been a fan for a couple of months, yet look at all that she's experiencing. I'm happy that she's being supported by her mother because at a young age, who knows what fan-dom could do. I know I almost crossed over to stalking when I was a young fan about ten years ago. In her mother's words, "Baka di na magising." (She might not wake up.) She was referring to the dream of a1. It's true; one needs to know the difference between reality and a dream. What was about to happen to us was a dream come true, but after all the songs would be sung, we also must be able to step out of the curtains and face the real world.

Juztine got her shoe signed by Ben. Why? Because they had the same Converse shoes, which is making me seriously consider buying one just like it but I won't.

<photo of shoe>

Soon, we got to meet Lourdes and Apple. They were the two people in front of the line. They said they'd been there since two(?) in the afternoon. Now that's camping. We also met Dara, who was able to get a picture with Ben that I so envy.

<photo of Dara with Ben>

We all camped on the carpet and waited for the doors to open. Lourdes and I were recounting the crazy days of boy band feuds, old school fan movements such as texting TV music channels, requesting their songs on radios, buying song hits, writing fan mail but never sending it, printing pictures without permission, and memorizing everything about our boys. Juztine listened and also shared her experiences albeit fewer and more modern than our stories. We started singing their old songs like fans you see in concert DVDs while waiting in line. It was fun. It was proof that there were lots of a1 fans in the country, but we were all just undercover. Apple was the baby fan. Why? Because he became a fan the day before the concert. He's got a long way to go, but the concert was an awesome, rocking good start.

It was almost seven, the time when they said they'd be opening the gates. The concert was supposed to start at eight. We waited and waited. Soon the girl from the t-shirt table came and told us if we buy the shirt we could still get it signed and take pictures with the guys after the show. We asked her again and again and again and again if she was sure we could do it after the show. Obviously we didn't want to buy the shirt. We just wanted to get a picture with them. She said yes, she was sure. Well, what do fans do when opportunity rises like that? We bought the shirt. Behold the pictures.

<from Apple's cam>

It took quite a while for the gates to open. By then we'd had a lot of pictures by other photographers as we were with Apple's friends Karen and another girl (I'm sorry I didn't get your name). They were dressed to kill. We were dressed to drool. No offence meant. =) What I really mean was that they were really dressed while we were dressed for battle. Speaking for myself, I didn't really dress up (although I wanted to) because I didn't know the situation with the lines and the fans. I might have to get rough and elbow a few sides in some other concerts, and I really didn't want to risk losing poise in this concert. Plus I didn't want to lose the freedom of what my favorite getup--button-down shirt, jeans, and sneakers--allowed for me. I could dance and jump and move around and squeeze into tight spaces without having to worry about unnecessary exposures. But Karen's and friend's outfits were really for the win.

Did I digress? Sorry. Back to the situation at hand--the opening of the gates.

Once they started letting us in, we ran to the spot Juztine and her mother had picked out for them. We followed since we were all in this together now. We mounted our flag at the first row of the silver section, a table's width apart from the VIP section. I was jealous of the VIP people, but then I realized everything was all right. There were a few things that would not have worked out if I were out front. My spot in the silver section was perfect, and I had friends with me.

We were hungry and a bit cold and thirsty. Oh well. The things we do for a1.

The sad thing is that the show started about nine in the evening. That's an hour late. We would have wanted it earlier but . . . never mind. The point was that the show was starting.

<photo of hosts>

I don't remember who these were, but I do remember my comment about them. They were not a1 fans, nor were they fans of the charity they were hosting for. This is just my opinion. Then again, maybe they were just not good hosts. They couldn't get the crowd. They kind of lacked life (something like James Franco). Despite the hunger and the long wait, the crowd was excited and anticipated something grand. They could have hyped on that to get the people to listen and support the foundation. Oh well, so many things to learn.

The first opening act was the choir from Zapatera. I know quite little of the school, but by the way my friend talk about the choir, I can say that this moment was big for them. The kids will remember that moment forever. They opened the concert of a1. They sang three songs, which were really very good. For a choir of that age group, they had amazing voices.

<photo of choir>

Next up was another host. No comment. =)

<photo of other host>

Now who would have known that we bought a concert for one band and we got to watch two? Obviously, we don't expect much for front acts, but lo and behold, they got Vince of South Border! Yeah! The South Border of "Kahit Kailan" and "Rainbow" fame. We were all so hyped up that watching him sing old but still loved songs made us even more excited for the next act. Vince was awesome. He kept walking with the crowd and letting them take pictures. Of course, I didn't get a picture with him because forever alone with a camera of my own only gets to take pictures for other people.

The show was starting up so well. We were definitely satisfied with the appetizers, but now we were absolutely ready for the main course. Here goes. Give it up for a1!

<opening>

The opening spiel on the screen was a song/rap/something that we could not quite decipher. I guess it was because we were all shouting and screaming that the audio system could not be loud enough to drown our own voices from our ears.

The concert proper was amazing. Pictures!

<pictures>

The song list (as far as I can remember) was as follows:

Be the First to Believe
Caught in the Middle
One More Try
Living the Dream
Heaven by Your Side
Walking in the Rain
Like a Rose
Ready or Not
Trust Me
Christopher Columbus
Same Old Brand New You (not sure if they did sing this or I just imagined it)
In Love and I Hate It
Take You Home
Take On Me

This is in no particular order. I'm sure there were still songs they sang that I could not remember, and I'd really appreciate it if you would comment and tell me of any song that I might have missed.

They also sang covers from other artists. Mark suggested they dance Gangnam Style and he did a few steps. It was hilarious! I think Ben imitated the "oppa gangnam style" part of the song. It was really, really amazing. They also sang "Pokerface," "I've Got a Feeling (Tonight's Gonna Be a Good Night)," and a Christmas song (All I Want for Christmas Is You) but only the first chorus.

Okay, highlights of the concert.

When a1 came up on stage, there was no holding back. The fans rushed to the barricade protecting the stage and took their stands with their cameras at hand. I didn't rush with the crowd. I would have, but I had my own problems (details unnecessary). I did, however, manage to get up on the table for a higher vantage point. At first I knelt so I wouldn't be blocking too much of the view. There were, after all, people behind us who also wanted to watch the concert. Soon though, my knees hurt and my legs were wobbly and numb. I got bruises from that position. So I stood up on the table and took pictures. Yeah, desperate times call for desperate measures. A couple more songs into the concert and Juztine and I were standing on a chair in the VIP section. As for Lourdes, she had been swept away by Christian and had stayed at the very front of the crowd, right in front of the love of her life. Karen et al. were also nearer to the stage and happily took pictures of the guys. But Juztine and I loved our position. Our view was clear and the band got a clear view of us. Sure, we were told to sit a few times because the people behind us couldn't see, but when we sat, we couldn't see a thing. So we kept standing, and they stopped stopping us.

<photo of us on the screen>

Having known all their songs, except the lyrics of the last two albums, Juztine and I sang along with them throughout the concert. I felt like I was singing for them. Like every word of the song they wrote was meant for us to sing for them. Sometimes Ben would look at me (or I at least seem to think he was looking at me even though he might just be staring into the crowd where I am at), and we would sing the song together--me with all the feelings I could express through my face and him with the voice of the angel that sings me to sleep at night (in high school). Though I'm not sure if he was really looking at me, my mission was complete. I sang to him, for him, and he knew it.

One time, they asked what songs we would like them to sing. They were enumerating songs that weren't theirs like "Backstreet's Back" and even Westlife songs. They particularly seem to like "Like a Tulip" even though that's not a real song. So I shouted out "One more chance! One more chance!" like the crazy fan that I am. All confident and happy that Mark heard me, Mark said, "I hear some of you calling out One More Chance. Now, there are a lot of songs we'd like to sing for you . . . so we decided we'd sing all of them."

Then they started singing.

And I suddenly realized something very, very important. I whispered to Juztine, "Diba One More Try ang title ng song nila?" (Wasn't One More Try the title of their song?) I panicked. Epic fail! I shouted out the wrong title, and Mark echoed it! Now I don't know if he realized that I was just wrong or if he did that on purpose but that epic failure will be an epic memory in my epic imagination forever!

Speaking of Mark, we had a special moment (aside from the picture I'm going to show you later). While singing "Caught in the Middle," we all tend to follow where Ben is on stage. I think it was in the second chorus when Ben went near Christian and the crowd followed him with their gaze. I decided to rebel and look at Mark instead. Lucky, lucky.

a1: Even though I'm with someone new, all I can think about is you

Right about the "you" part, Mark pointed at Justine and me. All he can think about is us? *melt* Yeah, the point and smile was for us all right. Nobody could have gotten that connection. Sparks flew all around, and it was Christmas fireworks in our heads.

Going back to the epic "One More Try," I have something to say. My fan mail, which I am still contemplating on publishing or not, holds a few words that reference their songs. One very intentionally placed line that I wrote was "Your coming back to Cebu gave me one more chance to finally live the dream." That's probably where I got the "One More Chance" title. And I have always taken "Living the Dream" to be the song that I really felt like at the moment I saw a1 live. So it was pretty amazing for me to hear "One More Try" and "Living the Dream" one after the other as if they were following my set list. Thanks, guys. You just read my mind.

Speaking of reading minds, maybe it's not just me but it seemed that whenever they were seguing to another song, I would know which song they'd sing even before they'd play the first notes. It was weird. Like when they said they'd sing something from the "days when we did a little dancing" and I reflexively shouted "Ready or Not" at them. Indeed, they sang the song. What surprised me even more was that I still remember the steps. Ten years and I still remember how to do it! I'm guessing that if I watch the video of "Same Old Brand New You" and "No More" I'd suddenly remember how to dance those too.

Hmm, what else? Oh, we made Juztine take off her shoe, the one Ben signed, and raise it so the band can see. When Ben saw, he smiled. It was a pretty obvious smile directed at Juztine and Ben was back to his a1 in the Picture days. He's just so cute. Grrr.

Juztine said Ben blew kisses to some of the fans. I didn't get any, but I don't really care. I think I'm rooting for someone else now. Any guesses? ^_^

If I keep going and going, this post is going to be even longer, so I'll just stop trying to document everything that happened in the concert for now. If I remember something, I'll post it here ______.

When they sang "Take On Me," I had that foreboding feeling that it would be the last song. It was the last song they sang, and they bowed out.

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They left the stage with fans still wanting more. It was about two hours later and yet it felt too short to encompass three years of love for their songs. It was, in our term, bitin. That meant we felt a little hanging, like there should have been more. It was an awesome concert. Really, really awesome.

We didn't want to leave the room, but we had to look for the girl who told us we could get the shirts signed. That was where the problem started. The girl disappeared, and apparently, there was no such privilege of meeting the band after the show. Now, we had a mother with us who came all the way from Manila so her daughter can meet the band. Though we've already met them the day before, the shirts were with us and we wouldn't have bought them if the promise wasn't given. Tsktsk. So the person in charge had to talk to the manager, Christian, and ask permission for five eager fans who felt like they were scammed to get a chance to take a picture with the band. The answer was yes.

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Sure, I would have wanted a picture with Ben, just the two of us, but no. Not with Sarah there. Then again, I would have wanted to take a picture with Sarah. She's just gorgeous. I should have taken a picture with her. I said, "Hi, Sarah." She said, "Hi." Short conversations are so in these days, don't you think?

The other guys left the room, but Christian stayed a bit longer. That gave us--Lourdes, Juztine, and me--time to do what we just planned outside to do.

Lourdes: Christian, we have a song for you.
Christian: Really? All right, let me hear it.
We: We're forever in love with you (with matching hand gestures)
Christian: Ahhw
Lourdes: Can we get a hug?
Christian: For that, of course you get a hug

And that was Lourdes's shining moment. That hug will remain forever in Lourdes's heart and mind, and every story that involves a1 will always include that hug with Christian, the love of her life.

The night was over. It was time to go. I had to say good-bye to my new friends. Good-bye to Juztine and her family who were leaving the next day. Good-bye to Karen and friend and Apple. Good-bye to Lourdes. Dara already went home. We'd all already exchanged numbers like the uber fans that we were. We'd all silently promised to communicate through FB, especially news about a1. We'd be friends for sure, and that's what's amazing about the experience.

It was a kind of bridging event. We got closer to the stars we have longed to reach, and we got new friends in the process. That night brought people together, and it was amazing, the implication of such an event can do.

Right now, a week later, I still smile at the adventures we had during those two glorious days. I still read status messages of my fellow fans and realize how we are all still stuck in the cloud named 9. I realize how a common interest can bring complete strangers together as if we'd all been friends for a long time. Indeed, when I talked to a1, it felt like I was just talking to friends. Since I'd basically grown up with them, they'd been part of my life like friends. So goes my new friends. Our shared experiences brought us together. Who knows, maybe we had already met ten years ago through an a1 chat  room or the song hits or the radio texts. I'm sure I greeted them way back then since I greet all the a1 fans in the world whenever I get to send messages to the media. We may have had different screen names back then, but we still have the same heart for the band.

Mark, Christian, and Ben, I reiterate what I said in the letter. Keep your standards high and keep pushing it higher. Your music can inspire a lot of people, and your loyal fans can prove it. If you have to change, change for the better. Please don't succumb to the pressures of the music industry. Please don't sacrifice the quality of your songs for the latest trend in music. Remember that music that sells should be music that lasts, not music that will only be forgotten after a season. Keep the fire burning.

To the a1 fans out there, let's keep supporting and guarding and checking the songs this band makes. Let's also support each other beyond fan duties. We're all friends now. Times have changed and the boy band feuds are less brutal than before, and that gives all of us a chance to open the world for better music. Let's help keep the sound waves free of clutter and sift through what we listen and what we support like a filter, not a sponge. Let's help the music industry see the quality of music they are making and the quality of music the world needs, not wants. Let's do this for everyone's sake, because that's what good fans do.

Lastly, I'd like to apologize for the really long post. It took me a week to finally put down on printed matter all the feelings I've had for those past two days. I'd still love to experience more, but I have to go back to reality now. The dream has been lived, and like what Eugene in tangled so knowingly said, now I get to find a new dream. Thanks for living the dream with me, and till next time!

Forever in love,