I really don't know why these sort of strange things keep happening to me, but they do. If you've read my previous blog entry on a similar (minor) fiasco at a piano bar in New York some years back -- well, this is something along the same lines.
This happened just a year or so after I'd left the Ateneo and was already working as Regional Development Officer (RDO) of AIESEC International, the Brussels-based coordinating office of what is perhaps one of the largest student organizations for those majoring in business and economics, in the world.
Traveling for AIESEC
I'd been pretty active all through college with AIESEC, starting as PR for my local Ateneo chapter, and then working with Anthony Pangilinan in the national chapter as National Committee PR Officer, and then becoming chairman of the bid committee of AIESEC Philippines to host an international congress in the Philippines. Finally, when Cecile Marquez of AIESEC UP moved over to the Brussels office to become a director of AIESEC International, I became RDO for Asia-Pacific - a fantastic dream job that anyone out of college would have killed for, that involved traveling for something like six to 12 months around the region, spending about three weeks in each country, and helping the local chapters establish and strengthen their AIESEC chapters,
I've lost track since then of just how many AIESECers actually made it to AIESEC International, but during my time, it was only Anthony, Cecile, Marc Ablaza and myself. Being in AIESEC International opened a whole new and unimaginable world of travel and international relations. It also taught me very early on about professionalism and how to deal with big business and cultures different from my own. The experiences in AIESEC changed me for life in so many ways I can't even begin to count, and the happy memories of congresses all over the world -- and the post-congress fun in places as diverse as Hong Kong, Boston, New York, Brisbane, and Nagoya are indelible in my mind and heart.
Zsa Zsa Padilla in Malacca
Anyway back to my story of an interesting evening in the city of Malacca, Malaysia, where I somehow found myself in the course of my tour of duty for AIESEC International, checked into what was then the Ramada Renaissance hotel in this historic and quaint seaside town.
At this point, I'd been living in a suitcase and on the go for close to six months, hopping from one city or country to another, and meeting only new faces in each town. AIESEC people eveyrwhere are pretty nice and we often share the same drive and desire for business excellence that helped make AIESEC one of the best-run student organizations even then, and certainly today; but months and months of new places and people were starting to take its toll and I was hankering for something homegrown and familiar.
Well, that evening, I had had my laksa and curries for dinner and was rather reluctant to return to my hotel room; and frankly I was a bit homesick after months of dealing with non-Filipinos in an ever-changing environment. Seeing a notice about a Philippine band playing in the hotel's music lounge, I decided to just go in and stay for a while to chill out and listen to sounds from home.
The band was great and they played many of the (English) popular cover songs that Filipinos the world over have grown famous for imitating even better than the original bands or singers. But for some reason, I wanted -- desperately -- to hear something Filipino after no contact with Filipinos for so long. So I decided to request a song from home.
I could've requested any song, of course, but at that particularl moment, I just couldn't think of any. So again, as in New York (you'd think I would've learned about the pitfalls of miscommunicating by paper napkins after this, by the time I reached New York some years later... ), I reached over for a paper napkin, took out a pen and simply wrote; "Can you please play any OPM?"
Then I thought -- how about something by Zsa Zsa Padilla? It may have been the wine that night, but I honestly couldn't think of anything else to request, and I couldn't even think of a specific song. But somehow Zsa Zsa Padilla stuck in my head. Don't ask me why I thought of her. This was years ago, mind you, and perhaps she had been in the news a lot at that time, or had just come out with a hit song.
So I added on that same napkin: "(By Zsa Zsa Padilla)," and handed the napkin to the waiter to give to the band. Of course, I meant could they please play any OPM by Zsa Zsa Padillla.
At the band's break time, I saw the waiter hand over my napkin to one of the band members, who then read it.
Immediately her face lit up with a mixture of pleasure and surprise, and she looked out at the large and darkened audience as if she was searching for someone. Then she whispered something to her bandmates, who then also suddenly looked similarly overjoyed and they all gazed out again at the audience as if they were searching for someone. I assumed they were all happily surprised to learn there was a Filipino in the audience, in this little Malaysian town, and this was the reason for their almost strange jubilant reaction. This was before the launch of all these budget airlines, so it was not very easy to move around, the way it is now, and it was much harder to find Filipino tourists off the beaten track.
Just before the second set was about to start, the lead singer went up to the microphone with a big smile on her face. She then proudly announced: "Ladies and gentlemen, we are so proud and honored to announce that one of the top singers in the Philippines is now sitting in this very audience, and we ourselves are such big fans: Ms Zsa Zsa Padilla!"
This was followed by the lights brightening and some dramatic drum rolling by the Filipino drummer.
Some of the people around me had seen me giving the paper napkin to the waiter, and so they started to scrutinize me with interest and clap. Pretty soon everyone else started to clap too.
How did this story end? I'll leave it to your imagination for now....or perhaps I'll write about it in a future issue of Travelife Magazine. In the meantime, we would so appreciate it if you get your copy of our holiday issue at the bookstore today -- it's one of our best ones to date!
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