MANILA -- Who doesn’t love a man who can cook, has a sense of humor and patience for kids, cares for a puppy, and who is serious at excelling in his chosen career? It’s a bonus that he’s also good-looking.
I’m not talking about a fictional character, mind you.
South Korean superstar Lee Seung Gi is real and he’s all of the above. We saw this in his recent fan meet “Vagabond Voyage” last Saturday, October 12, where dedicated Airens -- a Chinese term for "beloved" which Seung Gi chose to name his fans -- filled the New Frontier Theater to the brim.
The Manila fan meet, produced by ABS-CBN Events and CDM Entertainment, was the second leg of his Asian tour that will also bring Seung Gi to Bangkok, Singapore, and Kuala Lumpur.
It was worth the 10-year wait for the Filipino Airens, most of whom first saw him in his 2009 drama, “Shining Inheritance.” Seung Gi captured more Filipino hearts with his 2011 fantasy romance drama, “My Girlfriend is a Gumiho.”
There was so much laughter and stand-out moments at the fan meet, which Seung Gi opened with his song, “Because You’re My Woman.” Seung Gi himself thanked his fans for making his first visit to Manila unforgettable.
“The first memory is really just the perfect memory,” he said through a translator.
For the uninitiated, fan meets are precious because it’s the time when fans can see their favorite Korean star up close and personal, and almost really, party with him or her. They all have so much fun together that when the show wraps up, sadness creeps in slowly because no one wants the night to end.
It would mean having to go back to watching the actor’s shows and dramas. In the Airens’ case, they have Episode 8 of “Vagabond” to turn to that same Saturday night after the show.
In “Vagabond,” after which the Hallyu god’s fan tour was named, Seung Gi plays a stuntman who seeks the truth in the death of his young nephew only to find himself entangled in a web of espionage, conspiracies, and corruption. It is currently airing on Netflix.
But as Seung Gi said, the Manila fan meet was truly memorable for him and the Airens, who wore their official “Vagabond Voyage” mint green t-shirts.
Seung Gi is known for his exceptional cooking skills. But you won’t believe he used to be a complete failure in the kitchen.
In a 2012 article, the Korean entertainment site Allkpop reported that Seung Gi was taking cooking lessons — and started by enrolling in a baking class with his mom! This gives us all the more reason to love this man who cooks and ties an apron around his waist like it’s second nature to him.
In “Vagabond Voyage,” Seung Gi showed he’s a master chef when he was asked to make an impromptu lunch box with a limited choice of ingredients. One look at the sausages, Seung Gi knew they were undercooked. Laughing, he held up the sliced bread and wondered how it could be hard on one side and soft on the other. Then he saw the tiny knife and doubled up. It was what a six-foot tall man like him would have to use. His fans roared in laughter.
Seung Gi worried about the ingredients because a fan would be chosen to taste and bring home whatever he made. The ever-reliable host, Sam Oh, assured him: “We don’t care what we eat, for as long as you make it!” The Airens screamed and agreed with Sam.
Seung Gi decided to make gimbap by combining sticky rice, cheese, quail eggs, and grapes rolled in dried seaweed.
Finally, a fan was chosen to try Seung Gi’s sweet and savory ensemble. “I’m so sorry. This is safe, you can eat it,” he told her. Of course, like any other fan, she would take whatever Seung Gi gives her. She told Seung Gi that she had gone to two of his fan meets abroad and joined other Airens in Korea to greet him at his military discharge in October 2017. She got a hug from him in return.
Seung Gi also did group games with selected fans that included playing “sipa,” tandem jump rope, and having four people including Seung gi himself balancing on a small piece of cloth for three seconds that his fans just had to hold on to him really tight!
The three winners of the games each got a shirt that Seung Gi wore in “Vagabond.” They also got their seat section to have a group photo with Seung Gi!
'Triple threat star'
Lee Seung Gi has been in the entertainment industry half his life, starting his career in 2004 when he was just in high school. At 17, he debuted as a singer, eventually creating waves in Korea and Japan. He branched out to acting and hosting in variety and reality TV shows, ultimately earning the moniker the “triple threat star” because of his outstanding acting, singing, and hosting talents.
With a wealth of experience, one can only imagine how interesting it is to have a question and answer moment with Seung Gi.
“Vagabond” showcased him as an action star. But the actor admitted that doing comedy is tougher. “Comedy is difficult because you need to check with [your] co-actor’s reaction,” he said. For example, Seung Gi improvised and ad-libbed a lot in one particular funny scene in “Vagabond.”
Even with numerous acting and hosting awards tucked under his belt, Seung Gi told his fans that he doesn’t really seek awards. But if there’s one that he’d like to receive, it would be an “award for the most diligent and hardworking. I’d really love that.”
Now that he’s 33, Seung Gi was asked about his future plans, such as having children.
He recently wrapped up the variety/reality show “Little Forest” where he and fellow celebrities looked after children while they tried to experience life outside the city. In the show, Seung Gi demonstrated his carpentry skills, helping build a tree house for the kids. He also cooked and drove for them.
The Korean star admitted it was quite a challenge to work with children, but there was “truly a lot of joy” with them.
“The kids are lovely and I love them wholeheartedly. But it was tiring to work with children!” Seung Gi laughed, adding that he’s always wanted to have three children. “Little Forest” was an “unforgettable experience,” Seung gi said, adding: “I met and understood children on a whole new level.”
'Count on Me'
His puppy, Perro, a male Shiba Inu, keeps him company. But the actor said Perro “doesn’t like me when I don’t have food for him.” Tickled with this revelation, Seung gi’s fans gave a collective “Aaaawww.”
Aside from his family, who Seung Gi mentions a lot in his variety shows, the actor also has a lot of close friends in the industry. They prepared a video greeting for him, wishing him luck and fun at his fan meet.
Among those who greeted Seung Gi were his “Master in the House” friends Lee Sang yoon, Yang Se Yung, and Yook Sung Jae, and actresses Park Min Young, Son Ye Jin, and Suzy Bae, his partner in “Vagabond.” The cute kids in “Little Forest” also told him in the video that they missed him a lot.
And to Seung Gi’s surprise, the Filipino Airens also prepared a video for him, thanking him for coming into their lives and bringing them fantastic shows. They told him that their wait was over but his coming to Manila marked a new beginning for all of them.
Seung Gi watched it as the fan meet wrapped up. But the Airens had one more surprise: they serenaded him with Whitney Houston and CeCe Winan’s “Count on Me.”
He smiled throughout, looking genuinely touched by the Airens’ honest love for him.
Even with just a few songs to end the night, Seung Gi turned the fan meet into a mini-concert because of his energy. “Like what you said, the end is the start of a new beginning. Are you ready? Okay, let’s go!”
And with those words, he performed for his deliriously happy Airens who danced along with him, waving their light sticks in the air.