서울, 사랑과 (Seoul, With Love)

Never has a country (and the people and culture who inhabit it) captured my fascination as quickly as South Korea.

There is no denying that the Korean craze is alive and strong in the Philippines. We find it in our beauty products, our food choices, in the media we consume, both on screen and in our playlists. In a surprising twist in life that up to now still boggles my mind, a series of events at work harboured and fostered an intense curiosity into looking into the world of Korean girl groups. This flash fire of an obsession came out of nowhere and consumed me in the blink of an eye. A few weeks in, I knew I was descending down this hole deeper and deeper when I suggested to my family that we take a trip to Korea.

A few months after this, and through the collective efforts of my sister, my mom, my dad and myself, we made it happen. 

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For this trip, my family took turns pushing my grandmother along as she is the OG Korean Fan. Thus, unfortunately, I wasn't focused much on shooting videos. Nonetheless, this trip provided several opportunities to photograph my family. 

As we stayed there for almost two weeks, it would be time consuming to show everything we did so here's but a selection of some of the highlights.

One of our goals was to ensure my grandmother had photographs in traditional hanbok attire. The nearest place (and somewhat the most appropriate place to do this) was a few minutes walk from our AirBNB, Gyeongbokgung Palace. I learned that this was the main palace built by the Joseons back in the 1400s. One of five. Pretty dope.

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We rented out hanboks nearby outside the compound to check that item off our grandma's bucket list. (If you noticed, we rented one hanbok and shared among our ladies and one hanbok that my Dad and I took turns in!)

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We had an intense walk from a bus station to reach Korean Folk Village but was it worth every step. The small theme park taught us about how the locals lived through various areas scattered around the property.

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The last big photographable highlight for me came at the tail end of our trip. A few hours away from Seoul is Nami Island. This place was just impeccably beautiful. I could see myself coming back again and again as it is said to change characters as the seasons do. The paths were soft and welcoming, the trees were towering over us and both the wind and a general sense of freedom swept past my face as I rode all around the island while peddling the bike I had rented out. Literally the perfect spot for a picnic, I fell hard for this place.

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In my almost two weeks in South Korea, I was able to experience the general hustle and bustle of Seoul. It's alive. It's vibrant. It's beautiful.

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We were with my sister's friend Hazel for a bit too! (Hello, if you're reading this.)

I even got my "reluctant to pose" father to take a portrait by the Han River.

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If you noticed, there's nothing related to food so far. That's a testament to how good the food was. I didn't even bother much; everything was too damn tasty. I didn't care if I didn't take shots of the food, all the more reason to go back. Here's a shot of dakgangjeong a.k.a. Korean fried chicken if it's completely unacceptable not to show something mouthwatering in the post.

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Without a doubt, I have barely scratched the surface or my itch to explore Korea. There is a mountain I intend to hike up. There are drinks I intend to down. There are people I intend to go with next time. A return is in the works, no doubt.

My love affair with this country has only just begun. While it may have started (and is really sustained) by the likes of Twice, Red Velvet, GFriend and BlackPink, I am slowly discovering more and more about it as a whole. Hangul, as complicated as it looks, is deceptively easy to read and pick up. It took me a night to get the basics down. The customs and cuisine are so vast I have learned. Its history is just as rich and dense as my own nation's.

Here's to sweet returns; 

Jal jayo 'til then, Korea.