Sunday, August 29, 2004

chow yun fatter

While rummaging through old photos, I came across a series of shots circa my Hong Kong days. One of the things I loved about living there was the fact that business attire meant business attire, and I had a number of suits to wear. Balenciaga, one of the price-friendliest brands, had an extensive selection to choose from, and with my nice little paycheck, I could afford to buy one when the mood struck.

In the Night Market across the harbor, more choices beckoned, with stylish cuts and wonderful fabric that seemed one-of-a-kind. Or, I'd take the bus to Stanley Market and shop for silk ties and crisp shirts, and have a drink before heading back to the Wan Chai.

It was in HK that I first decided to shave my head, which, in combination with my penchant for wearing my favorite long coat, resulted in an amusing incident of mistaken identity. I am tall for a Filipino, and my features often have foreigners mistaking me for some sort of Japanese or Chinese or Latino hybrid (at airports, tour guides attempt to herd me along with Japanese tourists).

I entered a department store in Central and began to innocently browse the men's department. From the corner of my eye, I began to detect a slowly growing group of people following me, sales attendants and shoppers, smiling and point and whispering among themselves. Perturbed, I turned around and asked, in English, what was going on.

"Oh," the girl said, and proceeded to blush.

I furrowed my brow, smiled in confusion and tried to go my way. The small group continued to follow me and I finally understood what the fuss was about when I overheard one of them say "Look, it's Chow Yun Fat!".

Um, no. I walked to them and tried to explain that I was not the star of "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon" but that just triggered a cascade of Cantonese and Mandarin and more beaming faces. Helpless in the face of unmastered languages and so much hope, I pulled myself out of the orbit of their fantasy and hurried out the store.

Earlier in the US, at a huge convention, I was stalked by some girls and a guy carrying a camera. I was wearing a black trenchcoat and dark glasses and my hair was longer and slicked back - I was there to look for toys and games to market in Manila but took the opportunity to indulge in rare winter wear.

At the point of irritation (I hate people following me, makes me feel like I've done something wrong unawares) I turned around to confront the white girls. Before I could say a word, they stepped up to me, with big smiles.

GIRL 1: Excuse me, but could we take a picture of you?

GIRL 2: With you?

ME: What?

GIRL 1: We wouldn't mind paying.

GIRL 2: Is $10 okay? That's what the others charge.

ME: But why do want a picture of me?

GUY: We loved you in "Replacement Killers"!

Um, no. I told them that I was not in a movie with Mira Sorvino, and in fact was not a film actor.

GIRL 1: Really? You're not just saying that?

ME: Really. I'm sorry.

GUY: But we want your picture anyway.

I finally consented and they snapped merrily away, exchanging places and photographic duties. And since I had already stripped the wrong impression from their minds (or so I thought), I felt less strange about posing as someone else for people I didn't know from Adam.

And I didn't charge them $10 (but maybe I should have - that's still a lot of pesos).

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