I decided I'd design an invitation and e-mail it to her manager. I was shocked when he replied, telling me to send him the time and place and he'd pencil it into Charice's calendar. He imposed two conditions, though: (1) Charice wouldn't be able to sing and (2) no tickets could be sold. I then contacted "GM" at Charicemania to tell her the news. She replied that she had similar information. Because Charice's attendance still wasn't certain, though, we agreed that it had to be kept secret.
On May 10, about 200 Chasters gathered at Ristorante Giorgio at the Mandalay Bay Hotel. By then, I knew Charice was coming. I was very surprised to find that almost all the attendees were Filipino. (I'd guess there were no more than a dozen non-Filipinos in the whole gathering.) In fact, when I joined the others at my table, one guy said, "Wow, I didn't know you were white!" (Now I know what it feels like to be a member of a minority group!)
Despite the best attempts of GM & the other organizers to keep order, Charice's arrival triggered pandemonium. Not that people crushed her -- they all kept a respectful distance (which may have been due to the presence of her huge bodyguard), but everyone wanted to get close enough to see her. Cameras were flashing non-stop as she blew out the candles on her cake and all present sang multiple choruses of "Happy Birthday" to the accompaniment of the karaoke machine.
Charice was escorted to the guest of honor's table, accompanied by a blonde friend. Standing on a chair, she began speaking -- in Tagalog. Suffice it to say that Charice speaks English a lot better than I speak Tagalog. (All I know is "mabuhay" and "marami salamat po.”) This being her party, though, I wasn't about to say, "Hey, how about some English for the white boy?" So, I shared in the experience vicariously as all of the Tagalog speakers laughed at her jokes and were delighted by her engaging personality.
Charice clearly loves her fans. Despite the fact that her manager said that she could only stay 20 minutes, that there was only time for group photos at each table, and that there would be no autographs, Charice promptly broke all three rules. She gave each table the promised group photo opportunity, but then proceeded to honor as many requests for autographs and individual photos as she could. (I managed to get my photo autographed.)
After about 45 minutes, she was hustled out the back door. Shortly thereafter, Mr. Gurfinkel (her attorney) appeared and told us that Charice wanted to return and formally say good-bye; it wasn't “Filipino culture" to leave without doing so. She returned and, in her best chipmunk voice, declared “I love you. I love you so much.” (That I could understand!) Many Chasters begged her to sing something a capella. Despite her manager's earlier admonition that she would not do so, she sang a brief version of "Always You," (which had just been released) and was gone.
Fast-forward to November 6, when the David Foster show appeared in San Jose, California. GM was handling the "meet & greet" in which 50 lucky Chasters would meet Charice in person, get her autograph, and have their photos taken with their idol. We had stayed in touch since meeting through the Las Vegas gathering, and she reserved me a place.
Although I was near the top of the guest list, I lingered at the end of the line, thinking of what I would say. I remembered Charice’s comment about Paul McCartney on the Paul O'Grady Show and that she had returned from England wearing a shirt with the Beatles logo on it. There also was a Dodger Stadium connection: I had seen their next-to-last performance there in August 1966. I thought it would be fun to tell her that I had seen the Beatles perform at the same stadium where she sang our national anthem 43 years later.
Curiously, the same blonde girl I had seen Charice with in Las Vegas was sitting to her left, with an empty space between them. I had heard that she was Charice's good friend, which seemed pretty obvious. I also seemed to recall that there was a David Foster connection -- his stepdaughter, perhaps? I didn't know her name, though.
I walked to the table and took my place between the two of them. Before I could say anything, Charice turned to me and asked, "Do you know Gigi?" My mind raced through every bit of Charice-related minutiae I knew (and I know a lot). Was it her pet? No -- I'd heard her pet's name and it wasn't Gigi. Even if it were, I wouldn't risk a guess. "I don't think so." She continued, "You know, from YouTube." Now I really felt stupid. Who could it be? "No." I was too flustered to say anything about the Beatles and Dodger stadium. So, she autographed the photo of her that I had brought and we had our picture taken.
I still think Charice would enjoy hearing about her Beatles connection but, having already had two "Ming moments," I'm well over my quota.
Few of us can identify a single moment that was truly life-changing. Charice has had two: first, when FalseVoice posted her Star King performance on YouTube and second, when Oprah decided to help her. After this performance, Charice's Philippines-bound plane was about to depart when two of Oprah's staff boarded it and escorted her and her mother to Oprah's office. When they arrived, Oprah told them that she didn't know much about the music business but knew someone who did. With that, she called David Foster and insisted that he give Charice the opportunity to perform with him. The rest, as they say, is history.