/ 26 October 2021

Much has been said about the recently concluded K-Drama Hometown Cha-cha-cha. For the past months, Saturdays and Sundays were excitedly anticipated by many around the world, particularly by Filipinos, who religiously waited to be graced by the presence of the ‘Dimpled Couple’. ‘Hometown’ made the prolonged lockdowns invisible, or at least bearable, and provided a reprieve for the dying and tired souls; making those lips smile (and those eyes moist) for the silliest of reasons.

Of course, the most obvious reason for its success is how the lead characters were hugely played to perfection. Hong Du-Sik, more known as Chief Hong (played by Kim Seon-ho), a jack-of-all-trades genius with a mysterious past had his life intertwined with Yoon Hye Jin (portrayed by Shin Min-a), a Seoul-based dentist who lost her job after standing firm about her principles, making herself a pariah after publicly outing her boss for overcharging in a drunk-driven rage. Over the course of the series, the leads find out that their lives are connected in more ways than they initially thought. Kim Seon-ho’s initial rise to popularity started when he played second fiddle in the drama ‘Start-up’ as Han Ji-pyeong aka the ‘Good Boy’ while Shin Min-a was first loved when she played the legendary nine-tailed fox in the fantasy-comedy series ‘My Girlfriend is a Gumiho.’ Paired together, the onscreen chemistry of these two did not disappoint and overwhelmingly provided the needed romantic spark.

Not to discount is the well-rounded supporting cast and the funny side stories that added that extra flavor of fun and laughter. Bo-ra and Yi-Jun’s friendship and puppy love, Ms. Pyo and Officer Choi’s contrasting dating approach, the funny banters and life lessons shared by the three grandmothers, Yeo Hwa-jung, Jang Yung-guk, and Yoo Choo-hee’s love triangle, Oh Cheon-jae’s hang up to his previous celebrity status, Oh Ju-ri’s Idol obsession, Geum-chul and Yun-kyung’s young married life, and finally, Jo Nam-sook’s pains behind those smiles complimented beautifully the love story of Hye-jin and Du-sik. The backstories made the entire series worth being binge-watched.

But more than the colorful personalities, their conflicting pasts, and internal conflicts, love interests, and self-discoveries, what allowed the show to stand out the most is the idea of the place where these characters live: Gongjin.

Especially in this difficult time where most of us are stuck in just one place, deprived of the ability to freely travel and explore, to have a place as welcoming as Gongjin is a long desire many of us aspire to experience. While the location is perfect to give the feels for the series, more than the scenic waters and its postcard-perfect beauty, it is the strong sense of familiarity that gave its viewers the ultimate mood.

We may have related to the personal flaws and the characters’ respective developments and found solace at that, but it is Gongjin, the idea of Gongjin that tied us to the entire series. It is our personal desire to have the same environment and perhaps our longing to go back to such a place that made us stay; laughed and cried along with the cast, smiled, hoped, and wished, that one day, we’ll be out there again, finally healed and recovered.

The story may be fiction, the characters may be a product of one’s pure imagination, but the idea of spending your days in a place where you’ll be most comfortable is common among our bucket lists, if not the ultimate wish one could have.

A place where one could return to, a place where you will be allowed to find yourself. A place where you’ll be allowed to heal with fewer judgments; a place where people, although at times blurring the invisible line of personal space, still allow you to grow at your own pace. An environment that just exudes not just familiarity but of intimateness and does not limit one’s horizon. A society that brings out the better version of one’s self. A group of friends that will be there in time of need, and will give enough space for you to breathe.

True, Hometown Cha-cha-cha is just a product of one’s curious mind but it sent across its message clearly and loudly. More than the wish to have a perfect love story, to find the place where we will be at peace will what complete our very existence.

At the end of the day, the best love stories start in places where we can find comfort the most; in the place we will return to no matter what.

I hope we all can find our Gongjin. Where we can love. Where we can grow. Where we will be loved and eventually, be let go.