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Filipino band, fans flock to Harvey’s

Feb 13,2008
Beverly Guillermo, far left, a singer in Infinity Band, shares the stage with patrons of Harvey’s Lounge, located within Yongsan Garrison, the U.S. military base in Yongsan District, central Seoul. By Hannah Bae
Security is tight at Harvey’s Lounge here in Seoul.
No, there are no bouncers at the door, nor is there a cover charge. Patrons don’t even have to dress to impress.
But Harvey’s is located within the guarded walls of Yongsan Garrison, the U.S. military outpost located in central Seoul. So in order to get in, non-military guests must find someone with base privileges ― be it an actual G.I., an outside contractor or a base employee.
While Harvey’s is located on an American base, it draws a surprisingly large and loyal contingent of Filipino customers.
Why Harvey’s of all places?
“There’s a Filipino band,” said Joyce Alano, a Harvey’s regular who works on the base. “I go to enjoy the music.”
For the past six months, Infinity Band, comprising vocalists Jeng Yuzon and Beverly Guillermo, guitarist Bobby Mijares and keyboardist Ronald Liwanag, has entertained customers four nights a week.
They started playing at Harvey’s on June 1, 2007 and played their farewell concert Jan. 31. The quartet hails from the Philippines and specifically came to Korea to perform at the U.S. military posts here.
“Our promotion company got us a six-month contract in Korea,” said Jeng Yuzon, 25, one of the singers in Infinity Band.
“At first, we were surprised at how many Filipinos were at Harvey’s,” Yuzon said, speaking from Incheon airport last Tuesday. “They were there from the beginning [in June] until the end, and we became friends, then family.”
For Infinity Band’s send-off on Jan. 31, more than 50 Filipinos came out to Harvey’s, Alano said. “They [Infinity Band] are really well adjusted by now. They know everybody,” she added.
Many of the women among the group at Harvey’s were military wives of Filipino descent. There was a large U.S. military presence in the Philippines until 1991, when a treaty to keep U.S. bases there ended. Then there are the Filipino-American G.I.s, contractors and other base employees straight from the Philippines and their friends.
“A lot of the Filipino women there know each other through their husbands, but there are the occasional ‘newbie’ Filipino women who show up,” Fritz Butac, U.S. Army serviceman, said. “It’s a great place for them to make some friends and meet the female Filipino community on base.”
For Alano, who calls herself “the only single” at Harvey’s, the Filipino crowd is one reason why she favors Harvey’s. “I don’t go there to drink,” she said. “I feel safe here, instead of going out at night outside the base with people I don’t know.”
The familiarity of the crowd also seemed to endear Harvey’s customers to Infinity Band as well. “We enjoyed each other’s company,” Yuzon said. “They [the Filipino patrons] always come over here.”
With friends out on the dance floor, Infinity Band wasn’t averse to sharing the spotlight, either.
“It’s very common for the band to invite some of the ladies [in the audience] up on stage to actually perform with them,” Butac, 26, said. “Some of the patrons are former singers themselves, so it makes for a great show.”
Now that Infinity Band is back in the Philippines, a new Filipino band, Level 5, took the stage at Harvey’s two Fridays ago, on Feb. 1.
“So far, so good,” Alano said about Level 5’s performance on Feb. 1. “They tried their best, but I could tell they were nervous.”
Despite the band change, however, the Filipino crowd doesn’t appear to be going anywhere. “They’re still Filipinos, and we’re still Filipinos,” Alano said.


By Hannah Bae Contributing Writer [hannahbae@gmail.com]



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