[ENTERTAINMENT]After a hard, some easy listening

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[ENTERTAINMENT]After a hard, some easy listening

It was late in the evening on a recent Monday at a Seoul hotel. Seated in overstuffed chairs around stylish wooden tables, yuppies of various nationalities were schmoozing and drinking. Besides the libations, what seemed to ease their exchanges was a live performance by a Filipino duo ?singing familiar, soothing songs in English and Korean.

Lina and Imanuel Domingo were both born and reared in Bataan, near Manila, in the northern part of the Philippines, though they met for the first time in Japan. The couple, now based in Seoul, has made a living by traveling around Asia and doing what they love: singing. It's never easy to make it in the performing world, which this couple knows from experience. Their lives are anything but stable. They're always waiting for contracts to come along, and they're ready to go and play anywhere they're wanted.

But this insecurity can be serendipitous ?like what happened in 1992. Lina, an engineering major at college who first started her singing career in her early teens, was performing at a nightclub in Japan as a vocalist for the band CCF. Another Filipino band, Music Connection, with Imanuel at the keyboards, was taking turns with CCF. Lina fell in love with Imanuel at first sight. Before long Lina joined his band, and later the couple formed their own group, Memory, and went to Taiwan.

It was 1994 when the couple first visited Korea. Since then, they have come and gone several times a year from the Philippines to Korea. After singing Barbara Streisand's "Woman in Love," Lina took a seat at the Plaza Pub and said, "Though I can't say I don't have any difficulties, I just love to be here because I can sing." Park Kyu-chul, the manager of the hotel's Plaza Pub, said, "Our customers like the duo, especially listening to them singing in Korean." Imanuel said they have tried to learn Korean, but that it's hard to learn the lyrics to Korean songs by heart. "People, especially the Japanese, love it when we sing in their languages," Lina said. Their favorite Korean musicians include Shim Su-bong from the 1970s and Shin Hyo-beom from the 1990s. Still, it is clear that they feel much more comfortable singing in English.

"We cover various kinds of songs, from Westlife [an Irish boy band] to Ricky Martin, but old pop songs seem to work best," Lina said during another break. The duo mostly sticks to crowd-pleasing romantic ballads, but will brave a new hip-hop song or an old grunge classic once in a while.

The hardest time for the duo comes when tipsy customers heckle them. Lina and Imanuel's defensive strategy is to feign indifference. "We just smile and ignore them," Lina said, "because there are way more people who come to the place to hear our singing and enjoy it." Some customers enjoy their music so much that they get up and dance just in front of the stage.

After visiting with the JoongAng Ilbo English Edition, the couple hurried back to the Pub's stage and resumed with the oldie "Endless Love." It was soothing.

The duo performs nightly at the Plaza Pub in the Seoul Plaza Hotel near City Hall from 6:40 to 7:20 p.m., 7:40 to 8:20 p.m., and 8:40 to 9:20 p.m. They take requests.

by Chun Su-jin

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