Updated: Apr 3, 2020
AUTHOR'S NOTE: I will carry on writing about how I discovered I had breast cancer but for now, I'll go on an intermission and blog about this while everything is still fresh!
While attending a victory party for my breast cancer buddy as she finished her radiation early September, I met another survivor who's been on remission for many years now. We chatted about how to live the second lease in life fully and he tipped me to write a bucket list of the things I'd like to do no matter how silly or impossible they are.
I drove home that night pondering and the first thing that came to mind was to watch Ellen DeGeneres live. Added bonus if I get to meet her. Having been a TV host myself in the Philippines, I've always been her and Oprah's discreet fan. I just have so much respect and admiration for them for mounting a name as talented hosts, for their generosity and for proving to the world that success in media is possible regardless of one's skin color, sexual preference or any other factors that the society often discriminate.
I daydreamed of the scenario... watching ELLEN live... shaking her hand if I get lucky... or maybe come out in her show even for 5 seconds... that would just be mind-blowing!
But I sank back in reality thinking it would be almost impossible as I know locals who've been trying to get in her show for many years but never got lucky. Hence, I never even bothered trying to get a ticket because it seems unlikely I'd get picked. Regardless, I still wrote it as the first thing in my bucket list. From there, I moved on with life going through radiation.
So how the hell did I end up in ELLEN?
FYI, to take a chance in watching her show live, you go to ellentube.com and apply for tickets. From there, selection process is pure luck and this is what happened to a good friend of mine. She applied, got notified through email that she was selected and she can take 3 people with her. So she invited me to be one of her +3s.
I rode with my good friend along with her 2 lovely co-workers to LA with sparkles in my eyes and bursts of happiness that overpowered the radiation fatigue. We had lunch close to the venue and the moment we arrived at the Ellen Warner Bros. Studios parking lot at around 1:00pm, we were all screaming excitedly that even the parking attendant was stunned.
"Your group, go to the left, that group go to the right...," instructed by a staff.
Ours, along with 5 other groups or so were eventually taken at an open area in the back. From there, we were briefed by a cool staff named Ian that we all have the possibility of sitting closest to the set but no guarantees yet. Upon hearing that, we all shrieked!!! He came to each group and small talked with us for about 10 seconds... mostly asking where we're from and getting a feel of our humor and energy.
After a quick assessment, he tells you to either go back to the entrance or stay in the shade nearby. We were the last group that he approached so while this was all happening, I still couldn't believe I was a few minutes away from watching one of the hosts I admire most in the media world. Our group was told to stay with those in the shade and then Ian told us all to follow him to the Bungalow room. Coming from a big crowd of around 25 to 30 people, our head count was cut down to around 12 to 15.
The Bungalow room was a small waiting area near the set. We were all asked to sit down then Ian, along with Tracy, the other awesome Ellen staff who came in, said HI and asked where we're all coming from that day. My group proudly shouted, "We drove from San Diego and she (pointing at me) came straight from radiation!!!" Both Ian and Tracy looked at me and said, "Oh. Wow. We're happy you're here!"
Then they informed us with the do's and don'ts as studio audience. In summary, they encouraged us to let loose in the entire show, have genuine fun, be super cheerful, clap hard, dance if asked to and give out good vibes in a civilized way. They reminded us about the NO PHONES & CAMERAS policy, not pull or hug Ellen too tight if we ever get close to her and not promote any sort of business, brand, blog or service or hog the camera by trying to be witty or funny since it's still her show.
As I listened to all these, I thought to myself, DANG... so I'm actually in this room because I might have the chance to see Ellen up close and even meet her?!? IS THIS FOR REAL?!? I still couldn't sink it all in! While this is happening, Ian kept asking all of us to show our loudest claps and happy cheers to keep our energy momentum going.
For the last part, he approached us one by one conducting a fast track interview. When it was my turn, he did ask if I came from radiation and I confirmed. Then just like with the rest, he asked for my basic contact info, how long have I been watching the show and what my favorite part is. I clearly recall answering each of his question with so much eagerness and then when he asked if I know how to play Head's Up, I said YES with so much conviction. That conviction comes from dreaming of being in the show, wanting to meet Ellen so freakin' bad and that I deserved to be there.
After that, we were led to the standby area where the ELLEN SHOP is and waited. Our group just kept screaming and jumping up and down from excitement and couldn't stay still! We took photos knowing that we can no longer do so once inside the studio. And as we waited in joyful agitation, someone tapped my shoulder and when I turned, I was surprised to see Tracy again. She asked if she can talk to me for a bit. I followed her in a secluded corner, far away from everyone and my heart started to pound harder.
"You play Head's Up right?," she asked.
"YES TRACY!!!," I exclaimed with so much enthusiasm.
"How good are you with it?"
"I'M GREAT AT IT!!!"
"Can you show me?"
She then took out her phone with scenarios to act and so I did.
"Very well! Now there's a possibility for you to get called by Ellen to play this with our celebrity guest on cam. Nothing is sure but I wanna prep you up just in case. Okay? Just remember the rules we discussed from the Bungalow room. Are you on remission now?"
"WOW. Yes, yes! Okay! Yes I'm on remission so this is my second chance to life!!!," I declared loudly with a hint of panic... OH MY GOD, I could possibly meet Ellen and be in her show later!!! HOLY MOTHER OF NATURE!!!!!
"That's wonderful!!! Okay you can go back to your friends now. Remember, no guarantees okay? But be ready in case!"
"It doesn't matter, Tracy. I'm just damn happy to be here. No game or with game. I'm just so damn happy! So thank you!," I replied with joy.
She gave a huge smile and wished me good luck. I smiled back and went to the waiting area shrieking! My group along with other people nearby inquired what happened back there. I told them and they all crossed their fingers for me. I wanted to process all the excitement but everything was happening so fast!
Before I realized it, the studio door opened and we were ushered to go in and was pointed to our seats. Below was the last photo I was able to take upon entering then I shut my phone down.
I was in extreme awe being in Ellen's studio. That was the world I knew, madly loved (and still do!) back in the Philippines as I was a live TV game show host myself and in Spain as I was auditioning for global TV and online commercials. I've always had a crazy passion for being on cameras, talking to the lens, amusement with TV and film studios and entertaining an eager audience. So imagine how I felt the entire time!!! I'm like a naive kid from the mountains that went to Disneyland for the first time... everything was magical and fascinating!
I was getting so teary-eyed while I was browsing the entire studio. I was capturing each and every moment with my memory. The smell... the lights... the cameras... the setting... all of it was beautiful from a stand point of someone who worked in media from a third world country. I couldn't believe I was there about to watch Ellen DeGeneres live!!! It was all too surreal!
Once everyone was settled, the music started to play and tWitch, the DJ in the show along with the floor producer encouraged the audience to stand up and dance... and we all gladly did. We danced, clapped and became merry until the producer cued us that Ellen will be out in a few seconds... until she finally did and the crowd went nuts... me especially!
She came out from the back of our isle and as she was coming down, she reached out her hands to the audience on each side. We were close to the isle so we all did what we could to touch her. I was in total euphoria when she settled on the set!!! I got goose bumps all over, teary eyed and jumping up and down. Everyone was clapping and screaming out of pure joy. The good vibe flowing was beyond words.
As the show carried on with its segments, I was in absolute shock the entire time. It felt unreal... like a dream. "Am I watching ELLEN live?! Am I really in this audience?! Is this happening?!" My system still couldn't process it all! At some point in the show, my feet felt tired so I took off my slip-on heels and decided to just wear them if necessary.
The show's turn over happened precisely. No dull moments. No time to absorb the surreal feeling of being there. I was being in every moment as it happened then before I realized it, I heard Ellen talk about Head's Up while standing next to handsome actor, Taye Diggs who will be playing at that time.
"They're probably gonna call you to play!," my friends whispered.
"I don't know. I don't think so. Let's wait and see," I uttered nervously meaning every word I said because I didn't entertain that idea anymore since I entered the studio. Like I told Tracy, I was just so damn happy to be there. It didn't matter if I get to play or not.
Then to my biggest surprise, I heard Ellen calling out my name. My adrenaline shot up so high. I jumped out of my seat like my panties were on fire, kept screaming OH MY GOD over and over again and ran down the isle towards her that I even forgot to put my shoes back on. Hence, I was barefoot on screen! I acknowledged Mr. Taye Diggs and asked if it was okay to hug him then went to Ellen as she gave me a hug.
There I was. Standing next to Ellen DeGeneres. Staring at her beautiful blue eyes and adorable smile. One of my favorite human beings in the world. One of the most important and highest paid people in the media industry. The Oprah of the new generation. The Mecca of TV hosts. My dream mentor. My virtual aspiration. The big name in my bucket list. The one who made me laugh and got me through the dark days of chemo, surgery and radiation. The face and voice of Dory.
I honestly didn't remember anything I said and did consciously while on the show as it was all the adrenaline talking and moving me. But one thing's for sure... I have never been so starstruck like that and it is by far, one of the happiest days of my 38 years of existence on planet Earth. (As I am writing this now even after more than a week has gone by, I still get goosebumps thinking about it! I still can't believe it happened!)
Once again, here's a clip of my appearance on ELLEN.
As seen in the video, I didn't beat the current champion but I wasn't bummed at all because again, I was just damn happy to be there! In the end, Ellen came to me again, gave me another hug and out of extreme adrenaline rush and starstruck-ness, all I could remember was blabbering to her something like, "WOW I'm so happy to meet you! Meeting you is in my bucket list! I can't believe this happened! Thank you Ellen! I'm sorry I'm just filled with too much adrenaline right now so I don't make sense!!!"
She stared at me the entire time, smiling and responded, "I'm happy to meet you too and thank you for coming." Then I was led by the staff to go back to my seat and that the TV I won will be taken to me in a bit.
My group was ushered back to the waiting area as one staff brought the TV to where we were as I filled out paperwork acknowledging the price I won. From there, we took more photos, bought souvenirs as people who passed by congratulated me, expressed how I did so well and that they kept cheering for me. I stepped out of the studio in major disbelief that it all happened.
When I came to my senses and watched the video over and over again, I had a lot of shoulda', woulda', coulda's. I should've worn a nicer outfit. I should've been more composed on cam and controlled my adrenaline. I should've spoken to Ellen with sense and not sounded like a starstruck fan. I should've played Head's Up way better like I normally do so I could've won. I should've said this, should've done that! But bottom line, I was there, behaved and played the best I could and enjoyed EVERY DAMN SECOND of the experience.
I wrote an email to the ELLEN show recently and sent a snail mail as well expressing my gratitude to her and her awesome staff... how that day injected me with so much hope, joy and inspiration.
So what points am I proving in sharing my ELLEN story?
First, that far-fetched dreams can become a reality. Second, that confidently saying YES to opportunities coming your way can lead to an exciting experience. Third, that a big hurdle such as going through cancer preventative treatment can turn into a beautiful story. Fourth, that you can get lucky at a time when you least expect it. And fifth, to enjoy EVERY DAMN MOMENT as life happens before your eyes.
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