me and magic

* avatar drawn by alcyone

potter fan since: 1999
favorite character: ron
house: gryffindor
wand: holly, phoenix feather, 8 3/4 inches
favorite magical creature: phoenix
favorite weasley: bill and ginny
favorite wizard food: chocolate frogs, butterbeer
i most identify with: ginny weasley
favorite HP book: harry potter and the order of the phoenix
my portkeys:
>> the leaky cauldron
>> the HP lexicon
>> harry potter filks
>> pinoy harry potter
>> the shrieking shack

friendships soar as the "phoenix" finally lands
the "harry potter and the order of the phoenix" launch party, june 21, 2003

I am a Harry Potter fan and I am not ashamed to admit it. Like countless people all over the world, I have been captivated by The Boy Who Lived and his magical adventures. And like all those countless people, I've been impatiently awaiting the release of the 5th book in J.K. Rowling's series. It's been about three years since "Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire" was released, and though the movies based on the first two books have kept us company, us Potterheads have been dying to know what will happen during Harry's fifth year at Hogwarts.

Virtual Hogwarts

The Internet has been a haven for the fans these past few years. Groups, websites, and mailing lists have cropped up... yes, as if by magic, to satisfy the fans' need to interact with each other to share ideas while waiting for the new book. One such group brought together Filipino fans from different parts of the world, people of different age groups, backgrounds, and professions, united by their love for this amazing literary masterpiece.

The Pinoy Harry Potter group (PHP) was founded in 2001 as an internet-based club for Filipino Potter fans, and is structured much like Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. Members are sorted into houses, the group is run by professors, members earn points and play Quidditch, and participate in fun activities. Last March, PHP was part of "New Worlds", the 1st Philippine Science Fiction and Fantasy Convention, and is now a member of the New Worlds Alliance of five other locally-based sci-fi and fantasy fan groups. The success of PHP's stint at New Worlds gave the members, in the words of our founder and Headmistress Cherie del Rio, "the confidence to step out of Internet Hogwarts and into the bright Muggle world." This prompted ideas for more activities for the members, including plans to hold a party to celebrate the release of Book 5, "Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix".

Party Planning

I was elected Head Girl of the group at the end of last year, so I got involved in much of the planning and preparations for what was then dubbed as the Phoenix Party. Personally, I was really excited about this party for two reasons. The first, of course, was because we were finally going to get to read Book 5, and party at the same time. The second was the prospect of working with the people in PHP.

This is the group's second major activity, but it was the first time that I met most of the other members. It was interesting to finally be able to match e-mail addresses and online ID's with actual faces. The planning meetings turned into chances for members to earn House points, and ideas contributed for the event merited the same. There was friendly rivalry between the different Houses while people exchanged the latest Book 5 news and trivia, discussed the more intriguing threads in the online forums, kept up with casting news for the upcoming Harry Potter movie, and some swapped stories about their newly acquired Potter memorabilia. I was fascinated by how everyone seemed like old friends, easily getting over the initial shyness that can overcome you upon meeting people you have only been interacting with through your computer.

Planning the Launch Party was no walk in the park. But everyone was so excited, coming up with fantastic ideas, volunteering their time and resources just to help make the event a reality. We also had to coordinate with Scholastic, the books' U.S. publishers; Bates Licensing; and our sponsor, Fully Booked (formerly Page One). It was lucky school hasn't started yet since most of the members were students, so they were able to concentrate on the preparations for the event. We even had to call upon our marketing skills, as we were allowed to accept reservations for the book, giving fans the chance to get a sure copy on the worldwide release date of June 21, which was also the date of our "Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix" Launch Party.

"My Preciousss..."

We started to haunt the Fully Booked premises at Powerplant Mall almost every weekend as we sat in discussions with their staff, and set up the props to be used for the Party. I distinctly remember an excited shiver running through me as I set eyes upon piles of boxes of Book 5 one evening during our set-up sessions. I remember running my hand reverently over one of them, a voice saying "My precioussssss" ringing in my ears (oops, fandom crossover!). I immediately pulled my hand away, though, as I read the words "Do not open until June 21, 2003". I almost expected to be jinxed by some kind of protective spell cast on the boxes. I walked away from them with a sigh. It's alright. I've been waiting for years. A few more days won't hurt.

Typical Fan Behavior

June 21 dawned bright and sunny. We all had to wake up early to get to the Powerplant Mall to help the Fully Booked staff set up, as the boxes may only be opened, and the books displayed, during the day itself. The bookstore opened at 7:01AM to a line of fans who were bursting with excitement as they held their copies of the books at last.

As the members, donning robes, wielding wands or wearing pointed hats, settled down to their roles for the day, I took a walk with PHP's Gamekeeper and fellow organizer, Paolo Jalbuena, to get some coffee. It was on the way to the coffee shop that we glimpsed a girl exhibiting typical Potter fanatic behavior. She had settled herself at Press Café after paying for the book, opened it, and went immediately to take a look at the last few pages.

We initially had a difficult time getting both kids and adults alike to sign up for our activities. Everyone just wanted to get their books, and go somewhere where they can be alone to read in peace. Some stayed only until winners of our "Win a copy of Book 5" raffles were announced. Eventually, though, some fans became interested in joining the activities, and in getting sorted. They were escorted by PHP members to the Sorting Area where they got to sit on the Sorting Stool, and had the Sorting Hat put over their heads. PHP's Gryffindor House even got itself a celebrity in the person of singer Ms. Lani Misalucha, who gladly obliged us when some of our members asked if she wanted to get sorted. Some children joined us in playing "Mugglephone", which was actually "Pass the Message", Potter style, and "The Story Continues", where they got to write their own version of Book 5. The more artistic ones joined our "Wizard Hat and Wand Making Competition", judged by comic book artist, Gary Mayoralgo, a resident PHP Slytherin and exchange student from Durmstrang.

More than participating in the activities, I think most of the fans went to the Party to interact with fellow fans. We got to meet a lot of people who were even surprised that Pinoy Harry Potter existed. It also wasn't uncommon for total strangers to just launch into a discussion about the books, as well as swap theories about what will happen in Book 5.

By the end of the day, everyone was tired, but happy. We all gladly traded our Hogwarts robes for Muggle clothing. We were finally going to be able to rest and snuggle up with our books.

The Magic of Friendship

The Party is long over, and I've read my way through Book 5 as fast as I could. I've muddled over what happened, felt saddened by the death of a significant character, rejoiced over the evolution of my favorite character, Ginny Weasley, and I am now in the process of rereading. Discussions about the book are flourishing in PHP's online forum, and once more, the fans have something to talk about and share among themselves. I've read the book and I'm happy about it. But more than that, I'm happy to have had the chance to participate in the Launch Party and gain some new friends.

It was fulfilling to see the members unite and volunteer to make the event a success. The Slytherin versus Gryffindor rivalry was still on, but the competition was friendly and healthy, and they are actually really friends in the Muggle world. The Hufflepuffs and Ravenclaws worked hand in hand too. The two Headmistresses happily saw to the smooth conduct of the activities, the Professors and Prefects helped to keep everyone in line, and even our resident He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named was nice to everyone.

The Harry Potter phenomenon and its effects on fans worldwide never cease to amaze me. I started reading the books before Potter-mania truly hit the Philippines, and I'm happy to see kids and adults alike now discovering and rediscovering a love for reading, as well as all the fans coming together to celebrate the release of the new book. The great Albus Dumbledore once said that, "We are only as strong as we are united, as weak as we are divided... Differences of habit and language are nothing at all if our aims are identical and our hearts are open."  Despite the differences in ages and backgrounds, and even affiliations and Houses, Filipino Harry Potter fans all came together in the name of friendship, camaraderie and our common love for the books. There wasn't even a need for spells or potions. Now THAT is what I call magic.


Publishing Information:
This essay was published in the 2BU section of the Philippine Daily Inquirer on August 20, 2003.

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part5 *** 07.08.2003
*** ginnyskywalker *** 03.30.2003