Tuesday, January 04, 2011

Jiro Wang - his story

His father was in the military, and after retiring he worked as a security guard. His mother worked as a seamstress, but after her eyesight failed due to old age, she gave up her job. Jiro's parents married late; his mother was forty, his father fifty, when they had him. Jiro's health had never been too good when he was young, maybe because his parents had him old. He used to have asthma, but that ceased to be a problem after he took up swimming. His parents doted upon him, as he was their only child.

Jiro has loved to draw since young, and made it his goal to enter Fushing College of the Arts. When he graduated from high school, he clutched his acceptance letter from Fushing and bounded home, intending to use that as a Father's Day gift for his father. But when he reached home, he found an ambulance outside his house, and with a heavy heart pounding in tandem with his footsteps he raced home, only to learn that his father had had a fall. Jiro's father had never been able to get up since. He was hospitalised for diabetes.

Because his father was hospitalised and his mother was no longer working, compounded with the issue of hefty school fees for Fushing College, Jiro began sourcing for odd jobs everywhere to support the family. His father continued to be hospitalised for five years before diabetes took him. Before he died, Jiro's father told him that he had to take on the responsibility of supporting the family. Jiro agreed. His father left.

That year when he turned eighteen was probably the start of Jiro's financial problems. He had to repay the debt his father owed when the latter bought the house, amounting to six million NTD. Jiro had to look everywhere for a job, and sometimes had to juggle three jobs at once. He had to play multiple roles, sometimes as a mascot in an amusement park or the zoo, sometimes handing out flyers, sometimes as a waiter in a bar, a sales assistant in a boutique, freelance model. He even worked as an odd-job labourer, those who work at construction sites, carrying buckets of mud and steel bars. Sometimes, he also hawked items in fairs till late at night.

After his father died, leaving behind a trail of financial debts, a lot of Jiro's friends persuaded him to sell his house. But Jiro was adamant about not selling it, only saying, "It's a memory my father left for us. I won't sell it."

In 2006, after the band Fahrenheit (an idol quartet that Jiro is part of) became famous, Jiro finally managed to repay his debts. But he continues to leave only five thousand NTD (about one hundred and seventy USD) for himself a month because he had to repay the bank interest of his father's loan. [In 2008, Jiro managed to completely pay off all his debts, and even bought a second-hand car. In 2010, he bought himself a new bike that he likes to ride along the coast.]

Jiro's road to stardom was rocky, to say the least. At eighteen, he formed a band named DCW with his college friends, and was the lead singer and guitarist. They went around performing and entered competitions. Because of his outstanding performance and good looks, he was scouted by an agent and signed on by an international record company. Then, he had high hopes for his future, but then came the 9/11 incident and half of the staff from the company was laid off. His dreams of becoming a musician were dashed.

To single-handedly bear the task of propping up the family is a challenge for someone so young. As he narrated his story to the reporter, he couldn't help but let the tears fall. It was a relief to the reporter, in fact; it was better than seeing him hold back his tears and eke out a watery smile.

Despite how tired he was, Jiro is always meticulous about his appearance and how he presents himself in front of the camera. He has always put in more effort than others in the industry. In Fahrenheit, bandmate Wu Chun, often dubbed the Bruneian prince, owns two fitness centres back home; Aaron's father is a renowned doctor; and Calvin's father is in the export business. Apart from Jiro, the rest of Fahrenheit grew up in well-to-do families, while Jiro faces mounting debts at home.

"There's nothing fair or unfair about it." He squeezed out a beatific smile, like one of those commonly seen in idol dramas. "Maybe my life was more colourful than those of my peers then. Because I came out to work early, I've gained a lot of work experience."

But the truth is bleaker than he makes it out to be. He even worked in construction sites, where he was eighteen, where he had to carry steel bars and buckets of mud around and lay sewage piping.

"I see that as a chance to work out. It seems I've been working out since high school!" he laughed, cracking a joke at his expense in his usual upbeat manner.

His father's illness turned him from an introverted boy into a bubbly extrovert, because that was the only way he knew how to mask his worries so that no one would see his weakness, his vulnerability.

"When I was young, I'd cry even when I had to receive an award on stage. But until my dad fell sick, I wanted to make myself stronger, so that everyone would see me as the happy kid, because I didn't want to make my mom worry."

That was how he nurtured his outgoing, bubbly nature.

"For my mother, I think anything is worth doing. It's my duty." His nose twitched slightly. His eyes reddened. It was apparent he was about to cry, but when his agent offered him a tissue, he said, "It's okay. I can hold it in."

"When I'm all wiped out from acting, my mother would worry about my health and wake up half an hour earlier to prepare a nutritious breakfast for me. No matter how late I reach home, she would still be waiting up for me. She often says I'm her best sleeping pill - when I'm not at home, she can't get to sleep. When I reach home and come out from a bath, I'd already hear her yawning. She really has it worse than me."

Family is, quite evidently, Jiro's Achilles' heel. Just ten seconds ago he said he was a man who didn't cry, but he let his tears fall freely now.

"My father was sincere in courting my mother. She often said to me, if you're going to find a girlfriend, you have to learn a thing or two from your father. My mother was a seamstress, and when she and my father had a date at six p.m., he would already be waiting nearby at two."

All he has left are these scattered bittersweet memories. His father's illness marked the start of Jiro's difficulties and challenges. He was the lead singer of his band in high school, DCW, and devoted hours to practising, so that he could temporarily forget about the possibility of losing his family.

In the end, his father died on 23 December.

With a wan smile, Jiro said, "My bandmates and I had practised hard for a performance on Christmas eve. I didn't want to go for the performance anymore, but my mother urged me to." He paused to choke on the last few words. With a shaky breath, he went on, "So from then on, every time I'm on stage, I feel like I can hear my father cheering me on. But I feel bad for my mom; she's had to shoulder so many responsibilities."

His father left a pile of debt behind. Jiro took on a seemingly insurmountable challenge. But what else was there to do apart from holding up his smile? His friend egged him on to take up modelling, and go for singing auditions. But his hopes to form a band with Jay Chou and Jordan Chan (HK singer) were dashed because of the 9/11 incident.

He recalls, "I was slated to release a record after Jay and Jordan. But after half the staff from BMG were laid off, I crashed to the ground after being buoyed by my expectations. That night, I cried like a baby, because I felt like I'd let a lot of people down, especially my mother."

After his supporting role in idol drama, It Started With a Kiss, Jiro's career plummeted into a three year-low waiting stint. He went to serve in the military, but never gave up on his dreams.

"I was quite foolish then. With my background and serving environment, I couldn't afford to pursue my dreams. But then I thought, I was still young, anyway, so why not go for it? I didn't want to grow old and tell my children, 'Daddy regrets that when he was young he didn't dare to chase his dreams.'"

The toil he went through in his early years conditioned him into a versatile and persistent artiste. In Hana Kimi, another idol drama filmed in 2005, Jiro starred as the second male lead in 2005, alongside Fahrenheit bandmate Wu Chun, who played the first male lead.

When a reporter commented, "You used to be the star of Fahrenheit, but after Wu Chun joined the group, it seems he's stolen the stage from you," Jiro replied, picking his words with care, "There's no such thing as stealing the stage. He may take on the lead role today, and tomorrow maybe someone else will. Anyone can perch on the crest of the wave. I won't be affected by what reporters write. I even wish Chun would bring me to Brunei! Of course, if he sponsors my ticket, I won't complain."

The reporter went on to ask, "It's often rumoured that you and Wu Chun don't interact very much with each other. Is that true?"

"How can that be true? Although the four of us have very different personalities and opinions, we're all adults. At most, we'll fight it out and be done with it!" he laughed. "I'm kidding. No, we have very different temperaments. The media and the rest of the audience just like to magnify these differences and make comparisons among us. That's not a problem among us. After all, we've been together for two years and counting [five now], so we've fostered a close friendship through work. Fahrenheit consists of the four of us, and for me, it's like having three more brothers. We rely on and support one another, all of us fighting for a common goal!"

Because he feels he is not as well-endowed as his Fahrenheit bandmates, Jiro pushes himself to work doubly hard. He used to have asthma, and now only squeezes in a couple of hours of sleep because of his hectic work schedule. Often, he was overworked and suffered from frequent nosebleeds and once, even meningitis (inflammation of protective membranes around the brain).

But Jiro said, "Unless I'm hospitalised, I won't say no to work. That time when I fainted on the set, I was really beaten. And the best thing was, I only fainted after we wrapped up for the day. I already felt nauseous when we were filming, but I knew that if I fell then, a lot of people's schedules would be affected by me."

Although, if you asked him what was the biggest sacrifice he'd ever had to make in order to achieve his goals, he would tell you, "Time. Time with my family."

When asked why he wants to perform on stage, he said, "Because my father used to like having me sing in front of his friends and our relatives. My father was my biggest fan."

He said with the money he's earning now, he would like to take his mother on a vacation. "I want to bring her to Disneyland [he's done it], to Holland to see the tulips (it's the flower his father frequently gave his mother) in bloom, to Greece to see the temples, to China to see the Great Wall...."

Asked about the most perfect woman on earth, Jiro replies without hesitation, "My mother. And the man I aspire to be is someone like my father, dependable and strong, one who will walk to the end of the world with the girl he loves and never let go of her hand."

Now that he is able to provide a comfortable life for his family, his father is unable to enjoy it, so Jiro lavishes his mother extravagantly. He hopes his father in heaven can see that he is taking care of his mother for him. He usually wears accessories that do not quite match the amulet bracelet his mother got for him from the temple. He never takes it off because he knows that his safety is the biggest consolation and source of happiness for his mother.

A boy who loves drawing, pencil and paper are his closest companions. For his autobiography, he drew a family portrait along with other works. In it, he is a young boy of five, flashing a mischievous grin and the victory sign while sitting in the lap of his mother. She smiles mildly ahead, her husband's arm around her. He, on the other hand, seems stern, but in his eyes belies a gentleness that is conveyed through his hand on his wife's shoulder. This is the time Jiro wishes to return to. That family portrait exists only in his mind (it's not an actual photo - Jiro has never taken a proper photo with his parents because one of them is always the one taking the photo) - he can only rely on his memory to create that portrait.

"When I'm drawing, I get transported back to the happiest time of my life: my childhood."

Original article: Jiro Wang selected as top ten most filial sons
Translated by: Joyce C.


0*( فتاة االهند )*0 said...

Very cool ..
Really wonderful
I like a lot jiro
I am happy to meet with you

Shizuka O said...

I'm still getting to know Jiro, and really, I loved to read all of this about him... It just makes me llove him more! Thanks for the translation :D