“I’m nervous, I’ve got butterflies,” Zac Efron said hours before the Penshoppe Fan Conference 2012.
Someone asked if he had seen his Penshoppe billboards all over the city. “Not yet,” he said. “I saw one in a picture. It was huge.”
Told that his billboards are everywhere, he said, “Good. Hopefully, they get some people out here tonight.”
Efron shouldn’t have been worried. By the time we walked into SM Mall of Asia Arena, the place was packed with thousands of fans—screaming fans.
The Fan Con kicked off with videos featuring the stars of Penshoppe’s All Stars campaign—Ed Westwick, Leighton Meester, Ian Somerhalder and Mario Maurer. Homegrown musical talents La Divas, Never the Strangers and Jay R performed hot hits as behind-the-scenes footages from the endorsers’ shoots and visits to the Philippines played on the huge screens on the stage.
The fans’ screams became louder and louder in anticipation of what was coming next. Host Boy Abunda appeared and introduced Efron, calling him “one of the most brilliant actors of his generation.”
The UP Pep Squad hit the stage, performing the moves that won them the top prize in this year’s UAAP Cheerdance Competition. Soon, a beaming Zac Efron was onstage, raising his arms as he greeted his adoring fans.
“Mabuhay, Kuya Boy. Salamat. It’s so great to be here!” he said. The crowd went wild.
If he was still nervous, it didn’t show. Efron took off his jacket and threw it towards the mosh pit of outstretched arms in front of him.
“It’s hot up here,” he said.
Around us, Zac Efron fans of all ages were going crazy.
“Ang gwapo!” one shouted.
“Oh my god, ang hot niya!” another shrieked.
Abunda asked him about his trip to the Philippines, and Efron said, “It’s been absolutely incredible. It’s been a dream of mine to come to the Philippines since I was a young boy.”
Then he said, “You guys are awesome. You make me feel at home. I just want to move here.”
Everything he said was punctuated by screams.
Abunda quizzed the actor about his childhood and the early days of his career. Asked if his type of girl has changed through the years, Efron said through the screams, “I think she’s Pinoy. I think she’s out here somewhere. She might be all the way to the top.”
No doubt about it: he is a charmer. He knew exactly what to say to get the crowd going.
Efron talked about meeting Vanessa at the “High School Musical” auditions. The fans screamed at the mention of his ex-girlfriend’s name.
“Vanessa,” he repeated. “My first Filipino girlfriend.”
The screams grew even louder. It was clear Vanessa had fans at the arena, too.
And when Efron talked about how they all cried on the last day of filming “High School Musical,” the audience chorused, “Aww!”
Efron talked about his other films, including “New Year’s Eve” (“It was a dream come true.”) and “The Lucky One” (“We wanted to make it as real as possible.”), his favorite movie (“The Goonies”), his ultimate dream (“To do more movies for you, guys.”), his most treasured possession (“My passport.”), other actors he’d like to work with (“Jack Nicholson, John Travolta, Leo DiCaprio, Johnny Depp”) and how he deals with bad days (“I try to do something crazy. I’d go and bungee-jump or something like that.”).
Asked if he’s been thinking of marriage, Efron said, “Maybe my wife’s in here somewhere.”
“There are certain things fame has taught me,” he said. “To really appreciate my family, my fans. It’s the most important thing in the world, my fans. That’s why it’s so nice to be able to come out here and meet you guys. You’re the only good thing about fame—all of you. You put a smile on my face every time I see you.”
Abunda asked Efron to describe himself in three words. “I can do it in four,” said the Hollywood heartthrob. “I love the Philippines!”
About his first kiss, Efron recalled being in first grade and playing spin-the-bottle in a tree fort. “We kissed and it was awesome,” he said as fans screamed.
Then it was on to Abunda’s “fast talk.”
“Smart or pretty?”
“Black or white?”
“Hot or cold?”
“Coffee or soda?”
“Sing or dance?”
“Both at the same time.”
“Rain or shine?”
“Comedy or drama?”
“Bike or car?”
“Burger or fries?”
“Basketball or soccer?”
“Love or career?”
“Sweet or spicy?”
“Kiss or hug?”
The fan girls screamed some more. Soon, it was their turn to talk. TV personalities MJ Felipe and Andi Manzano were in the audience area, searching for fans who had messages for Zac.
MJ picked a girl who was holding up a sign that read, “Be my first kiss.” Efron walked down the ramp to where the girl was, and said “Nice to meet you” before giving her a kiss on the cheek. The crowd went wild.
One fan screamed hysterically into the mic, “Zac! I love you! I’m 12 and I’m here with my sisters and my mom. I love you so much!”
Another girl said, “I was 15 when I first saw you ‘in High School Musical’ and now I’m in 22 and I still love you, you’re my first love.”
Then there was the girl who just had her birthday two days before the Fan Con. “You are the most wonderful gift I ever received in my entire life. I love you so much! Thank you for being here!”
Efron said, “Happy birthday! Since it’s your birthday, come on backstage!”
Dream come true
They were girls of different ages but the messages were the same.
“I’m 13. Zac, I love you so much!”
“I have loved you since I was 6 years old! Can I have a hug?”
“I love you, can you please sing to me?”
“I just turned 9, can I please have a hug?”
“It’s been amazing,” said Efron about interacting with fans. “I’m so glad I’m finally finally here. It’s a dream come true for me.”
It’s a dream come true for Team Penshoppe, too. Brand director Alex Mendoza said, “We enjoyed the show immensely and became fans just like everyone else. All our months of hard work paid off. But what really thrilled us was how we were able to complete our lineup of stars visiting the Philippines to promote Penshoppe. This was the largest Fan Conference we’ve held so far and the turnout was outstanding.”
When we left the SM Mall of Asia Arena, fans were still lining up to have photos taken with Efron.
Mendoza said they’re just getting started. “Our most loyal Penshoppe fans can expect nonstop excitement in the world of fashion, stars and events. We’re on our way to becoming a truly international brand that Filipinos can be proud of.”