Korean series

The calm and honest company of ‘Hometown Cha-Cha-Cha’

Marj Casal Handog
The calm and honest company of ‘Hometown Cha-Cha-Cha’

Screengrab from Netflix

There were no dark plot twists, no unpleasant surprises, just quiet moments of rooting for our Gongjin family

Editor’s note: Spoilers ahead.

The makers of Hometown Cha-Cha-Cha call it a “healing drama.” But despite the heads up, I still couldn’t help but expect this wholesome weekend series to take a dark and painful turn. And based on the tweets you’ll find under the hashtag #HometownChaChaChaEpXX every time an episode airs, the whole Hometown Cha-Cha-Cha nation feels the same way.

You can’t blame us, we’ve been watching K-dramas that seem to love the idea of breaking people’s hearts before giving us a happy ending. Sometimes, there’s no happy ending at all, just a broken heart and a heavy feeling after more than 16 hours spent watching. 

I understand though how some filmmakers would feel like a happy ending is overrated and predictable. Some demanding viewers would also probably expect more than to see their own speculations proven and would rather be taken on a roller coaster ride of plot twists. Watching K-dramas is a form of escape after all.

I admit, I did enjoy those gripping kinds of K-dramas like The King: Eternal Monarch and It’s Okay To Not Be Okay. It’s like living in another world. But considering the kind of world we’re living in now, the simple and quiet world of Hometown Cha-Cha-Cha is exactly where I would want to be.

What Dr. Yoon Hye-jin (Shih Min-a) did in the drama is a back seat dream many of us who live a rat race life holds – to move away from the city and into a peaceful, faraway place. We dream of being content with a small but meaningful career. We imagine ourselves joyfully spending our time doing mundane things like cleaning the streets, washing blankets, cooking porridge, making soap and maybe some fruit wine. But it’s a dream we can’t imagine fulfilling in real life. At least not right now.  

Maybe that’s why it was so satisfying to live vicariously through Hye-jin. It wasn’t exactly her dream. It was her second and probably only choice after a series of bad luck struck her career in the city. And it turned out to be the best second choice she had ever made. 

Moving to the small island of Gongjin, her dental clinic flourished with her best friend (who also found her footing in Gongjin) beside her, she gradually made new and interesting friends, her glamorous lifestyle slowly found a healthy balance, and she fell in love with Chief Hong Du-sik (Kim Seon-ho), the man of our dreams. 

Chief Hong is the man of our dreams not because he has chiseled abs and muscular arms. While he has an undeniably handsome face and the cutest, deepest dimples, Chief Hong is a gentleman, a reliable friend, a responsible citizen, and even a kind stranger. An overall “good boy.”

He’s smart (he graduated with a degree in engineering from Seoul National University), highly skilled (he is a certified plumber, carpenter, painter, interior designer, real estate agent, and more. He even has a certificate in fruit plating!). He doesn’t live in a bachelor pad but in a neat and clean old house filled with books by authors like Leo Tolstoy, where he also cooks and concocts his own wine and herbal medicine.

He is the opposite of the usually cool, indifferent, mind-boggling, toxic male leads who are afraid of commitments that we see in K-dramas (and by that, I meant you, Park Jae-eon of Nevertheless). He still had issues that he needed to solve but he wasn’t afraid to admit his feelings for Hye-jin when she confessed to him (another breath of fresh air – a woman took the lead!). I half expected him to turn her down but instead, he returned her feelings in a clear and straightforward manner: by saying “I like you,” too. No word play, no mind games, no friends with benefits phase.

It doesn’t usually happen this way but Hometown Cha-Cha-Cha cared to include the sometimes awkward but essential conversations that happen in between passionate moments. After saying “I like you” to each other, for example, Hye-jin clarified if that meant that they were now dating and Chief Hong answered that yes, of course they were. The official date was even lovingly marked in a calendar with heart-shaped stickers.

When THE episode came – K-drama fans would know that the third and second to the last episodes are usually the heartbreaking ones – it was indeed heart-wrenching. I was crying the whole time but it was the painful healing process that needed to occur. We want our Gongjin and Sikhye fam to not just be happy but to also feel free to grieve, mourn, and process their emotions so they can all live a full life. 

After learning the full story of Chief Hong’s past, we knew all along that none of the bad things that happened was exactly his fault. His pure kindness and loneliness was just telling him otherwise. Thankfully, the strong and healthy relationship of our Sikhye power couple survived episodes 14 and 15. 

Hometown Cha-Cha-Cha taught us that no matter what our misunderstandings are, we can give our loved ones the space and time they need without leaving them behind. We can help the person we love grow and find his or her self while staying by their side. Time apart helps but it’s not always the ultimate solution.

Just like how all the loose ends in the story of every Gongjin neighbor were tied (I knew he was the lottery winner!), so were our fervent prayers for Chief Hong and Hye-jin. In true Hye-jin fashion, she was again the first to propose marriage to Chief Hong. And in true Sikhye fashion, it turns out that Chief Hong himself was also planning to propose at the same time, leaving us all happy to see the natural course of events unfolding.

We may not have seen them actually walk down the aisle, say “I do,” and have kids like how we imagined while watching them hold Yoon-kyeong’s (Kim Ju-yeon) newborn baby, but I realized it was enough that they let us into their intimate pre-wedding photo shoot by Chief Hong’s boat when even the rest of the Gongjin neighborhood couldn’t. It was our special moment with the Sikhye couple, and also our quiet farewell.

Now that Hometown Cha-Cha-Cha has come to an end, I feel it when people say that weekends will never be the same again. It has been a calm and cozy eight weeks in Gongjin. At least we have a beautiful and satisfying happy ending to take with us as we carry on with our own lives. 

I’m secretly hoping that we’ll see more of Hometown Cha-Cha-Cha or more “healing dramas” that will give us warm and fuzzy feelings with a tinge of real life lessons. What’s happening to our world right now is anything but simple and straightforward. So, yes, please we’ll have more of what we’ve just had: another Chief Hong and Hye-jin and the rest of the Gongjin family to comfort us in these trying times. – Rappler.com

Marj Casal Handog

Marj Casal heads the content team of BrandRap, Rappler’s sales and marketing arm. She helps create native advertising campaigns for brands like San Miguel Brewery, Shell, GCash, Grab, BDO, and more.