Hope floats

When American Idol season seven winner David Cook and his runner-up David Archuleta played a show at the Mall of Asia Open Concert Grounds in 2009, they spent the days leading up to it doing press. This was taken during a presscon.
In 2008, I had a depressive episode that made me feel like I had been swept out to sea. In my mind, I was frantically treading water, trying to stay afloat while waves crashed down on me. I know that may sound melodramatic to some, but it’s the truth. When you’re mentally ill, your bad days tend to be worse than the ones of those who aren’t—and they tend to go on for much longer than twenty-four hours.

Luckily, American Idol season seven came along and gave me not just one, but two emotional life preservers in the form of rocker David Cook and balladeer David Archuleta—who viewers like me affectionately dubbed “Cook” and “Archie,” respectively.

Before I tuned in to Idol that year, my depression had caused me to lose interest in things that I used to love, like music and singing. But Cook and Archie changed all that. Following their journeys from week to week gave me something to look forward to.

They gave me a reason to live.

Post-Idol, I continued to keep tabs on both their careers. When I heard that they would be coming to the Philippines to perform at the Mall of Asia Open Concert Grounds, I knew I had to watch them. But my heart sank when I found out how much even one ticket would cost. At the time, my mother was struggling to support us both. I felt too guilty to ask her to buy me a ticket to see the Davids when we had other, more important expenses like food and rent. So I didn’t.

This story would’ve ended there if it wasn’t for some girls I met online who were also fans of both Davids. Hoping to catch a glimpse of their Idols, they checked into the hotel in Ortigas where the Davids were billeted and invited me to join them. At first I was extremely hesitant to do so, but when I realized the cost of a hotel room, split several ways, was much cheaper than a concert ticket, I accepted their invitation.

That turned out to be the best decision I made that year.

My friends and I with Jeff Archuleta. This photo was taken before he got in an elevator to go up to his room. Seconds later, my friends pushed me into an elevator with Jeff so I could talk to him one-on-one and tell him my story.
During that hotel stay, the girls and I got to see both Davids in person, and we hung out with some of the members of their entourage. Everyone we met was really nice, but Archie’s father Jeff—whom the American media had portrayed as a strict stage father—turned out to be nicer than any of us expected.

I had a conversation with Jeff one night, during which I told him my story. He was very touched. So much so, in fact, that when he discovered that I wasn’t going to watch the concert because I couldn’t afford to, Jeff gave me a VIP ticket. Yes, for free!

The poster promoting the Davids' concert. I didn't include concert videos in this post, but you can find some on YouTube. I remember rhapsodizing over someone's channel because they uploaded Archie's full set after the concert.
The Davids’ concert passed by in a blur of sight and sound. I don’t remember much about it except that I danced and sang along to every song. So “energetic” was my dancing that I shattered the plastic chair I stood on to get a better view. Oops.

But as fantastic as my Idols were live, what happened next was even better.

Cook, Archie and their entourage were set to leave the Philippines the morning after to fulfill some commitments back in the United States. Some fans, including the girls and I, gathered in their hotel’s lobby one last time to see them both off. Cook left for the airport at the crack of dawn, but Archie and Jeff didn’t come downstairs until around noon.

When they did, Jeff made a beeline for our group to say goodbye. I started to thank him for what he did, but he silenced me with a hug and whispered into my ear at the same time. Watch a video of that moment below.

When Jeff let go, I stepped back and tried not to bawl as I watched him and his son walk away.

I did manage to get Archie’s autograph (watch the video below; he signs my notebook at the 0:51 mark) but what his father said to me before they left had the greater impact on me.

“You’re a good kid,” Jeff said, patting me on the back. “Keep the hope up.”

They say that hope floats—which basically means that when it’s all we can do to keep our heads above water, hope will keep us afloat. Before Cook and Archie competed on American Idol season seven, I was in a pretty dark place.

They saved me from myself, and for as long as they keep making music, I will keep the hope up.


The old Julian can't come to the phone right now.

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