My unexpected affair with K-Pop

"I didn’t expect you to be a K-Pop fan," my colleague Jekki Pascual told me.

It’s true. I don’t really look like one and I don’t consider myself a hardcore fan. (Confession: I sometimes still have a hard time differentiating one SNSD member from another).

I’d like to think I pale in comparison to other true-blue K-Pop fans, but I guess compared to the rest of the ANC people who haven’t even heard of Girls’ Generation, I’m already hardcore.

Let me explain.

My unexpected love affair with K-Pop actually started in May 2009, when my high school friends introduced me to just-debuted 2NE1, featuring Sandara Park who now goes by the name Dara. The introduction basically consisted of these two 2NE1 songs (though it can be argued that the second one is more BIGBANG than 2NE1):

I was naturally intrigued. Sandara was my favorite contestant in ABS-CBN’s defunct talent show. Plus, I only knew of Taiwanese pop (ehem F4) and J-Pop (hello Utada Hikaru). So while listening to FIRE, I was like, “Wow, Korean pop actually exists!”

It was also in 2009 when I first heard the viral Nobody by the Wonder Girls. Yep, the one with the viral choreography that I’d like to think catapulted them to mainstream consciousness. Apparently, it was first released in 2008, but what do I know. Since I first heard the song in English, it didn’t occur to me that it was a Korean single by a Korean act. Idiot.

Anyway. After 2009, I never actively kept track of K-Pop developments. Work happened, that’s what. Well sure, I did notice when Dara first hopped on Twitter. But basically I wasn’t paying a lot of attention to K-Pop and ended up exploring other genres instead, because Internet. 

Fast-forward to June 2013. It was a Saturday night, and I was still in the office. I was channel-surfing while waiting for my office computer to reboot. I got to Channel V (yes millennials, the channel still exists!) and suddenly, a splash of pattern, colors and flashy choreography: SHINee's music video for Dream Girl.

The video blew my mind, mainly because of how they danced. I mean, who would’ve thought you can do a lot of steps with a mic stand? I had no idea, and I was FLOORED! Weeks later, after seeing the same MV for the second time, I decided to listen to SHINee’s The 3rd Album Chapter 1.’Dream Girl-The misconceptions of you’ and I found myself a K-Pop boyband I’d root for.

Fast-forward again to August 2013. Here I was, randomly channel-surfing on a Friday night when I stumbled upon Channel M’s Dancing 9. It was the show’s 3rd episode but its format as a dance survival show got me hooked.  


THIS! Sorry, no English subs. At 22:55, you’d see Hyohyeon and Yuri teach the choreography to Girls’ Generation’s The Boys.

I since became a fan of Dancing 9. But more importantly, it introduced me to the gem that was The Boys, ultimately introducing me to the SNSD fandom. Which probably explains why I don’t feel conflicted that I root for Girls’ Generation and 2NE1 at the same time, considering that they come from rival agencies.

Since then I was actively checking out updates on these artists. I thought that was already the peak of my pseudo-fangirling but I was wrong. The same group of friends who introduced me to 2NE1 introduced me to the K-Drama, The Heirs.

The show deserves a special mention because this scene had me intrigued on who’s executing this great transition from rapid Korean to flawless English. Apparently it’s Krystal, who is not primarily an actress but a singer from the girl group f(x).

I also found out, thanks to Wikipedia, that she’s the sister of my favorite SNSD member Jessica.

How could I have missed that?! I’m just really bad with faces I suppose, lol.

Fast-forward again to July 2014 and Channel M airs the pilot episode of Jessica & Krystal. I tell you, even my sister who couldn’t care less about K-everything was as fascinated as I already was.

The series also had me listening to f(x)’s newest album Red Light, which actually has great tracks. I’m still partial to the carrier single though, because the song just kicks ass, possibly second to 2NE1’s I AM THE BEST.



I know, I know, it’s kinda unfair for me to compare the two songs, but these singles just. kick. ass. I cannot emphasize that enough.

Adding to my K-Pop flame of 2014: Dara coming to the Philippines ahead of the 2NE1 concert. I didn’t go because I had work plus it wasn’t a priority. As I said, hindi nga ako hardcore K-Pop fan; tamang fan lang.

But while she was here, Dara dominated Twitter trends and appeared on several Kapamilya shows. It also didn’t help that I actually saw her in the flesh in the halls of ABS-CBN.

So basically that’s how as far as my fandom goes. There’s still a lot of other K-Pop artists out there, but I haven’t listened to them yet because I’m still busy catching up with these artists. Heck, I haven’t even started on the TaeTiSeo sub-unit and CL’s solo album.

I write this entry in the wake of the depressing news that Jessica has been dropped from the Girls’ Generation lineup. It’s the news I woke up to today yesterday morning and I was am still devastated. Basically I am a mix of the denial, anger and depression stages of grief. In the little time I have come to know the group, I sincerely believe SNSD won’t be the same without Jessica.

I write this entry as a way of coping, I suppose.


Once more with feelings: IT’S JUST NOT THE SAME. #OT9

But will the news make me quit SNSD and, gasp, K-Pop? Nope, unless the industry stops churning out great songs aka impossible. My affair with K-Pop may have gotten off to a rough start, but I think I’m in this for good. It’s not like I’m going to stop listening to other genres anyway.

Still, I don’t know if I can ever accept that Jessica’s out of GG. Maybe soon. Maybe never. I guess it’s a common feeling for some fans when they learn that their favorite band/idol group has membership troubles. (I would know. I’m still in denial over Sugarfree’s breakup, but that’s another genre and fandom altogether.) In the meantime, let me mourn this news by putting Girls’ Generation’s discography circa with Jessica on Spotify repeat. 

Postmortem to UP Pep Squad

Dear UP Pep Squad,

First of all, I love you. I love you whether you lose or win.

I loved you even more when you went out there, pushed the boundaries of cheerdancing and, at the same time, pushing for equality and denouncing discrimination. No other team manages to pull that off while performing an awesome routine. Girls tossing guys in the air? One stunt transitioning to a stable pyramid in just 3 seconds? Girls lifting guys for eye-popping pyramids? Ang baliw niyo, ang halimaw niyo, and I love you for it.

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THIS. (Photo via fullcourtfresh.com)

I thought you had it in the bag. Everyone thought you had it in the bag. Even UST’s oh-so-pretty routine only had me rattled for a bit, because I was confident you’d win.

Until NU performed.

See, that’s the elephant in the room here. We could talk about heart. We could talk about equality. We could cite frameworks and theories we learn from UP about your 6-minute performance. But NU pushed the boundaries even further by executing more advanced stunts (yes, even for my untrained eye). NU flawlessly pulled off a jaw-dropping routine in clockwork precision that the UP crowd in Araneta sat in stunned silence, and we’re left without the trophy for another year.

I’ve seen some tweets blasting judges for favoring NU’s ‘racist’ performance inspired by native Americans over UP’s routine that highlights equality. But you can’t fault judges for doing their job, which is to rate routines based on tumblings, stunts, pyramids, tosses and dance. In case we’ve forgotten, wala ang theme sa criteria, kesyo tungkol pa yan kay Madonna o sa territorial dispute between Philippines and China.

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Tignan mo naman yung lamang nila, kahit may deductions pa! (Photo via Jane Bracher/Rappler)

NU has been doing this for two years now, outscoring us when it comes to the technical aspects of cheerdance. And they’ll do it again and again and again, probably until they manage to get everyone in Araneta cheer for them when Boom or whoever-will-his-cohost be announces NU Pep Squad as champions. Just like how nearly everyone in Araneta joined the Unibersidad ng Pilipinas cheer last Sunday when UP was declared 1st runner-up.

It’s pointless to debate about funding. NU has it, and that’s the new normal. We don’t have it, and we’ve dealt with that reality for years. What would make this year, next year or the next decade different from the years we’ve lived with the lack of funds? Buti nga may sponsors na kayo ngayon, kasama pa yung logo nila sa uniform niyo sa Araneta. Besides, we’ve always managed to pull through without money, with honor & excellence as our battlecry. Siyempre mas OK pa rin kung tataasan ang state subsidy, pero ibang debate na yan.

You guys were quoted as saying na bonus na lang ang manalo. C’mon. This is a competition. We don’t compete for fun and games. We compete to win, and even if winning is unattainable, we still strive for the best and we always give our best. Giting at tapang nga ang itinatanghal natin, ‘di ba. Sama mo na rin ang honor and excellence.

Besides, the far-from-pleased looks on your faces when you were named 1st runner-up may have inadvertently expressed what (I assume) you felt about this competition: you wanted to win, nothing less.

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OK lang yan guys. Tao tayo, pwede tayong masaktan, at pwede ring hindi natin itago yun. (Screenshots via iWantv.com.ph)

UP Pep Squad, I love you, but it’s time to reexamine saan tayo nagkulang and see how we could move forward. We’ve been known to push the limit when it comes to cheerleading, pero kasi sa bawat tatlong hakbang nating pasulong, nakakaisang kilometro na ang ibang koponan. Hindi na lang ito basta sino ang mayroong magandang theme eh. Labanan na ito ng galing. 

Pasensya na kung masyadong demanding. Pero ganoon talaga eh. From those to whom much is given, much is expected. Oo, totoo, mahal ko kayo, manalo man o matalo. Pero inumpisahan kasi natin ang pag-angat ng antas ng kompetisyon bawat taon, kaya marapat lang naman sigurong tayo ang magtuloy noon at sa bandang huli ay maging kampeon.

May isang taon pa tayo para gawin yun, at alam kong kaya niyo yan. Kayo pa, eh Pep Squad nga kayo ng bayan.

Love,
Isang fan at kaeskwela.

UP Pep Squad UAAPCDC uaapcdc2014

Kung makaakap lang ako, wagas eh! Haha. But really, this was one opportunity I couldn’t miss.
I had no shame. The first thing I did after screaming “OH MY GOD!” when he arrived at the newsroom was to shake his hand and bow to him for his performance in Spain. The gesture made him laugh. I was shaking while looking for my phone’s camera app, and he calmed me down by massaging my shoulders.
After what seemed like forever, I found my camera app, but had to wait for others who had their photo-ops. I finally went up to him for a picture, and he happily obliged when I hugged him for this shot. “Thank you po! Good luck sa Incheon!” “Uy, salamat!”
No really, Jimmy Alapag, salamat. Isa kang alamat, kapitan.

Kung makaakap lang ako, wagas eh! Haha. But really, this was one opportunity I couldn’t miss.

I had no shame. The first thing I did after screaming “OH MY GOD!” when he arrived at the newsroom was to shake his hand and bow to him for his performance in Spain. The gesture made him laugh. I was shaking while looking for my phone’s camera app, and he calmed me down by massaging my shoulders.

After what seemed like forever, I found my camera app, but had to wait for others who had their photo-ops. I finally went up to him for a picture, and he happily obliged when I hugged him for this shot.

“Thank you po! Good luck sa Incheon!”
“Uy, salamat!”

No really, Jimmy Alapag, salamat. Isa kang alamat, kapitan.