MANILA, Philippines – When the film Love Is Color Blind premiered on December 9, 2021, Ancel Abrenica, a government worker, was online, spending what must have been hours to buy tickets – 900 to be exact, purchased in batches of five from streaming platform KTX. The following day, law student Liz Angeles sent out 300 of those tickets one by one, via email.
It was dizzying work, especially for two busy people, but it was par for the course for them, as they happened to be admins of the Titas of DonBelle, a fan club dedicated to the love team of Donny Pangilinan and Belle Mariano.
DonBelle is a love team whose popularity skyrocketed after the premiere of their series He’s Into Her on May 28, 2021. The Titas of DonBelle was conceived not even a week after, and the group wasted no time in coming up with projects for their beloved pairing.
In August, they put up an LED billboard along EDSA and C5 to celebrate DonBelle’s starring role in Ben&Ben’s music video, “Upuan.” More billboards followed, this time to celebrate DonBelle’s anniversary. A bingo night was held for DonBelle’s fans, the Bubblies. Trees were planted in the actors’ names. DonBelle merch was put up for sale.
On September 7, 2021, both Donny and Belle started following the Titas’ Twitter account, and later started a chat with the group to personally say thanks. The recognition only kept the Titas going.
Perhaps the group’s biggest stunt happened in November, when DonBelle billboards popped up in spots all over the world – from Seoul’s Gangnam district, to Zurich, Switzerland, to the jewel on the billboard crown, the Thomson Reuters building in New York’s iconic Times Square.
Now with about 200 members and several subgroups (including a teen chapter, for those under 20), the Titas of DonBelle is stronger than ever.
One can only imagine the time, money, and effort it takes to make these projects happen. The billboards, in particular, were funded by sponsors, who are also fans of the love team. As Liz and Ancel shared, the Titas get really busy when a project is underway.
Interestingly, Liz had only started fangirling over DonBelle three days before she joined the Titas. She had heard of the loveteam earlier and was already interested in them, but as an undergrad, she was caught up in schoolwork and didn’t have time for fangirling – which she explained is different than being just a regular fan.
“If you’re a fan, you’re different from a stan. Yung fan parang casual lang. If you’re a stan or you’re a fangirl, parang tutok na tutok ka talaga sa idols mo (A fan is just casual. If you’re a stan or a fangirl, you’re really focused on your idols),” she told Rappler in an interview.
Liz isn’t new to fangirling – she has followed several K-pop fandoms before, and is well aware of fan culture. With DonBelle, she was drawn to the chemistry between the two.
In one of her first acts as a stan of the loveteam, she put out a sponsored Instagram story on her fangirl account to greet Belle for her birthday on June 10. It was through the ad that the TItas of DonBelle found her and asked her to join.
Ancel, who handles the group’s Twitter account, joined the group months later, in September 2021. She discovered DonBelle through her 12-year-old daughter, who asked her for permission to watch He’s Into Her when it first came out.
“We really waited for the episodes each week tapos ayun na (that was it), I got interested. I started watching their videos on YouTube, I followed them on Instagram, on YouTube, and on Facebook,” Ancel shared. She was drawn to what she describes as their “positive attitude,” and that she saw them as a good role model for young people.
At the time, Ancel was working from home as an information officer at the the Philippine Information Agency, and work stress was becoming overwhelming.
“Sobrang political, so kailangan ko talaga ng outlet (It was too political, so I needed an outlet),” she shared. Through DonBelle, she was able to rediscover an excitement she hadn’t felt in a long time.
“I found myself really hooked during the pandemic, because experiencing anxiety, I found DonBelle helping me to cope with what’s happening…ayun bumalik yung high school kilig feels sa akin (that high school giddiness came back to me),” she said.
The kilig is what keeps Liz and Ancel going, even if working for the group sometimes takes up more of their energy.
Aside from regularly doing projects to promote DonBelle, the group also holds a virtual general assembly every month to get to know other memebers and brainstorm for future activities.
“As an admin, ang dami talagang time and dedication na i-aallot mo (you really allot so much time and dedication as an admin),” Liz shared.
The work that they do for the group as admins is purely voluntary – they don’t get paid, and the group itself is not a money-making venture. When asked what keeps them going, Liz said “For DonBelle lang talaga (it’s really for them), that’s the motivation.”
She shared how the group took it when Donny and Belle first followed them on Twitter.
“Nag-iyakan kaming admin. It was to get recognized lang, parang na-appreciate nila yung efforts ng team, the whole team. Na-emotional kami (We all cried, us admin. Just to be recognized, it’s like they appreciated the efforts of the team, the whole team. We got really emotional),” Liz said.
In a classic case of passion making a difference, Liz and Ancel said that they could be just as exhausted with fangirl work as regular work, but they come out of it ultimately more fulfilled.
“In my case, I really get satisfaction with DonBelle. (I get) the joy, the kilig I’m craving for,” Ancel said.
For her, it’s also a bonus that they get to make their fellow Bubblies happy.
“We’re reading their messages, nakakatouch ng heart na you get to help, lalo yung mga students palang (it’s really touching that you get to help, especially the students). Marami rin nawalan ng work (a lot of them also lost work) during the pandemic so they can’t afford to buy tickets to watch and follow DonBelle. Seeing them, it’s so satisfying, nakakataba ng puso (it’s really heartwarming),” she said. – Rappler.com