How TWICE became the queens of my heart at ‘READY TO BE’ Bulacan

Russell Ku

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How TWICE became the queens of my heart at ‘READY TO BE’ Bulacan

Photos from TWICE's X page

Whether you are high up in the upper box or sitting in VIP, X user @tzujuliee summed up how it felt – that TWICE really showed us 'what a concert should be'

MANILA, Philippines – “Our last stop in the Philippines was in 2019 and it’s been such a long time since we returned. Did you guys wait for us?” TWICE leader Jihyo asked Filipino ONCEs during the first night of their READY TO BE tour at the Philippine Arena on Saturday, September 30.

For many Filipino fans of TWICE, it was a promise fulfilled after four years of watching the K-pop girl group from afar while the world was dealing with a pandemic. For me, this was a culmination of my love for them – a love that started in high school when they achieved massive success with “CHEER UP” and “TT.” 

The Bulacan concert was also a chance for me to finally heal from the regret of not being able to witness TWICELIGHTS in Manila – which was the first time TWICE visited the Philippines – when I was still a college student. I knew I would do anything to finally see the group up close when what would become a two-day show was first announced back in April.

As ONCEs counted the weeks, days, and hours to TWICE’s Philippine return, the excitement would be dampened by JYP Entertainment’s announcement on September 29 that Chaeyoung would skip the shows due to health issues. 

However, this became all the more reason for Filipino ONCEs, young and old, to make the Bulacan shows a memorable experience for the group, as they pulled out all the stops to give TWICE the proper Filipino welcome through colorful costumes and elaborate props. 

Clothing, Shorts, Road
SUPERSIZED. A fan brings an enlarged version of the Candy Bong Infinity ahead of TWICE’s ‘READY TO BE’ concert in Bulacan on September 30, 2023. Russell Ku/Rappler

Before the concert started, audiences were welcomed by a huge stage with a loop of the members moving their heads around with their eyes closed. Every time Chaeyoung would pop up on the screen, the crowd would chant her name loudly to show that her presence was sorely missed. 

Filipino ONCEs would also start a lightstick wave as they raised their Candy Bongs, old and new, around the distant corners of the Philippine Arena to pass the time before showtime. 

Cinema, Adult, Female
FEELS SPECIAL. Stage design of TWICE’s ‘READY TO BE’ concert in Bulacan on September 30, 2023. Russell Ku/Rappler

I screamed in excitement with my friend Maegan and my seatmates Trisha and Ashe as the lights dimmed and the ARMNHMR remix of “SET ME FREE” started playing. The show would start with us singing along to the English version of “SET ME FREE” and chanting to the infectious “risky risky wiggy 위기, this is an emergency” line in “I CAN’T STOP ME.” 

TWICE witnessed the endless energy of Filipino ONCEs as they sang along to “GO HARD,” “Moonlight Sunrise,” “The Feels,” “Dance The Night Away,” “YES OR YES,” “LIKEY,” “What Is Love,” and “FANCY,” among others. The effort earned praise from the members.

“I’ve noticed from your cheers and during our performances [that] everyone was singing along,” Jihyo said during one of their many ment segments.

“We could hear all of your screams inside our in-ear monitors,” Jeongyeon added.

Stage, Concert, Crowd
WE JUST GO HARD. TWICE performs ‘GO HARD’ during the group’s ‘READY TO BE’ concert in Bulacan on September 30, 2023. Russell Ku/Rappler

Dahyun also got to show her Tagalog skills to the crowd: “Magandang gabi, Ako si Dahyun. ONCE, kamusta kayo? Namiss ko kayo (Good evening, I am Dahyun. How are you ONCE? I missed you).” Jihyo and Nayeon also shouted “shot puno (bottoms up)” before “Alcohol-Free” to the delight of cheering Filipino ONCEs. 

TWICE members also got to show their individual charms with their solo stages such as Tzuyu’s performance of Charlie Puth’s “Done For Me,” Dahyun’s take on Colbie Caillat’s “Try,” Sana’s cover of Dua Lipa’s “New Rules,” and Jeongyeon’s rendition of Justin Timberlake’s “Can’t Stop The Feeling.” Mina’s twerking to Ariana Grande’s “7 Rings” and Momo’s pole dance break in her cover of Beyonce’s “Move” drew the Bulacan crowd to make the loudest cheers. 

Stage, Dancing, Leisure Activities
SOLO DANCE. TWICE’s Momo dances to Beyonce’s ‘Move’ during the group’s ‘READY TO BE’ concert in Bulacan on September 30, 2023. Russell Ku/Rappler

Jihyo and Nayeon also got to showcase their own solo works with “Killin’ Me Good” and “POP!” 

By the time TWICE performed the final dance break of “Talk That Talk” before moving on to the encore part of the show, I was left smiling and jumping to the beat.

Fan service

However, our Day One show would be met with hiccups as sound issues plagued Jihyo’s solo acapella moment during “Feel Special” and the “Queen of Hearts” performance. What amazed me was how TWICE decided to repeat the performances during the encore stages to the delight of Filipino ONCEs. 

During the encore wheel segment, the group also decided to perform the Korean version of their Japanese single “BDZ” after the Bulacan crowd loudly chanted for the song. 

One lucky fan who wore a green neon light suit in the upper box section got their moment as TWICE was amused by the outfit.

“It’s true that it’s only that person wearing neon among all of our ONCEs today. Where can we buy that?” Jihyo asked. 

The group also congratulated a newly engaged couple and even asked them to kiss when they were shown on camera. 

In my case, I got lucky every time TWICE visited the extended stage as I interacted with some of the members. I remembered dancing to “Knock Knock” and Momo would start dancing along with me and even pointed at me, leaving me in disbelief.

During the encore stage, Maegan, Ashe, and I got our biases, Jihyo and Sana, to notice our banners. The hardest was getting Jihyo to notice Ashe’s fan art. We put all our energy (and voices) into making sure that the TWICE leader would notice my seatmate’s hard work. 

Once Jihyo noticed Ashe’s art, she even managed to get a staff member to hand her the piece and pose with it. The reaction on our faces was priceless as we screamed and hugged, knowing that we had achieved the impossible. 

Energetic crowd

As I was still recovering, physically and mentally, from the first day, I felt I was missing out on Day Two after seeing the loud crowd. 

TWICE even heard that we were doing lightstick waves before the concert and Jihyo hoped to take a video of it on her phone. On Day Two, the group even asked Filipino ONCEs to stop as fans kept waving from left to right. 

Sana and Tzuyu were overwhelmed by the love and support from Filipino ONCEs as they shared their gratitude online and during the concert.

“We’ve been to different cities during our tour and I think this city is the best,” Sana said. 

Whether you are high up in the upper box or sitting in VIP, X user @tzujuliee summed up how it felt – that TWICE really showed us “what a concert should be.”

There are still things I wished that would have been done better by organizers: the encore wheel was just the same as previous Asian stops, and there were issues with the proper handling of on-ground staff, as Live Nation Philippines had to issue a statement on a crew member who sold paraphernalia, such as the highly coveted Mina dollars, to concertgoers.

I was first introduced to TWICE in 2016 when they were dominating the K-pop world with their cute concepts. Seeing them in the flesh as mature women, seven years later, with a diverse set of songs, made me think about how I have matured with the group from high school to early adulthood. The READY TO BE show in Bulacan wasn’t just a concert for me; it was a celebration of the youth I lived with all these years. 

On Day Two, Jihyo, Nayeon, and Dahyun promised the Bulacan crowd that TWICE would come back to the Philippines. I hope, if not promise, to see them again this time as a complete group, with a healthy and happy Chaeyoung. –

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Russell Ku

Russell Ku is a digital communications specialist at Rappler who believes in the power of stories to build an empathic society.