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For many Hallyu fans, year-end award ceremonies are one of the highly-anticipated events they look forward to. Not only do they feature special stages and never-before-seen collaborations, but they also put a spotlight on the hard work exerted by their favorite artists, as these acts get acknowledged for their achievements throughout the year.
And for the longest time, most Filipino fans thought that it’d be a far-flung dream to witness their favorite stars being recognized in person.
Thankfully, their prayers were heard as the Philippines finally got the chance to host such a prestigious event on December 14, 2023. In a historic first, the Asia Artist Awards (AAA), which recognizes outstanding work in music, television, film, and music in the region, was held at the Philippine Arena in Bulacan.
Over 50 acts — ranging from veteran South Korean actors and actresses, powerhouse K-pop groups, celebrities from Japan and China, and stars from the Philippines – graced the event.
With such a momentous show set to take place, it’s no surprise how Filipino fans across different fandoms pulled out all the stops to make the event a memorable one.
“This is the first time a known awards show in South Korea was to be held in the Philippines so it felt very surreal,” THE BOYZ Projects PH told Rappler.
‘Filipino fans will always be present’
The AAA 2023 being the first Korean-based award show to be held in the Philippines was already a celebration of its own for many Filipino Hallyu fans. But as more and more artists started being announced as part of the lineup, several fandoms found even more significance in the event.
Filipino fans of rookie group ZEROBASEONE, for example, were ecstatic not only because it was the act’s first visit to the Philippines, but one of the members, leader Sung Han Bin, was also confirmed to be an MC of the show. Plus, the ceremony would be held on the birthday of one of the members, Jiwoong.
“Being a rookie idol and just debuting in July, we were excited to see him be the MC for his first awards show. We were all awestruck by this wonderful opportunity for him as well as his entire group,” Sung Hanbin Global shared. Kim Jiwoong Philippines added that they wanted to celebrate Jiwoong’s birthday.
For Dreamcatcher Philippines, “it’s a wish fulfilled” for them to see how their “idols’ dedication over the years” has led K-pop girl group Dreamcatcher to being more recognized.
“Despite nearly a decade in the field, they only have recently had the opportunity to showcase their talent and artistry on a larger stage like the AAAs,” they added.
All for Stray Kids Philippines, meanwhile, was excited to see K-pop boy group Stray Kids come back to the country for the third time in 2023.
“What we initially thought was [Filipino STAYs (fans)] must have left a great impression to keep them coming back,” they said.
As award ceremonies differ from solo concerts – in terms of the duration of the show and exposure of the artists), it still didn’t hinder the fandoms from going all out for their fan initiatives.
“It is very important to be loud with our fan support. We want the artist we support to know that their fans are there, especially in an event with a huge line-up such as AAA 2023,” THE BOYZ Projects PH said. “We wanted them to have reassurance that their Filipino fans will always be present no matter what kind of event they’d be in, even in such a huge event where they aren’t the only ones performing on stage. And that we’d always come to see them whenever they visit the Philippines.”
The same went with Kim Seon-ho Philippines: “We came up with another way of showing our love for Kim Seon-ho. We want to let people know how big and how loved Kim Seon-ho is in the Philippines through the projects of our fanbase.”
andTEAM Philippines, meanwhile, took the event as a chance to promote rookie act &TEAM.
“It was &TEAM’s first time in the Philippines and their first event outside of South Korea and Japan. We knew we had to make it special. We might be a young fan base but we wanted &TEAM to feel that there are many Filipinos who are looking forward to seeing them perform,” they said.
As for Always With Jaejoong, the AAA 2023 was also memorable as it would allow them to celebrate soloist Kim Jaejoong’s 20th anniversary in the industry.
“We couldn’t let this moment pass by to let him know that his Filipino Boss Babies (fans) are prepared to support him no matter how sudden and difficult an event here in the Philippines would be,” they said.
From fans to fellow fans
Although given only less than two months to prepare, fandoms utilize the limited time they had to come up with special projects.
All for Stray Kids Philippines recalled that it was only three weeks before event day when they received the go-signal for majority of their projects: “By then, we immediately brainstormed the same night about what we have to do, how to execute them, and the whole logistics to be done so we can ensure no mishaps will happen despite the very little time we have.”
Sung Hanbin Global shared that they set up a donation drive to fund the projects that were discussed with fellow fan bases around the world. Always with Jaejoong also expressed their gratitude to several international and local fans who provided financial support for their initiatives.
Notably, finances were the biggest hurdle for the fandoms to successfully execute their plans.
“Our biggest concern was not being able to fundraise properly for the projects due to time constraints,” THE BOYZ Projects PH said.
But as has been proven time and time again, fans won’t shy away from opening their wallets as long as they know it’s for the artists that they support. Kim Seon-ho Philippines shared that other fans across the Philippines who couldn’t attend the event in person sent them freebies and giveaways prior so that they could distribute them on their behalf during the event day.
After the finances were the logistics. Since they only had scant time to work with, the fans were worried about whether they’d find suppliers that would cater to their needs and make sure that all the necessary materials were provided in time for the event.
Additionally, the event being done in a far venue and on a weekday were also other problems that these fan bases had to deal with.
“We exerted additional physical and financial efforts [to pull this off],” Dreamcatcher Philippines said. “It’s a collective effort not just within our team but also within the passionate community we share.”
While some of their initial plans – like gifts for the artists – weren’t allowed, these fanbases still decided to give it all for their fellow fans.
“While Kim Seon-ho may or may not know about our coffee truck and fanzone initiatives for this momentous event, we want at least people to know how loved Kim Seon-ho is by his Filipino fans through our presence at the Philippine Arena,” Kim Seon-ho Philippines said.
“We took this opportunity to also promote him and his projects with the aim of recruiting or converting people to join us in cheering for Kim Seon-ho and supporting his future projects. We want more people to know about the talented and versatile actor we support,” they added.
For All Stray Kids Philippines, they consider heading fan initiatives like this as a way “of giving back and reflecting back the love [that] Stray Kids gives their fans.” “Despite all the challenges and tiredness we encountered, it makes us happy and content that both Stays and Stray Kids feel loved through our fan initiatives.”
‘A huge fandom hug’
Hours before the main ceremony, fans flocked to the fan zone located at the Philippine Sports Stadium. There, fanbases were giving away fan-made freebies and official merchandise, and had even prepared several games for their fellow fans.
It was here that they noticed how open everyone was in supporting all acts – even those they were not familiar with or fully fans of. In fact, days prior to December 14, several fan bases were already coordinating with each other about the ocean lights fan project – wherein fans would light up their respective lightsticks in designated colors as a way of showing support to the groups.
“The camaraderie amongst fanbases was very heartwarming,” THE BOYZ Projects PH said. Dreamcatcher Philippines added: “These fans demonstrated thoughtfulness by changing their lightstick colors to match the specific fandom color associated with each artist. It’s truly amazing to see our fellow InSomnias, even fans of a different idol come together, contributing to the overall enjoyment of the event.”
More than that, though, it’s being able to witness their favorite acts live and get awards that became the cherry on top for these fanbases. Describing it as a “huge fandom hug,” these fans said that it feels surreal to be one of the lucky ones who get the chance to see such momentous milestones in the artists’ career.
“We saw how, other than Stays, a lot of other fandoms enjoyed the performance of Stray Kids and had loudly cheered with us,” All for Stray Kids Philippines said. “We’re sure that STAYs are very very proud of them. We are really happy to witness them win a daesang and perform some of their songs for the first time. It was truly a very thrilling, exciting, and heartwarming experience for each of us.”
THE BOYZ Projects PH echoed the sentiment: “We used to only see our favorite artists attending these events through our screens and there’s always been that small curiosity of what our favorite artists do in award shows like this when the cameras are not on them. [Through AAA], we witnessed their reaction and support for each other when they got awarded.”
Dreamcatcher Philippines shared that while they never ceased to be amazed by the performances of the group, it still is different to witness them getting an award.
“It’s akin to witnessing our child being rightfully honored with a well-deserved medal. We hope this marks the beginning of many more recognitions to come for them,” they said.
Kim Jiwoong Philippines also highlighted the relevance of these awards: “It’s a reflection of their hard work over the past months and we are glad they could share it with us, Filipino ZEROSEs.”
As most first editions go, there are still some things to improve on, should the Philippines plan to host another award show in the future. But for these fans, it has opened the door for more supporters to showcase their love for their artists.
Kim Seon-ho Philippines said: “The Philippines being the host of this prestigious awards show is a huge milestone for both the country and the organizers involved and to us fans who are always on the lookout for opportunities to show our love for [favorite artists.]” – Rappler.com