k-pop

From PCs to lightsticks, K-pop fans make ‘next-level’ campaign merch for Robredo

Ysa Abad
From PCs to lightsticks, K-pop fans make ‘next-level’ campaign merch for Robredo
'It’s no secret that K-pop fans are very ~extra~ in the projects we do, and this extraness has definitely carried over to the campaign'

MANILA, Philippines – According to a 2021 Twitter report, the Philippines ranked as the country with the third highest number of K-pop fans in the world, beating even South Korea.

And it was also only in 2021, when, for the first time in Philippine politics, Filipino fans of South Korean artists came together to show support for a presidential candidate. 

Since KPOP STANS 4 LENI was established in October 2021, the volunteer group (composed of fans from various generations of K-pop acts) have channeled their passion towards one shared cause: to campaign for Vice President Leni Robredo’s presidential bid, “K-pop style.” 

They’ve done mass report hours, mass streaming, and giveaways – online activities common to most K-pop fandoms – and even mounted offline events when campaign season officially started in February 2022.  At almost every campaign stop of the Leni Robredo-Kiko Pangilinan tandem, members of KPOP STANS 4 LENI are seen with their lightsticks and favorite photocards – with Pangilinan’s wife and fellow K-pop fan, actress Sharon Cuneta, even receiving several of these photocards.

And even after these numerous pakulo, they’re still taken their campaigning to the next level: making Robredo-themed lightsticks and photocards to be used as K-pop-inspired campaign paraphernalia. 

“It’s no secret that K-pop fans are very ~extra~ in the projects we do, and this extraness has definitely carried over to the campaign,” Majo, a core member of the group, told Rappler. 

The Rad Love Merch Kit

“If we want to [reach] the youth and other voters, we must find a witty, unique, and effective way of information dissemination in campaigning for [Robredo],” Ae, another member of KPOP STANS 4 LENI, explained.

Fellow member Zee added, “Our reason for being part of the ‘For Leni’ movement is to represent K-pop fans in the campaign, which means that we will also conduct our campaigning in the K-pop style.” 

Drawing inspiration from the membership kits that K-pop acts have for their fanclubs, the Rad Love Merch Kit offers a handful of personalized items – hand fans, facemasks, mask straps, phone holders, banners, and posters. And of course, it wouldn’t be a K-pop kit if there were no lightsticks and photocards. 

For non K-pop fans, photocards are printed photos of their idols, while lightsticks share the same function as flashlights, but are customized to fit a K-pop act’s aesthetics. 

According to KPOP STANS 4 LENI, the name of the kit came from a mix of ITZY’s “Crazy Love” concept, Key’s “Bad Love” song title, and Robredo’s Radikal na Pagmamahal tagline. The kit aims to 1) increase the group’s visibility and representation; 2) campaign for Robredo, as the kit inclusions double as campaign paraphernalia; and 3) raise funds, with net proceeds from the project going to the group’s continuous campaign efforts. 

Zee said that the inclusions were designed by the group’s creatives team, with the whole production process taking about two months because the lightstick was sourced outside the Philippines. The production and shipping timeline was also affected by the Chinese New Year holidays and the COVID-19 surge abroad. 

The group reached around 200 orders, with more people still inquiring about the possibility of having another batch of kits. But the group made it clear that they would no longer manufacture another batch.

Nakakataba ng puso (It warms our hearts) that a lot of [buyers] really appreciated the craft and time we [put into constructing] the kit itself.… Even non-K-pop fans, the locals, natutuwa sila sa ganitong pakulo kasi (are happy with things like these because) it binds a lot of people with different kinds of campaigning strategies, who share the same denominator of wanting positive change now,” Ae said. 

Some buyers even received photocards signed by Robredo herself. Members of KPOP STANS 4 LENI had gotten in touch with the Robredo People’s Council prior.

Kisses, a 28-year-old fan of SNSD and IU, bought the kit as a show of support. “For me, this kit is a clear indication that we are not only here for our idols, but we’re also here to make a change.” 

https://twitter.com/mikarin13_/status/1510146294400315392

Tris, a 23-year-old fan of TWICE, added: “I’m happy that [through this], we have a chance to express our love for K-pop and support Vice President Leni Robredo at the same time.” 

Iris, a 28-year-old fan of MAMAMOO, shared that collecting merchandise like this is exciting for K-pop fans like her. “Not only did the kit bring me happiness but [I was also] glad that the proceeds from the sale will be put into good use.” She added that initiatives like this are a way to make campaigning “more fun and encouraging.” “If [fans like us] can give a huge amount of effort and support to our K-pop idols, we can also do the same to our chosen candidates.” 

‘Laenis’ all over the Philippines

Similar to how most K-pop groups have official names for their fans, KPOP STANS 4 LENI also dubbed their members as “Laenis.” And within the three months of the campaign season, Laenis all over the Philippines have made their presence known. 

“When we started as K-POP STANS 4 LENI, we simply wanted to represent K-pop stans who support the presidential candidacy of Leni Robredo, and to get the word out there that although we like foreign music, it does not mean that we are not patriotic and are not aware of what’s happening in our own country,” Zee said.

“But somehow, the community grew exponentially and we are no longer just a community of K-pop fans banding together for a cause; we have become this force and movement that even non K-pop fans are relying on.” 

Majo echoed the sentiment, saying that, by following Robredo’s campaign trail, their group had unwittingly established local chapters across the country. “Amazingly, even when we don’t have a volunteer group in a locality, we would still get tagged in photos and sometimes, donors still show up to give away items. We don’t have to prompt people, they already know the drill.”

At almost each stop of the campaign, Laenis practice K-pop fandom activities such as random play dances and K-pop lightstick group pictures. “The local volunteers are the masterminds of these pakulo and they are, just as the aespa song goes, next-level,” Majo said. 

During Robredo and Pangilinan’s campaign rally in Pasig, Ahgases 4 Leni, fans of K-pop group GOT7 supportive of Robredo, even did a coffee truck and cupsleeve event. They said that it was inspired by the coffee truck that fans send to the artists or actors they admire whenever there’s something to celebrate, such as birthdays or new shows. 

KPOP STANS 4 LENI is also holding a nationwide cupsleeve event in time for Robredo’s birthday, with participants from Metro Manila, Luzon, Visayas, and Mindanao. At cupsleeve events, participants purchase a drink and, in exchange, also receive personalized fandom kits. 

The nationwide cupsleeve event will be a testament to the group’s reach. But while this activity is already a feat in itself, the group teases that they still have more events lined up. “We’ve always maintained that KPOP STANS 4 LENI is a collective. We identify as our own fandoms, but we come together as Laenis,” Majo said. – Rappler.com 

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