MANILA, Philippines – Carrying a handful of banners, photocards, and lightsticks, it would seem that these K-pop fans were going to a concert. But in reality, they were bringing their beloved K-pop merchandise to the campaign rallies of presidential candidate Vice President Leni Robredo.
Since the campaign season officially started on February 8, a group of Filipino K-pop fans, called KPOP STANS 4 LENI, have been trending online for their ardent support of Robredo’s presidential run.
From the proclamation rally in Robredo’s hometown of Naga City, Camarines Sur, to the “Pink Sunday” rally in Quezon City, these supporters have captured not just the attention of their fellow fans, but also of non-fans with their K-pop pakulo.
“Kapag awards season, nagbabardahan. Kapag election season, nagmamahalan (During awards season, we bicker. But during election season, we love each other). VP Leni Robredo sunbaenim ending all fan wars,” reads a Facebook post from the KPOP STANS 4 LENI page which has garnered almost 5,000 reactions and more than 1,000 shares.
What makes this post special is that it highlights the unity among Filipino K-pop fans. Judging from the wide variety of lightsticks (an official merchandise that looks and serves like a flashlight but is specifically designed to fit a K-pop group’s aesthetic and fandom colors), the supporters are not just limited to one or two K-pop groups.
“What I love most about our K-pop community is it will never be an issue if we were strangers to each other, as long as we have a common denominator, and I’m glad that our common denominator this time is to make a huge difference [for our country],” Aljana, a 19-year-old fan of K-pop groups BTS and ENHYPEN, told Rappler.
She added, “Meeting a lot of fellow K-pop fans through this movement is not a surprising thing for me. If we could love artists from other countries, we could love our country as much. And given how dedicated K-pop fans are in general, it is evident that they could also do so much [through this]. That’s what I’ve always been proud of – how passionate we could be.”
Ann, another fan of ENHYPEN, pointed out that K-pop fandoms do have a history of healthy competition among each other. “[We] do not always unite for a single cause since everyone’s competitive and always wants the best for our favorite groups, that’s why fan wars are inevitable…. But this event goes to show that this community could also unite and become one in our goal for the betterment of this nation,” she told Rappler.
Filipino K-pop fans even refer to Leni as the “sunbaenim” (a term used for someone older or on a higher status/has more experience) who ended the wars among the fan community. (READ: Biases, comebacks, fan chants: A beginner’s guide to the K-pop vocabulary.)
As to why they decided to bring their K-pop merchandise to the rallies, these fans say that it’s about time that members outside of the fandom community realize that being a K-pop fan is not just limited to the online world.
Mikee, a 21-year-old fan of MAMAMOO, said: “May ilang taong nag-da-doubt sa aming K-pop fans at sinasabing bakit pa raw kami nakikisawsaw sa usapang politika. Pero ang masasabi ko lang, bago kami naging fans ng K-pop, mamamayang Filipino muna kami kaya alam namin kung kailan dapat unahin ang bansa at sarili.”
(Some people doubt us K-pop fans, asking why we’re meddling in politics. All I can say is, before we were fans of K-pop, we were Filipino citizens first, so we know when it’s time to make our country our priority.)
John, a fan of K-pop groups from YG Entertainment, agreed. “Ang K-pop fan raw ay walang suporta sa Pilipinas at mga Koreano lang ang laging nasa isip. Kaya pumunta ako [sa rally] para suportahan ang kandidatong may tunay na plano sa bansa, dala-dala ang lightstick para ipakita na isa akong K-pop fan na may pakialam sa Pilipinas.”
(There’s this misconception that K-pop fans don’t care about the Philippines, and that we focus more on our South Korean idols. That’s why I brought my lightstick to the rally, because I want to show that I’m a K-pop fan who cares about what happens in our country. That’s why I’m going to vote for the candidate that has plans for the Philippines.)
Kaye, a 25-year-old fan of SEVENTEEN, ITZY, BLACKPINK, and TWICE, said: “Some people may find us weird, as to why are we bringing these lightsticks in a rally. But waving these is a way for us to unite and show support for the people that we take inspiration from and the people we strongly believe in. This rally didn’t just bring K-pop fans together but Filipinos who are hopeful to see our country better again.”
While they’re happy that their active involvement in supporting a political candidate has caught the attention of fellow fans and non-fans, these supporters know that it’s just the start of a long, tedious battle. But as early as now, they know that they’ll still bring their lightsticks, photocards, and banners even to future activities. – Rappler.com