‘Ruined our safe space’: Filipino K-pop fans cry foul over ‘unfair’ portrayal of photocard collecting

Ysa Abad

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‘Ruined our safe space’: Filipino K-pop fans cry foul over ‘unfair’ portrayal of photocard collecting
Collectors have expressed concerns over the safety of their items and unsolicited comments from other members of the buy-and-sell community

MANILA, Philippines – Imagine spending hours scouring yangdo and mercari sites to secure your priority photocard – palm-sized photos of K-pop idols that are usually included in an album or other K-pop merchandise – or setting alarms to reply “mine set” in a photocard claiming tweet, only for your purchases to be declared lost in transit, or for them to be nicked from your bag while you’re out and about.

This has been the fear of many Filipino K-pop merchandise collectors, following several reports of fans getting their photocards stolen, and being ridiculed about their merchandise by non-members of the buy-and-sell community.

Many fans attributed the recent incidents of theft and harassment to the Sunday, March 5 episode of GMA’s Kapuso Mo, Jessica Soho (KMJS), which featured “Bea,” a senior high school student who allegedly stole over P2 million from her family’s business to fund her K-pop merchandise collection. The feature said that the fan owned 3,000 photocards, including some that ranged from P15,000 to P50,000 each. 

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‘We are at risk now’

Following the airing of the episode, many Filipino fans took to social media to express their frustration over how the collecting culture has been portrayed, saying it was “unfair” and put collectors in a “bad light.” 

“We are at risk now,” Kim, a 25-year-old fan, told Rappler. She said that despite always carrying a photocard with her, it was only after the episode aired that she was asked by a driver how much the photocard cost, jesting that it might be P50,000. “[Non-collectors] thought that all photocards were worth P50,000. It’s very alarming.” 

Eli, a 15-year-old fan, told Rappler that she lost her photocard of Red Velvet’s Joy while at a café in Pasig City on Monday, March 6. She said that when she was ordering with her cousin, she noticed a group of high school students who went near their table and kept looking at their bags. It was only when she got home that she realized that the photocard hanging from her bag was lost. She emphasized that before Monday, she had never had an experience like this, despite bringing her K-pop merchandise out in public everyday. 

Kim and Eli’s cases are not isolated. Many fans also shared the same experiences. Some shops are also reporting that their packages of K-pop merchandise were getting lost, with one claiming that the items were being resold on online platforms, or being opened by couriers while in transit. Several fans also said that they were being maligned when seen with K-pop merchandise, with non-members of the community making snide remarks that the items were funded through theft. 


“Revealing the prices of the photocards didn’t help us at all,” Kim said. “If they’re going to reveal the photocard prices, they should’ve explained that the prices may vary depending on the rareness of a certain photocard.” 

Zoe, a 20-year-old photocard collector, suspected that KMJS’s emphasis on the P50,000 card led most non-fans to think that that was the generalized pricing in the community. “That’s so far from reality. Most of the usual official photocards range from P100 to P1,000, depending on what kind of photocard it is,” she told Rappler. 

“Others have been giving unsolicited opinions such as, ‘Ipi-print ko na lang ‘yan kesa magwaldas ng libo-libo (I’ll just print those photos on my own instead of spending thousands.)” 

In an open letter on Facebook, Abi Banares pointed out that this misconception over pricing could be harmful in the long run, given that non-fans and collectors have started eyeing these items. “These people aren’t able to tell the difference between an expensive photocard and merchandise from an ordinary one, or even from an unofficial, and thus much cheaper, one,” she wrote. 

Because of these incidents, many fans have decided to not bring any of their collections out in public in the coming days – no photocards hanging from their bags, or no taking them out while dining outside. Fans are also worried about bringing out their photocards for fan events like concerts. 

“It’s an issue of safety,” Rori Hije, a 20-year-old fan, told Rappler. “Fans now feel unsafe in spaces where they wouldn’t normally feel unsafe.” 

Kim agreed, “They have to bring back our safe community where we can hang our photocards without being questioned if it’s worth P50,000 or not.” 

Painting the community in a bad light

But why do fans collect photocards to begin with?

“Us collectors often joke around that they’re ‘investments’ or that some photocards are included in our ‘roblist’ – but that’s banter that most non-fans and collectors won’t understand,” Zoe said. “They won’t be able to empathize with the amount of hours we spend looking for those photocards, or our struggles just to have them – even doing three-way trades or starting a group order from a buyer that’s in another part of the world.”

“It’s frustrating how [collecting is] being boxed into such an ugly thing,” she added. 

Cloud, a K-pop fan since 2009, said that these recent instances of mockery are a flashback to the ridicule that most fans faced when the genre wasn’t as globally recognized as it is now. “Ang hirap na nga ipaintindi sa pamilya natin na hindi aksaya ang pag-fafangirl, mas lalo pang nagbigay ng malaking gap for understanding ‘yung episode na ‘yun.”

(It’s already hard to explain to our families how being a fan is not a waste, but that KMJS episode just prompted greater misunderstanding.)

Rori Hije added that they’ve heard unsolicited comments about seeking professional help and how collecting is “pointless” and a “waste of time” by people outside of the community. “It magnified the stigma,” they said – a stigma that most longtime K-pop fans have been trying to get rid of. 

Cloud also pointed out that collecting K-pop merchandise is no different from other hobbies, like collecting anime merchandise, NBA cards, Pokemon cards, and Yugioh cards. 

“It’s so unfair how [KMJS] always celebrates grown men flexing their toy collections, or shows homes wrapped around with Christmas decors every year, and yet the only time they feature a K-pop collection is when they find a minor whose means of funding them is through stealing,” one tweet read. 

Jen, a 28-year-old fan, expressed her frustration over how fandoms that are dominated by women are always painted as “crazy” and “obsessive,” but men who scream over sports matches are called “passionate.” She added that men who collect toys, shoes, and cars are being praised and no one bats an eye on the prices for these items. “Just like any hobby, it’s something that we do because it brings us joy.”

“I haven’t seen any other collectors get ridiculed like K-pop fans. No one does this to NBA card collectors, to TMG collectors, Funko Pop collectors. No one. Only K-pop fans experience such,” another tweet read. 


Many fans also lamented over how unfair it was that the community was generalized because of one experience. “All of the fellow collectors I know do it responsibly. There’s even some minor students who accept commissions or do part-time jobs so that they can afford their merchandise,” Jen said. “Others don’t have the right to judge them on how they spend their hard-earned money.”

“I believe that as a collector, aside from self-control, one should also have the right mindset,” Mary, a 22-year-old fan, told Rappler. “Hindi mo kailangang gumawa ng mali para sumaya. And ito talaga lagi kong sinasabi (You don’t have to do a wrongdoing just to be happy. And this is what I always say), ‘You should always live within your means.’ Collecting should be fun and not a burden on yourself or anyone close to you.” 

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Eli, a 15-year-old student, said that while her parents are supportive of her collecting habit, she’s never asked them to fund her for it. She added that her funds come from saving up her allowance and handling small group orders. “Maganda po talaga (It’s a lot better) if you work hard to pay for your photocards,” she told Rappler. 

Zoe also highlighted how the negative portrayal has diminished the image of the K-pop community in the country. “We’re not saying that the community is perfect. It’s far from that. Issues about scams and overpricing are also rampant, but that’s something that members of the community are working on. But now, K-pop fans are being subjected to ridicule and labeled as insane by people outside of our shared space – people who have no idea how our community works. It’s just frustrating that we’re being shamed, as if we haven’t done anything good at all,” she said. 

What’s the future of the BNS community?

Following viral posts about having their photocards stolen, Kapuso Mo, Jessica Soho released a statement on Tuesday, March 7, encouraging fans to report such incidents to the police. 

But K-pop fans, who are no strangers to being ridiculed, fear that they won’t be taken seriously. 

Many have also expressed their frustration over how KMJS did not acknowledge that the community’s safety might have been jeopardized because of the episode. 

Since the episode aired, sellers have started brainstorming ways to make sure that their packages will be safe. Instead of labeling them as a K-pop merchandise, many plan to label them differently instead, so as not to give others ideas about the items being shipped. 


Mary, who also operates an online K-pop shop, told Rappler that as a seller, she’s very worried for her items, especially since there were previous instances when parcels had been opened and photocards stolen. “Yun ‘yung kinakakatakot ko na mangyari ulit (That’s what I’m scared of happening again),” she said. “K-pop fans really treasure these items.” 

Fans are also getting anxious about the possibility of K-pop merchandise being taxed higher because of this incident. 


“If the report was meant to raise awareness, then having misleading and incomplete information did more harm than good to the community,” Zoe said. – Rappler.com

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