"You don't choose the fangirl life. The fangirl life chooses you." That's exactly how I would describe my relationship with EXO, a top Korean-Chinese group that has sold millions of albums and filled stadiums worldwide. I remember not being into K-pop before—"I don't even understand what they're saying," 2017 me would say—but boy, how far I have fallen into the fandom!
It all started when I watched two of its members on a variety show one random night. I thought they were cute so I watched one of their music videos. Then another. And another. Before I even knew it, I was hooked. The next thing I knew, I was flying to Korea—alone—just because of my love for them.
Obviously, I was pumped when I found out they were going to visit Manila again for their EXO Planet #5 - EXplOration In Manila concert. I wasn't able to catch them during their 2018 performance because I already had an engagement then, so I was set on seeing them this year for the first time. My friends and I even had a strategy to snatch our tickets online to make sure we can cover each other's backs. I'm not kidding, it FELT like we were strategizing for ~war~.
Unfortunately, we weren't able to get any slots. Since this is the first time for all of us, we didn't fully realize just how fierce the competition was when buying a ticket. So many people were willing to camp out THE DAY BEFORE the actual ticket-selling—that's how much of a big deal this is. So yes, we were utterly devastated.
Thankfully, so many Phixos (the name of the Filipino stans of the group) shared the same predicament as us. A campaign was set to request the boys to hold a second concert which, after a few days of painful waiting, they thankfully agreed to do. And that was it. We were IN.
D-DAY aka "Hello, panic attacks"
I'm not exaggerating. I was so out of it when the concert day came. I was feeling so anxious the night before that I wasn't able to sleep well. All that ran through my head was how big this will be—"I'll be seeing EXO for the first time, almost two years since I started stanning them." Thankfully, I had a friend who kept me grounded while we were waiting to get inside the Mall of Asia Arena. I also felt a lot calmer when I finally saw other concert-goers visibly buzzing with excitement when we got to the venue.
Being a fangirl is serious business.
It may be my first time to attend a K-pop concert, but I was already quite aware of how things go during these events. Still, it was a different level of experience when you're actually personally participating in it. As part of the fan project, fans were asked to come in color-coordinated clothes representing our Philippine flag. VIPs wore red and blue, those in the upper box came in white, and the general admission crowd wore yellow proudly. It was surreal seeing everyone fill in the seats in their dress codes. Some even did their makeup to match their colors (I admittedly bought a new blue eyeliner for it, too, LOL)!
There's a sense of ~family~ in the K-pop community!
To be honest, not a lot of my friends are into the fangirl life. I was delighted when one of my girl friends was converted into a fan, but the circle isn't really that big, at least in my case. It was when I went to the concert that I finally felt the full force of the community. Everyone was so supportive of each other, even those who came alone went home with new friends! Sehun, the maknae (youngest) of the group, also mentioned that he noticed how varied the age of their fans are, proving that you can fangirl no matter how old you are. ;)
I was legit OVERWHELMED.
"They're real." That's the first thing that hit me when the concert finally started. The moment the boys finally appeared on stage, I completely shut down. I'm not kidding, I was an absolute mess. When the crowd erupted and the lightsticks finally lit up, I was at a loss. I think I was screaming. Or crying. I don't know. All I knew was that EXO started singing "Tempo" and that I was absolutely lost by the energy. It was too much for me to process that I was watching them for the first time. Not on my phone or laptop screen or on Spotify. They were right in front of me, in the flesh. When you're so used to watching videos of them, this kind of moment really hits you. HARD.
EXO's stages were so *PRETTY*
And I'm just not talking about the lights and the overall production. EXO is a big success because they are talented, a fact no one can deny once you watch them live. Their dance moves are no joke and their voices are even better live. My favorite performances were Baekhyun's "UN Village" and Chen's "Lights Out." As a group, I couldn't take my eyes off them during "Monster" (the song that made me fall for them HARD) and "Love Shot" (the song that converted so many people into new fans, LOL). Seriously, everything was great. The energy that night is something that will stay with you forever.
I learned how to multi-task!
I went through a range of emotions. I fluctuated from dancing and screaming to just sitting down and staring at them. There was no in-between. I was half-confused, half-happy the whole three hours because I didn't know what to do! Should I stare on them on stage? Should I watch their close-ups on the screen? Oh, wait, I have to do that while I'm taking random videos and pictures. Oops, girl, don't forget to wave your lightstick and sing along, too! Seriously, I came out of the venue a better multi-tasker than ever!
Fair warning: I was bias-wrecked! No one is safe.
In every K-pop group, you choose a bias (in simpler terms, your favorite member) but EXO is the type that will absolutely TEST you in this department. That's why you get bias-wreckers, aka members whose goal in life is to snatch your wig and make you question your loyalty to your preferred member. For me, my bias-wrecker is Baekhyun (Scarlet Heart Ryeo), and my main man is D.O. (100 Days My Price). When I went in, I was set on just fawning over Baekhyun because D.O. is currently serving in the military with bandmate Xiumin. Long story short, I went out of the arena as a Chen (Jongdae) stan!
His voice. His visuals. His aura. There was already a running joke on Twitter how Chen is always out for the fangirls (they say he converts so many fans after seeing him live) and I felt that IN MY BONES after the concert. So, fair warning to those on their next show: Make sure you're mentally and emotionally prepared before seeing them in the flesh. Sure they already have amazing auras on screen, but not all of them are given justice there. As Twitter says it, "Na Jong-dead ka ba?"
Seeing the boys have fun made everything WORTH IT.
I only attended the first day of the concert, but the fan cams and tweets prove how much the boys absolutely enjoyed both nights of their stay in Manila. The audience hyped them up from start to finish, to the point that some of the members had to tease the crowd, telling us to calm down at times. They were so playful in real life and tried their best to communicate with us despite the language barrier, too. But the most touching highlights of the night for me was when the Eribong (the special lightstick for EXO fans) glowed red, blue, yellow, and white when the concert finally ended. The members were touched seeing how everyone came in the colors of our country and lighting up the Eribong was their special way of saying goodbye. Suffice to say, that night, I realized what being a fangirl really means: It's not just about you feeling happy that you're seeing them. You're there to make them happy, too.
As a fangirl, going to a concert is really one of those milestones I'll never forget. Loving a K-pop group is not superficial. It's something that runs deep because you make a special connection with your favorites, regardless if you're a language or a country apart. Maybe they make you smile or giddy. Maybe at one point, they've made your life more bearable. For me, it was all of those, and I have no plans of turning back. <3
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