I must confess: I was one of those people who thought K-pop was uncool, weird, and totally manufactured. For me, K-pop wasn't ~real music~.
I know. I KNOWWWW.
But before you exit this article and send me hate tweets, hear me out, okay? I grew up listening to music from predominantly Western artists and fell in love with indie rock, hip hop, and pop. All throughout my school years, I was influenced by peers with similar music preferences. But it was when I started my job in Cosmo that I found myself encountering people with strikingly different musical tastes. And one such genre that couldn't escape me was K-pop.
It was in 2018 when I found myself Googling a Korean boy group called BTS after a co-worker of mine wouldn't shut the eff up about them. Exasperated, I went online and discovered their overwhelming discography. I felt like I was entering a new country for the very first time: I was bombarded by K-pop-specific terms (What is a ~visual~? What do hyung and maknae mean?), their innumerable appearances and performances on awards and variety shows, and basically, JUST SO MUCH CONTENT that amazed me and intimidated me at the same time. But it didn't stop me from taking the deep dive into K-pop fandom—it was only the beginning.
Now in 2019, I can proudly call myself a multi-stan of three different boy groups (BTS, EXO, and SHINee), and it was the year I totally and unashamedly embraced the fangirl in me. A few months ago, I even went to my very first K-pop concert (I was alone, mind you!), EXO's EXO Planet #5 - EXplOration In Manila. It was so damn surreal to see the boys IRL and not on my laptop or phone screen anymore. What made it even better was spending three hours with other EXO-Ls who were laughing, crying, and fangirling along with me.
To my old self, I'd roll my eyes and say, "Whatever, Cindy. Magiging K-pop fan ka rin."
So, want to know just how other Pinays got their start in ~the world of K-pop~? Read on.
The Girls With Luv
"I'm a newbie ARMY. I used to just listen to BTS songs on Spotify because I really liked 'Boy With Luv.' Then, during the Halloween break, I got curious about BTS. I literally just searched a guide on YouTube on how I can tell the members apart and now...wala. Kain na kain na ako ng sistema! HAHAHA ANG SAYA SAYA MAGING FAN GIRL!!!" —Retty
"I got into K-pop because of my ex-officemate. She asked me to watch Jungkook's fancam dancing to 'Not Today' and the rest is history. Now, I'm a ghorl with luv. Char!" —Trina
"My two enablers were my husband (he loved BTS first and became an official ARMY because of 'Go Go') and my former officemate (who showed me their magical AMAs performance). I started watching BTS videos and listening to their songs after. What really got me hooked was 'Mic Drop,' and my life will never be the same. Haha! P.S. Jin is my bias, but to date, my most haunting memory of BTS is the JK-Hobi-Taehyung body rolls during the 'Mic Drop' dance break. Amen." —Ginyn
The OG Fan
"I am a first-generation K-pop fan of H.O.T., Shinhwa, and Hyori. I found out about K-pop because of Hyori actually. There was no YouTube yet; we had to download X-MAN and Love Letter from sites and forums; Soompi was just a forum site back then and we'd help each other translate videos of Music Bank etc. for other international fans. We would use Winamp to collect playlists and we would share them with other fans. Basically, I saw how fan clubs were first created here in the PH.
"I will always be an H.O.T. fan, and of course, Shinhwa Changjo forever!!! The OG. Once a fan always a fan!" —Tiffany
The Second-Gen Stans
"I first got into K-pop in high school (when it was still considered 'uncool') thanks to TVXQ's 'Mirotic' and Super Junior's 'Sorry, Sorry.' I remember trying to find 240p quality vids of the old variety shows on Tumblr or LiveJournal blogs (X-MAN, Strong Heart, etc.) and crying when part x out of nine was missing because for sure that specific clip had the best moments. Haha!
"I'm definitely a second-gen stan. TVXQ and SuJu are my main groups (PEPSI fandom forever), though I also love some H.O.T., SHINee, and EXO—so I guess that would make me an SM stan? I'm recently re-listening to BIGBANG too now that the boys are back from military service." —Andie
"I'm a second-gen K-pop fan. It all actually started when I got hooked with Princess Hours when I was in college and I planned taking Hangul as a language elective. I was really into dramas until one of my kabarkadas who was into Super Junior always made kwento about them. Hahaha! I was there during 'Sorry, Sorry' days but never jumped into it immediately until their 'No Other' days. Still listening to K-pop but never got over the era when I started." —Maricar
The Sandara Effect
"I started listening to K-pop in college. I was a fan of Sandara Park during her Star Circle Quest days and I've always wondered what happened to her after THAT Maxim cover. HAHA Then my best friend showed me 2NE1's 'Fire' music video and I was SHOOKT. We all stanned 2NE1 hard. I also started listening to other groups casually (BIGBANG, SuJu, SNSD) but then 2NE1 went on hiatus and it made me sad. So I fangirled over other things for a while (YouTubers, One Direction) to get over it. I got back into the Hallyu scene during a veeery stressful time in my life. To cope, I watched Dream High 2 on iFlix which starred JB and Jinyoung (GOT7), Ailee, Hyolyn (Sistar), Park Seo Joon, and Jeong Jinwoon (2AM). Eventually, K-pop and K-drama became my source of happiness and got so into it that I sought out fellow fans, consumed a shit ton of content, and did lots of research on Hallyu so here I am now." —Twila
"In 2009, I remember I was watching MYX Philippines, 2NE1 was on the air, and I recognized Sandara Park singing 'Fire.' Ever since then I started to like K-pop music even though I don't know what the lyrics mean. As long as I can dance to the beat, it's fine for me. (PS. I wrote this with 'Fire' playing in the background.)" —Quinn
The K-Drama/Anime Crossover
"My sister and I were fangirling (real hard) over Song Joong Ki. So, we binge-watched his Running Man days. Little did I know that episode seven would change my life when I first laid my eyes on one of their guests—CNBLUE's Jung Yong Hwa. And from then on, I started listening to their songs and later became a Boice. Uy thank you, Joong Ki, for being the tulay ha. I owe it to you." —Inna
"I've been an anime fan since I was two years old. Eventually, I started watching Asian dramas on those Asian cable channels. Back then, Arirang was the only channel in 2005 that played K-pop. But it was around 2009, I think, when I saw a music video of BIGBANG and I've been a fan ever since!" —Maria Alyssa
"When you enjoy watching anime, it's a slippery slope from that to J-pop bands and eventually K-pop bands because Korean singers tend to release Japanese albums and market their music over there. Mukha kasi silang anime 'di ba? Hehe. My gateway to hardcore Hallyu mode was Super Junior and DBSK. Admittedly, I can't really keep up with all the bands popping up these days but my HS friend is trying to indoctrinate me into all things BTS." —Karen
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