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Four Stans on How K-Pop Helped Them Survive the Quarantine

Read Time: 10 minutes

In these tough times, interests like K-pop could spell sanity or survival

 

 

Last year, a mere six months into the pandemic, the Wonder team produced a video about working, functioning, coping in isolation. It was a different time; the reality of the ever-extending quarantine had just begun sinking in. But on the opposite side of the coin, many things have remained the same over half a year later.

 

In the video, a slightly younger version of myself shares that she developed “little pockets of joy” throughout her day. A collection of little things to help keep my mental health in check. One such thing—before and during the pandemic—is K-pop. 

 

I know, another sappy stan story? But hear me out.

 

My love for K-pop has grown with me—from sneaking out of class to see comeback teasers on the library computer, to occasionally getting to interview a new wave of idols for work. From the center of my universe, to an interest that has granted me my own opportunities. Like many other kinds of love, my affinity for K-pop, my idols and their music, has taken many shapes and forms. As of late, in the thick of hectic days that trickle into all-nighters, K-pop has been the most accessible form of sanity. A reset button within reach, looping an album or rewatching a variety show feels a lot like recentering myself.

 

Perhaps it’s the familiarity of it. I’ve been in this K-pop-shaped void for so long that it transports me back to a time when I wasn’t neck-deep in deadlines. There’s also the sheer escapist appeal of it. It’s a lesson that takes time to learn, but through the endless stream of releases and updates, K-pop is a passion that allows me to take it easy. No pressure. I swim to the surface and return to this love as I please.

 

I could go on about how K-pop personally makes me feel all day. But see, the thing about this pop culture behemoth is that it’s such a shared experience. So let’s let other stans do the talking.

 

RELATED: TRI.BE is the New K-Pop Girl Group on the Block

 

Aero Estrellado, Industrial Design Student

Aero is a 22-year-old, fourth-year student at De La Salle-College of St. Benilde. Besides being a TWICE fan, he also listens to BLACKPINK, ITZY, Red Velvet, IZ*ONE, BTS and Seventeen.

 

 

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A post shared by Aero Estrellado (@aeroestrellado)

 

Wonder: What’s your K-pop origin story? 

Aero: It all started back in 2010 when my older brother kept listening to Girls’ Generation’s Gee nonstop for around an entire week. I got hooked as well. I started listening to their other releases, and also discovered 2NE1 while watching their music videos. I only listened to their singles and title tracks, not much of their albums in entirety. I had their songs on loop all the time back then, up until 2013. I don’t recall why I stopped listening to K-pop then, but I did.

 

I came back in 2017 when Girls’ Generation released Holiday Night. I caught up on what I missed from the years prior, from Jessica leaving in 2014 to 2NE1’s disbandment in 2016. It saddened me of course. But a few months after, I discovered TWICE and just didn’t stop since. 

 

W: How has your quarantine been?

A: Quarantine has been awful for me. The anxiety that comes with being in a pandemic has taken a toll on me, as it affected a lot of my current and future plans. As an extrovert, the lack of personal interaction with others has added to it.

 

K-pop helped me fill an empty void within myself that was brought upon by the pandemic. It helped me get through almost all my lows in the past year. People might argue, how could it do that if I can’t even understand the lyrics? Much like western songs, you don’t need to [completely] understand the words to listen to the emotions that each song is trying to portray. You could already feel it with the overall vibe of the song. English translations can easily be Googled, and you’ll see how the meaning of the lyrics add to the emotions you hear in the first place.

 

W: Would you say K-pop has contributed to your happiness in the past year?

A: K-pop has definitely contributed to my happiness over the past year. Not just their songs, but also the content they put out. K-pop artists are not just singers, dancers and rappers; they are also performers and entertainers. They know how to entice their audiences, as well as invoke positive emotions in them. They, together with their staff, work diligently to produce content that their fans would enjoy. 

 

They form connections with their fans, and you can see that they really try to connect [on] a personal level with them. A simple ‘stay safe’ from one of them is already enough to make fans feel better. Some might say it’s shallow, but for fans who feel especially lonely during this time, simple messages like that help them get through.

 

Kai Franco, Content Writer

Kai is a writer and fellow member of the Wonder team. Prior to joining Wonder, she and I met during overlapping stints at Globe Telecom’s K-culture platform. When she isn’t listening to BTS, TXT, EXO or Everglow, chances are she’s watching variety shows or drowning in stan Twitter memes.

 

 

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Wonder: How did you fall into the black hole of K-pop?

Kai: I’m what the kids these days call a “hag stan” (but I prefer the term veteran fan, tbh). My first dip into it was through the TV channel Myx around 2009? Or maybe early 2010! The music video watching sessions I had led me to doing my research, eventually I made a Tumblr dedicated to Super Junior. This ultimately became my slippery descent into the black hole. I then stanned three groups in the span of a decade: Super Junior, EXO and BTS.

 

How has your quarantine been, and how has K-pop played into the equation?

K: Quarantine for me was pretty wild in terms of how I dealt with myself, but K-pop really pulled me out of that slump and burnout. Early into quarantine, I had my fresh-grad-career-path crisis with the added stress of a global pandemic. Back then I realized that I didn’t like what I was doing in my first job. All I thought about was work 24/7 and less about my interests, like K-pop and writing. I was super out of the loop kaya it led to the peak of my burnout.

 

I really wanted to resign, but I had nowhere to go! I felt, “OMG, saan ako pupulutin nito? (Where will I end up?)” Thankfully though, my friend sent a job listing for a K-culture project that looked exciting. This ended up being an opportunity to work with Globe Kmmunity PH as a social media manager! It all fell into place after that: I left my first job and moved on to the next big thing that was a lot better for me. Working for Kmmunity let me re-immerse myself in K-pop and let me do what I wanted since I graduated: write, do events and make people happy. The experience also led me to more opportunities for my career. It opened a door for me, now I’m in a way better place compared to last year. 

 

W: Would you say K-pop has contributed to your happiness in the past year?

K: Yes, very much! For one, it keeps me connected with my friends. Majority of them are ARMYs, both old and new. So when we don’t have any life updates to share, we still keep in touch because of our biases (and potential purchases we’ll do together #budol).

 

The other major contribution by K-pop was that I was able to achieve my long-time goal of helping out in K-pop productions. I’ve had this goal as early as high school I think? I used to attend Happee Sy’s older events and concerts and realized that, wow, I want to do this for a living! Funny how fate works because I was able to achieve this with Kmmunity PH, even if everything was done virtually and that I was more on the coverage and content side of the events. I genuinely felt really happy and fulfilled when fans thanked us for letting them see their faves, have fun with each other remotely, etc. Being part of it already made my fangirl heart full. 

 

RELATED: What Male K-Pop Idols Taught Me About Beauty

 

Reena Donasco, PR Accounts Executive

Reena Donasco is a 36-year-old accounts executive by day and a mom of three ’round the clock. A voracious listener, her playlists are filled to the brim with tracks from BTS and a wealth of other artists: Mamamoo, Zico, Dean, Hwang Chi Yeul, Lee Hi, Taeyeon, Loco, Jessi, Suran, Bol4 and Heize, among others.

 

 

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Wonder: What’s your K-pop origin story?

Reena: Music has been such a big influence in my life since I was a kid. From singing and dancing to piano lessons, music has always been with me almost 24/7 (I listen to music to help me fall asleep). I listen to all genres—and K-Pop was a part of that. However, I only started “stanning” a group around 2016.

 

I was into K-dramas back then and would binge watch with my friends. I joined a K-drama Facebook group and was watching a video they posted on the page of a K-Pop group. I watched the clip and, when it ended, another video popped up. It was of BTS. I watched it from start to end, and found them so intriguing I ended up watching their content ‘til the early morning. The phrase “I just wanted to know their names” applies so much to me.

 

W: How has your quarantine been? How has K-pop played into the equation?

R: It’s been a struggle, to be honest. My mental health has suffered greatly. From balancing work and taking care of my kids, to supervising them in their online classes and their classwork, to taking care of my parents at home and doing household chores, it’s been a huge adjustment and definitely not easy. I’m glad I have my kids at home, and I have friends I get to talk to or meet every once in a while via Zoom if chats aren’t enough.

 

Being stuck at home is something I’m kind of okay with since I am an introvert to begin with. I’ve always liked just staying at home. However, since it was an adjustment being stuck at home literally 24/7, K-pop has made life bearable. With so much content to eat up, it’s something I can look forward to at the end of my day.

 

W: Would you say K-pop has contributed to your happiness in the past year? How so?

R: Most definitely. I sound like a kid answering this but BTS just gives me so much joy in my life. I have absolutely no regrets being their fan—except for the fact that I wish I started stanning them when they debuted. More years, more love. But in reality, no regrets.

 

To be honest, being a fan of K-Pop in general is something I’ve been so grateful for. I discovered BTS when I was at a really low point in my life. It might sound cliché, but they helped me get through those times. ‘Til now, all their content and just them being themselves make me happy. They immediately put a smile on my face even by just seeing their photos. Listening to their music has also become therapeutic; it helps when you read up on the lyrics cause it means so much more. You get to enjoy what the song really means on top of the amazing melody and beats.

 

Bianca Jacinto, Actor and Livestreamer

Bianca is an actor, livestreamer and newly christened K-pop fan. With her K-pop conversion 10 years in the making, she is now a Seventeen fan and full-time horanghae apologist (don’t ask). 

 

 

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A post shared by Bianca Jacinto 🐅 (@benkajacinto)

 

Wonder: What’s your K-pop origin story? 

B: Picture that it was K-pop’s second gen era. During this time though, most attention was given to the emo/scene/hipster era. That, however, did not stop some of my friends from bringing their K-pop merch to school, showing their iPod’s K-pop libraries to each other during recess and then studying SNSD/SHINee choreography by dismissal time.

 

Was I a part of it? Big nope. I consumed music differently. I didn’t get to follow groups that released (1) a main music video (2) a dance version (3) items 1 or 2, but in a different outfit, then (4) behind the scenes, (5) performances in three different music shows, (6) a choreography rehearsal version, so on…and that could’ve all been for a single song.

 

I think what got to me first was the KBBQ. Then the fashion. Then the way they dyed their hair. Then their makeup. Then the singles I bobbed my head to. It was a rabbit hole situation. It was like asking for one gift and receiving fifty. There was so much to open, but because everything was packaged so nicely, I just kept tearing these proverbial presents open. The generosity also carried over to the way my friends shared K-pop as well. In contrast to the old culture of gatekeeping artists, my friends were more than happy enough to send ‘starter packs’ just to see if I would surrender and stan. Needless to say, I’m now in the bubble my high school friends were in. It just took 10 long years.

 

W: How has your quarantine been?

B: I worked in the live events industry prior to the first lockdown, so it was personally more difficult for me to find work within the industry again while stuck at home. Before I found work again last year, I was on the constant lookout for new music worth talking about. Some of the new music I discovered were from K-pop and other Korean music.

 

Because music was a main source of connection among friends, playlist-sharing was a practice I had maintained with them despite the pandemic. This time though, I made sure to insert one to three of those newly discovered K-music tracks in the playlists I shared. I kept doing this in different doses until K-music just found its way into conversations. If I’m not K-evangelizing people (lol), I’m also learning the Korean language. Language-learning alone has upgraded the K-pop experience by tenfold.

 

W: Would you say K-pop has contributed to your happiness in the past year? How so?

B: Lots of artists and groups realized that they didn’t have to stop making content because of the pandemic. I personally think that they even managed to make more content because of it. That’s not to say though that the lockdown’s a good thing, of course.

 

But with tours and other related activities out the question, I think that they found more time to put out regular content. Alternatively, they’d have these comebacks that get complimented with a substantial amount of promotional content, and that stuff was released almost daily. Seventeen’s a good example of a group that supplies both scenarios—and while that’s already good, I haven’t even gotten to the part about how fun/enjoyable their shows are. Since becoming a Carat, there was always something I looked forward to, and it made my quarantine life a little more bearable. So I’d say yes, K-pop has made a good contribution to my happiness (and sanity).

 

RELATED: Quiz: Which Male K-Pop Idol is Your Style Soulmate?

 

What’s your quarantine K-pop story? Share your experience in the comments, we’d love to listen.

 

 

Art Alexandra Lara

About The Author

Writer, professional fangirl, beauty director and sometimes-stylist. Just another twentysomething Jenna Rink wannabe.

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