Here’s what went down at the free concert at the Mall of Asia Arena
As we’ve witnessed different aspects of Korean culture (music, cosmetics and food, among others) permeate ours over the years, it’s a feat that 2019 marks 70 years of friendship between South Korea and the Philippines, which President Duterte and South Korean President Moon Jae-in dubbed as the “year of mutual exchange.” Apart from what’s apparent to us, the Philippines and Korea have been helping each other out with the development of infrastructure, agriculture and education, too. As much as we’ve seen Korean exchange students here, Korea has also helped Filipino students achieve grants to study in Korean universities.
The Republic of Korea’s Ambassador to the Philippines Han Dong-man didn’t hold back in his speech delivered in Filipino and gave more finger hearts than the rest of the idols combined on stage that night, acknowledging K-pop fans who play a role in strengthening the relationship between our two countries. Vice Minister of Culture, Sports and Tourism Kim Yong-sam even mentioned that aside from the concert, events planned for this year include a Korean film festival and a taekwondo festival, among others.
Since we are in the process of an exchange, it would only be right that we had representatives from our own corner. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t harbor the same excitement for Silent Sanctuary that I did for the night’s Korean groups. Their characteristic melding of strings with rock arrangements transported me back to high school screaming the lyrics of Ikaw Lamang in the shower. It came as a surprise that the rest of the crowd sang along to the songs, but then I remembered that Silent Sanctuary’s affiliation with things Korean dates back to 2014 when they lent their song Sa’yo to the OST of Angel Eyes, a Korean drama picked up by ABS-CBN. The group even tweeted after the concert, “So this is how it feels to be oppas for a night,” thanking NCTzens for raising their light sticks during their set. (Let’s be real, they’re sunbaes to NCT Dream, Noir and April. They debuted back in 2001!)
K-Pop groups April, NCT Dream and Noir graced the event to celebrate 70 years of friendship between South Korea and the Philippines
See, my live music experience has been rather limited to alternative, pop and rock concerts apart from your run-of-the-mill Saturday night bar gigs. It hasn’t been two years since my introduction to K-pop and last Thursday’s concert was the first of its kind I’ve attended. When this concert was announced, my 25-year-old NCTzen heart was excited but quickly dismissed the idea of attending because I didn’t want to compete with the young ones for slots to get inside the free event. I knew it would stir chaos one way or another, but aside from no-shows and non-transferable vouchers, there seemed to have been no qualms about ticketing.
Driving up to the arena and seeing long queues outside gave me chills, more so people collecting fan-made freebies (e.g. banners, stickers, fans, photocards etc.) from fan accounts who’d advertised on Twitter days prior. As much as we were celebrating friendship between two countries, concert day paved the way for online mutuals to meet each other and scream about faves together in real life, too.
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The arena was a sea of green lights the whole night (NCT Dream was the only group in the lineup with their own light stick) but that didn’t stop fans from cheering on Noir and April—another testament to friendship. The nine-piece Noir (comprised of members Seunghoon, Yeonkuk, Junyong, Yunsung, Siheon, Hoyeon, Siha, Minhyuk and Daewon) were no strangers to the Philippines. They held a fanmeet here last December just months after their debut and were impressed by the support of Filipino Lumieres––that’s the name of their fan club, by the way, which means “light” in French and complements the “black” of Noir. Asked about their major accomplishments not even a year into their debut, the group was quick to dub the friendship concert as a big deal in their growing career.
They graced the stage with powerful and charismatic performances of their two title tracks Airplane Mode and Gangsta, followed by Gift, a more laid-back number that saw them roam around the stage. During a break between songs, Lumieres in the audience sang a happy birthday to Siha, who would celebrate his on the 9th. They ended their set with a cover of BTS’ Boy in Luv.
April, who debuted back in 2015, soon took the stage with sexy black-and-white athleisure outfits, pulling off their innocent and “girl crush” concepts with songs Oh My Mistake, Take My Hand, Tinkerbell and April Story. Members Chaekyung, Chaewon, Naeun, Yena, Rachel and Jinsol, were nervous but excited to be in the Philippines for the first time, taking it as an opportunity to get closer to Filipino Fineapples. Chaekyung even said she wanted to try Filipino street food! During Tinkerbell, the members went around the stage and towards the seated area while waving and making hearts with their arms. Jinsol kept saying salamat po and the group learned to refer to themselves as maganda. While they don’t have any specific plans for the year yet, they hope to have more international schedules and chances to show their performance.
The most deafening cheers of the night were for NCT Dream who were last to take the stage. Members Jaemin, Renjun, Jeno, Chenle and Jisung had no problems filling each other’s roles following member Mark’s graduation from the group and Haechan’s leg fracture late last year prompting a break in activities. It’s the group’s first time in the Philippines, too, and Jaemin even commended the great service they encountered at a restaurant. When they debuted as a sub-unit of NCT in 2016, their music was targeted to and representative of the younger generation, performing mostly cute concepts.
As they grew older in front of the cameras, Jeno said they wanted to try sexy concepts in the future and Renjun was quick to give us a preview (who knew putting your hand on your nape could look so fierce?). Imagine having seen these boys dressed in pastel outfits dancing on hoverboards singing Chewing Gum, only to have them sing the same song years later in printed shirts, top buttons undone and black suits. My tita instincts felt the dissonance.
Renjun said that he was quite happy with the weather exiting the plane, but the concert gave him more reason to be, especially since Filipino NCTzens sent him multiple birthday cakes as an early gift. The group also performed their titles My First and Last, Go and We Go Up, which Chenle said was the most fun to perform. While this was their first taste of how loved they are in the country, we all know this won’t be the last.
Words Beatrice Mata
Art Alexandra Lara