Justine Mae Caringal contributed to this article / Photos by Trisha Yalung
At eight in the morning on March 7, the SM Mall of Asia Arena is already packed with people. Some are holding banners dedicated to members of different groups. The excitement in the air is apparent as you hear them chat animatedly amongst themselves, watch a performance on their phones, or sing along to some of their favorite group’s songs.
Asked about why they were at the arena so early (the show started around 6 p.m.), and they will give you one answer: They needed to get the best seats to see their favorite group. After all, the entrance to the K-Pop Friendship Concert is free of charge, and being able to see your favorite groups for free is a luxury.
The scene is almost reminiscent of the previous K-Pop Friendship Concert from ten years ago, at the Cultural Center of the Philippines. This time, though, the venue is bigger. And the crowd? Definitely bigger. And they brought more than just cheers and their love for K-Pop at the arena.
70 years of friendship and beyond
Korean culture has been a staple in the Filipino consciousness. From K-Pop to Korean dramas, food, and skin care, the country’s culture is everywhere.
What many don’t know, though, is that relations between South Korea and the Philippines have been strong from the past 70 years. The two countries started their relations through military assistance and are now enhanced through the exchange of cultures.
National Archives of the Philippines Executive Director Victorino Mapa Manalo said that Filipinos became interested in Korean culture because of the shared values between the two countries, which is why Korean music and drama resonate with Filipinos.
In his speech during the formal program of the concert, Ambassador of the Republic of Korea to the Philippines Han Dong Man expressed his aims to strengthen PH-KOR relations by promoting Korean culture in the country.
Both Han and Manalo hope that the relationship between the Philippines and South Korea will continue to grow in the future.
Cheers for all
It was clear since the concert lineup was announced that the majority of the crowd would be cheering for NCT Dream.
But when the lights dimmed and the show started, we were pleasantly surprised by how loud the cheers were for every group that performed.
Starting with Silent Sanctuary, the sole Philippine representative in the concert. Cheers were loud as the band opened the concert with their hits “Bumalik Ka Na Sa’Kin”, “Pasensya Ka Na”, “Sa’yo”, and “Ikaw Lamang.” The crowd even sang along, and it was refreshing to hear words in your own language reverberate across the arena.
Up next was NOIR, a nine-member boy group that debuted in 2018. It was their second visit to the Philippines, but their first time performing at a large venue and in a prestigious event. Their performances are powerful, starting with “Airplane mode” and “Gangsta.” They mellowed down with “As a star” before leaving another memorable performance with their cover of BTS’ “Boys in Luv.”
APRIL is the only girl group present in the concert, yet they also commanded a presence among the audience. They started off with their quirky retro-pop song “Oh! My mistake”, followed by another retro beat in “Take My Hand.” After introducing themselves, APRIL shows their cutesy side with “Tinker Bell” before finishing off their performance with their wistful song “April Story.”
And finally, the moment most of the crowd has been waiting for: NCT Dream. Despite their mature get-up, the group started their performance with their lively songs “Chewing Gum” and “My First and Last”, though they moved to their more mature songs “Go” and “We Go Up.” Though down to five members—Mark graduated from the group at the end of 2018 and Haechan is sitting out of promotions due to an injury—the boys were able to engage the entire arena, composed of mostly NCTzens, if the sea of green is anything to go by.
Promises to return
It was clear that the artists clearly enjoyed the time they spent at the K-Pop Friendship Concert. Silent Sanctuary shared that it was heartwarming to hear the crowd cheer and sing along, even joking that they felt they were “oppas” for that night.
One night was obviously not enough for NOIR, APRIL, and NCT Dream as well, as they wanted to spend more time with their Filipino fans. NOIR asked Filipino Lumieres to stay tuned for their upcoming album. APRIL’s Chaekyung admitted that she wanted to try Filipino street food to get to know the country’s culture. Also, NCT Dream hinted that they are planning to come back to the Philippines soon, much to the joy of their fans.
The night definitely ended on a high note not just for the artists, but also for the fans. It was clear that night that Filipinos’ love for K-Pop is strong and has no signs of slowing down. And in turn, we’re sure that the friendship between the Philippines and South Korea will be stronger than ever.
We would like to thank PULP Live World for inviting KStreetManila to cover the event.