When Filipinos caught the Korean wave, we never let go of it. We were enamored by its cheesy but well-crafted K-Dramas, the bops of its K-Pop, the beauty of its style and fashion, and the taste of Korea’s mouthwatering food. It came to us years ago, but it was only recently that we begin to see literature explaining the phenomenon as it happened in our country.
One of these is the fanbook “Hello Hallyu” by Aya Villa-Real. Released last May 2020 under ABS-CBN Books, we finally have a book that explores the growth of Korean pop culture in the Philippines. Considering this as one of the groundbreaking moments in the history of Hallyu in the country, we decided to know more about the “Hello Hallyu” straight from the writer!
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Without spoiling too much of the content, what can readers expect inside “Hello Hallyu”?
Hello Hallyu is all about the origins of Hallyu in the Philippines. There are so many books and publications about Hallyu but we really centered in on the K-Community in the Philippines because, without it, the Hallyu scene wouldn’t thrive. It also discusses a lot about some of our favorite acts and iconic faces of Hallyu these days.
What inspired you to write “Hello Hallyu”?
I’ve always been inspired by the Hallyu community here in the Philippines. I think that we are one of if not the most passionate group of fans when it comes to supporting our favorite artists. (That’s why they like coming back, diba?) We have a lot of colorful stories about the community, like the creation of KPOPCON and PKCI as a non-profit organization that is proactive in creating these wonderful activities for fans at the same time reaching to other non-profit as beneficiaries of their project. I was pretty active during their earlier days and I was a fan club admin of Wonder Girls Philippines way back then.
For me personally, it was really like telling my own personal journey as a fan and how I went through the same things that most Hallyu fans have probably experienced. There’s a lot of throwback and mentions of familiar spots that are favorites of long-time Hallyu fans. A lot of people don’t really understand why we love Hallyu so much but I think the community it has built is one of the most fascinating things that Hallyu gave to Filipino fans.
How did the process of picking the featured artists on the cover come about?
We decided that we wanted to pick icons and upcoming icons of Hallyu in the Philippines. There were a lot of artists that we considered but there were some restrictions and guidelines that we had to abide in order to attain the rights to use the images but I believe that the 4 covers that were handpicked by me and the ABS-CBN Books team, we feel that these artists have given a great impact on the Hallyu culture in the Philippines especially last year. So it’s four different covers, four different management groups, so it took a while for us to complete the book because of that. We were also supposed to launch it during an event that was supposed to happen last February. But it turned out to be a great output and something that I’m really proud of.
You eventually have also made Korean culture your life’s work. Could you share how your passion eventually grew through establishing FanLive?
I wouldn’t say it’s my life’s work but Hallyu is a great influence on what I do in my career and the businesses that I own and handle. I think ever since I was in college, I’ve been proactive in small album launches in malls if you still remember those. I used to host and go on TV doing interviews about K-Pop and I used to blog about Hallyu during my college days and that eventually landed me my first job as a marketing officer and the rest is history.
The [KStreetManila] team probably knows me from working behind the scenes a lot during concerts. You may have encountered me in some K-Pop multi-artist shows or fanmeets in the country. I work with MyMusicTaste, DnM Entertainment, and previously with All Access Production as a marketing and media consultant. So basically, I help create the promotional plans and sponsorship and coordinating for artist interviews, photoshoots, etc. If you’ve seen The Rose on Wish 107.5, that was actually me and my team who made that possible together with the team from MMT. I’ve worked on that since 2013 (K-Pop Republic 2 was my first show) and it’s been quite a journey. I love the concert scene in general and I love working with live events professionals so that’s how it sparked my interest to establish FanLive as one of the businesses that I own with a few partners.
FanLive basically focuses on unique fan experience so we try as much as possible not to do the usual types of shows but we actually collaborate with artist management on how we can create a show for a specialty or a niche Hallyu artist (that’s why we did the club show with DJ HYO of Girls’ Generation because that was different fan experience).
One of the things that Hallyu influenced me in my career is that I was able to learn a lot when it comes to discipline from our Korean partners, directors and production teams. We are able to also reflect that work ethic towards FanLive and also our other business which is our design and PR agency – studio.vc
I wouldn’t say Hallyu is my number 1 passion because I do so many things on the side but it’s one of my career’s jumping points and I think if some people want to work behind the scenes, they shouldn’t expect that it’s glamorous at all but working behind the scenes is super fulfilling not only as a fan but also as a professional.
Once we’re back to “normal” (or at least, we’ve adjusted to the “new normal”), what can fans expect from FanLive in the future?
We are hoping we can get back on track. FanLive is not operational as an event producer at the moment for the safety also of my team and our audiences. We had so many plans for bigger fan meets this 2020 but we all had to push them back. I feel really sad whenever I see our 2020 pipeline document because we were so game last year and then the pandemic happened.
We are working on digital content with various artist management groups so hopefully, that’s something fans can look out for.
And lastly, we are still hoping that we can bring Hallyu Market, a bazaar event that showcases Hallyu related products and brands to different parts of the Philippines. Think of it as a Hallyu roadshow. It’s important for us at FanLive to also reach out to the regional fans and hope that one day we can bring a showcase over to a city other than Manila.
Dan Gambe contributed to this article.