Monday, June 6, 2011

If I could talk... but I can't - my voice is hoarse from all the screaming

WARNING: Extremely long post ahead... Documenting this for posterity. :)

Roughly about 72 hours before I am writing this, I was at NAIA Terminal 1 with hundreds of my fellow Filipino Blackjacks and Applers holding a tattered, crumpled piece of paper saying "HELLO DARA." But my fangirl experience of 2NE1's first concert in Manila didn't start there. It started exactly a month ago at SM Makati where a group of us basically camped out in front of the ticket counter waiting to buy our 2NE1: The Party tickets.

I was at SM Makati even before the store opened and shouldered my way in when the guards finally opened the door. Despite all that, I was the third person in line. I thought, "Well, it's okay. It's not as if the seats are going to be sold that quickly and I doubt this will take the whole day." I still had a lot of work scheduled after buying the tickets  but when the lady at the counter informed us that the tickets aren't available yet, I could see my well-laid plans going "poof" like smoke.

At first we were strangers, but slowly everyone began talking with each other - who their biases were, what seats they were going to buy, how they skipped work just to be there and buy the tickets... We were a striking crowd - though not really that many, just about 12 or so - and the SM Management sent out a person to talk to us and convince us to leave. We adamantly refused to do so. No way were we leaving without a 2NE1 ticket on our hands. An elderly woman from SM was even laughing at us, thinking us foolish probably and we were also mistaken for Justin Bieber fans. We endured it all - standing for hours when they wouldn't let us sit on the floor and the repeated calls to the Ticketnet office bugging just when the tickets were going to be available. Each of us did our part to get some news. I was searching for news on Twitter and reporting about the rumored release times until finally the tickets were available for sale.

I was there at 10 AM and I think I got my tickets around 4 PM. As soon as I got home, I put them in a ziplock bag and locked it on a strongbox.

June 10, 2011. Early day at SM Mall of Asia (MOA) where we all assembled to go to the airport and meet 2NE1 as soon as they land in Manila. As it was only a spur of the moment decision to join the welcome crew, I didn't have a banner with me. Thankfully, a DGH admin gave out construction papers so we could make last-minute ones. (Side note: My cousin lent her highlighter to someone and never got it back. She's asking me for it, but I told her it's a lost cause now.)

Courtesy of DGH again, we boarded a FX taxi to go to the airport. Our group were separated from the first two vans and we were brought to the Departure area instead of the arrivals. It was all so confusing - the guard was being stubborn and blocking us from crossing what was basically just a 2 meter distance. Thankfully we were able to meet up with the rest of the Blackjacks but there was still some confusion about where exactly was the best position to see and meet the girls.

While there, we met a guy who I refer to as the expert in stalking in airports. He even had a map of the airport in his phone! After a few discussions, it was decided that we would go to the left side of the VIP arrivals area.

When we arrived there, the MYX camera crew was already there and, of course, I quickly tried to hide my face. I now understand all the fans who I saw on the videos during the Jaebum scandal and why they were wearing masks to hide their faces. It's not that I was ashamed of being a 2NE1 fan, it was just that I was supposed to be somewhere else... most probably at work. Haha...

When 2NE1's caravan passed by, I admit that I was disappointed. All that trouble and all I saw was a black van. I wasn't even able to see the moment when they opened the door briefly for the fans.

Wanting to be ahead of the crowd who will surely be competing for a taxi, my cousin and I started to flag down a taxi. A trio of teens from Cavite asked us about Intercon and we informed them that it was in Makati. At that time, we really didn't have clear plans to go to Intercon. I had a half-baked idea of hanging around Greenbelt since I was hoping that they would eat there was Dara did during her last two stays in the Philippines. But serendipity was at work. A bus that was going to pass by the Ayala MRT station came and we waved the trio to come with us. 

I finally got to rest my feet but it wasn't too long before we arrived in Makati. My original intention was just to take or guide the trio to the Intercon. But, as we got at hotel entrance, lo and behold - Jjangmae manager was there! I was a little starstruck! Haha... I think that was really the moment when I realized that 2NE1 was really here. I made a little wave but I doubt he noticed it. We went to the small crowd hanging at the entrance and we asked them if they were able to see 2NE1. They said yes and showed us pictures as proof. Frustrated the hell out of me because the hotel was so freaking close to my house and I should've waited there instead of the airport and saved myself all the trouble and have nothing to show for it. Sigh. Anyway. I wasn't going to make the same mistake. We were stalking the hotel and that's that.

Our patience was rewarded when around 2 PM, 2NE1 left the hotel to go to Araneta for rehearsals. Armed with my pathetic digital camera and the aforementioned HELLO DARA banner, I jockeyed my way to get into position to get a clear view of Dara.

Honestly, when they came out - it was only Dara who I clearly saw. I saw her smile and I was so happy. I think I was a little starstruck because I really don't know what was in my head that moment. Anyway, I saw CL's teddy bear and Minzy's side profile and her cute haircut. Bom came out afterwards and I was able to focus on her since there wasn't Dara or the other girls to take away my attention. LOL She looked so lost, probably overwhelmed by all the fans waiting for her outside.

As Bom made her way to the van, the group ran after her and a fan slipped on the wet pavement (it briefly rained earlier). I stopped to ask her if she was okay and I don't know what happened after that because all I knew was I was also at the side of the van and doing the Sandara wave at the tinted black van.

Their van left and everyone started their OMG-ing amongst themselves. I saw one of them crying, overwhelmed by the experience. And that was it. My cousin and I decided to go home. I wasn't going to be greedy. I got what I came for. I saw Dara and it was worth it. Of course, it would have been better for a face to face, one on one encounter, but as a fan - you can never be satisfied so just take what you can get.

The reality of the day finally made itself know when we were halfway home. Hot damn, but my feet and legs hurt! We had to stop at and sit for awhile because I didn't know how I could still walk.

That night, I slept the deep sleep of the tired.

June 4, 2011. We arrived at Araneta around 1 PM. Unfortunately, We Love Dara t-shirts were all out. That's what I get for getting there late! But the DGH peeps were still kind enough to give us a ziplock bag of M&Ms. I tell you, I was really grateful because I have been jonesing for sweets the whole day. I was also late to buy 2NE1 lightsticks. Just how late was I? Only about a minute late. The last two pieces were just being paid when we arrived at the booth. We went around the booths but since it was mostly Super Junior goods, we decided to just stroll in Gateway Mall since it was my first time there.

Around 2 PM, we had some Yang Chow fried rice and chicken at North Park, very near the gate entrance where we could see that there was already a long line. After eating, my two companions who had Upper B tickets got in line while I, who had a reserved seat in the Lower Box area strolled around, trying to kill time.

After wasting time trying on clothes in several shops in Gateway, I made my way to the booths. Nothing had changed - the lightsticks were still sold out or reserved. I met fellow Applers and Dara fans who were at the airport welcoming group and we chatted a bit about our experiences. Then, all of a sudden, there was a disturbance in the crowd. We quickly made our way to the 2NE1PH booth and unlike what I thought originally that somehow 2NE1 went into the crowd, everyone was apparently gushing over some guy celebrity. Later, I found out that it was Kean who fronts the band Callalily. I'm not a snob, really, but I am really clueless about local showbiz. I often stand next to them and wouldn't even notice! (And, honestly, just walking around Greenbelt you can see so many good looking people who look like a celeb so you don't care anymore) Anyway, my new friends were fans and I tried to get their pictures with him. I think he was being enjoined to sign up in 2NE1PH as an official Blackjack and he asked for something that was Dara's. When the Oh Dara/We Love Dara/DGH peeps heard this, someone went and gave him a t-shirt. Yay for Dara fanboys!

I felt so bad about not having a souvenir for the concert that I ended up buying a buy one, take one poster of Dara from her Etude campaign. I still don't know where to put them, but we'll see. But only an hour or so before the booths closed and the entrance to the coliseum opened, I took a chance and went by the 2NE1PH booth again to inquire about the lightsticks. There were still two left and since they thought that nobody was going to claim them, they graciously sold it to me for er... let's just not mention the amount lest my wallet hears and wails in agony.

So, armed with two rolled posters of my bias and an official 2NE1 lightstick, I was so ready to PARTY! But, first... line up. Well, it was quick so soon I was seated with my fellow SM ticketnet holders on our front row lower box seats. I quickly got out my camera to prepare but after a few minutes of checking, put it right back on my bag. There was no way I could get a quality fancam so I decided to just let those who had better equipment and a better view to take them. And I would probably be too busy waving my spanking new lightstick around.

The Party started with Techy Romantics who, honestly, bored me. I'm sorry but I couldn't understand a word they were singing. And their songs were pretty mellow and they really didn't engage the audience with their repartee so... Next up was Christian Bautista who entered with Bruno Mars' "Just The Way You Are" which I think was perfect since I think of Dara when I hear that song, thanks to a vid a fan made. For his final song, he sang "The Way You Look At Me" which he dedicated to Dara. He said that he learned through a text that she said she liked the song and mentioned it during the presscon earlier that day. I can't remember well, but he might have said "I love you Sandy" or something. Is this the start of ChriSandara? Haha...

Scene-stealer Giselle Sanchez faked the crowd when she entered the stage sporting the Sandara palm-tree hair. She introduced herself as Luneta Park and proceeded to make the audience laugh. I love it that she was well-informed about the songs, showing that she really was a fan. In local terms, "bentang-benta talaga siya sa crowd."

Local band The Bloomfields were up next. Sorry, I can't give an account for this since I don't follow the local band scene. But they were good, if not good sports for playing to a crowd who specifically came to see a Korean pop group.

After the set there was a contest for free Sum41 and Lenka tickets. (I would like the latter, please) The one for CL rapped the intro for Fire to get the tickets. If that were me, I would have rapped the intro of Can't Nobody english version. For the Bom fan, he tearfully (?) confessed his love for Bommie and answered that her favorite food was corn. Sandara's fan was obviously made to sing her Pinoy hit song "In Or Out". But the highlight for the contest was this girl who was a Minzy fan and wowed the audience with her dancing skills. Like, damn girl! Somebody needs to scout you real fast! I happened to see this Viva pop group when I watched Sarah Geronimo in Glorietta and, let me tell you, I would rather watch this girl than that group. Seriously. And that was before I knew (through @twistedtine) that she can sing really well and that she was, in fact, a member of 2NE1 cover group called BigBangs. If I own a record company, I would sign her up and give her training like what they do in Korea. Unfortunately, I wasn't the one who won the lotto. Next time...

It was a night of Dara love confessions because up next was Kean (who I mentioned earlier) and his band Callalily. He went out wearing the We Love Dara shirt that was given to him and he proceeded to rock it out and basically making love to the fans. We gave him a moment when he asked for the lights to be shut off and all those with lightsticks to wave it in the air. Fine, anything for a Dara fanboy. LOL. Well, he did proclaim "I love my shirt", "Dara saranghae" and  thanked Daragon for the shirt - which I thought was funny since his shirt is basically proclaiming that Dara belonged to someone else. Anyway, it was still a proud moment for Applers.

The last front act was the Philippine All Stars who performed what I think would be the piece they are going to do for a tournament in Switzerland. They were great, but still had room for improvement. Because of my exposure to KPOP and Shaun's Movement Lifestyle, I am not impressed that easily. They better bring it and bring home the trophy.

And finally, FINALLY, it was time for 2NE1. The dance break from Pretty Boy heralded the start and then the sirens, and then FIRE. We all stood up and I started waving my lightstick and I was in KPOP heaven. They came up and I saw Dara waving widely, looking extremely happy to see a packed Araneta. You can hardly hear them sing the first song since we welcomed them with screams the first time they came to sing individually.

They sang a total of eight songs - Fire, Go Away, Please Don't Go, Lonely, In Our Out, Can't Nobody, Clap Your Hands, and I Don't Care - and the whole crowd sang with them. That's just how Filipinos are in concerts. We even joke that sometimes the invited artists don't even need to sing because we will sing it for them. It's not disrespect. In fact, it's the highest form of respect we can give since we memorized the lyrics of their songs.

The crowd was electric, the lightsticks like rainbow colored stars in a dark night. We jumped, we danced, and we yelled "You ain't shit without your crew!" I may be biased, but I think the girls fed off the energy of the crowd and I saw them making mistakes, probably caught up with all the excitement. Nevertheless, it was really a crazy party that the 2NE1 girls won't soon forget. It's really a different experience, having a concert in the Philippines. I've been to several now and all the foreign artists are awed by us. Haha...

Side note... Dara's SCQ friends were on the left side of the stage (if you were facing the stage) and among them was her rumored ex Joseph Bitangcol. I entertained myself thinking that the songs "Go Away" and "I Don't Care" were "pa-tama" to him and that it wasn't a coincidence that the girls kept on singing some parts in that direction. Haha...

The girls soon said their goodbyes, much to the disappointment of everyone. I knew that they were only going to sing eight songs but I still felt sad that it was over. They could have at least made Bom sing her latest single "Don't Cry", right? Sigh. I would've wanted to hear Try To Follow Me or Don't Stop The Music too. Oh well.

I said my goodbyes to my seatmates and said that we'll meet again, probably when 2NE1 holds their next official concert here in Manila, I hope. I met up with my companions on our specified meeting place and after taking a few pics, we thankfully got a taxi quickly and went home, gushing about the concert all the way.

And thus ended my 2NE1 fangirling. Reviewing the videos and what I did the past few days, I can't believe that I did all that. It may sound crazy, especially to my peers who are immersed in their corporate jobs and fancy stuff... but if I didn't do all those things I would probably regret it. Regardless of everything, it made me happy. KPOP, 2NE1, Sandara Park makes me happy and that's all that matters.

But for now, it's back to the real world. (Gotta earn the money for those tickets and lightstick!) I've stored away my 2NE1 lightstick back in its box, hoping that I would soon have the opportunity to wave it proudly again, singing my heart out with my fellow Blackjacks, when 2NE1 comes back to Manila.

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