Of course I had to get the best seats that my hard-earned money could buy. Since the New Kids on the Block and the Backstreet Boys announced their comeback, I had been wanting to see their show. Every time I was headed to the US I would check their tour dates hoping I’d find myself in the same city as the tour leg—but no luck. Until now.
I Instagrammed my triumph and when friends started to comment about how expensive the tickets were, I said, “I owe it to my 11-year-old self. She was a good girl.”
NKOTB’s 1992 Manila concert at Rizal Stadium was the first concert I ever attended. I was dressed to kill in NKOTB garb—I had on my NKOTB watch, a red shirt tucked into my NKOTB shorts, red socks and white sneakers. I thought my outfit was awesome and heck, I wasn’t the only one—all these older girls in the concert stopped to ask where I got my shorts.
Those shorts rocked—they were white and had red hearts and the boys’ faces and signatures printed all over.
Years later, it hit me—those weren’t shorts, they were boxers! Men’s boxers! I had worn men’s underwear to a concert. And I still felt no shame.
Back then my P750 ticket didn’t give me a good view of the boys. I had to stand on my seat and use my grandpa’s binoculars to see their faces clearly. That wasn’t going to happen this time.
The people I watched the ’92 concert with had all grown up, moved on or moved abroad. I needed a new partner in crime. And I knew who’d be perfect for the job—Jill, Super’s contributing photographer.
I thought I was a hardcore fan. I had all the merch to prove it—the stacks of BOP, Teen Beat and Tiger Beat, the trading cards, the beach towel, the watches (I loved the mix-and-match watch set with interchangeable straps—I wore out the yellow Jordan one)—but Jill put me to shame. Because while all evidence of my NKOTB fandom has disappeared along with the treasures from my childhood, she actually kept hers.
Her NKOTB comics, books, magazines, scrapbooks, sleeping bag, towel, shirt, pads, concert ticket, Joey McIntyre pin, drawings—she still had them all. And to prove just how big a fan she is, she joined Ovation Productions’ search for the Ultimate NKOTBSB Fan and won.
We made a pact. The NKOTBSB concert was June 3 but we weren’t just going to watch the show. We were allowing our 11- and 12-year-old selves to take over and we were going to devote our entire weekend to the New Kids. We were going to transform into crazy fangirls.
On June 2, Jill said, “The Backstreet Boys are here! AJ and Brian are playing golf!”
We hatched our plan. We knew they would be staying at Edsa Shangri-La Hotel. We’d have dinner there and keep our fingers crossed that we’d see them.
But first, I re-dyed the ends of my faded hair a crazy shade of magenta. In my excitement, I completely forgot to wear gloves and my hair experiment left me with purple hands. Fantastic. The New Kids weren’t going to meet a big fan. They were going to meet Barney.
We grabbed our spot at Shangri-La’s Lobby Lounge and ordered food. There were other NKOTB and BSB fans in the area, milling about the lobby and sitting in hotel chairs.
We spotted Nick Carter of the Backstreet Boys but there was no sign of the New Kids anywhere.
After about two hours, Jill stood up. “I have to pee,” she said.
“Okay,” I said. “I’ll be on the lookout.”
Minutes later, I looked up from my iPad and saw a group of men walking in from the side entrance. They had brightly colored leis around their necks and were surrounded by guards. I spotted Jordan Knight. Joe McIntyre. Jonathan Knight. Donnie Wahlberg. Danny Wood. My jaw dropped. I froze. Oh my god. The New Kids OnThe Block had just arrived. Where was Jill? If she missed them, she’d kill me. My hands fumbled to find my phone. I was trembling so much that my fingers kept slipping. I couldn’t even type her name in my phone. I was dead.
The New Kids disappeared into the elevators and seconds later, Jill was in front of me. She didn’t look murderous at all—in fact, she was beaming. She ran into the New Kids on her way to the restroom, managed to take a blurry picture of Joe with her iPhone (I guess I wasn’t the only one trembling) and even say, “Hey Jordan!” to Jordan Knight.
I posted on Twitter: “just saw @jordanknight. OMG dying.”
We calmed ourselves down and turned our attention back to our burger and calamari. We spotted Howie D. of the Backstreet Boys in the lobby.
“Now I have to pee,” I told Jill. In the barely five minutes I was gone, Jonathan Knight had reappeared and Jill had taken his picture and asked him to sign her sketch from 1995. I tried to catch up but failed. He had left the hotel. That’s it, I’m never peeing again, I told myself.
But Jonathan returned to the hotel just minutes later. I grabbed my chance. When I asked if I could have my photo taken with him, he said, “Sure.” Then he put his arm around me.
I returned to our table giggly and giddy.
There was Howie D. again but we saw nobody else. At around 1:30 in the morning, we decided to end our first stakeout.
I had been promised a meet-and-greet slot, so Jill and I headed to the MOA Arena early on the day of the concert wearing the NKOTB shirts we had made and the letters NKOTB on my nails. But it turned out to be a bust—there were 14 of us and only 10 wristbands available. I decided to give up my slot and we left to drown our sorrows at Bistro Ravioli.
We returned to the Arena a few hours later to see a massive crowd waiting to get in. It felt like a reunion of sorts. We were constantly running into people we knew and they looked just as excited as us. All around us people greeted friends, high-fived one another, pumped their fists in the air and stifled shrieks. The place was buzzing with energy and the concert hadn’t even started.
Jill and I found our seats inside the arena but as soon as the show started, we were on our feet. We were in front, right by the stage, within spitting distance of the two boy bands. We didn’t sit at all in the entire show. We spent the next two and a half hours screaming, singing, applauding, dancing and reliving our childhood. At one point during the show, Jonathan squeezed my hand and gave Jill a big hug. “This feels like 1989!” Joe said. It felt more like 1992 to me but I knew exactly what he meant.
It was an incredible concert. The lights were spectacular, the energy was high, the crowd was fun and, let’s face it, the guys were hot.
The concert was over but our adventures were not. We had plans for a quick getaway. It was raining as we stepped out of the Arena but we didn’t mind. We ran to the car, dodged the post-concert traffic and were soon on the road headed back to Edsa Shang to see the New Kids one last time.
“What if they don’t go back to the hotel? What if they have an after party?” I asked Jill and our new recruit, Giff.
But as we were about to make the turn into the hotel driveway, we saw someone standing by the side entrance. “Hey, isn’t that Jonathan?” We came to a screeching halt and jumped out of the car. He spotted us, waved and smiled. He still had on the blue Adidas Philippines jacket he had worn onstage. We asked him to sign our shirts. Jill’s shirt featured cartoon versions of the New Kids drawn by her niece. Jonathan asked, seemingly amused, “Hey, how come my brother got dark brown hair?”
We told him how much we enjoyed the show and asked why they weren’t out celebrating. Manila was their last stop—their world tour was officially over. He chuckled and said, “We’re leaving for the airport in a couple of hours.” We talked a little more, I told him we wish they’d come back again and Jonathan hugged and kissed us before saying goodbye.
But we saw him again at the Lobby Lounge where we decided to grab a few beers and sandwiches. He passed by our table and checked out the game Jill was playing on the iPad.
There were other NKOTBSB fans in the hotel, including three Japanese girls who apparently fly everywhere to see the New Kids. We were all waiting for the same thing—to see them before they left for the airport.
Jonathan’s “couple of hours” became four hours. We stayed busy, reading funny post-concert tweets on our feeds. It soon became obvious that the New Kids had charmed a lot of people that night—including men and loyal BSB fans.
At 4:30 a.m., when he was practically falling asleep on Shangri-La’s couch, Giff gave up and went home. Other groups of fans started trickling out the door. Jill and I remained steadfast. We waited 20 years to see them again, we might as well wait a couple more hours. She played countless games of ReMovem, I finished yet another book on my Kindle, our phone’s batteries died.
At around 5 a.m., we noticed that hotel guards had started to gather in the lobby. There were people wearing Ovation shirts walking around.
Obviously, something was happening. The other fans realized this, too. Brian from the Backtreet Boys was the first to appear. The BSB fans chased after him as he left for the airport. Jonathan appeared again, made himself a cup of coffee, walked around the lobby and joked with the Japanese fans before disappearing into Shangri-La’s Heat restaurant. Seeing that the crowd of fans that had gathered had grown bigger, security tightened. One by one, the boys got off the elevators and, walking with at least three guards, went straight to Heat. Howie D. Joe. Jordan who said a very cheerful “Good Morning!” before disappearing. Nick.
After Joe walked by, a hotel guest stopped to ask us, “Who was that?”
Jill said, “New Kids On The Block.”
The guy did a double take. “They’re still alive?”
We chuckled and nodded.
“I was like…” he lifted his hand to his waist to show how tall he was during the height of the New Kids’ fame.
“Yeah, us too,” we said.
Jill and I were standing by a wall, away from the crowd. She glanced to her right and saw someone walking at the far end of the wall. “It’s Donnie!” she whispered.
“Go!” I said. Jill took off, still holding her 17-year-old drawing in her hands. I followed her. When I finally reached the side exit, Joe had just finished signing Jill’s drawing and was getting on the bus that was waiting outside. The rest of NKOTB were already on the bus.
Danny had also signed her drawing before he boarded. The bus pulled away from the driveway just seconds later.
We could finally go home. It was almost 7 a.m. and we had headaches from pulling the unexpected all-nighter. But it was worth it.
It was good to go back to those days of innocence, when all it took to pledge your undying love was a good song and a pinup stuck to your Trapper Keeper. It was great to set aside any semblance of jadedness and just revel in the joys of being a fan.
I kept telling people I was doing it for my 11-year-old self but the truth is, I did it for 31-year-old me, too.