Six-year-old Naomi Lovina chose to spend her Sunday in a room full of people twice her size. She wasn’t fazed at all, as she played with balloons that matched the color of her mint pearl T-shirt. On the other end of the room is 52-year-old Cherry Budy who, despite the age gap, brimmed with excitement that matched the 6-year-old’s youthful energy. They find themselves in the same place, all for their love of Korean superstar, Lee Seung-gi.
Fans have always prided themselves on their ability to create communities. Enjoying the company of people who share your interests is a luxury that not many enjoy all the time, and so on Nov. 24, supporters of K-drama star Lee Seung-gi trooped to the Inquirer’s head office in Makati for an intimate watch party.
In line with the Inquirer’s 34th anniversary and Super K’s first year, members of the official local fan club, Lee Seung-gi Philippines (LSGPH), were invited to celebrate the success of his hit drama, “Vagabond,” with a viewing party of the series finale that aired just a day before.
“‘Vagabond’ made Seung-gi gain a lot of new fans,” Cha Teylan, one of the heads of LSGPH said. Hailed as Korea’s “triple threat”–Lee shines in his role as stuntman turned mercenary in the action series, starring alongside K-pop icon Suzy Bae.
Filled with thrilling twists, especially amplified by Lee’s penchant for action, “Vagabond” was the perfect watch, as fans collectively awed at his effortless charisma, acting prowess, and intense action sequences.
Every scene was met with chaotic squeals of “kilig,” even though most of his ardent viewers in the crowd have already watched the episode.
“It’s different, here it’s a venue where we can freely express and share our feelings with each other, we can also gain new friends,” Teylan added.
More than a month after his Manila visit, Philippine fans also couldn’t wait to reunite and reminisce memories of Lee’s fan meeting. Lee visited the country for his Vagabond Voyage tour on Oct. 12, a milestone for many of his local fans.
Budy, who initially liked Lee because of his dramas, decided to become a fan when she fell for the 32-year-old’s personality. “He’s very sensible, down to earth [and] humble,” she said.
A mother of three children, Budy sees Lee as a suitable role model for the youth, “I want my kids to have that type of perspective in life as well,” she shared.
Rudgz Lovina, Naomi’s mom, marveled at the fact that it was her daughter who noticed the actor first.
“She’s the original fan,” Rudgz said. “We went to South Korea twice, and there were posters of him. She was so interested because she noticed he was handsome.”
Rudgz and Naomi are now Airens, the official term for Lee’s fans. The next day was a school day for Naomi, but the mother-daughter tandem wanted to join the party to support the fan club they considered family.
“We’re very attached to the admins,” Rudgz said, as she asked Naomi to say her goodbyes to her ninangs.
Hallyu, or the Korean wave has certainly helped fans forge relationships in the most unlikely of places. “It’s more than a fan club, it’s friendship, it’s family,” one of LSGPH’s admins said to the crowd who were all sporting the same color, mint pearl, to represent their fandom.
The night was filled with fun discussions about the ambiguous yet heart-wrenching finale, with rumors of a potential second season fueling the passion in the room.
LSGPH even worked on a video message for producers, in hopes of their idol getting another chance to show off his acting chops. “Vagabond Season 2, juseyo,” the fans pleaded in the video Super posted on Instagram and they screamed when Netflix Philippines replied with a heart emoji. The Airens also took the opportunity to vote for their favorite Hallyu things for the Super K Awards.
For many of them, being a fan is so much more than just seeing their idol on the screen. Organized fandom is a positive influence in her life, Budy said.
“It’s something that you can’t buy with money, that joy, that happiness,” she added. “It makes me feel young.”
Lee’s latest shows “Busted” Season 2, “Korean Odyssey” and “Vagabond” are all available for streaming on Netflix. The Super K! viewing party was sponsored by San Miguel Corp., SM Beauty, Watsons, Goldilocks, San Miguel PureFoods and No Brand.