The Army Speaks Up

Published December 13, 2021, 12:09 PM

by Rica Arevalo

Filipino concertgoers attend the BTS Permission to Dance On Stage LA

BTS performing in their cool black outfits (BigHit Music)

My social media feed early this month saw friends attending the four-day concert series, BTS Permission to Dance On Stage LA in California, USA between November 27 to December 2, 2021. It took two years for the Korean boy band BTS composed of Jin, Suga, J-Hope, RM, Jimin, V and Jungkook to perform live again in front of their loyal fans, the ARMY.

We asked some Filipinos concertgoers who flew to LA to talk about their three-hour experience with the talented Korean global superstars.

Madonna Tarrayo, president and CEO of UXS INC (Unitel/Straightshooters), is a certified ARMY, where the fan base ranges from 8 eight years to 80 years old!

“Everyone is welcome,” she says. “While we were all strangers in that concert, BTS as a group—their songs, their performances and everything they stand for, make all of us a part of a community which makes a ticket, regardless of cost, worthwhile.”

The SoFi Stadium had 70,000 global audience each concert night. “Nine of the 10 concerts I have seen from Michael Jackson, Madonna, Katy Perry, Bruno Mars to Ben & Ben, Sarah G. and Regine V., and the list goes on, but what makes BTS special is how they have conquered the world without losing their cultural identity,” exclaims the 55-year-old executive.

Even if BTS were singing their Korean songs (which was 90% of the set list), the ARMY all tried to sing and dance together with the 2021 American Music Award for Artist of the Year of The American Music Awards.

Maan Vergara Cruz flew from Texas to attend the BTS concert

Maan Vergara Cruz, a former educator resides in Austin, Texas. She had no plans of watching the concert live. “I already bought a ticket for the online streaming and was already excited about that, but Ticketmaster sent me a text message a few days prior (which I thought was a scam) saying that they released a limited number of tickets for LA,” she recalls.

Dreaming and wanting to experience a BTS concert live, she gave in and bought a ticket—jet-setting style. “As soon as I secured the last flight, I bought a concert ticket for December 2. I arrived on December 2 and departed LA on December 3,” she muses.

Vergara Cruz meets a new ARMY friend Amber Buchert

“The energy at the concert was very powerful and positive, and you instantly felt you belong,” says the BS Family Life and Child Development graduate of University of the Philippines.

A mother of two boys, she wanted to be part of the “purple ocean.” She stresses: “An ARMY allows these seven amazing human beings to bring them joy, love and hope with their music and beyond.”

Kriz Gazmen (left) outside the SoFi Stadium

For film producer Kriz Gazmen, the family crisis against COVID-19 got him hooked to BTS. “My father passed away and I felt that I had to be strong for my family, and I couldn’t show how weak and vulnerable I was,” he shares. His source of comfort and strength during those challenging times was the music of BTS.

“I would listen to We are Bulletproof: The Eternal and Lights over and over again, and know for a fact that I have these seven men behind me even if they do not know me,” confessed the 35-year-old producer of Love at First Stream.

His biggest preparation for the concert was learning the fanchants. He insisted: “I really took time to practice every day because I want to give the boys my best during the concert because they simply deserve it!”

Kriz got a VIP ticket for the soundcheck where BTS would sing three songs prior to the actual concert. “When I saw the boys for the very first time, it just tugged deep into my heart that I couldn’t help but bawl my eyes out,” he confesses.

“I am the luckiest person to have experienced a kind of joy that you thought never existed,” says this Quezon City resident.

Jane Idquival (right) at SoFi Stadium

Jane Idquival who lives in Pasadena became an ARMY for the concert day. She reveals, “I did not have any high expectations except to bring my curious mind as to what BTS is all about and what ARMY is all about because I have only heard of the group from my niece and my Korean hairdresser.”

She tells us about the ARMY stories she encountered last December 2. “One came from Miami Florida, a Caucasian American, early twenties, who flew in on her own, first time to travel, to watch their two concert days; one is a mother and daughter, Indian heritage, who gave it as a graduation gift to the daughter to finish her degree in Psychology. The daughter flew in from Pittsburg who was attending her internship there and mom flew in from Chicago and they met at the stadium,” she shared.

“We also spoke to two Filipino women in their 50s, who drove in from San Francisco, left at 4am and drove straight to So-Fi and after the concert will drive back up North.  I said, ‘Wow!’”

The former DLSU varsity basketball player shares, “While waiting, they are asking people to register and download an app to enter their seat number and I asked myself, ‘Why?’” The answer: the ARMY Bomb! It became the symbol of the community, emitting light and color according to the beat and mood of the moment.

She then realized that the organizers were able to control the lights how it behaves depending on what song they are singing – colors, blinking or not, fading or ultrabright. “The clapping that you are used to at concerts no longer exists — it’s just the bomb (lights), screaming and shouting,” adds the IT Release Manager.

“It amazes me how a seven-boy group—dancing and singing can bring so much global attraction,” remarks the 49-year-old La Sallian.

The high-performance concert became extra special for the global audience because of all the challenges they have gone through and are still going through this pandemic. There is a sense of family, knowing all are united for the love of these seven boys and what they stand for.

Hearing English-language tracks like Butter, Dynamite and My Universe created an instant connection between the boys and its fans.

As Madonna puts it, “They are authentic, warm and so appreciative and they never pretend to be anyone else.”