When giant fast food chain McDonald’s released their collaboration meal with Korean phenom BTS, the boy band’s fans expectedly went into a state of frenzy.
They bravely lined up, along with delivery riders, outside McDonald’s outlets—following Covid restrictions we hope—to get their hands on that 260-peso meal which contains 10 pieces of Chicken McNuggets and its limited edition sauces: Cajun and Sweet Chili. The meal also includes a medium cup of Coke, and medium fries.
Some non-fans were quick to jeer at the event, calling it ridiculous. As a natural consequence, the fandom, who call themselves the ARMY, defended their troops. So when a Foodpanda driver named Benjamin Baetiong posted a message on Facebook declaring full support to BTS fans excited over the McDo promo meal, some members of the ARMY who got wind of the message and wasted no time in giving back the love.
“Lakas ng BTS meal ngaun,” went Benjamin’s message on FB. “Umaarangkada na.. kme mga Foodpanda rides.. masayang dedeliver sa inyo ang bts meal.. kya mga bts fans.. dyn.. gogogogo na order na kyo.”
One of the members of a BTS fan group called the Tea Squad was touched by the post. It was, after all, a refreshing expression of encouragement and positivity amid mockery and negativity from non-fans. The member shared the message to the rest of the team who quickly switched to do-gooder mode and immediately decided they needed to raise funds for driver Benjamin—even if they didn’t know the guy from Adam.
A quick note on the The Tea Squad. It was formed a few years ago according to Kit, a team member who spoke to ANCX. Kit is a customer service representative and owner of the Twitter handle, @therealkittenwp. Their group was formed following a late night chat over Twitter space. From then on the conversations became a nightly ritual. Now the Tea Squad is 17-member strong.
“I’ve been a fan of BTS since 2016,” Kit tells us, “although I wasn’t really getting into conversations with other ARMYs. I guess what attracted me to BTS is the group’s passion and advocacy: to love ourselves and to be better every day.” It will be recalled that in 2017, BTS, in partnership with the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), launched Love Myself, an anti-violence campaign.
The squad’s fundraiser accumulated P45,000 for Benjamin Baetiong. The 38-year old Benjamin tells ANCX he is still blown away by the show of support from the BTS fans. Also, it turns out he could use some extra cash.
A former tricycle driver, Benjamin applied as a rider for Foodpanda in 2020 when tricycles and all kinds of public transportation were banned from the main roads due to the enhanced community quarantine (ECQ). At the time, Foodpanda put together a project that hired former tricycle drivers who were suddenly jobless.
While it seemed things will be going better for Benjamin after being hired by the delivery service company, his 73-year-old father suffered a stroke and the medical bills started piling up. Then came the day of the BTS meal launch.
“No’ng nakita nila [Tea Squad] post ko, natuwa po sila sa akin, at nag-PM [private message] sila na magpopondo daw sila,” Benjamin tells ANCX through Facebook messenger. “Sabi nila maagang pamasko raw po ’yon. Para po sa papa ko ‘to, pang gastos sa mga gamot at dito na rin sa bahay.”
Up to now, Benjamin seems dumbfounded at the turn of events. He wants the fans to know he is exceedingly grateful. “Super Salamat sa lahat ng BTS fans at ARMY,” he wrote to us on Facebook Messenger. “Super ty ty ty talaga.”
Kit of the Tea Squad meanwhile says the fundraising activity was a way for them to live by the advocacies and beliefs of their idols. “I think that people deserve to also know this side of the K-pop stan world,” Kit says. “That we are more than just fan girls. Also, I believe that if someone is really deserving of help, then we should help the best way we can and know how.”