MANILA — The members of South Korean girl group ITZY felt ecstatic over their recent return to the Philippines, more than three years since they last visited the country for a fan meet that left them with “heartwarming” memories.
“For 2023, we’re really happy that we’re able to start the year with all our fans,” leader Yeji said at a press conference last January 13 at the Glorietta Activity Center in Makati, which was also attended by throngs of the group’s fans called MIDZY.
The media event took place a day before ITZY — also composed of Lia, Ryujin, Chaeryeong and Yuna — took the stage of the SM Mall of Asia Arena for a two-night concert, marking the first stop of the Asian leg of the act’s “Checkmate” world tour.
“We’re really, really happy that the Philippines is the first stop to our Asia tour. We hope that from now on, with our Manila fans and fans worldwide, we will have more time to spend together,” Yeji added.
Ryujin described Filipino fans as “passionate” and “warm-hearted,” adding that she had “a really good and heartwarming memory” from her group’s 2019 fan meet at the New Frontier Theater.
“When we first came to the Philippines, it was December, so while we were in the Philippines, it was Yuna’s birthday. So Filipino fans, they celebrated Yuna’s birthday and they sang a birthday song for her and she cried,” Ryujin recounted.
Formed by K-pop powerhouse JYP Entertainment, ITZY entered the music scene in February 2019 with the single “Dalla Dalla,” described as an electro-pop single in which the girls encourage listeners to love themselves and take pride in their individuality.
ITZY quickly rose in popularity, bagging multiple “new artist of the year” and “rookie of the year” awards in their debut year. The group has also achieved commercial success, with their 2022 releases — the extended plays “Checkmate” and “Cheshire” — selling over a million copies.
“For the past years, we’ve received so much love not only from here in the Philippines but [also] globally and we’re so grateful for that. Thanks to our MIDZYs, we’ve received some precious awards and lots of good titles,” Lia said.
“We’d like to give back all this love and energy with a bigger energy on stage.. and with more songs, I guess. We want to continue sending out healthy messages through our songs so that everyone can kind of enjoy our music,” she said.
Presented by Live Nation Philippines, the Manila stop of ITZY’s “Checkmate” tour saw the five-piece act deliver a setlist of over 20 songs, including hits like “Dalla Dalla,” “Wannabe” and “Not Shy.”
Filipino MIDZYs were also fortunate as the group staged its latest single “Cheshire,” released in late November, for the first time on tour.
While ITZY performed mostly as a team throughout the two-hour show, the members also prepared solo numbers that further showcased their individual skills and charms, starting with Ryujin, who oozed with charisma as she covered Doja Cat’s “Boss B*tch.”
A sassy and sprightly Yuna performed Conan Gray’s “Maniac” while vocalist Lia gave her own take on Taylor Swift’s “Red.” An alluring Chaeryeong, meanwhile, stunned the crowd with Ariana Grande’s “bloodline” while Yeji dominated the stage with Dua Lipa’s “Hotter Than Hell.”
The girls also showed off the Filipino expressions that they learned for the concert, much to the delight of Pinoy MIDZYs. In fact, even a simple “Mahal kita” (I love you) from the girls elicited thunderous cheers from the crowd.
The “Checkmate” tour’s Manila stop was originally set to be a one-night concert but merited another show after tickets for the event quickly sold out.
“We were very surprised [that another show was added]. We are so, so grateful,” Lia said at the press conference.
ITZY’s world tour has kept the K-pop stars busy. But hopefully, the girls find the time to return to the Philippines for leisure, with Chaeryeong saying she wants to visit Boracay and taste the “halo-halo” dessert.
“It’s been so fun traveling to different countries and getting to kind of feel the different vibe from different countries because all the MIDZYs were a bit different, in a good way. So it was very fun getting to know them and getting to enjoy our music with them,” Lia said.