MANILA -- Music juggernaut BTS has reached unparalleled success in recent years.
Since the group's 2020 pop bliss "Dynamite," several more tracks released by South Koreans either as a group or solo artists have likewise broken chart and sales records across the globe-- including the United States, the largest music market.
But according to some ARMYs, the catchy tunes and of course, the stunning visuals of the members may have been what caught their attention and piqued their interest-- but what made them stay are the older records and content of the boyband.
Miles Mariano, who joined the millions-strong ARMY amid the pandemic, where people were forced to physically isolate, shared the songs from BTS' "Love Yourself" repertoire from 2017-2108 that made her feel less alone.
"Sila yung nag inspire sakin. Nakakagaan ng loob noong pandemic, noong lockdown. Sila nagpapasaya. Para kasi sakin hindi lang ako fan parang part ako ng family nila," she explained.
"Love Yourself: Tear," the second album of the series in 2017, which conveys a message of hope, perseverance, and as the title suggests, self-love, is BTS' as well as the entire K-pop industry's first-ever No. 1 on Billboard 200 chart.
The accolade is proof the seven-piece had a legion of fans long before they made English tracks, and more importantly, that music transcends language barriers.
The aforementioned records are just a few of the many titles under BTS' belt that advocates for mental health.
Like Miles, Grace falling in love with the group helped her fall in love with herself, because of the messages their songs convey.
"Una ko (hilig) is K-Drama. Napanuod ko character ni Kim Taehyung sa 'Hwarang.' Hinanap ko but walang lumalabas. Mas known palakasi siya as V, doon nag start. Nanuod ako video hangang di ko namalayan ARMY pala ako," she recalled.
According to Grace, her discovery was timely as she was in a slump she never thought she would come out of.
"Siya nakatulong sa akin, Nang down na down ako, pwede pa pala mabuhay, pwede pa pala maging masaya, kahit ano problema. Kaya mo maging masaya. Ganyan feeling ko pag nakikita ko, napapakingan ko kanta. Nagbibigay inspiasyon mga kanta nila. Sobra," she reasoned.
Both Grace and Miles are just a few of the hundreds of ARMYs who gathered at a mall in Quezon City to mark the Birthday of BTS’ maknae Jeon Jungkook and the birth month of the group’s leader Kim Namjoon or RM.
"Role model sila na sa kabtaan. Na-inspire ako bukod, sa sikat sila pero tumutulong pa rin sila. Gusto ko supportahan," Grace explained.
More than entertaining mall-goers with activities and life-size photo booths, there were several Bangtan-themed merchandise sold at stalls, where part of proceeds will go to a stray cat and dog feeding program.
Micaela Jean Tan, a member of Purple Hub Manila, the organizer of the event, said the fundraiser is their way of "giving back to the community," something they learned from RM, Jin, Suga, J-Hope, Jimin, V, and Jungkook.
"We do our best to give back what we earn para makatulong sa iba. Since marami silang tinutulungan, we try to help din any way we can. It is a way maka bawi kami," she said.
Micaela, an ARMY since 2015, shared, that apart from BTS' music inspiring her, Bangtan, through the help of fellow ARMYs, helped her family's bag manufacturing business recover from the blow of the COVID-19 pandemic.
"Since ng pandemic wala talaga, walang local manufacturers. Wala talaga. Nahirapan kami," she recalled.
Purple Hub Manila then tapped her to make BTS-themed bags, which gave their business a new lease on life.
"Passion project kasi ito to help local ARMY businesses, may items like bags, shirts, na ibenta po sa iba din. ARMY. Para mas makabenta. Sa kanila kumukuha items (like our bags), that we sell. ARMY to ARMY," she said. "Nakatulong talaga pagigging supplier."
For some ARMYs, the event is a chance to meet new, likeminded fans. According to Miles, for instance, the K-pop group allowed her to connect with other ARMYs, who she eventually developed lifelong friendships with.
"Masaya celebrate, makaka meet ako ng iba iba ka-army. Makaka experience ng iba," she shared.
Mother-daughter BTS stans Peg and Mads, who hail all the way from Vigan, Ilocos, extended their vacation in Manila just so they could check out Jungkook and RM's Birthday event.
"Naghanap talaga kami event for Jungkook. We want to support projects of ARMY na connected sa path na gusto ng path ng BTS. Mahal ng merch pero it is for a good cause," the mom explained.
"Masaya na bonding to. Saka kahit di mo kilala ibang ARMY there is a connection," she added.
Peg shared that her daughter, who had been an ARMy since 2017, influenced her to become a fan as well after she saw the positive influence BTS had on her amid her struggle with bullies.
"Approve ako kasi po in a positive way tumaas standards niya. Super good influence and an influence din ako. May time na bully siya sa school, andyan BTS for her. May program na love yourself," she added.
The global superstars in 2017 launched the "Love Myself" movement with UNICEF, which aims to "end violence, abuse, and bullying, and to promote self-esteem and well-being among children and young people globally.
Since then, the South Koreans have raised and pledged millions of dollars as well as generated millions of social media engagement for their campaign.
"They inspired me to further love myself especially the times I was not feeling myself. They helped me with their music and by actions towards what they do for us," Mads shared.
Mads added that while she may not be able to celebrate the Birthday of BTS members with them, being able to translate the messages of BTS’ content through positive actions and philanthropic efforts as well as spreading their message of hope along with other ARMYs, she believes, is the true meaning of stanning BTS, the group that changed her life— and hopefully many more.
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