Photos= Aya Villa-Real
Starting out as a fan of BoA, Shinhwa and TVXQ back in 2005, Hallyu enthusiast Aya Villa-Real, 29, has released "Hello Hallyu," a book featuring a fan's perspective on the Korean Wave in the Philippines. She is also the co-founder of FanLive, an entertainment company that organizes performances and acts from Korea and Asia in her home country.
The following are excerpts from my interview with Villa-Real.
What inspired you to write the book?
Hallyu has so many topics that we could've done but the fan community and how Hallyu grew so popular in the Philippines were really interesting. I wanted to show how we started and how the community contributed to Hallyu's growing popularity. I also wanted to write about my experiences because when I started to like Hallyu -- specifically K-pop -- few understood why.
What is this book about?
It's a mixture of a quick introduction to the diplomatic friendship between Korea and the Philippines and how Korean pop culture greatly influenced ours. The book has K-pop, K-drama, K-film and K-beauty sections for fans to relate to and enjoy, and I highlighted the achievements of the Hallyu community in the Philippines. I hope to write more sections later.
This is the first book on Hallyu written by a Philippine fan. Which genres and audience did you aim for?
We initially considered an artist-centric book but I suggested one about the domestic community of Hallyu fans. Despite the numerous books and publications out there on Hallyu and its origins, none focused on the domestic community here in the Philippines, and I wanted to showcase the community's great achievements. Thankfully, the publisher ABS-CBN Books was open to my ideas and suggestions, and we started work on "Hello Hallyu."
I considered two types of readers. The first was longtime Hallyu fans who could recognize the many iconic places and stores mentioned in the book. And the other was those just getting into Hallyu and wanting an understanding of what it is.
Now tell us more about you. How did you become a Hallyu fan?
I've been writing professionally through my job as a publicist in charge of writing news releases and features for various publications. I wasn't that confident of writing a book, but thankfully my editor and the team at ABS-CBN Books helped and encouraged me.
I started liking Hallyu around 2005, when I was into BoA. She remains one of the biggest inspirations in my life. We had a few Korean neighbors at the time, and I started to listen to Shinhwa and TVXQ after my neighbors lent me their cassettes. I'd listen to the tapes all day. Eventually, I made friends through online forums and grew active in the Hallyu fan community.
You're also the creator and a producer of FanLive. Tell us more about it.
Getting to know the Hallyu concert sector and working behind the scenes, my partners and me decided to form a small events company specifically to bring Hallyu and other Asian acts to our country. We offer a different experience than just a concert or a fan meeting. The last act we brought was DJ Hyo, or Hyoyeon from Girls' Generation, for a club show in February.
Most of our plans are on hold because of the pandemic but we're also trying to bring exclusive digital content to fans through FanLive and my communications agency, studio.vc.
What do you think is the future of Hallyu in the Philippines and the world?
With streaming easily available, Hallyu can attract more fans online, though they might not be as hardcore as we are.
Things will change for live Hallyu events in the Philippines but chances are high that fans can see more of their favorite acts live. Event and concert promoters are working hard toward this goal despite the pandemic.
Hallyu will remain as long as its fans are there. The methods of consumption might change from those back in 2005, but I think the things we love about Hallyu will always remain.
Why has the world gone crazy over Hallyu?
The appeal, storylines and concepts from K-pop artists and Korean drama and cinema make Hallyu so relatable and attractive. Content is thought out and executed extremely well, and that's why seeing a new music video or drama is so exciting. I think Filipinos are drawn to Hallyu because we love great storytelling and things we can easily sing and dance to that are very catchy.
*This article is written by a Korea.net Honorary Reporter. Our group of Honorary Reporters are from all around the world, and they share with Korea.net their love and passion for all things Korean.