January 25, 2020, New Frontier Theater, Manila, Philippines.
Barely one month into a brand new year, I couldn’t contain my excitement over the fact that I was going to another Girls’ Generation concert. This time, it was going to be my second opportunity to get to witness Tiffany in a solo appearance, after the first one in Taipei two years ago. And you all know that amongst all of the Girls’ Generation members, Tiffany holds a very, very special place in my heart.
That being said, “excited” was a gross understatement. I really couldn’t believe that finally, after five years, she was back in the Philippines.
In the morning, I was actually very busy. I volunteered my time and my services to help out with the fan projects that we have prepared for Tiffany. We went to the nearby supermarket and bought a bunch of Filipino snacks and drinks for her and the staff and crew. Pity we couldn’t get inside the venue to deliver the snacks and drinks, and the custom-made cake we ordered, so we just carefully and painstakingly handed them to the backstage crew, hoping that she would get all of that. And in the afternoon, we were all moving around, distributing the banners and stickers for our fan event later that night. Good thing that the front line staff was so accommodating to our requests to prepare for the fan events.
Suffice to say, even before the show started, I was feeling a little worn out. I keep forgetting that by this time, I was closer to 40 than 30.
Of course, all of that weariness melted away the moment I got to my seat. Just like in Taeyeon’s ‘S concert two years ago in the same venue, I was in the front row. But what really stunned me was the fact that I was just four chairs to the right, from my point of view, of the stairs leading up to the stage. I felt my heart palpitate at the thought and the hope of Tiffany walking down and up those stairs later during the show.
Oh boy, was I in for a ride. Little did I know at that time as to how much I was going to be taken, hijacked even, for a ride of my life that night.
Fast forward to lights out, and the opening video vignette. Everybody was already screaming and cheering their heads off, and moreso when the backup dancers, holding large glowing balls, appeared for the introductory performance that looked like a skit. But once they were done, Tiffany Young, resplendent in a striped black and white outfit, suddenly appeared at the top of the stairs high up on the stage, opening the show with a powerful performance of her latest single, “Run For Your Life”.
To be honest, I really couldn’t hear her singing during almost the entire song. The whole of New Frontier Theater was drowned by the screams and cheers of the couple thousand of SONEs and YoungOnes, all singing and waving their pink lightsticks. We were also holding up our banners that said, “You Are Worth The Wait” to complete our welcome to her.
But holy cow, Tiffany looked hot and sexy as hell. My heart was hammering so hard as I watched her. But in the back of my brain, I was just thankful for the chance to see her again. The entire 2019 was blank, as I was unable to go to any Girls’ Generation event. So starting 2020 with a Tiffany Young concert was something I was really thankful for as a SONE.
She quickly followed RFYL with “Over My Skin”, ramping up the energy and the electricity all the more. It was such an exhilarating feeling to experience my fellow fans singing along, and literally fanchanting on the parts like “'Cause I like it when you touch me!”, “Do nasty things and you don't judge me!”, and “You got that something that undoes me!”. At a brief moment I was so amused about it as well. This was going to be a mix of Western Pop and K-Pop for sure.
The next song she performed was “Heartbreak Hotel”. I remember feeling so messed up the first time she released this song. And now that she’s here, and she was singing it live, I honestly felt so much more messed up, to be quite honest. At several points I found myself just staring at her, lip-synching to the song and yet feeling my throat going all choked up.
After a short dance break, she then proceeded with “Talk”. Wow, she was literally going at it from one song to the next I felt my mind racing just to catch up on processing everything that I was seeing and hearing. If you talk about sensory overload, this was it. That outfit of hers, that bra top and long flowing pants and that long flowing robe, which she actually took off and tossed to the side after that dance break, was just throwing me off so much.
Finally, everything settled down as she then proceeded afterwards with the first talk segment of the night. Wow, I really needed the break. As always, my over-the-top fanboying self’s throat was already feeling a little rough. Tiffany then welcomed everyone, singing like she’s something out of a play or something “Welcome to Open Hearts Eve Part 2 Live in Manila”. Something like that. Man, this woman never fails to throw me off.
Of course, this was all going on in English. And her energy was just so high and so powerful I could just feel her excitement as well. She said that it has been five years since her last visit and performance in the Philippines, and she was so happy to be finally back. As much as we were so happy to see her, she was at least as equally boisterous about being there in front of us as well. And she was also just so full of love and hope and positivity that she has been advocating and spreading around ever since then that I couldn’t help but be proud of how much she has done in her solo career so far. I could see her bursting as she was saying things about tonight being about us, being happy and celebrating the fact that we could have even just one night to open our hearts, let our voices heard, get up and move, and dance like we don’t give a f***. Yes, her words. I’m just quoting her and rewording a bit here.
She then proceeded with a cover of Miley Cyrus’ “Wrecking Ball”. And boy did she wreck a lucky fan during this part. I can’t remember exactly at which part of the song, but then, slowly and steadily, she actually went down those stairs, and onto our level on the ground. That lucky fan, who incidentally was my friend, who was seated two seats away from me to my left, and arguably the biggest Tiffany fan in the country, got the moment of her life. Tiffany actually her hand out to hers, and the next thing I knew, my friend was on her knees, speechless and mindblown while struggling to maintain eye contact with her.
And of course, everyone was screaming and cheering even more loudly at this point. It was pretty surreal for me to be honest, because I’m sure this being up close and personal during a concert was something that every fan would dream of, but when it does happen, one would just more likely freeze like an idiot and just get starstruck big time. All of the preparations one would make imagining this moment would just be thrown out the window. That is what happened to my friend.
Oh, and did I mention everyone just stood up and started moving like crazy? Yeah, for a moment there I thought we were in a club rather than a concert hall. Tiffany was just stirring things up, and she and us were both loving it so much.
We all settled down again the moment we heard “Yellow Light” started playing, frantically putting away our lightsticks momentarily and switching on our mobile phones’ flashlights cover with yellow stickers, making a sea of yellow lights for her. Yes, we literally decided on a fan event like so. And the first set ended with a mashup of Destiny Child’s “Independent Woman” and “Teach You”. At this point, I was so amazed as to how Tiffany could maintain such an intense vocal performance at such high levels of energy. She was just this bottomless well flowing with such powerful and endless energy and passion that was just stirring everyone up. In a way, the old-school, older generation SONE part of me was a little concerned as well, knowing her history of vocal nodules. But at the same time, that same SONE version of myself was so proud as to how much she has improved her vocal prowess. She worked so hard to achieve such a level of skill, and I was so happy and proud of her for that.
The second set opened with a video vignette. It was Tiffany on the screen, asking the audience if they’re ready to dance the night away. Oh heck, that made everyone stand up once again. The moment she made her appearance onstage, clad in a sexy white metallic outfit, the whole theater exploded again.
Tiffany opened the second phase of her concert with Rihanna’s “Don’t Stop the Music”. Along with her dance crew, she was just lighting the stage up. It was such a chaotic, mesmerizing start to the next part of the concert. The loud music blaring from the speakers, the choreographed flashing of the stage lights making everything alternately go bright and dark, the synchronized dancing, and everything else that my senses failed to register were all overwhelming me, led by the powerful vocals that Tiffany was mustering through the performance. However, it was only the beginning, as she then quickly transitioned to her now-iconic debut single as a solo artist, “I Just Wanna Dance”.
I know I’ve said this over and over again. She was just amazing on stage. The way she was transitioning from one song to the next, the way that she was feeding off our energy and at the same time we were feeding off hers, the way she was using that energy to continue singing and dancing at her best, and enjoying all of it, taking it all in, simply melted my heart. She was just there, doing what she does best, and doing what she loves the most. I felt such a rush of different emotions just watching her perform.
After literally ramrodding her way through her set with “Invincible” and “Invitation”, and while I was going through all of that different waves of different emotions, she took us down memory lane with her next song. Declaring that “This is for Girls’ Generation!”, she then performed “Run Devil Run”. Oh boy, did I start dancing to it, recalling all those memorized choreography steps for that 2010 song.
Needless to say, after that set of songs, I was relieved that she decided to pause to talk to us once more. The time just flew right by as she went through one song after another, keeping the emotions and energies high. Man, she was just glowing so beautifully.
This part of the concert was probably the most inspiring moments of the night. We tried to make her cry at some point when she was trying to say something about what she thought was the most amazing thing that ever happened to her. We were all screaming “You! You! You!” while pointing at her, in which she cutely said, “The best thing that happened to me is me?”
What actually happened next was a little funny. When she reacted it’s as if she was about to cry after that, the crowd began to shout, “Iiyak na yan!” which is Filipino for “She’s going to cry!”. Of course, just like Taeyeon, she didn’t understand what that meant, so I started shouting at her in Hangeul what it meant, even making some crying expressions with my hands and face. When she got the meaning, she cutely reacted in Hangeul that she wasn’t going to cry. Well at least not yet. It was amusing, us chanting in Filipino, and then she was reacting in Hangeul.
Anyways, she managed to finally completely say what she wanted to say. It was such an inspiring message when she said that the most amazing thing was when she realized how powerful our voices actually are. She reminded us that despite everything, if we can use our voices for something great, and if we can all do it together, then there’s nothing that we cannot do. In some way, she was proving it to us that night. She was using her voice to sing and to inspire, and even with my old-ass body feeling weary, she managed to make me stand, sing my throat dry, cheer and scream relentlessly, with not a care in the world, and even dance.
And we were just halfway through the concert by this point.
Well at least she slowed down with my personal favorite off her Lips on Lips EP. “Runaway” is both a reminiscing and refreshing song to listen to. From a personal point of view, I grew up listening to Babyface. I remember all the chills and thrills when Tiffany previewed it in Taipei two years ago. That signature Babyface musical arrangement is just unmistakable. And as she was performing “Runaway”, I felt my heart beat in a way that I have never felt in a long time. Cheesy as it sounds, that was something both unmistakable and indescribable. That brought a tear or two in my eyes.
She then proceeded with the quieter mood with a cover of “City of Stars” from La La Land. I actually heard the people seated behind me gasping in pleasant surprise. I’m sure a lot of people loved the movie, and therefore were happy to see Tiffany cover this song. I honestly wasn’t really that familiar with the song itself, but the way she sang it, with that haunting touch in that voice of hers, just left me blank. I recall that I wasn’t really processing my thoughts that much. I was just staring at her, mesmerized for the nth time.
She then followed it up with “Flower”, making the crowd cheer when she ad libbed, “Manila, I’ll be your flower to your vase!”. But then she got us up to our feet again when “Lips on Lips” started to play. Woop. Actually, I can’t honestly remember if this was the part when she introduced the song by coaxing us to go “They go, they go, they go, they go!” slowly, giving us the pitch and the tempo that I was pretty sure we all utterly failed, much to her amusement. It was becoming a little bit of a haze for me at that point. Anyways, during the actual performance, here went that part again, on us chanting and singing “They go, they go, they go, they go!”, which was funny because I could distinctly here a few go “Leggo leggo leggo leggo!” instead. But still, being the crazy and energetic Filipino fans that we are, we actually just went on and sang the whole song with her. That prompted Tiffany to make a pause towards the end, quickly saying, “Sing this for me,” and pointed her microphone at us. Of course, being overzealous about it and all, we totally missed the beat and sang that last chorus right away. Good recovery from her backup live band. I could see Tiffany laugh a bit about our miscue. It was such an adorable moment.
She ended the second set with a short cover of Shawn Mendes’ “In My Blood”, which actually ushered in her real last song for the set, “Born Again”. To be honest, I was really surprised when “Born Again” came out, and then I remember my heart sinking so much after I read up the story behind it. Tiffany was really letting all of her inhibitions go, courageously putting her heart on her sleeve, and giving everything she got onstage, for herself, and for her fans. And during her singing of “Born Again”, I briefly thought about my wanting to just hug her and whisper to her ear how much she is loved. She really deserved to be loved so much.
After the third video vignette in between sets, the encore phase of the concert opened with “Magnetic Moon”. In a long flowing and feathery white dress, Tiffany appeared onstage once again with the same energy and powerful presence as she had in the beginning. And, influenced and swayed by her alluring image, we were all up on our feet again, dancing and singing and cheering once again. For some reason, I was able to muster just enough at this point to just go along with the flow. And she quickly followed it up with an encore performance of “Run For Your Life”. Yeah, I just realized at that point as well that these two songs were actually her latest releases.
Thankfully, at least as far as my old-ass weary body was selfishly concerned, she decided to talk to us once more after RFYL. I remember feeling the aches and pains on my legs all of a sudden at this point when we settled down back to our seats. Tiffany, being an old sentimental softie, started by saying that she was so happy to be able to sing “Born Again” in front of us that night, seeing that it was actually the song’s first anniversary since its release. She briefly recounted the story behind the creation of the song, and then she said that she couldn’t think of anything else more special to celebrate that fact other than singing it in front of us. Also, what made that night more special was the fact that it was also Lunar New Year’s Day. And her being Korean, she made the traditional greeting, bowing down in front of us as she said, “새해 복 많이 받으세요! (saehae bok manhi bateuseyo)”. She then, excited as a little kid, asked all of us to join her and make a wish for this new year.
I think that she really couldn’t help herself at this point. After making her wish, she suddenly blurted out, “소원을 말해 봐! (soweoneul malhae bwa)”, doing the kick dance. Of course, most of us suddenly caught on with what she said. And she wasn’t even done with it, deciding right there and then to sing and dance a bit of “Tell My Your Wish (Genie)” ending with shouting, “Manila, put it back on!”, in that iconic salute pose.
Needless to say, the whole theater exploded. Ah, the old SONE and SNSD feels all came rushing back. Yeah, if we didn’t lose it earlier in “Run Devil Run” we certainly lost it in “Genie”, at least especially for those who were SONE back in the day. Everything and everyone went nuts that I really couldn’t make out what was Tiffany saying in Hangeul and English right afterwards. I think she was asking her backup band not to start playing “Genie” or something. But she was so cute and dorky in that several seconds, capped with her iconic, and very nostalgic, eyesmiles.
You know, I actually felt very happy for her. Being able to sing old SNSD songs even if she’s out of SM Entertainment brings such comfort to my old and very weary SONE heart. Still makes me look forward to the future of SNSD, individually and as a group, with such optimistic and hopeful anticipation.
We took advantage of the fun that was going on and started chanting, “Mumshie! Mumshie! Mumshie!”. It was actually part of the plan amongst the Filipino fans as a followup to what happened during Taeyeon’s ‘S Concert two years ago, with the whole “Beshie” thing. “Mumshie”, in Filipino slang, literally means, “Mom”. And it has a similar connotation with “Beshie” that in some sense it communicates the closeness between people. Of course, she didn’t understand at first what the heck we were chanting, until two of my friends who were seated next to me started explaining it to her. She went halfway down the stairs so that she could hear them better. Afterwards, she went, “Oh, you’re calling me mom!”, and then even strutted a bit, saying, “Mommy Long Legs!”.
Yeah, mission accomplished.
The encore continued afterwards with her version of “Remember Me” from the movie Coco. And after yet another short talk with her saying how much she admires and idolizes the Philippines’ very own Lea Salonga, she then went on to sing for a bit a couple of Disney songs, “Reflection” from the movie Mulan, and “A Whole New World” from Aladdin. Both songs had Lea Salonga sing the in-movie versions, so Tiffany did that as a tribute to her. But all of that was also her introduction to yet another song that she found so meaningful, and then went on to perform a cover of “Speechless” from the live action version of Aladdin.
And since we were at this point nearing the end of the concert, the time came for the most sentimental part of the night, leading up to that moment when my world stopped. Tiffany got interrupted in the middle of her talking after “Speechless” with our fan made video. It was all about who Tiffany was to her Filipino fans, both SONE and YoungOne alike, and what we are thankful for because of her.
And that made her cry. Struggling through her obvious choking at that point, she did her signature 90-degree bow, saying “Thank you from the bottom of my heart”. We were, at that point as well, raising our second banners that said, “You Are Our Moon. We Are Your Stars”.
Actually, I didn’t witness a few seconds of this one, since I was busy asking permission from the bouncers if I could just get close enough to hand Tiffany her own special banner that we have prepared for her, similar to what we gave Taeyeon before. Of course, I had to ask permission. They were saying no, but I couldn’t blame them one bit since they were just doing their jobs. Fortunately, Tiffany saw me with the banner the moment she said, “Can I have one?”, and started walking towards me. She reached down enough for me to stretch my arm out and hand her the banner.
The funny thing though was that I distinctly remember that I was just so intent and focused that she’d get her banner that I didn’t realize that I wasn’t able to soak in the moment. And the moment I got back to my seat, I was telling her to flip the special banner over for the instructions. I didn’t even realize that she said, “Thank you, love,” when she saw me handing her banner and “Thank you so much,” after she got it. I didn’t even realize how close I got to her. It was just afterwards, when a friend of mine sent me a photo and a video of my actions, did I realize what I actually did. Yes, she was just that amazing. Tiffany was just so amazing that once you get close, you’d totally forget everything you’d prepare for.
Yep. That's my moment right there.
After the group photo, Tiffany was still trying to change the mood so that she would stop crying, raising the banners that we gave her and going, “Manila! Manila!”, and us replying, “Tiffany! Tiffany!”. And that’s where her team came out and handed her roses, one after the other. It was the last stop of her Open Hearts Eve Part 2 tour, and it was only fitting that her team celebrated for a bit. That ended up with Tiffany now openly crying, saying that “You guys always make me cry”, to which we chanted, “사랑해! 사랑해! (Saranghae! Saranghae!)”.
Tiffany replied, “나도 사랑해요! (Nado saranghaeyo!) But I still have one last song for you guys…” And with that, I knew what was coming up next. Tiffany said it so succinctly and sincerely, describing this last song as the one that started it all. The one song that made them believe that they’re all starting on a new journey to create a new world, and that here we are, doing it all over again… On Year Thirteen.
I screamed, “다시 만난 세계! 다시 만난 세계! (Dasi mannan segye! Dasi mannan segye!)”, watching her walk towards her piano man, prompting him to start playing.
And that’s where we held our final fan project. I, along with six others in my row, quickly held up our cardboard cutouts of the other Girls’ Generation members’ faces. Bobbleheads, in fact. I was holding Taeyeon. We wanted her to sing “Into the New World” in the most special way possible. And as the piano man was playing the intro, she noticed us, going all soft saying, “Huuuuuuuh… 너무 귀여워! (neomu gwiyeowo!)”. She started walking a bit towards us again, “I feel like they’re here,” pointed to me, and said, “Here, here, Taeyeon!” This time, I was paying attention to what she was saying and doing. I noticed her looking at me, telling me to lip synch Taeyeon’s part as she, along with the rest of New Frontier Theater, started singing, “Into the New World”.
I did realize one more thing as well that made me so happy, and made this night extra, extra special. It was actually the first time “Into the New World” was performed in the Philippines. Ever. And any SONE would tell you how special this song is. Right now. From now on. Forever. “Into the New World” is that song that would just make everyone feel so nostalgic and so emotional.
And just when I thought things wouldn’t get any better and that things would finally start to wind down and come to an end, Tiffany pulled off one more surprise. After “Into the New World”, looking all so emotional, she slowly walked towards the stairs going down from the stage, softly saying, like an innocent kid asking permission, “Can I get that?”
I was totally thrown off balance, caught completely unawares. I got totally blanked.
And that was the moment where my world stopped.
She wanted to get our bobbleheads. My mind went totally blank, unable to process anything else except for handing her my Taeyeon bobblehead. I didn’t even remember receiving the rose from her in exchange. Yes, that’s what she did. Each of us received roses in exchange for our bobbleheads. She personally went down to our row and did all of that. I sat there like an idiot, unable to absorb and process at that time what the heck actually happened right there and then.
When she got back up the stage, that was it. She was so thankful for such a wild and special night with us. And yes, it was. It was such a crazy night full of emotional rollercoaster moments and rides on the feels train.
As always, at the end of it all, I feel a little bit conflicted. A little over two hours still felt short, but at the same time, I didn't want to be too greedy. I wanted her to take her much-deserved rest after all that touring, as this was the last stop for Open Hearts Eve Part 2.
And as always, for the nth time, after the concert, I was all drained out. It has always been like that. And over and over again I have been saying this. That was when all the aches and pains started the come to me. Two hours just went by, just like that. At the end of it all, I was exhausted and all worn out from the concert, leaving everything on the stage for her.
I also felt very thankful, as always. I honestly don't know what I did to deserve such multiple opportunities see and cheer for Girls' Generation, live and alive, in the flesh. I am forever thankful and grateful for all the chances that I got so far to be a part of the Pink Ocean. And on top of that, I was also happy for my fellow Philippine SONEs. Not only did we get ourselves another Pink Ocean of our own, but finally, we got to experience “Into the New World” in our home soil. We got to experience an entire concert with Girls’ Generation, even if it was only Tiffany. But most especially, I am very happy for my fellow Philippine SONEs who got to see their favorite idols for the first time.
And as I write this, there is always that realization that makes me a little sad. Despite all of these efforts, living through with the fact that I am just another nameless and faceless SONE filling up the Pink Ocean still left something missing. But what makes me go on doing this is the thought that as long as I give my all to the Girls, then I should not have any regrets whatsoever.
Being there yet again, seeing Girls' Generation for the thirteenth time in this lifetime, it didn't feel old. Just different, making me grow that much older and more mature as a SONE. In that special corner of my mind and my heart, in my own little way, I love them. The events that unfolded during the course of the night were all nothing short of amazing, as expected. But Tiffany took it a step further, a notch higher, a degree better, and everything else in between, making it into something that only she and the PH SONE present that night would understand. Just like Taeyeon, I never realized that Tiffany had such an ability to do so. On Year Thirteen of Girls’ Generation, and my thirteenth concert was Tiffany’s.
And yes, from now on, Tiffany is the "Pambansang Mumshie (National Mom)" of the Philippines. These are things would forever be cherished between her and Philippine SONEs. And I daresay no one would ever take that away from us.
But still, the bottom line still seems to be, as always, with great confidence, I can say, "I love you, Girls' Generation... and I always will... 'till the day I die."
And just like I said in Phantasia, I am one with you girls in saying, "언제까지라도 함께 하는거야 다시 만난 나의 세계 (It's something we'll do together to the end, into the new world.)."
And that, I promise.
This is our group photo during the official photo op session after the concert.