On July 9, 2013, a little under a month from their own debut on June 13, BTS officially christened their fandom with the name ARMY — short for Adorable Representative M.C. for Youth.
Each year since, BTS has celebrated our birthday with us either through a Muster (basically a combination of a concert and fan meeting), a special performance, a new song, new content on social media, or simple greetings via Twitter.
ARMY fanbases all over the world have also mounted their own “ARMYversary” celebrations by holding cupsleeve events, listening parties, dinner get-togethers, and many more.
This year, the Philippine Pearl ARMY went all out with the combined forces of ARMY Connect PH (ACPH) and Titas of BTS (TOB), a private group of “Tita” (auntie) ARMYs who share and spread the Bangtan love and ARMY camaraderie within and outside their community.
The first-ever Pearl ARMY Festa & Bazaar was held last July 8-10, 2022, and it welcomed Pearl ARMYs from all walks of life at the Ayala Malls Vertis North in Quezon City.
In true BTS-ARMY fashion, the event evoked messages of positivity and inclusivity as it was made FREE and open to all ARMY who wanted to have a place to celebrate this special occasion with fellow ARMYs.
I have only been an ARMY since the “Dynamite” era (August 2020), so I am not really that well versed in all things Bangtan. Since I was a pandemic ARMY, this is also my first official ARMY event, and considering I am a toddler ARMY, not once did I feel out of place in the event.
Me, a V stan, along with my Jung Kook stan sister braved the crowds on ARMY Day and planned to stay for just a few hours only to look around see what the whole party was about.
But once we got to the venue, all our plans went out the door as soon as we heard BTS’ music blasting from the speakers. It felt like we were at our own DISNEYLAND!!!
It was like a homecoming party where you practically don’t know everyone yet still feel familiar and cozy even. It was simply ‘Mi casa!’
However, I didn’t feel so rich (LOL!) after indulging myself in a few budols at the bazaar, which lined the outdoor activity center.
Though the weather was quite hot and humid, just the feeling of being surrounded by BTS, BT21, and TinyTan merchandise, as well as fanmade products made by talented and creative ARMYs, and other Korean goodies already made the atmosphere so much cooler. But more on that later.
Fronting the outdoor activity center, one simply could not miss the beautiful installations made just for ARMY, including the huge BTS logo where people patiently lined up for their turn to take a photo.
And, of course, my personal favorite, the “Whalien 52” statue With the number of people lining up to take a picture of Whalien 52, I didn’t hear him sing “Lonely, lonely, lonely whale” at all!
We took our time browsing the merchant booths on the first floor, but we were also looking for some of my friends who decided to dress up as V — our bias and Bangtan Love of our Lives. Imagine searching the crowd for girls wearing WOOGA shirts!
My Taetas group (as we call ourselves in Titas of BTS) have been my friends for approximately under a year. All of us come from different stages in life yet we are bound by the common principle that searching for V’s “Tata Mic face” in any video is the highlight of our day.
We eventually met each other at the FunHan Mart pop-up, one of the many merchants offering food, and gave Pearl ARMYs an “authentic Korean convenience store” experience with its portable ice makers and ramen cookers!
Our little crew had so much fun catching up while “paying our respects” to “Babe,” as we’d like to call the Mute Boston Bag of one of our members, Tita Dittie.
After so many pictures taken and endless laughter over crazy stories and jokes, we decided to part ways so that Tita Kris and Tita Kokoi, two of our Taetas, can finally go to “work” as volunteers in the TOB Grand Meet-up activity at the atrium.
Tita Dittie, my sister Kookay, and I also went inside to check out the artworks and installations displayed at the Art By ARMYsts and The Rise of Bangtan exhibits, window shop some more at the bazaar extension on the second floor, and to properly say hello to the event organizers at the TOB/ACPH booth.
If I thought the first floor was packed, I was “Jungshookdt” to see the second floor full of people with almost no space to walk on!
What I loved though is the innate discipline of ARMYs. Without being told, they all naturally lined up at the photo areas namely the elegantly designed ARMY Room by 2171 Floral Creations, the BTS standees from Chew Chew Junction, and the massive BTS concert photo.
I even saw people lining up at the merchant booths and other displays with no one pushing their way around others!
There were also so many fur babies who were so excited to say hi to their newfound friends and have their pictures taken with their Bangtan Papas. It really felt like a family event and I am glad I brought my sister with me.
To the right is the registration booth where ARMYs can purchase their “Marry me, Bangtan” Photo Booth pass, which includes photo time at the elegant wedding altar, and the very clever “Married To Bangtan Certificate of Delulu.”
The TOB/ACPH booth is also where TOB members who pre-ordered the TOB Membership Kit can claim their packages. While you can be a member of the Titas of BTS Facebook group even without ordering the kit, I know 100% that this will definitely enrich your experience.
I mean, where else can you get the photo card of everyone’s ultimate bias and father of our boys, Bang Si Hyuk aka “Hitman Bang PD?” That’s quite an exclusive TOB merch you need to watch for on top of the TOB Membership Card which comes with a ton of perks!
But what really caught my eye were all the painkillers and muscle relief rubs and patches scattered across the registration table! As a Tita myself, I know that we are no longer young chickens, and staying up for several nights to setup the event already took a toll on our organizers and volunteers’ bodies.
Yet when I see them getting giddy over little things like a photocard given to them by a random attendee or a simple “Hi, Tita!” from a fellow TOB member, they go back to being their energetic selves again. Crisis averted.
I can confidently say that Bangtan not only enriches the soul but they recharge one’s bone-tired body as well.
As I said, I had no intentions of attending any event, but my sister, said “Bumili ka na ng ticket, Php 100 lang naman eh. Pakasalan mo na si V, minsan lang naman tong ganito eh!” That’s how I ended up getting my Marry Me, Bangtan booth pass.
Waiting in line wasn’t so bad since I had Titas to talk to while waiting for our turn at the altar. It’s funny how we do not know each other at all but a simple “Are you Tita XX from TOB?” can start our seemingly endless conversation.
It was refreshing to also see family members of the organizers helping out in the booth, carrying the standees to the photo shoot, and with the utmost care, if I may add.
They’re obviously ARMYs, too, and they know too well make sure nothing unfortunate happens toward the grooms (haha!).
After waiting in line and with my sister standing as a witness, I eventually got married to my bias V and she to Jung Kook. (Dear Lord, please don’t let my legal husband find out, AMEN!)
I know that my one-day experience was not enough to encapsulate the magic that happened that weekend. I missed a lot of activities also.
I was beyond overwhelmed and I know that it was super bitin, but knowing our organizers, they just need several power naps, cans of BTS coffee, and ayudas from their bias’ social media accounts and they will be good to go.
I look forward to the next ACPH and TOB event and I hope to see you there, but this time I will be sure to bring a Katinko spray for myself.
Would I go again the next time? In a Heartbeat… (It leaves me feeling seasick baby…)
This is your Taeta Cheska signing off!
By Cheska Sebastian-Duenas