Embracing fandom: A fan meet virgin’s night of awakening

A first-timer like me could not have picked a better fan meet than Park Hyung-sik’s SIKcret Time in Manila.

Going into the Smart Araneta Coliseum that Saturday, February 17, I felt giddy and excited: not much different from a teenager with a huge crush. The moment I stepped out of the car in front of the Big Dome’s green gate, I saw, felt, and heard the excitement.

The screaming eventually died down, only to start again at the three-minute countdown. At the 10-second mark, the screaming almost shook the coliseum from floor to domed ceiling.

The usual Cubao din had that extra buzz that day as attendees waited for the gates to open. There were photo booths, sponsors’ tables, and a view of the coliseum lobby that had my heart racing. The fangirl in me could not have been happier.

Magical evening and then some

Minutes before the show started, Park Hyung-sikdid a voice-over about Save the Children Philippines, which received part of the proceeds from the fan meet’s ticket sales. The crowd went wild. And he had not even emerged from backstage yet.

The screaming eventually died down, only to start again when the three-minute countdown flashed on the big screen onstage. At the 10-second mark, the screaming reached fever pitch, almost shaking the coliseum from floor to domed ceiling. When he stepped onto the stage for the first time that night, I knew I was screaming along with the crowd, but I was too busy crying to really notice.

From Saranghae Park Hyung Sik International Facebook page

The opening notes of Bud, from the soundtrack of his previous drama Our Blooming Youth, were drowned by the sound of screams. But the screams fell to a hush once he started with his lilting vocals. Having been more active in acting for the past 10 years, one may forget or may not even know that he started as an idol, debuting with second-generation group ZE:A in 2010.

There was never a dull moment in the two-hour program, with Park’s easygoing and fun personality shining through in every challenge, activity, and fan interaction. In one segment, he was given five microphones, only one of which was not connected to a voice changer that made him sound like a chipmunk or a sped-up record. He had to maintain a poker face while singing, no matter what microphone he ended up choosing.

He gamely interacted with fans during the modified Pinoy Henyo segment, where Filipino words were flashed on the screen and fans had to explain to him what they meant so he could guess the words. The words “masarap” (delicious) and “gwapo” (handsome) had fans pointing at him to illustrate what the words meant, while “labi” (lips) had a fan puckering up and making kissing noises. Park ended up fanning himself, saying the venue suddenly became a bit too hot.

There was also a “sipa” challenge, which saw him going almost all the way to the back of the stage, to the left side, just to catch the sipa and prevent it from falling. He was so dedicated to the challenge that the determined look on his face seemed almost comical.

Park Hyung-sik at the fan meet in Araneta Coliseum. Photo by Abigail Ho-Torres

In the segment where he answered fan-submitted questions, Park revealed that as a child, he had dreamed of becoming a policeman or a lawyer, but he is happiest where he is right now. On his days off, he prefers to stay home, but also enjoys hanging out with his friends or playing a round of golf. Being a licensed scuba diver, he would love to explore more of the Philippines, especially its world-famous dive sites.

None of us wanted the night to end, but, unfortunately, it could not last forever. For his closing song, he treated the crowd to a heartfelt rendition of Because of You, from his 2018 drama Strong Girl Bong-soon.

He thanked his Filipino SIKcrets—what members of his fandom are called—for being engaged and passionate throughout the show, and committed to not make them wait another five years for the next fan meet (his last Philippine fan meet was in 2019).

Fan involvement

Button pins painstakingly made by fans to be distributed for free to fan meet attendees. Photo by Kristy Ann Picadizo

Before that magical night, members of the Park Hyung-sik International Fans Club (PHSIFC) were already hard at work for months, preparing to give their favorite oppa the warmest possible welcome. According to Kristy Ann Picadizo, one of PHSIFC’s lead coordinators, they started planning for the fan meet as soon as the Manila leg was announced in early November 2023.

The group raised funds from its members for the production of fan freebies—key rings, photo cards, button pins, and other treats—to be distributed to SIKcret Time in Manila attendees. They also created a club shirt, in striking mint green, for members to wear during the event.

Picadizo related that the club was also tapped to assist international fans in purchasing their event tickets.

Park Hyung-sik with some members of the PHSIFC. Photo courtesy of MQLive

“As one of the admins, the most difficult thing is planning and coordination: planning what to do before and during the fan meet, not just for the group members but also with the promoter. It’s difficult because we have personal lives, too,” she said in an interview.

“But the best thing for me is seeing my friends getting excited for the fan meet. That’s already fulfillment for me. I can just stay stress-free for this event, but I chose to be involved because I really love Park Hyung-sik, and I really want my friends and the PHSIFC to be a notable group in this event,” she added.

When Park comes back to Manila in the future, she said the club will still do everything—including meeting the Korean star in the airport upon his arrival and sending him off on his flight back to South Korea.

“These are the usual things we do for our faves, a way to show our love and support,” she said.

The new lifestyle.