They’ve been spreading love as ARMY for two years and counting!
“Madam” G and Ara Manaligod are real-life sisters with a big time passion for iconic K-pop superstars Bangtan Seonyodan or BTS. How passionate? Despite having day jobs, these two are the admins of Bangtan Sisters PH. Last August, they celebrated their second anniversary at Smile To Go – Araneta with a cupsleeve event.
Aptly enough, the cupsleeve design was loosely based off of FRIENDS. It’s the show, as any ARMY would know, that BTS’ leader Kim Namjoon/RM watched to learn English! Aside from that, they had games, giveaways, and a gathering of kindred souls in a safe space. FreebieMNL was invited and this author got an exclusive with the sisters after!
Yes, they’re actual sisters
“Despite the seven-year age gap,” Madam explains, “we’re very close. Maraming nagugulat pag sinasabi naming magkapatid talaga kami. We have a brother, too, a multimedia artist. Youngest. Girlfriend niya ARMY, so wala din siyang choice.”
Both are quick to dispel any thought that they have hyperspecific biases. While Ara has a favorite jacket that’s specific to RM and Madam likes the guitar skills of Yoongi, they’re ultimately both multi-stans.
Attendees to organizers
Ara was the first one to discover BTS; while Madam was familiar with K-pop, she has more of a slow burn approach when it comes to being engrossed with certain matters. “She brought me to a cupsleeve event for JHope,” Madam explains.
“Prior to tha,t I didn’t know what a cupsleeve event was. I got the gist of it: the cupsleeve has a picture of the idol. It’s a way to celebrate [the idol]. I didn’t know there was a whole subculture! Nag-originate sa Korea, in-adapt nalang dito,” Ara shares. “Fans who organize giveaway stuff, freebies…there’s interaction. Depending on what’s being celebrated, like a birthday or anniversary.”
After attending several events and upon the pandemic happening, a mutual Twitter friend got the ball rolling. Said friend needed people to spearhead a cupsleeve distribution; it was non-profit. The sisters became in-charge of the Quezon City leg. Things escalated quickly from there, for the love of Bangtan.
“I think that’s the difference between us and other groups. Ang babayaran lang nating lahat is the cafe, in exchange siyempre for the space. Iba, they charge for the inclusion, separate pa yung drink,” Ara explains. “Minsan may nagch-chip in, may pamigay. Minimum lagi kami ng 60. Second year namin as cupsleeve event organizers, pero…marami na.”
“Aside from events, minsan may paid raffle kami,” Madam nods. “Merch, either sponsored namin o ibang tao. Tapos yung amount, 100 percent, mapupunta sa chosen charity. May paid raffle recently na PHP14,000 yung na-raise for school supplies in Aeta communities in Zambales. Meron din PHP6,000 for oxygen tanks for Sparks For Life.“
”ARMY Bayanihan din, nag-participate din kami!” Ara adds.
Sense Of Family
During their anniversary event, a number of fun games were played. One of them seemed simple enough: get people to line up and identify personalities via their photos which were flashed only during that person’s turn. It was a fun mix: K-pop stars, local celebrities, even Filipino historical figures! When asked about how those came about, Madam grins.
“We both grew up joining family reunions, so doon ko nakuha yung games. Yung degree ko, Mass Communication! Outlet namin, parang stress reliever.”
They enjoy the sense of family within the community and are happy to spread it out. “As long as there’s something to celebrate, [we’ll organize],” Ara points out. They were quick to add that, in their case, major events take precedence. Member birthdays, the group’s anniversary, and their anniversary.
However, they’ll also be keeping it in the family. While volunteers are welcome for decorations, the pair are happy to work on their own. “Administrative work, dalawa lang kami,” Ara explains. “We already have a system.”
It is perhaps this sense of family that also has them fiercely protective of BTS, to the point that if a date isn’t supportive, it’s a dealbreaker.
“If you really love me, kahit ayaw mo sa boys, you have to support what I love! Pag ayaw mo,” Ara says in all seriousness, “e ‘di wag!”
Madam feels the same, especially since their own family is very supportive as well. “Like yung investment namin sa BTS…alam nung buong family namin ‘yan. Dad namin, alam niya yan. He’s very supportive. Our dad is a huge RJ stan—lahat ng merch na RJ, sa kanya namin binibigay. [Mom] is a K-drama addict naman. Walang problema.”
Asked about what they’d say to people curious about BTS but aren’t ARMY, both sisters light up.
“Honestly, if you look at being a KPop fan, it’s [chill] compared to more rabid fanbases. Break the stereotype, the [usual negative connotation]. Dumadami ang kilala BTS, pero…still. Don’t see [being a KPop fan in] a negative light,” says Ara quickly.
“There are fan wars, ‘di naman maiiwasan ‘yon. May communities lang na dine-deny yung lyricism and genius ng BTS. Like…come on. Yung mga kanta nila, every single song especially si Namjoon, napakagenius talaga,” Madam agrees.
Ultimately, they hope fan wars stop in favor of just being a supportive community overall. “Walang kwenta fan war, in all honestly. Dude, we’re all Asians…we’re supposed to be supporting all of them!”
Featured Image Paulo Correa