From Twelve to Forever: #4YearsWithEXO

I can’t believe it’s been four years since I started stanning probably one of the biggest but also most controversial band in recent K-Pop history—EXO. People outside the fandom, or the K-Pop community in general, may never understand but being an EXO-L has been a difficult and emotional journey. We—EXO and EXO-Ls—got our amazing highs in 2012 and 2013 then a sudden blow in 2014 then we rose up to be at the top once again. 

Honestly, we are a young fandom prone to a lot of drama and criticisms. Yet, surprisingly, despite these setbacks, I have stayed. Just as how EXO remained strong, the EXO-L fandom still held hands together. We supported each other, giving both the boys and the fans a solid foundation to lean on and to grow. I’m a guy in my mid-20s but who cares? Never once did I regret being part of it.

And so, to celebrate (although I’m actually a few hours late) the wonderful four years of EXO, I would like to share an amazing EXO-L experience that I am never ever going to forget. I wrote this for our blog, KStreetManila, like roughly three months ago but I wanted to put it also here because this is a personal article. I guess, so far, this is the highlight of my EXO stanning life. EXO’luXion in Manila.

A little backgrounder. Prior to this two-day concert, the last time EXO went here was in 2013. They were still complete back then, and by complete I mean twelve. Three years later, they came back as eight (although technically they are nine). It was a nostalgic and an honestly sad moment. But things of the past will now only be treasures of the memory. As somebody who’s been with the band since debut, moving on stronger than before is the best way to work our way back to where we were. And that is what exactly I felt during EXO’luXion in Manila: We were, we are, and we will always be one.

And so without further ado, here’s the article. You can click on the link below if you want to go to the original post. I hope you’ll enjoy reading it!


EXO’luXion in Manila: Passion Evolution
Written for and originally posted in KStreetManila
January 26, 2016

When EXO’luXion in Manila was announced last November 2015, fans were not just excited, they were over and beyond it. It was justified—three years of patient waiting, not to mention the disappointment of a cancelled first tour stop. So when tickets sold out fast on the first day of ticketing, it was not even a huge surprise anymore that the organizers decided to add another concert date. Of course EXO-Ls, or perhaps I should call ourselves now PHIXOs (Philippines + EXO, as coined by EXO themselves), thought it was the best Christmas and New Year gift ever, but when the concert days came, we realized they were more than just a simple gift.

The fateful dates were the 23rd and 24th of January 2016, and these days created a huge mark in the Philippines’ own KPop story. EXO was the first KPop act to have two days of concerts. And while we still do not have the numbers, EXO’luXion in Manila was definitely one of the most well-attended. Not that it should be a surprise given how EXO would usually sell out in most of their stops overseas. But what sets the Philippines’ stop apart is that so far it was one of, if not the most, exceptional. This may sound biased coming from a Filipino fan but let’s admit it, those two nights were definitely “the” defining moment for PHIXOs. Special would be an understatement. Phenomenal, perhaps, would be a better word.

Kai and Xiumin were injured prior to the concert that they had to sit all throughout the performances. Lay, on the other hand, did not make it to both days (for official reasons we are yet to know). Blockings changed and some of the choreography were altered. The set list was adjusted, too. There was even the missing sexy pool dance everyone expected. With these things happening, disappointment loomed on almost everyone. It would be a lie if it wasn’t, especially with one member missing and two not being able to perform as much as they wished to. Yet, like any typical Filipino would, despite these circumstances, PHIXOs still managed to make the most, if not the best, out of what is given to us.

The eight members who performed—Suho, Baekhyun, Chanyeol, Chen, D.O., Kai, Sehun, and Xiumin—gave us 27 songs. The concert lasted for two and a half hours, five hours in total for both days. Of course we greeted them with cheers and screams, the loudest we can possibly belt out of our lungs and throats. We gave them the signature Silver Ocean. They even spoke a bit of Filipino and English. From this kind of narration, it would sound like a typical EXO solo concert overseas. Nothing special, as one might put it.

But I believe what makes the Manila stop extraordinary is this: passion.

EXOLUXIONMANILA

EXO’luXion in Manila. Photo courtesy of Globe Telecom.

Okay, hold your horses. This is not to say that other EXO-Ls are not passionate for EXO. They are. We all are passionate. And I believe we will always be until the last performance EXO can give us. But what I saw during the two-day concert was different. It was passion taken to a higher level.

We did not chant. We sang along to most of their songs to the point that we could no longer hear their voices. We danced so well, too, that EXO could not help but notice it, even asking both VIP sections to dance again to Growl and Call Me Baby (it was also here that our “unofficial” fandom name was born—PHIXO). During Machine, Drop That, and Let Out the Beast, we literally turned SM Mall of Asia Arena into a party house. Everyone jumped, waved light sticks, and chanted “E-X-O!” louder than EXO themselves could. A lot yelled and cried like it was the last EXO concert we would see. Our fan projects may not be always perfect but for both days, we managed to pull two important ones. They saw it, and thanked us for promising forever and staying with them always.

At the end of each day, it was pretty sure that most, if not all, of us literally enjoyed the show. Seeing the boys enjoy their performances as well was more than just enough to know that we did an amazing job as much as EXO did for us. But their words, their ment as we would call it, at the end of each concert day was, I believe, the most important part, something that was worth taking note.

If I were to summarize what EXO said, I’d say them in two different phrases. First, “I am really, really, really happy.” And second, “This is how concerts should be.”

There was validation, recognition. Three years we waited. Three years we prepared. All that desire to show how much we love them kept and treasured in a long time. And they saw it. It was a defining moment for us. Because even with the thousand of fans surrounding them, girls and boys whose names and faces they don’t even know, EXO made us feel as if we’re just seated right next to them. We welcomed them with love and they recognized it, temporarily parting with us with the same amount of love given back. Very intimate. Very personal.

EXOluXion in Manila may have already ended but we know it isn’t just five hours of simple fangirling or fanboying. Sure there were disappointments and expectations not met but we left the arena with smiles and tears on our faces. Regardless of how biased this may sound, there is no denial that we gave EXO two nights that are worth remembering. And like in the words of their song, together with PHIXOs, EXO just made history.

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