“Do you smell that? There’s estrogen everywhere.”
Those were our first words as we were dropped off in front of the SM MoA Arena the afternoon of September 29. It looked quiet out front, but the side of the building was teeming with people. Young girls obviously dominated the mob, but I was surprised to see a variety of people present. There were gays, guys, children and parents. I actually bumped into a middle-aged woman while lining up. You could clearly tell the economic status of majority in attendance too—from moderate to well-off. Most of them were all decked out; some of the girls were dressed for a party (complete with high heels). I was also alarmed at the fire trucks, ambulances and the GMA news crew. The hype was very palpable.
Now picture the inside of the arena with, more or less, ten times the size of the crowd outside (even if it was just half the arena). I suddenly wondered what I got myself into.
Before that night, I’d never been to a fan conference and I’d never bought clothes from Penshoppe. Firstly, I’ve only gone to [few] concerts. I was never raised on “the nightlife”. My parents don’t like driving to and from far places at night, and in traffic. That’s why I grew up a homebody. Secondly, I’ve visited Penshoppe a couple of times, but I always walked out empty handed. It’s not that it’s a local brand; I just have a particular style of dressing.
So what—or rather who–convinced me to finally break the routine? The answer is Zac Efron. I am rather fortunate to have met friends who feel the same way. Among all of our celebrity crushes, the one on Zac Efron refuses to die down.
So back to the night itself, mostly strobe lights and cellphone lights illuminated the arena. There was a runway with a DJ set up at the end. It was a party atmosphere. The first hour was used for announcing the winners of the meet and greet. After that, there were performances; song and dance numbers by local artists. The very last one was by the UP Pep Squad, who danced to a medley of High School Musical. In all the presentations before this one, the audience was clearly not as excited as when they were lining up. I was sure everyone was reserving their energy for the man himself. They were the last to perform before Zac finally appeared.
As expected, all he did was get interviewed about his career and personal life. Almost all his sentences were punctuated with a shriek from the audience. Yes, he walked down the runway, even jumped off to high five fans. He threw his jacket to the audience, causing a stampede of hormones in that direction. Security guards had to break up the almost-riot. Zac accepted messages from people who were handed the microphone. Even though that was it, he still managed to drive the audience completely crazy from just speaking to simply smiling. On our way out, there was a melee in the lobby to get free posters (not signed). I’ve never seen people act so rabid before. It was “every man for himself” getting out of there. I also made new friends. The whole thing was honestly an unreal experience.
So I went home past midnight with new memories, and the right to brag that I actually saw Zac Efron in person. I was happy, and here are some things about that night that truly amazed me (aside from Zac himself). 1) How and why Penshoppe organized the event and 2) the cultural exchange.
In my opinion, Penshoppe hosted its fancons for two reasons: to make money and—the much nobler reason—to promote Filipino culture (in the form of clothing) to the world. They got big names from the international TV/film industry to endorse them. Though they’re not the first to do so, they’ve visibly generated more hype than their competitors. Fancons, especially ones starring huge idols, only happen rarely—one time big time. Given this rare opportunity, they went all out. They booked the MoA arena, when local celebs usually just have mall shows. Instead of buying normal tickets, you had to buy clothes from the brand worth the ticket price. The most expensive ticket was Php5000, and all he was going to do was talk. That didn’t deter some people, as the VIP area was full then.
And their efforts didn’t go to waste. Contemporary Filipino culture is already a melting pot of influences; even within our own borders, since we are an archipelago. It’s no secret that the middle and upper class (majority of the audience) of Philippine society has especially been adaptingforeign culture since the time of Rizal. We’re heavily influenced by American culture from our education system down to the shows we watch. So amidst all the social turmoil, natural calamities, and stress of day-to-day life, here was a respite: a living representation of the culture we so adore come to the country. I attribute the “lack of poise” in the dominantly female audience to this reasoning. It was a once in a lifetime event after all, and as my friends and I would say, “No judging!”
Next we go to cultural exchange. I would like to point out that this topic and the one about promoting Filipino clothing are interrelated. Penshoppe’s website says “it aims to gather some of the world’s…most influential celebrities…all proudly sporting a 100% Filipino brand and introducing Penshoppe as a style authority to the rest of the world.” Even if you can clearly see how prevalent American (or western) pop culture—in the form of Zac Efron, everyone’s fashion sense, the music the DJ played, the whole idea of a fan convention—is among Filipino youths, the meeting of two different cultures wasn’t just a one way street that night. This is where Penshoppe’s idea of promoting a 100% Filipino brand comes in. Since we’ve already localized so much from America and the western world, it’s time to globalize Filipinos. Show the rest of the world what we’ve come up with; even teach them a thing or two. Start with the Filipinos themselves, even if it is just the upper and middle class first. I think that’s what Penshoppe is trying to get across. That’s what Zac and the other Penshoppe All Stars are for. That’s what the fan conference was for.
I can honestly tell you I’ll be shopping there more often now.
Ma. Veronica F. Cruz
SA21 – G