Fandoms as civic associations
Last Nov. 22, Vice President Leni Robredo tweeted, “Super touching that these K-Pop fans are doing their share through our office’s relief efforts for typhoon victims. Thank you very much @YedamStarIntl (supporters of Bang Yedam of TREASURE) and @filoblinksph (fans of Blackpink) for your generosity.” One reader (@stan_sagigilid) pointed out: “here is ‘Hand in Hand PH’ in fb soliciting donations, collaborat[io]ns of kpop fandoms, kay VPLeni din daw ibigay makuha.”
I reacted to this tweet by observing that fandoms are the new civic associations. One reader (@1agrohomes) agreed: “oo nga, parang wala nang naririnig mula sa mga rotarians at lions.”
On the other hand, another reader (@Janet33778623) pointed out: “The Inner Wheel Clubs [of] the Phil. are doing our relief activities in our localities.” To be sure, traditional civic groups are finding ways to do their bit; but a newer phenomenon has to be fandoms doing civic work.
As one reader (@MJQP57) put it: “You’re right sir. Let me share the activities of LizaSoberano & EnriqueGil fans @LQFCharities. This grp was shown on @TVPatrol & @DZMMTeleRadyo when they distributed goods in Marikina. Earlier, they were in San Mateo wd @TATAKLizQuen LizQuen Fans Bayanihan.” The graphic itemized P79,153 raised during a July-September Bond Paper Drive; and P60,000 raised for Typhoon “Rolly” relief through Kaya Natin Movement #BangonGarchitorena/Sheila Brobio Art for Aid in October of this year, a case of a more conventional civic association working with fandom.
But it was @couchpotatochi who brought up the biggest, or perhaps best-known, fandom of all: “If I may share, (ADN) is now on its 7th wave of scholarship drive, aside from spearheading donation drives during calamities (we have one ongoing). ADN Book Club also conducts book drives for students in public schools.” This in itself is a remarkable story in our ningas cogon culture; it suggests this will remain a relevant fandom for some time to come, even as it already revolutionized political communications in our country.
A former colleague who looked into it once sketched out how marvelously the Aldub fandom works on Twitter, for example. As I understood it, it sort of works like this: At a certain time, key accounts will tweet the message or hashtag for the day, and it will then be taken on and tweeted in turn by a cascading series of fan clubs, all looking to the big accounts for their cue. In the meantime, other accounts are surveying the scene to see if the various clubs are tweeting with enough enthusiasm and volume; if not, they report to others who then urge on a renewed push by encouraging messages to prominent and small accounts alike, including gentle corrections if people go off message. The result is the communications juggernaut that Aldub became, particularly around 2015-2017.
When the time comes for this phenomenon to be studied in detail, it will have to begin with the election of Rogelio de la Rosa, an early matinee idol of Philippine cinema, to the Senate in 1957, marking the start of entertainment celebrity being a path to national office. When the Senate was pitched as a nationally elected chamber in 1940, bloc voting (writing the party instead of individual candidates) had been instituted because back then, proponents were aware of the dangers of celebrity and money as unfair advantages. But bloc voting was abolished in 1951, supposedly to make elections fairer.
As I’ve written before, the law of unintended consequences swiftly unfolded: Party discipline and appeal began to crumble. First there was the election of Lorenzo M. Tañada, who, in 1953, ran in coalition with the Nacionalistas; 1953 was a watershed, too, in the manner that the Nacionalista Party adopted Ramon Magsaysay, hitherto a Liberal for his entire political career, as its presidential candidate. Both were indicative not just of parties facing difficulties in finding candidates from within their ranks, but of parties unable to maintain cohesion, period. Then there was the first “guest candidate,” Claro M. Recto, who was adopted by the opposition Liberals in 1955, even though he was a member of the ruling Nacionalista Party. Rogelio de la Rosa barging in, displacing life- or career-long party people, was the culmination of the disintegration of the parties who’d lost their competitive advantage in a party- and slate-centered selection for the Senate.
I mentioned before: Supposedly nonpolitical barangays have made political parties torsos without legs. If you want to see genuine party organization, it’s fandoms that have mastered it.