Wednesday, February 28, 2024

The Filipino superfans travelling thousands of miles to see Taylor Swift

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For Allan Villa, seeing Taylor Swift live in concert is an unmissable experience, worthy of the backbreaking travel that will be required to take him there. From Masbate Island, where he lives, Villa will travel four hours by boat to the Luzon mainland and then 12 hours by bus to Manila, where he will take a more than four-hour flight to Singapore.

In the process he will probably spend several months’ worth of salary to attend the concert there on 4 March.

But having loved Swift since he saw the music video of Our Song from her 2006 debut album, Villa says the effort will be worth it.

“I will probably cry the whole night,” he says.

Allan Villa, from Masbate Island, Philippines. Photograph: Allan Villa

He’s just one of many Filipinos hopping into boats and buses, boarding planes, and spending many months’ worth of salaries to see Swift on her record-breaking Eras tour, amid claims that poor infrastructure was among the reasons why the Philippines was missing from the star’s schedule.

Joyce Blaza from Manila hoped to get tickets to the Singapore show, but after missing out she chose to travel to the only other country in Asia included in the tour: Japan.

“I am so happy. I can say that every peso we paid for the concert was worth it,” she says after watching Swift’s concert at the jam packed Tokyo Dome on 9 February.

Fans watch on as Taylor Swift performs onstage during in Tokyo. Photograph: Christopher Jue/TAS24/Getty Images for TAS Rights Management

Blaza convinced her husband, Lester, to turn the trip into a postponed honeymoon after they got married in December 2022. She agonised for months over whether or not she could get a visa or if her employer would grant her a long vacation.

To Joyce, Swift was the “best friend” who was there during difficult periods in her life. She sang her heart out to songs from 1989 and Reputation, two albums close to her heart.

She says she loved seeing herself among a sea of Swifties singing and dancing along to their idol.

“It was magical! It’s a different feeling. My husband and I are still feeling high from the entire experience,” she says.

Joyce Blaza with her husband Lester, from Manila, Philippines, who travelled to Japan to see Taylor Swift. Photograph: supplied by Joyce Blaza

For Naomi Esguerra, a doctor from Manila who is a “Swiftie from the very beginning,” one concert was never going to be enough. She secured tickets to a show in Australia on 25 February and Singapore on 7 March.

It’s the “tour of all tours”, she says, adding that it may not happen again.

“I want to experience being so close to Taylor on stage so I got a ticket in the front row [at one show] … I want to experience the full production and effects of the stage so I took a seat in the lower bowl [at the other],” Esguerra says.

She couldn’t travel for previous concerts because she was finishing med school. “Now that I have the time. I’m making up for it,” she says.

Fans pose for a selfie before Taylor Swift’s concert at the Tokyo Dome. Photograph: Hiro Komae/AP

Don’t ask her for her favourite song though. “That’s the most difficult question you can ask a Swifite.”

“She has this way of telling it in her lyrics. Like she stole my diary and wrote a song about it. It’s exactly how I can describe it,” she says.

She will watch the two concerts with her husband, who has come to accept that Taylor is “the longest relationship in my life”.

For Villa, the relationship is the same; he has a Swift song for all the huge moments in his life.

“What’s amazing with Taylor is you can always find a song in her discography to suit all the events in your life. She’s also talking about a lot of things – insecurities, bullies, your family, and even death,” he says.

Soon You’ll Get Better from the Lover album got him through the death of his grandmother in 2021.

“That’s the magic of Taylor’s music.”

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