Ilonggo ‘Swifties’ meet at midnight

(Photo: Screencap from Nikko Mabasa)

By Joseph B.A. Marzan

Ilonggos on Saturday said, “It’s me. Hi. I’m the problem. It’s me,” as they gathered at a popular mall in Iloilo City for ‘Midnights at the City of Love’ to celebrate the release of American singer-songwriter Taylor Swift’s 10th studio album, Midnights.

The Ilonggo ‘Swifties’ came in droves at SM City Iloilo’s Southpoint to celebrate the album by the former Nashville and now New York-based singer, who has sold more than 100 million albums and attracts an average of 50 million online streams monthly.

Local artists including Kirk Alava, Kay Chiu, Aki Devierte, Boj Gallenero, and brothers Sean and Clyde Ortencio sang their cover versions of Ms. Swift’s hits and other underrated gems, leading the crowd into a huge sing-along and sending older youngsters on a trip down memory lane.

The event became popular among fans nationally and globally on social media, shared among Facebook groups and Twitter communities, with videos and photos gaining thousands of views, proving the 32-year-old singer’s power.

It was organized by Taylor Swift Iloilo, a local fan group that also sold fan-made merchandise and organized raffle contests for fellow local fans to enjoy.

The group was formally created this year, but its administrators have been gathering since the release of Swift’s 7th album Lover in 2019.

They also held a “Salt Air Sessions” last August, after one of the tracks named after the month, from the singer’s critically-acclaimed 2020 album Folklore.

They believe that Swift’s music was a product of creativity that “explored human facets”, with a song tailored to “heartbreak, coming-of-age, or lover eras of one’s life.”

One of the group’s convenors, Romari Charlz Diaz, said that their small core group of 13 people did not expect overwhelming participation from their fellow fans, having only up to 200 people in mind when they planned the event.

“It was really overwhelming. There were only 13 people in our core group who organized the event, so handling a big crowd was a big chunk for us to digest. But thankfully, with the help of SM City Iloilo, we were able to manage. We are really happy that a lot of fans supported us and showed enthusiasm for the event,” Diaz said.

Leinald Dela Cruz, who started becoming a fan after the 2008 album Fearless was released, shared with Daily Guardian that the event proved that Iloilo City was a ‘Swiftie country’.

He hoped that Swift could return to Manila, as her last visit to the country was during her 2013 Red Tour in Pasay City, hoping that Iloilo “will have a venue big enough to hold a concert for an artist as big as her”.

“The way everyone knew every single lyric to every single song performed is just a testament to how we love Taylor and her music. No other Western artist I can think of has that kind of staying power. She is a legend,” he said.

“She made heartbreaks easier to go through. Her evolution is inevitable but her songwriting prowess is unshakeable. She shifts multiple genres and reinvents herself with every era of music inspiring me to push my creativity to at least try to be parallel to her. She’s a once-in-a-generation artist, truly,” Dela Cruz also shared about Swift.

Diaz said that the overwhelming response from fans has pushed them to continue with more album listening and release parties in the future.

Taylor Swift’s 10th album Midnights, released last Friday, October 21, is her first original release since 2020’s 9th album, Evermore, and follows the re-recorded versions of the 2nd album Fearless, and her 4th album, 2012’s Red.

It was produced primarily by Swift and her long-time collaborator, Jack Antonoff, and features credits by Lana Del Rey, Zoe Kravitz, Mark Spears, Jahaan Sweet, Sam Dew, Braxton Cook, Keanu Torres, Aaron Dessner, and her current boyfriend Joe Alwyn who uses the pseudonym ‘William Bowery’.