Filipino culture, in many ways, is already a mishmash of other cultures and brought to a boil in the sweltering Southeast Asian sun. That’s evident in our language, our food, our infrastructure, and so on.

With the rise of the Korean wave, or Hallyu, the whole world was taken by storm. The Philippines, of course, is no exception. From mobs of adoring K-pop fans to an abundance of Korean grocery stores, it’s no surprise that most of us adore Korean culture. It then begs the question, “Are we losing our identity, or are we just entering a new chapter in our culture?”

File photo of SB19 from its official FB page

Korean music has a big impact on modern pop culture. K-pop groups dominate the charts alongside their Western counterparts. Many Filipinos are loyal fans of their beloved K-pop groups or artists, purchasing their products, and so on.

Recently, a new genre called P-pop entered the mainstream with the arrival of MNL48, a girl group based on the J-pop AKB48, in 2018. It was followed by SB19 in the same year. These two groups are regarded by some as the cornerstones of the new genre.

Like most things in our culture, we adopted a foreign music style as our own in the same way we made adobo into something distinctly Filipino. Yes, I know some people might be a bit confused, but no, this new genre isn’t plagiarizing its predecessors. In fact, it’s expanding the possibilities of what music can be. At the same time, international fame and success in music are starting to not only be limited to Western artists, destroying stereotypes of Asian identity.

TV and Movies
Korean TV dramas and movies rose to popularity in the Philippines in the early 2000s. Since then, we’ve only grown more and more fond of them. Korean shows dubbed into Filipino were aired on local networks. We even went so far as to reboot Korean dramas into Filipino shows. An example of this would be the Filipino version of Descendants of the Sun, starring Dingdong Dantes and Jennylyn Mercado.

We were also introduced to the concept of “loveteams” between celebrities, via Korean dramas. It’s an effective advertising tool, and it just goes to show the genius of the Korean TV and movie industries in creating basically free advertising for their respective programs. The Filipino media piggybacked on this idea to help their own industry. I’d say it’s quite successful.

I think our infatuation with Korean TV and movies is just proof that we Filipinos love anything that’s foreign. What’s interesting is that we find ways to create our own renditions of foreign cultures. That’s what makes us Filipino.

When you go to the mall here in the Philippines, you’ll notice a certain style of fashion that mostly people of Generation Z wear. We see this type of fashion in Korean movies and TV shows and even in what Korean music artists wear.

It’s a huge influence on modern Filipino culture, in which we strive to look more like the people we see in the mainstream media. Our fashion is shifting from a more Western-based look to a more Asian one.

What we look like doesn’t necessarily define who we are. Whatever we wear, be it a suit, a barong or this new Korean wave of fashion, we’re still Filipinos through and through.

So, all in all, we’ve been very interested in Korean culture lately, and I don’t think it’s a bad thing. Some people say that we’re “losing our identity”. I think that is quite wrong. Despite foreign cultures having a huge influence on modern Filipino culture, I think what we have is still uniquely Filipino.

Take it from Kurt Cobain, who said, “I use bits and pieces of other’s personalities to form my own.” So, having a mix of different cultures doesn’t mean we aren’t our own people. It just means that our culture is like a puzzle formed with little pieces of other cultures and traditions, as well as some indigenous traditions and cultures.

So, what if Korean culture is slowly being assimilated into our own? Just like in the past century, we also adopted American culture, and centuries before that, adopted Spanish tradition, and before that, with our neighbors, and so on. It’s just who we are.