The Noona-tics: From CLOY to K-Drama Beyond!
By Lisa Mapua, AC79
“Waaah! 99 messages!” wailed Tina Cruz Mateo as she opened the Viber group chat dedicated to her beloved K-Dramas. Undaunted, she waded thru the messages, most of them short and snappy, as this chat group is her Happy Place. “It makes me smile and feel young again,” says Tina. “The Noonas can get really crazy!”
What is it about K-Dramas (Korean Drama Series) that has this group of AC79 girls giggling and smiling? They certainly have the K-Fever! To weather the pandemic nights, they have caught the global K-Wave and surf the net to discover new and creative stories that weave twisty plot lines, use great lighting and cinematography shot in fantastic locations, featuring food and fashion old and new, and infuse values and life lessons told thru English subtitles. That, in a nutshell, is what makes K-Dramas attractive and addictive to these women – all that, and their Oppas!
For most of them, their K-Drama addiction started with CLOY or Crash Landing on You to the K-Drama uninitiated. Rina Go confessed that: “Joanne Rae Mayor Ramirez featured me in People Asia with [CLOY female lead] Son Ye Jin on the cover and I felt embarrassed not to be able to discuss Crash Landing on You with her.” But after reading Joanne’s review of CLOY on The Philippine Star, she (and many others like Portland-based Dolly Pangan Specht) was convinced enough to watch, got hooked on a new crack, and never looked back. For Vietnam OFW Anna Dolor Fernandez, “The recommendation to watch one came at the right time. I was a solo expat working overseas and the pandemic hit. I needed to find a diversion so as not to get depressed. I started with CLOY, and the rest is history.”
And, like any addiction, K-Dramas became my secret passion – until the Zoom party to celebrate the birthday of AC79’s “Chaos Coordinator” Chary Ozaeta Gohh on October, 2020. After the festivities, the girls settled into chatter and someone brought up K-Dramas and we realized that more than a dozen of us were avid watchers, all swooning over Hyun Bin and other actors! We even had our own Konsultant, our Korean classmate living in Japan and the only classmate who can watch K-Dramas without subtitles, Innhae Oh Morgan, who said we were Noonas (a Korean guy’s term for his older female crushes). One thing was for sure, we were all Krazy about K-Dramas. Yes, we were Noonas and yes, we were lunatics. And so, we got our name: the Noona-tics!
Within minutes, ever-efficient Chary formed our Noona-tics Viber group, designed a logo, and we were off and chatting: which K-Dramas we enjoyed, which to watch next, who to watch, who is your Oppa (a Korean girl’s term for her older male brother, boyfriend, or crush, but in our case, he didn’t have to be older; he just had to be a crush). We shared Oppa photos and GIFs, links to shows, OST (Original Sound Track) songs, BTS (Behind The Scene) clips, emoticons, puns and jokes, lots of puns and jokes! We laughed at the common K-Drama tropes like the often-used amnesia, drunken piggy-back ride, drunken confession, sharing the umbrella, secret tragic past, and the truck of doom. “It’s full of good vibes,” said Guia Mendoza Tiongson, who likes to start her day by checking her Noona-tics Viber messages and is tickled when a Noona sends “your favorite Oppa GIF blowing kisses right at you.”
“I always end up smiling or laughing when I open this chat,” observed Risa. “There is a lot of swooning, teasing, and joking around. It makes me regress to my high school days.” The clock spins backwards for the Noonas to days at the Assumption chalet, where we would giggle and gush over our crushes in the latest issue of Tiger Beat magazine and Mills & Boone romance novels. Declared Annie Lim Kawpeng, “60 is the new 16!”
The Noona-tics now number two dozen and we have had K-Inspired Zoom parties to celebrate birthdays. We zoom in from around the globe: most from the Philippines (but not all in Metro Manila), Innhae from Japan, Anna from Vietnam, Dolly and Elvira Mesina Broekhuizen from opposite coasts of the US, Bige Kintanar from France, Avic Lerma Simmons from the UK, and Olive Pineda from Australia. Of course, it is BYO-whatever: oppa virtual backgrounds and kitsch, Korean snacks, ramyeon, and soju. We’ve played K-Drama themed virtual games and sometimes award virtual prizes. Being the best at K-Drama trivia like Risa Baltazar Nepomuceno was already a badge of honor.
Waiting for open skies, the Noonas are planning a pilgrimage of South Korea and dream of meeting our oppas and visiting famed K-Drama locations. But they may have to do a trial run by visiting me in Angeles City, where the largest Korea Town in the country exists.
For Christmas, we had Noona-tics and oppa themed gifts for each other that often featured our favorite oppas: mugs, t-shirts, nightgowns, notepads, desktop calendars, tote bags, and mouse pads featuring you and your oppa (doctored by our visual whiz Guia Mendoza Tiongson who will also send you a birthday video of you with your oppas). Annie was thrilled to receive her gift package and set up her desk with her prized mouse pad (a photo of her with Hyun Bin), noting wryly, “I don’t even use a mouse!” Whether working from home or at the office, we can be truly inspired, thanks to our fellow Noonas.
For the Noona-tics’ first anniversary, Joanne (with uncanny coincidental and fortuitous timing) penned an article on the group for her column in The Philippine Star: “K-Fever: Who are the Noona-tics?” https://philstarlife.com/news-and-views/710747-korean-drama-noona?page=2 And with that publication, the Noonas were outed as Krazy K-Drama fans, but happily so! Pre-publication, Joanne asked me to check the article, and I asked her why feature the Noonas? “Because the Noonas are special,” she replied, “you have a list.”
Ahhh, THE LIST! The Noona K-Drama List started out as my own personal Excel file and memory aid of what K-Dramas I had viewed, and what I still wanted to watch. As the Noonas gelled, I expanded the list for their use, and shared it monthly and it included enough pertinent data for them to make viewing selections. We also started submitting rating scores of the K-Dramas we have seen (1=skip it to 5=would watch again) and the ratings were averaged for a combined Noona score. When three or more Noonas give a score of 5 (or higher sometimes), the title goes to our Top 5 Noona Hall of Fame List. The file is always a work in progress, with more titles added nightly, time permitting. After over a year, the list has almost 1,300 titles and still growing. And, it is because of the list that Rina appointed me “President Noona!” As Guia said, “The Excel rating sheet of Pres. Noona Lisa Mapua is our bible!”
But even with the list, it’s often easier to give the Noonas a shoutout: “What should I watch next?” And many will offer suggestions, or even decide to watch the same K-Drama at the same time. As Anna said, “If you are hunting for your next watch, the Noonas are the best source (Wikipedia of K-Dramas).”
Clearly, the Noonas have a sisterhood built around a common passion. “It’s nice to know that our childhood friendships have continued through a common interest of a good story and handsome men (we can’t ever have!),” said Connie Katigbak. And all this sisterly support is a definite stress-buster. When Rina Go was hospitalized, she was given a Noona step-by-step tutorial on how to watch her K-Dramas on Dramacool, so she could pass the time while in recovery. Even her nurses helped her click the proper buttons because they, too, were familiar with the website!
“Our little K-Drama group can be considered part of our self-care regimen, by providing a much-needed mental break from the stress of life,” volunteered Cindy. If K-Dramas and the chatty Noona-tics Viber group help you ride out the stress of this prolonged pandemic, keep you interested and engaged, entertained and at home, then the Noonas are all for it. “Yes! It kept us safe and sane! We were on voluntary lockdown, but you feel you are out there experiencing so many things vicariously,” added Risa. Connie said, “The Noonas were the ones that made me not want for this pandemic to end!” Tina also added, “since my husband watches with me, he also became sweeter.” For Annie, the Noonas and K-Dramas were “cheaper than a psychiatrist with good results for happiness.” Chary sagely noted that, “The K-Dramas are stress busters, but the Noonas are your Group Therapists.”
But it is Joanne that expressed it ever so eloquently: “For many of us Noonas, K-Drama was the dreamboat that virtually took us out of our homes to places, dreams and intimations of our youth — saving us from K-abin fever.”
K-Dramas that scored with the Noonas:
- Crash Landing on You
- Descendants of the Sun
- Hometown Cha Cha Cha
- Hospital Playlist
- Love in the Moonlight
- My Roommate is a Gumiho
- The King’s Affection