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Taylor Swift effect: How these Pinoy Swifties pledge loyalty to the superstar by creating mall events, cafés, academic study

By JUSTINE PUNZALAN Published Dec 01, 2023 8:00 am Updated Dec 01, 2023 6:54 pm

Taylor Swift's fandom, or "Swifties," is one of the most remarkable fandoms in the history of music.

It comes as no wonder, with the pop icon breaking records with her 10 albums, four re-recordings, six global concert tours, and one blockbuster concert film throughout her career that spans almost two decades.

Through it all, Swifties across all ages, races, and genders have remained by her side to continuously prove why she's the reigning queen of pop. Some have been fangirling (or fanboying) by listening to music and buying official merch, while some build organizations and businesses or even do an academic study.

Call it what you want, but these Swifties can't stop, won't stop movin' because of one thing: their solid love for Taylor. Take it from these proud Pinoy Swifties who will show you that their extensive admiration for the global phenomenon can make the world a better place too.

T-Party Philippines, organizing events 'by Swifties for Swifties'
1989 (Taylor's Version) Party at The Galleria

Their love for Taylor that goes to the moon and to Saturn led twin brothers Cris and Bryan Villa to build T-Party Philippines, a nonprofit organization helming events nationwide to celebrate the pop superstar.

These events, which Cris describes as “made by Swifties for Swifties,” are all ticketed, with the duo gaining zero profit from them.

“We are committed to fully doing fan event organizing for Taylor Swift and is completely free because that’s how dedicated fans we are,” the 25-year-old digital marketer told PhilSTAR L!fe. “We also have in-house hosts who are Swifties as well and doing gigs all for free.” 

Brothers Cris and Brian Villa

T-Party launched its first event in October 2022 to mark the release of Taylor’s 10th album, Midnights. Held at South Park Center in Alabang, Muntinlupa, the event was attended by 450 Swifties.

“It did go as planned,” Cris recalled. “Because it was our first event, we literally had zero budget to do it, but the mall was generous enough to help us out on some of the fees.” 

With a little bit of luck and a huge amount of hard work, the twin Swifties were able to turn the event into a fairytale with drag queen Taylor Sheesh as special guest. 

“Having a ticketed event was risky because who would want to see a Taylor Swift show without Taylor, right?” Cris continued. “But we were the first one to book Mac Coronel, also known as Taylor Sheesh, for a drag performance. And from then on, she became an ultimate icon!” 

T-Party Philippines Team with Taylor Sheesh

The event’s success, coupled with the duo’s love for Taylor, prompted the group to organize more fan gatherings with the support of different brands and malls around the Philippines. 100% of the profit goes to stage designs, talent fees, food, and other materials needed for the event, according to Cris. 

All these, thanks to the twin Swifties’ humorous discovery of Taylor when they were eleven years old. 

“It’s actually a funny story,” Cris recounted to L!fe. “We were watching a horror film on TV and we got so scared, we had to change the channel to MYX. And then we saw Taylor’s music video for Love Story. She immediately caught my attention, and I told my brother she looks like my favorite Tekken video game character, Lili.” 

“From then on, I fell in love more and more with Taylor and literally became a die-hard fan!” Cris added. 

It is with their unexpected discovery of Taylor that T-Party Philippines was also able to launch “Luzon’s biggest” fan party celebrating the release of 1989 (Taylor’s Version). Titled “1989 (Taylor’s Version) The Sunset Sessions,” the event featured performances from Swifties and drag queens at the SM By the Bay in Pasay City.

Next up is a two-day party dubbed “For Taylor, Love Swifties: A Birthday Celebration” to honor the pop megastar’s 34th birthday on Dec. 13. This event is free for all and slated for Dec. 8 and 10 in Robinsons Lipa and Robinsons General Trias respectively. 

“In just one year, we have hosted an event for over 20,000 Swifties nationwide,” Cris said. 

And for that, he thanks all the malls who constantly invite them to host events, as well as the countless Pinoy Taylor Swift fans who continue to extend support to their fellow Swifties who chose to be fearless in pursuing their wildest dreams. 

Wiltlover Café, a Swiftie's haven that will 'never go out of style'
Wiltlover Café branches in (L) Robinsons Cybergate 3, Mandaluyong, and (R) Fairview Terraces

Talk about a place to dress up like hipsters and make fun of your exes, and for many Pinoy Taylor Swift fans, that would be Wiltlover Café. This chain of dainty and dreamy coffee shops has been the go-to spot for local Swifites, with its aesthetic interiors inspired by the pop megastar.

Since its launch in May 2022, it has been the venue of several Swiftie events—from streaming parties to writing therapy workshops—and has been welcoming fans who would like to celebrate the pop icon’s birthday and milestones with appetizing promos.

Becoming famous as a Taylor Swift-themed café was something Wiltlover Café owners Mark and Anrol Mardo did not expect or intend. Still, its Instagrammable interiors, complemented by a flavorful menu, keep many Swifties enchanted.

Wiltlover Café owners Mark and Anrol Mardo

Anrol told PhilSTAR L!fe that jazzing up the cafe with Taylor-inspired decors was simply her way to express her fangirling for the phenomenal star.

“I simply wanted a reason to display my Taylor Swift collectibles,” she said. “I think it’s my way of expressing my fandom and what drives my creativity.”

In addition to the decors, Anrol made sure to incorporate a Taylor Swift-inspired vibe into the coffee shop.

She explained, “I convinced my husband to use Taylor Swift's lyrics as our backdrop, particularly from one of my favorite songs, All Too Well. I explained to him that the lyrics, ‘It was rare, I was there, I remember it all too well,’ perfectly encapsulate the atmosphere we aim for customers to experience in our cafe.”

Neon light signage of the lyrics from Taylor Swift's All Too Well found inside the café's Mandaluyong branch

Among the cafe's main attractions are its lovely ceiling flowers which, along with the Taylor Swift-inspired decors, add Anrol's personal touch to the café. "I sold dried flower arrangements during the pandemic under the name 'Wiltlover' for my online store," she said, noting that those flower arrangements were inspired by Taylor Swift as well.

In addition to the decors, Anrol said that a part of their menu, particularly teas and limited-edition drinks, are inspired by the pop superstar, as seen in the colors used on them and their layering.

All these resulted from the Swiftie's love for Taylor that began over 15 years ago when she was in high school. Anrol recalled, "I've been drawn to her music, particularly the depth of her lyrics. Seeing her perform live in 2014 during her Red tour in the Philippines was a dream realized. And what I cherish the most about Taylor is her ability to resonate with fans through her songs. Listening to her feels as if she understands exactly what I'm experiencing."

Her fondness for the music icon yielded good results not only among Swifties but also in terms of sales. Its main branch in Mandaluyong City, for one, "achieved a return of investment in its first eight months," Anrol said, noting that the "typical period ranges from 12 months to two years."

"Since its launch, our cafe has grown to include four active branches," she continued. At the time of writing, the couple held the soft launch of its fifth branch in The District in Dasmariñas, Cavite.

Although Anrol and Mark did not intend to build Wiltlover Café as a Taylor Swift-themed coffee shop, the Swiftie couldn't be more grateful for what it is popular for today. 

"My heart, as a Swiftie, rejoices because this cafe introduced me to other fans of Taylor Swift. While it wasn't the original intention, perhaps it was fate that people labeled our place as a Taylor Swift-inspired cafe," Anrol concluded.

Kate Tolentino authored a thesis and fangirling for 'evermore'
Kate Tolentino after her thesis defense in UP Diliman

It was "representation" that made Kate Tolentino drawn to Taylor, so the University of the Philippine Diliman alumna made sure to give a fitting representation of the global superstar's Pinoy fandom in her thesis.

Kate was first enamored by the Gorgeous hitmaker when she was 10 years old in 2008, the same year Taylor Swift released her music video for Love Story

"Nag-start siya when I chanced upon her music video on MYX. When I saw Taylor, I was like, 'Hey, not only do I like her music, but I love how she embraces her curls," she recalled to L!fe.

"It was nice seeing that representation," she continued. "I grew up being told na dapat iparebond ko buhok ko but Taylor came at the right time… She taught me how to love myself."

Since then, Taylor has become Kate's BFF who never made her "feel alone" through her songs that resonate with every stage of the Swiftie's life.

Kate explained, "For every stage in life, meron siyang kanta. Thinking like you just lost a friend? Ay, meron siyang Breathe from her Fearless album. That worry of growing up and realizing the responsibilities that come along with it? There's Never Grow Up from Speak Now. Allowing yourself to feel emotions aside from those happy moments—WANEGBT from Red! Nagkaka-crisis about sa sarili—A Place in this World from debut!"

Kate's collection of Taylor Swift merch

While the 22 singer also has songs that don't remind Kate of any event in her life, the Swiftie refers to them instead as a second-hand learning experience. All of these, alongside her fascination for the Switie's fan culture and love for performing, led Kate to pursue broadcast communications at UP Diliman.

She further showcased her admiration for Taylor and her fandom when she reached her fourth year of college and wrote her thesis titled Look What You Made Me Do: A Study on the Individualized Fan Culture of Filipino Taylor Swift Fans.

Kate's thesis Look What You Made Me Do: A Study on the Individualized Fan Culture of Filipino Taylor Swift Fans

Kate described her study to L!fe as one that "zeroes in on each individual's personal experience—to look into how being a fan impacts a person's life in the long run."

She explained, "Most of the time, fans are stereotyped as just being obsessed with a certain artist but it's more than that. People forget that we are not a passive audience—'di tayo absorb lang nang absorb but we have the choice to act on it."

"I decided to focus on fandom to make sure that I give justice to the Filipino Swifties' stories," she added.

Kate conducted the study by first surveying how Pinoy Swifties became part of the fandom. From the results, she selected 13 people—which also happens to be Taylor's favorite number—to hold hour-long interviews with to unravel their entire story. She then analyzed their stories, identifying what's common to see how being a Taylor Swift fan "impacts the way we view politics, our steps towards our individual careers, how we interact with people, and how it manifests in our hobbies."

Her extensive study concluded that being a fan, combined with the media one is exposed to, "gives us an opportunity to find our niche and our purpose."

"It enables us to find ourselves, but also be able to find other people whom we can connect with. Hence, it gives us the self-esteem to present ourselves the way we want to, just as Taylor had done from the beginning of her career, to where she is now," Kate explained.

On top of this, Kate's thesis provided her with "a clear perspective that the community Taylor was able to produce is a loving and empowering kind."

Kate watching Taylor Swift: The Eras Tour concert film

Today, Kate is working as an audio-visual engineer who continues to live as a Taylor Swift fangirl by having karaoke sessions on her Twitch stream dedicated to the pop megastar and attending fan-made events. She is also set to attend her second Taylor Swift concert in March following the Speak Now concert she went to in 2012.

From being a Swiftie at a young age to creating a thesis inspired by the star, Kate has this lesson she wants to impart to her fellow Taylor Swift fans: "If you believe that something is worthwhile, then stand by it. Stand by it despite anybody's remarks. Stand by it because you know that it can make an impact. Stand by it because you are allowed to be defined by the things that you love and not boxed into a stereotype."

"I love Taylor Swift and the Swifties so much it feels like one whole big family all around the world," she added."And I can't wait to see where this takes us in the years to come with Taylor still making music that I'm sure we'll love."