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#FangirlGigs: My 'Eras Tour' story

By Samantha Timbreza Published Mar 11, 2024 5:31 pm Updated Mar 12, 2024 12:16 pm

There is no version of telling this story without me being emotional. To this day, I cannot believe that it happened. Surreal is an understatement. All possible odds were against me... until they weren’t.

My sharp memory recalls the very first time I heard Taylor Swift. Back then, I was undergoing chemotherapy due to being diagnosed with Systemic Lupus Erythematosus (SLE). I was 16, on my way home from the hospital, and Teardrops on my Guitar played on the radio. Let’s be honest—it was every teenager’s theme song for their teenage martyrdom of unrequited love.

Fast forward to 16 years and 12 Grammy wins later in 2022—she announced her first tour in five years since the pandemic and called it “The Eras Tour,” referring to her albums throughout her 20-year music career.

All along, I thought I would only be “seeing” the concert online and reading stories about how people enjoyed the shows. I went about my life, playing her songs on my guitar, never imagining that I would have my own story to tell about my Eras Tour.

This is Me Trying 

The year 2023 was the toughest of my life. Early in the year, my dad passed away. A few weeks later, I had to undergo a coronary angiogram as they found that my heart was enlarged. By this time, I have also been a dialysis patient for eight long years, so complications or side effects are starting to arise.

One night in early July 2023, I found myself registering for the general sale of tickets for Taylor Swift’s “The Eras Tour” in Singapore. For some reason, I felt a voice telling me to try to get tickets.

I was hospitalized again with my total bill amounting to almost P200,000. The little that I was able to save for the concert was drained, and so were my hopes of coming to Singapore.

My friend Chelze was able to secure a VIP ticket for me. It was a splurge, but it was the only ticket left. I had a bit of money saved, and since it was still July, I thought I had a few more months before the March concert to save for plane and hotel bookings. I thought I had a chance, so I would try.

But then, all the odds started coming up against me. Two months after buying the ticket, the arteriovenous fistula (AVF) in my left arm expired, causing me to lose my only dialysis access. I needed two surgeries—one to put temporary dialysis access on my neck (the intrajugular catheter) and another to create a new AVF in my right arm. My doctor also recommended to remove the old fistula on my left arm. Hence, I underwent three surgeries in September 2023. 

Got my VIP kit!

Recovery, as were the costs of those surgeries, was a steep uphill battle. I was only able to have them because of the donations from family and friends.

Through this period, I was worried about still not being able to book my plane and hotel for the March trip to Singapore, but I told myself that there were still a few more months and that I could still try.

However, by late November 2023, when I was supposed to book my plane ticket and hotel, the temporary dialysis access they put in my neck back in September became infected, causing a severe blood infection. I was hospitalized again, with my total bill amounting to almost P200,000.

The little that I was able to save for the concert was drained, and so were my hopes of coming to Singapore. Best believe, though, that I was in denial until it was already February and I had to face reality: it was time to sell my Taylor Swift tickets. 

Like Daylight 

Before I sold my ticket, I went online to crowdsource to ensure that the transaction would be as smooth as possible for me and my buyer. I posted some of my questions that I could not find the answer to by simply reading the mechanics and Google-ing. 

By some stroke of fate, a friend of my mom who is the publisher for PhilSTAR L!fe saw my post and messaged me, asking if I would be willing to write an article for them about “The Eras Tour” and bringing home stories, in exchange of them covering for my hotel and plane to Singapore.

After what seemed like months of dark nights, that message felt like I was finally seeing daylight. I immediately replied and expressed interest (because, hello?!). 

The confirmation came about a week before the concert date. I was excited, but I could not let myself feel it at the time because, in my head, there still were so many odds that could rise against me. Nevertheless, I was happy because I finally would have a hotel and plane to get to Singapore! Little did I know that the hotel and plane bookings were just part of the whole experience that L!fe prepared for me.

Never in My Wildest Dreams 

I had no expectations. In my head, I was beyond grateful already that I was getting on a plane to see Taylor Swift and I had a place to stay in. Never in my wildest dreams did I think that I would be given princess treatment—boarding on a plane with stellar flight service, staying at an excellent hotel that cares for your mindful well-being, having fun activities that inspire your creativity, and even getting an awesome outfit sponsor.

When I got to the airport, Cathay Pacific already stood out with such a warm and accommodating check-in service. I was invited to visit their lounge, which was in itself a dream come true. 

Cathay Pacific Lounge in Terminal 3

Cathay Pacific’s airport lounge did not disappoint. At 5:30 am, I found myself in a peaceful, cozy lounge, eating a hearty breakfast meal (I ordered their delicious chicken siomai and wonton noodle soup from their Noodle Bar). It was just the beginning, but if I were an emoji, I would already be the one smiling with heart eyes. With a kick-off like this, I just knew my first-ever international trip would be nothing short of awesome.

When we boarded the plane, I was impressed by the way the flight attendants welcomed us, also fully aware of our special requests—with me asking for a non-beef meal. The flight itself was excellent, even with a short layover in Hong Kong. 

Upon landing, we headed straight to Conrad Singapore Orchard, which provided us with a spacious and comfy suite. We had a living area, a walk-in closet, two toilets, and two big beds enough to collapse in after a long and tiring day. After the tour, Conrad Singapore Orchard hosted us at their exquisite Manhattan bar, where they served us their best drinks, let us experience making their drink called “Charlie Chaplin,” and even let us have the best in their food menu. I particularly loved meeting the chef and head bartender, as they were kababayans—Chef Carol and Kelvin Saquilayan were amazing! 

We capped our first night off with dinner at Kubo, a woodfired kitchen known for serving modern Filipino cuisine (watch out for Chef Kurt!). The experience of eating at Kubo will make you feel right at home and miss home at the same time. It’s really something, and I hope more people get to experience Kubo the way we did. 

At this point, I was already thinking that this experience was beyond crazy, but then it was only getting started. 

The Best Day 

On our first day in Singapore, we headed straight to Ginlee, where I was able to make a pleated sling bag to use at the concert. I particularly enjoyed making the selections of fabric, strings, and other materials, plus mixing and matching, and then seeing the bag finished and ready to be used. The bag was not only beautiful, but it was also something I could call truly mine because I was part of making it. I loved meeting Iris, our guide at the Ginlee bagmaking, and I was so inspired by her design skills. She wore a skirt made out of different neckties—creativity truly knows no bounds.

To cap off the preparations that I needed to do for the concert, Love, Bonito invited us to their store at Ion Orchard for a shopping spree. My friends and I have been fans of the brand. In fact, I already knew exactly which item to look for when I got to their store! I chose a denim midi skirt and a baseball cap (I have a growing collection) that says, “It’s my era!” which was so fitting for the tour.

The next day was concert day for me, but Conrad made sure to prep me by giving us a new room that’s nearer to the stadium, over at the Conrad Centennial Singapore. Our room had a spectacular view of the National Stadium and the Fountain of Wealth in Suntec City. They also generously filled our bellies before the concert with a five-course Chinese feast at the hotel's Golden Peony.

...Ready for It? 

L!fe gave me such a rich experience that was exactly the stuff of my wildest dreams. I felt so blessed. By the time I was supposed to go to the concert, I was more than ready for it.

At the venue, I did what every Swiftie would do—exchanged friendship bracelets while in the queue and took pictures of them. 

Wearing Love, Bonito and my Ginlee bag

At 6 pm sharp, Sabrina Carpenter’s set began, and while I was not all that familiar yet with her songs, I can say that I enjoyed her performance very much. I understand why Taylor chose her as the opening act. Sabrina is talented and gorgeous, and she—like everyone in the room—is a Swiftie. 

Going through her eras also means going through ours. Celebrating her eras in the concert very much felt like a safe space to celebrate our own eras, too.

Invisible String 

Soon, “The Eras Tour” was opening with Miss Americana and the Heartbreak Prince, and there was Taylor Swift right before my eyes.

As Taylor went through every era in her tour, eras of my life also flashed back. That teenage, emotional era when we were blasting out Fearless songs in our headphones. That angsty, young adult era going through heartbreaks when Reputation came out. The thing with us Swifties these days is we not only enjoy and relate to Taylor’s songs, but we practically grew up with her, too.

@philstarlife #erastoursingapore, you will be unforgettable! #TaylorSwift #erastoursg #celebritynewsph #entertainmentnewsph ♬ original sound - philstarlife

Going through her eras also means going through ours. Celebrating her eras in the concert very much felt like a safe space to celebrate our own eras, too. That connection between each fan and Taylor is so strong that it drew thousands upon thousands of people on her tour from places all over the world just to sing and party the night away with her. 

I took a moment to take it all in while I was in the stadium in the middle of Taylor’s Fearless set. I found myself in tears. All I can say is it all felt like there was an invisible string that tied me to that moment.

In my heart of hearts—and I know every Swiftie in that room could relate—I knew that I was meant to be in that place that night, singing my heart out, celebrating life. It’s just so pretty to think that all along, there was some invisible string—tying me to that moment. 

What Died Didn’t Stay Dead 

Many concertgoers had tears in their eyes the moment Taylor unraveled from the huge flower petals in the opening. Mine were unstoppable in the evermore era, right when marjorie started playing. The song was Taylor’s ode to her grandmother Marjorie who was an opera singer. In fact, we hear a sample of Marjorie’s operatic singing voice just when Taylor sings, “If I didn’t know better, I’d think you were singing to me now.” I got chills when I heard that part in the stadium. It was so powerful. 

With my dad passing away just a little more than a year before this show, I could not help but wonder how Dad would feel now that I got to see Taylor Swift live. As an underrated instrumentalist and musician, Dad has always been my number one accomplice in all things music-related. When marjorie was playing in the stadium, I felt Dad cheering me on. And as Taylor’s song goes, I’d tell Dad that “if I didn’t know better, I’d think you were still around. What died didn’t stay dead, you’re alive, so alive.” 

Taylor’s songs resonate among fans even in this way, and if you’d ask us, we have one Taylor Swift song for every slice of our life, grief being one of them.

I was lucky enough to have such fun seatmates in the show, who both went to the show solo like me. To my left was Christine from China and to my right was Kim from the Philippines as well.

This is one of the things that fans love about Taylor: the way she weaves words beautifully into harmonies and melodies that would tug just the right string in our hearts and allow us to feel what we feel; a safe space to be our most authentic selves, if you must. 

Today was a Fairytale

My stay in Singapore was truly a fairytale, thanks to L!fe and our partners. I think credit must also be given to L!fe’s head editor, Camille Santiago, who kept me company on this trip, for her patience and for being so fun and game. Perhaps also the proper respect to its publisher, Ms. Sheila Paras who, if there was an invisible string that tied me to Taylor, was the one who did the tying herself.

I will also give credit to my mom, whose meaningful connections made decades ago still reap goodness for her daughter to this day. The one thing that she always teaches me is that we must be kind and we must do good, even when we think no one sees it, for someone somewhere always does, and that good we do always come back one way or another.

This is one of the things that fans love about Taylor: the way she weaves words beautifully into harmonies and melodies that would tug just the right string in our hearts and allow us to feel what we feel.

Taylor calls it Karma. Maybe it is, maybe it isn’t. But if there is one thing that I would like my Eras Tour story to leave you, my reader, it’s that I hope this story inspires you to believe in your biggest, wildest dreams.

I hope that you will be fearless enough to dream that dream, even if it sometimes feels like life is sad, beautiful, and tragic. I hope that you keep wishing on starlights, put that wish out in the world, see how everything changes, and find yourself in a state of grace.

We went to Mama Diam and Lou Shang for a sumptuous dinner. There, they serve local, modern Singaporean dishes that I truly enjoyed. In the photo are Sebastian Ang, the bar owner, my friends Albert and Tin, Lou Shang's bar manager Hex, and head editor Camille Santiago.

When you’re there, I hope you take the moment and taste it, and cherish how the universe conspired to pull you out of the woods. Please continue believing that in our history, across the great divide, there is a glorious sunrise and, my friend, it’s been waiting for you.