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K-Fever: Who are the Noona-tics?

By JOANNE RAE M. RAMIREZ, The Philippine STAR Published Oct 08, 2021 5:00 am Updated Oct 08, 2021 2:13 pm

Captain Ri and Yoon Se-ri’s “K-lig” romance has spawned many offspring — and one of them is more than a quintuplet — it’s a group of over two dozen oftentimes giggly Assumptionistas from the same high school batch.

They’re called “Noona-tics” — “Noona” being the Korean word for “older sister,” or an older (aray ko!) female friend of a man. After all, we Noona-tics are middle-aged, some with children as old as Park Seo-joon (born 1988) and Park Bo-gum (born 1993). As for the addition of “tics” after Noona, well, you know what “lunatic” means, so I dare not elucidate lest I incriminate myself.

I am just a recent addition to the group, which by the way includes our batch’s salutatorian — though at least two of the earlier Noonas (Dolly Pangan Specht and Rina Go, no backtracking!) swear they got swoony over Binnie after my review of Crash Landing on You (CLOY) last year, and never looked back...

The Noona-tics have “Oppas” (an honorific or term of endearment for older men, but online sources say it can also mean “boyfriend”) on our TV screens — and in our techni-Kolored dreams. Basta, I see all the giddy fans shouting “Oppa, Oppa” in videos of Hyun Bin walking by, even just to the airport’s check-in counters, so I guess to me and many Pinays, “Oppa” means “male idol,” no matter its formal meaning.

The Noona-tics’ “Oppas,” according to Guia Mendoza-Tiongson, the group’s resident weaver of dreams (via Photoshop, that is), include but are not limited to: Hyun Bin (the topnotcher Oppa of the group), Song Joong-ki, Park Bo-gum, Jo In-sung, Kim Seon-ho, Lee Min-ho, Gong Yoo, PSJ, Cha Eun-woo, Ji Chang-wook, etc. (Sorry, if I missed your Oppas, ladies, I mean, Noonas.)

The group was conceived after the RiRi romance, and born on an auspicious day at that, Oct. 10, 2020, after the Zoom birthday celebration of Chary Ozaeta-Goh. The after-party was spiked, not by soju (but, who knows?) but by discussions of K-Drama. One of those at the after-party was our Korean-born batchmate Innhae Morgan, who suggested “Noonas” as the name of the group. Well, she knew whereof she spoke.

  The ‘Noona-tics’  and their ‘Oppas’ in dreamland.

From the original 14, the Noonas’ membership grew as the love for K-Drama spread across oceans and took on a force of its own. It became a Viber group whose thread of discussions bound classmates wherever in the world they might be. The Viber group has become the “happy place” of many Noonas — no passports, just WiFi or 5G needed.

Says Vietnam-based hotel executive Anna Dolor-Fernandez: “I was able to survive this pandemic alone in Saigon because of K-Dramas and the Noonas!”

Noona-tics merch, anyone?

“It’s a respite!” adds Rina. And when on a prolonged respite, it’s a fixer-upper. Rina recalls that when she was hospitalized earlier this year, K-Drama, not just on Netflix but also through Dramacool, was her booster shot to recovery.

“For me, the Noona group is my happy place, and it is full of joy and friendly joking. Definitely, all this sisterly support is a big stress-buster. How else would we manage to survive this pandemic lockdown with heart and soul intact?” shares mall executive Lisa Mapua, who was “elected” president of the Noonas, hands down — or should I say, finger hearts up? (She was “anointed” by Rina Go, ex-cathedra!)

Lisa has steered the group through pathways of delightful discussions (there is only one rule: No spoilers!) and through the lines of an Excel spread sheet wherein each K-Drama series is rated, with information (no spoilers!) about the drama as potent as the spices in kimchi. Lisa’s spreadsheet is K-nowledgeable, a K-nockout, I K-id thee not.

A scene from Crash Landing on You

Lisa recalls: “Like a lot of other groups, the Noonas started with CLOY. Instantly I was hooked and had found my new crack to help me de-stress and weather the pandemic. I embarked on my own K-Drama festivals themed on actors: Hyun Bin, Lee Jong-suk, Park Bo-gum. Before I knew it, I had spent my pandemic lockdown nights watching over 40 K-Drama titles. So, I started keeping my own list on Excel of the titles I had watched, and the ones I intended to watch, which kept growing.”

“After the Noonas gelled, I shared my list via screencaps and expanded the database fields for everyone’s benefit to include K-Drama title, where to watch, mini synopsis, genre, year released, number of episodes and length, viewer’s rating, male leads, female leads. As a kicker, we started contributing our own ‘Noona scores.’ A score of 5 means, ‘would watch again.’ This also allowed the Noonas to track what K-Dramas they had watched.”

The first time I beheld the Noona list late last year, I rushed to watch Mr. Sunshine and it remains among the top 5 K-Dramas on my own J-List. (“J” for Joanne, of course.)

Scene from Mr. Sunshine.

Lisa also found her go-to resource sites for all this information, so adding new titles was easy. The list now has over 900 K-Drama titles and is still growing. 

“I track all the titles that earned a 5 from each Noona, for easy reference for your genre soulmate (Yes, we all don’t like the same K-Dramas equally!) We also have a shorter list of K-Movies seen by the Noonas. Once a month, I will share the file for their use, but still there is nothing like a shout-out to the rest of the Noonas: ‘What shall I watch next’?”

This regular shout-out in the Noona Viber thread is the best instant guide to binge-worthy K-Dramas, as it was my GPS to Hospital Playlist 1 and 2, which I absolutely adore. I would rate it a whopping 5.

Five stars for Hospital Playlist

I found the first four episodes of one recent K-Drama the group was actively discussing quite “trivial” and President Noona Lisa gave this sage advice: “It’s good for stress relief. Not all K-Dramas have gravitas!”

Risa Baltazar-Nepomuceno adds: “Best remedy for COVID is Kovid (Korean Videos). May voluntary Kuarantine pa!”

I’m happy that I get to have the last word.

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.