Never in my life had I felt as out of place as when I arrived at the World Trade Center last May 12. Lots of people were already walking around, cameras and phones in battle ready mode (read: twisty tripod set up in selfie position), animatedly talking to the screens as if they were their best friends. Truly, a scene from the future.
In a (failed) effort to be hip and cool person, I got out my phone and took a quick Snap Story of the giant YouTube sign outside the venue. Then I remembered that Instagram stories are where it’s at nowadays, and quickly saved the video for posting later.
All this techie business may seem out of place elsewhere, but it was all perfectly normal for today’s event: the Manila leg of YouTube Fanfest 2017. Though it was scheduled to start in the late afternoon, fans were already lining up in the morning with the hopes that they’d catch a glimpse of their YouTube faves (including international stars Lilly Singh, Alex Wassabi, and LaurDIY, and local stars Wil Dasovich, Mikey Bustos, Janina Vela, and Lloyd Café Cadena).
I arrived early for the press conference, where we got to ask the YouTubers a couple of questions about their craft. Two things stuck out from all the other answers because they completely debunked my concept of a typical vlogger or influencer. First, they all agreed that passion is what should fuel a person to pursue creating on YouTube — not money or popularity; and second, YouTube fosters an environment where fans and creators can communicate and collaborate with each other, creating a community where people work together to make great content.
The passion clearly showed later that evening, when all 15 YouTubers went on stage to perform. Mikey Bustos hosted the event, bringing a Filipino flavor to the floor with all his costume changes (I spotted a salakot and barong combo, YouTube play button, sequined Filipino flag suit, and a unicorn).
Aside from just games and little gimmicks, there were more song and dance performances this time around—Jayden Rodriguez and Matt Steffanina dazzled the crowd with their choreography, LaurDIY and Alex Wassabi did a live version of their fanmade song My Side, and Lilly Singh brought out Humble the Poet for her performances of #LEH and IVIVI.
Fans were over the roof with excitement from beginning to end (you could tell from the screaming, RIP ears). Who could blame them? Their energy was contagious.
By the time the show was over and all the confetti was being swept off stage, I got out my phone and posted my Instagram stories, already mentally reminding myself to binge-watch YouTube videos as soon as I got home.