MANILA, Philippines - 'Korean fever' hit the Philippines way before Filipinos became hooked on the K-pop dance phenomenon "Gangnam Style."
Want proof? ABS-CBNnews.com compiled some pieces of evidence which prove that Korean culture has successfully penetrated the country.
Several Korean and Korean-inspired restaurants have popped up like mushrooms all over the metro, from those serving the traditional banchan (assorted side dishes) and bulgogi (grilled marinated meat) to those specializing in "double-fried" chicken.
While most of them are hole-in-the-wall joints put up by Koreans who live and work here, a handful of these restaurants are actual franchises straight from South Korea. Yoogane, Sariwon and Bulgogi Brothers all offer meat cooked on table-top grills, while Caffe Ti-Amo provides coffee, gelato and other sweet treats.
Even before all these restaurants were put up, Korean food was slowly introduced to Filipinos by way of groceries, supermarkets, convenience stores and specialty shops.
Hands down, the most popular Korean food item in the Philippines is kimchi, or fermented vegetables such as cabbage and radish with a variety of seasonings. Bibimbap, a bowl of rice topped with veggies and meat, is a close second for its resemblance to everyday Filipino fare.
For dessert, it's hard not to notice South Korea's very own Melona, those creamy fruit-flavored popsicles found almost anywhere in the city, and Red Mango frozen yogurt in kiosks inside malls.
Almost every Filipino has watched at least one Koreanovela (a mix of the words "Korean" and "telenovela") on free TV, whether it be the mistress-themed daytime soap "Two Wives" or the action series "City Hunter," which was aired on ABS-CBN twice due to insistent public demand.
Other popular soaps aired here include "Princess Hours" and "Boys Over Flowers," the Korean version of the Japanese series "Hana Yori Dango."
These shows featuring fresh-faced characters have become such a hit that a handful of them had local adaptations, such as the defunct "Lovers in Paris" starring KC Concepcion, Piolo Pascual and Zanjoe Marudo.
Korean shows are a great way to introduce Filipinos to the country's mainstream music, which is collectively called K-pop.
After listening to intros and ending songs of their favorite series, these Koreanovela junkies begin to research about different K-pop artists and bands, with the most popular of them in groups of four, five, or even 13 members.
The most famous K-pop group is Super Junior, which has held two jam-packed concerts in Manila. Of course, Filipinos also have a soft spot for the four-member 2NE1, which includes former ABS-CBN talent Sandara Park.
And after making the whole world do his hilarious horse dance, it is safe to say that Psy of "Gangnam Style" fame is included in every Filipino's K-pop playlist.
Along with the fascination for Korean stars is that urge to own their unique hairstyles and flawless complexion, thus the sudden popularity of Korean salons, cosmetics and other beauty and fashion items.
Some of these salons that have reached the Philippines are Tony & Jackey and Park Jun, while beauty stores include Nature Republic, The Face Shop and Etude House, which are all endorsed by Korea's top celebrities.
Also all over the web are online shops carrying apparel and accessories straight from Korea.
GADGETS AND APPLIANCES
The Philippines has been home to several Korea-made gadgets and appliances way before the age of Koreanovelas and K-pop in the country.
One of the biggest brands here -- and globally as well -- is Samsung, which sells anything from mobile phones to televisions. There is also LG, which is endorsed by "Boys Over Flowers" and "City Hunter" star Lee Min Ho.
For cars, Filipinos are no strangers to the brands Kia and Hyundai, both known for offering high-quality and affordable vehicles.