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Sandara Park's journey to superstardom, and Filipinos' continued love for the Korean star

By Mica Rodriguez Published Sep 24, 2023 11:19 pm

K-pop fans around the world know her as DARA—one of the most successful Korean stars from the iconic girl group 2NE1, an in-demand global product endorser, as well as a favorite variety show guest, host, and judge. But Filipinos who were avid viewers of local TV shows between 2004 and 2008 call her Sandara Park or "Pambansang Krung-Krung ng Pilipinas." 

Now a Korean superstar, Sandara started her journey in the entertainment scene via the first season of Philippine talent show Star Circle Quest, which aired in 2004. After grueling months of competing with equally talented hopefuls, she emerged as the second placer in the contest, and went on to score various endorsement deals, recording contracts, and onscreen projects in the country.

Sandara Park auditions for Star Circle Quest at 19 years old.

She eventually became part of a hit love team with Hero Angeles, which debuted on the big screen in the trilogy film Bcoz of U (starring John Lloyd Cruz-Bea Alonzo and Geoff Eigenmann-Heart Evangelista) later that year. Due to public demand, it was followed by their own romantic movie titled Can This Be Love? in 2005.

Sandara Park and Hero Angeles in Bcoz of U

She became just as busy in the TV scene, appearing in different shows including ASAP and Gudtaym as well as Krystala, SCQ Reloaded: Ok Ako!, Your Song: Everything You Do, and Komiks: Machete.

Hero and Sandara later pursued different paths in their careers, so she got paired with her then-boyfriend Joseph Bitangcol in the movie 'D Lucky Ones. She also became part of the 2006 action-fantasy film Super NoyPi, which was one of her last known projects in the Philippines before she moved back to South Korea to be a trainee.

Three years later, Sandara was introduced as one of the members of 2NE1, a legendary girl group of the second generation of K-pop. Consisting of Sandara, CL, Minzy, and Park Bom, the quartet was able to produce hit songs like I Am the Best and Fire before their disbandment in 2016.

Even after 2NE1's separation, Sandara continued to be relevant in the entertainment industry. She starred in the musical drama One Step in 2017 and Cheese in the Trap in 2018. She also appeared in hit K-dramas like We Broke Up, My Love from the Star, The Producers, Missing Korea, One More Happy Ending, and Dinner Mate, but she still has yet to score a lead role in a Korean series.

The K-pop idol left YG Entertainment in 2020 and started anew with ABYSS, taking part in various Korean variety shows. In 2022, she appeared as Manny Pacquiao’s interpreter in Knowing Bros.

Manny Pacquiao meets Sandara Park on the set of Knowing Bros.

Filipinos remain loyal to Sandara Park

While Sandara has been inactive in local showbiz for more than a decade now, she has managed to remain a well-loved celebrity in the country. In her PH visits, the Korean star is left in awe of how Filipinos still recognize her after all these years—and she said it's not just the adults who grew up watching her, but the young ones, too.

"Question! Paano niyo ba ako naaalala hanggang ngayon kahit matagal na akong wala sa Philippine TV shows? Sa halos lahat ng generation, naaalala pa nila ako. Kahit sa mall, sa market, sa restaurant, sa lahat ng places. Kakagulat hehe I'm so happy!" she wrote in a post on X (formerly Twitter) during her Clark trip in June this year for Idol Truck Philippines.

"Sobrang nakakagulat at nakakaflatter na hanggang ngayon, kilalang kilala pa ako ng mga Pinoy. Maraming salamat sa love and support niyo sa akin. Mahal ko kayo! Forever," she tweeted.

Speaking as a longtime Dara fan, one of the things that I appreciate about her is how she hasn't forgotten about her love for the Philippines. She constantly talks about her favorite things about our country in her Korean TV interviews and her social media posts—from the Tagalog language, to Pinoy food and music, and beyond. She even said in a previous interview that she has become a go-to person for Koreans when they need to know what to do, where to go, and what to eat on their Philippine trips.

Even though her scheduled music events in Manila and Cebu for the year got canceled by organizers due to unforeseen circumstances, Sandara flew to the Philippines to surprise her Pinoy fans at Got7 BamBam's Area 52 concert in Manila just recently. As a special guest, she serenaded fans with her hit singles like Festival, Dara Dara, In or Out, and the 2NE1 hit I Am the Best.

She also dropped by her former home network ABS-CBN last weekend to perform Festival on the noontime show It's Showtime, where she, again, drew loud cheers from the audience.

Sandara Park performs on It's Showtime again after six years.

Sandara may be one of the global superstars of Asia at the moment, but she has never changed one bit. She's still the same Krung-Krung we used to know and love, someone who isn’t afraid to have fun and show her true self. It's amazing how no one can take away the Pinoy from her—even after all these years.