Manila (CNN Philippines Life) — Britney Spears is wearing a schoolgirl outfit while dancing in the hallways of a Catholic school. This image, along with the catchy melody of the pop song, from the “Baby One More Time” music video is what drew Christian Espiritu Enzo to become a fan. He was five.
“‘Pag sinusundo ako ng papa ko ng mga six years old ako, di niya ako sinusundo nang hindi pa siya bumibili bago dumating ng school ko ng Britney Spears posters dun sa tindahan,” he says. “‘Yung papa ko very supportive.”
Enzo says he knows of other Britney Spears fans who don’t get the same support from their family or their friends; worse, others have been bullied for having this “crazy” obsession. Fortunately for him, he didn’t have to endure any bullying for being a Britney fan, although he did recall one classmate in grade school aggressively asking him why he was a fan of Britney when he clearly was a boy.
“Sabi ko, ‘Ba’t hindi ba pwede eh nilabas si Britney as a pop star ibig sabihin pwede siya for everybody,’” he says. “Depende na lang kung anong klaseng gender ang magkakagusto sa kanya. She's for everybody.”
Over the years, his collection grew, from cassette tapes and posters to dolls and perfumes. He has also since started the biggest Britney Spears fan page in the Philippines. And now, at 25, he and his wife opened In The Zone Ramen and Cafe last year on Dec. 2, Britney’s birthday.
Tucked in a modest corner in Maria Orosa St., Malate, the cafe’s pink and white interiors are plastered with framed illustrations of Britney that Enzo drew himself. On the ledges are Britney’s iconic costumes he recreated, such as that of the schoolgirl outfit in “Baby One More Time,” the pink midriff look in “I'm a Slave 4 U,” and the corset-tuxedo ensemble in “Me Against The Music.”
The waitresses, dressed in a tattered white shirt and a pair of denim jeans, are also inspired by Britney’s outfit in her “I Wanna Go” music video. A television also hangs on the cafe wall which plays all of Britney’s hits over and over again, and as if this isn’t enough, all of the food names on the menu are cheeky wordplay of Britney’s songs (Baby One More TanTan, Slave Shoyu, Pork Bitch, and My Tapsilogative, among others).
The second floor is where he keeps some of his Britney memorabilia, and the space is usually just reserved for fans. He says fans call it “the prayer room,” as it is indeed akin to an adoration chapel; only instead of a eucharistic symbol, one sees a massive photo of Britney’s “Glory - Tour Editon” album.
When asked if there was a particular instance when he knew there was a purpose of his being a Britney fan, he recalls one incident when he was in third year high school when he was severely mistreated by his math teacher, and how watching Britney’s videos would somehow help him power through the anxiety and terror he experienced in school.
“Sinasabihan akong, ‘Ang tanga tanga mo,’” he shares. “Pinasagot ako sa black board tapos di ko alam, tapos di ko maalala paano ko nagawa dati. Parang nablanko ako sa takot ko. Tapos pinambura ng teacher ‘yung mukha ko sa black board.”
This bullying went on for three years, and for these three years, he just turned to Britney. One night, however, the terror inflicted on him by his teacher was too much to bear that he says he was so close to ending his life. He prayed that night, asking God for any sign that will help him hold on.
“Nung nag-pray ako nun, day after, dumating ‘yung papa ko sa bahay namin dala-dala niya ‘yung mga luma kong Britney na drawing, mga luma kong poster galing sa dati naming bahay,” he says. “Kaya naging strong talaga ‘yung hold ko kay Britney after that experience.”
Britney also had her fair share of low moments, the most famous one being the 2007 incident of her shaving her head. Enzo said that while he knew this was a deeply sad stage of Britney’s career, especially with people speculating that she might end up dead for partying too much, doing drugs, and being an overall mess, he says that her ability to bounce back and to continue performing and releasing music for the fans was more indicative of Britney’s true character.
Enzo thinks this is also Britney’s way of reminding him that there is always hope. “Si Britney nga na-continue niya mabuhay, so ako kaya ko din.”