BGYO: Beyond the Stage
From the incomparable impact of Beatlemania to the influential power of South Korea’s Hallyu groups with BTS at the helm, singers and idols are no longer limited to just the realm of music. Their spheres of influence overlap with many different parts of our day-to-day, including TV, film, reality shows, lifestyle and fashion; some even become voices of social change. While their schedules always circle back to performing on stage for many to witness, such personalities are responsible for juggling more roles, talents and skills as public personas under the spotlight.
In the world of local idol groups, it’s an adjustment many are trained to anticipate and welcome. After all, it’s part and parcel of their chosen career paths. And while many idols get better at it the longer they stay on the job, some are just absolute naturals at what they do, whether it’s delivering world-class performances, empowering the generations that look up to them and even being beacons of impeccable style.
If these are anything to go by, it’s safe to say that BGYO checks all the boxes of what it takes to be an idol group in this age and era. Their Spotify streams that clock in millions, their social media presence and their loyal fans—called ACEs—are all proof of this. But the longer we spoke to them, the further we discovered that there’s more to the group than the sum of their parts and the typical idol stereotype.
In 2018, ABS-CBN launched Star Hunt Academy, Star Magic’s arm that implemented the idol training system and molded many of the K-pop acts we know today. But most of the BGYO members admit that they didn’t know what to expect going into the audition all those years ago.
“Wala kaming idea ano papasukan namin, akala namin raket lang,” recounts JL. “After nung buong araw, naglapagan na ng kontrata, tapos sobrang haba, hindi namin alam na ganun pala iyon.”
(“We had no idea what we were getting into. We just thought it was another gig,” recounts JL. “After that whole day, we were given a long contract; we didn’t expect it to go that way.”)
“Parang ang bilis ng pangyayari,” Gelo agrees. “Parang nakaka–overwhelm ‘yung ino-offer nila sa amin, kasi part din doon ‘yung magbibigay sila ng holistic training—dancing, singing, kahit sa vlogging—ang dami!”
(“Everything happened really fast,” Gelo agrees. “The offer was overwhelming, because part of it was that they were going to give us holistic training–dancing, singing, even vlogging—it was a lot!”
And as their leader lists down the things covered by the training program, from the foundations of their performance to training with esteemed Korean coaches, it’s highly evident that all members eagerly took their chance to learn more and polish what they know now.
When asked to recall their struggles and sacrifices, Akira replies without any hesitation: “Diet! Ang lala po nung diet namin dati (Our diet used to be so intense)!” The members laugh in agreement, a horde of war flashbacks involving smoothie concoctions simultaneously replaying in their heads.
But on a more serious note, 2020 wasn’t an easy year for anyone, with dreams on hold and plans foiled until the last minute. So you can imagine what it was like for them as trainees. “I think a few of the main factors were the pandemic and the [company shutdowns],” shares Mikki. “Kasi ‘di pa kami nagde-debut noon, and we weren’t sure if we were going to be launched as a group talaga.”
“Part na rin doon is ‘yung ilang years na rin kaming nahiwalay sa [mga] family namin and marami kaming sinacrifice na time, tsaka ‘yung freedom namin para maabot kung ano ‘yung gusto naming ma-achieve ng grupo pag nag-debut na,” emphasizes Gelo. “Siyempre, struggle din ‘yung pagiging competitive para makapunta kami sa final roster. Kasi marami ding hard work, discipline and right attitude ‘yung kailangan para masama ka dun.”
(“Part of that is the years we spent away from family, the time and freedom we sacrified to reach what we wanted to achieve as a group when we finally debut,” emphasizes Gelo. “Of course, it’s also a struggle to compete to be part of the final roster. A lot of hard work, discipline and the right attitude are needed to be considered.”)
Being in the public eye has its advantages, but there’s no doubt that it also has its drawbacks. Aside from having to give up freedom and privacy, everybody gets to have an opinion on you. “I think normal naman siya bilang [public figures] na hati talaga ang opinyon ng mga tao sa’yo, so kami, nasasanay na kami at mas nagiging strong kami (I think it’s normal as [public figures] that people’s opinion of us are divided, so we’ve become used to it and we’ve become stronger because of it),” Gelo tells us.
The members of BGYO choose to stand their ground and stay unbothered, especially when they know that there’s no truth to what naysayers have to say. But when it comes to their performances and their craft, they’ve learned to discern what’s constructive criticism and what’s not. “Siguro nung una, syempre bago pa kami, so nagiging affected kami. Pero nung tumagal, kayang-kaya na ‘yan. Basta solid kaming lima, ‘yun ‘yung importante (At first, of course we were only beginning, so we were affected. But as time passed, we could easily do it. As long as we’re solid, us five, that’s what’s important).”
Despite all the hurdles—the good, the bad, the funny and the ugly (like diet shakes!)—the five members of BGYO finished strong. A few years after their highly anticipated debut in 2021, they have two EPs under their belts and a handful of promotional singles and covers. All their polished performances brought them to represent the scene locally and internationally, further cementing their names in P-pop as one of its leaders, even getting a shoutout from the Recording Academy.
“We’re very honored to be a part of almost the beginning of P-pop, and we’re happy to be on the charts with other P-pop groups, ” Nate enthuses. But with such recognition comes great responsibility, a challenge they see positively instead of a burden they need to carry. “Of course, there’s pressure [on us] because we want to keep rising, to set a good standard for the next groups while also moving forward for ourselves.”
Part of marching onward and helping the rest of the P-pop industry flourish is finding new things to keep them on their toes as idols and artists. This allows them to evolve as creatives and individuals. Nate likens it to playing a game, where ascending levels lets you optimize your character. “In the beginning, everything’s locked,” he explains. “Each year goes by, and we unlock something new. This year, we unlocked sub-unit and solo projects. So we’re learning a lot of new things.”
This evolution includes an ongoing fashion collaboration with homegrown duo REIKA and Ellis Co AKA .ARCHIVES, with Gelo and Mikki even walking one of their most recent shows. The Philippines’ leading designers highlighting future-oriented conceptwear even showcased their craft in Japan during Rakuten Fashion Week.
On their fruitful partnership with BGYO, .ARCHIVES shares, “As young creatives with a penchant for fashion, we felt that it made sense to have them represent the brand in our show. Additionally, .ARCHIVES is also heavily influenced by music. Before delving into fashion, Ellis Co started as a music producer and rap artist while REIKA started in the creative industry as a Creative Director for musicians and local artists. Our inclination and exposure to music deeply influence the philosophy and DNA of the brand.”
BGYO is wearing .ARCHIVES
When asked to describe the remaining months of 2023 for ACEs in one word, the BGYO members leave us with this:
When one digs deeper into BGYO, one of the early misconceptions cleared is the origin of their group name. So no, it’s not a play on bagyo (tropical cyclone). But if you ask their dedicated ACEs (or choose to see for yourself by watching a performance), it’s no secret that these boys always create the perfect storm on stage.
And it’s evident that wherever these boys go, thunderous applause will follow.
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Photography Renzo Navarro
Art Alexandra Lara
Beauty Direction Elisa Aquino
Makeup Cherry Lising
Hair Ronnie Hernandez
Set Design Paul Jatayna
Production Wonder and Myc Priestley
Location Bulb Studios