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The rebirth of P-pop boy group 1st.One

WHEN Ace, Alpha, Max, J, Joker, and Jayson entered the then-emerging P-pop industry in 2020 under the group name ‘1st.One’, they all had one dream in mind—to make their music and talent known to the world.

It was also the very same dream, coupled with many realizations and lessons in life, that emboldened the sextet to continue making music at the time the group was on the verge of disbanding.

Like a rising phoenix, 1st.One decided to rise from the ashes, much bolder and fiercer this time. They still have a long road to take and a younger generation to inspire.

This 2024, the group is entering the era of renaissance—the birth of a brand-new 1st.One.

Let us take a look back at the group’s roller-coaster journey and see what future roads they seek to travel together as a newly rebranded P-pop boy group.

The arrival of the six, the birth of 1st.One

The all-male six-member P-pop boy group debuted on July 31, 2020. The group name, 1st.One, was taken directly from their company FirstOne Entertainment, a Seoul-based talent management company recently founded in 2019.

According to the group, however, their name could also be interpreted in two ways.

1st.One may refer to the Almighty God being the “first one” and center of everything; it could also mean “never forgetting your roots”—looking back to where you started to move forward.

And for them, part of looking back to your roots is remembering all the memories of your trainee days.

Before they were launched as a group, the six members had to undergo rigorous training and a disciplined idol routine.

Ace, the main vocalist and leader of the group, was the first trainee under the company and was considered to have the longest training period—4 years—among the six.

He was already a soloist in the Philippines before becoming a P-pop idol.

He released three songs, including Blow The Night Away, Ikaw Pa Rin, and Giliw, under his real name, Val John. The latter two were produced under Star Music.

A staunch K-pop fan, he also became the Philippine representative to the KBS Kpop World Festival in 2015.

Ace mentioned that all members were trained in South Korea and the Philippines and narrated how free they were during their trainee days despite the strict training, as the members were allowed by the company to take sideline jobs or continue their studies. 

“May free will kami during those trainee days to [do] whatever we wanted. Ako po [nung] nasa Korea, doon po nagsa-sideline jobs minsan and sila naman dito [sa Pinas], kanya-kaya silang sideline. ‘Yun lang po, hindi ko alam paano nila na-manage na ‘pag kailangang umalis, anong ine-excuse nila sa mga sidelines nila,” he said. 

He also revealed he likes performing with his other members more than performing as a solo. 

“For me, mas gusto ko ‘yung group activities kaysa na nagso-solo ako before kasi parang feeling ko para akong superhero ‘pag kasama ko sila sa stage. Mas nafi-feel ko pa nga na natuto ako sa group, of course, may naibibigay ako from may solo experience to the group pero [it’s] more of the group allowing me to evolve and to grow,” he shared. 

Meanwhile, Alpha (main dancer and main rapper), (lead rapper), Joker (lead vocalist), and Max (main vocalist and lead dancer) were all trainees for three years. 

Alpha, Max, and Joker, along with Ace, were previously part of a dance group called VJBros. 

They clinched the grand prize at the Seoul Music Awards PH ‘Dance To Your Seoul’ and were able to represent the country at the Seoul Music Awards 2020. 

According to Alpha, it was Ace who convinced him to join the company. “Since we’re friends, parang kinontak nya ako, ‘Bro, magkakaroon kami ng private audition sa company namin, baka gusto mo mag-join?’,” he shared. 

He was able to pass the audition and immediately undergo training. 

“Sobrang hard ng training namin kasi knowing the Korean culture and the Korean system, sobrang strict talaga sila lalo na sa time management, sa lines ng pagsasayaw mo. Sa singing naman, kailangan sa vocalization pa lang kahit namamaos ka na, kailangang ma-hit mo pa din ‘yung tamang placement nung note,” Alpha narrated. 

Joker agreed with Alpha and even called their training as ‘pagdaan sa butas ng karayom.’ 

“7 AM pa lang po gigising na kami para mag-stretching. Around 9AM po, mag-start na kami sa vocalization hanggang 12 noon. After that po, 2 to 6 PM pero minsan po sumusobra pa, nagda-dance training na kami. Tapos ginagawa ‘yung training for 6 days a week, Sunday lang ang pahinga,” he explained. 

Jayson, the maknae, lead vocalist, and sub-rapper, was the last trainee for two years. 

As the latest addition to the group, he had to make many adjustments to blend with the members, making him the ‘golden boy’ and ‘chameleon,’ according to Ace. 

“Ang tawag namin sa kanya ay actually parang blank paper po sya eh, chameleon parang ganun. The golden boy. Kidding aside, si Jason yung madaling mag-blend, sya po talaga yung from zero background, nagbi-blend siya kaagad sa’min,” Ace told republicasia.

When asked whether their training routine has slightly changed years after they debuted, Ace answered that they are still doing the same thing from pre-debut until today. 

The group journey, discography

Shortly before their debut, 1st.One made history as the first Filipino boy group to perform at the prestigious Seoul Music Awards, attended by some popular K-pop groups, such as Red Velvet, NCT, and Twice. 

Max said that the experience was a core memory to the group. 

“Sobrang surreal ng feeling na parang totoo ba ‘to? Na-feel ko po that time [na] sobrang blessed and grateful na na-experience po namin yung ganoong kind of experience kasi one of a kind siya e, ‘yung feeling [na] hindi mo makakalimutan,” he shared. 

In July 2020, the group finally debuted with their single ‘You Are The One (Ttak Maja Nuh),’ which now has 1.3 million views on YouTube. 

The song was produced by Docksim, who previously worked with Big Hit Entertainment for BTS discography. The choreography was done by Ryu.D, who also helped in the choreography of other big K-pop groups, including NCT, BTS, and EXO. 

In October, the group released their first-ever special single, ‘Hold On.’ 

The group originally planned to take part in a World Tour Concert ‘Kpop x Ppop Showcase’ in 2021, but the project was canceled due to the pandemic. 

It was during that time the group experienced a lot of challenges as artists. Dubbed a ‘pandemic boy group,’ the members reminisced about some challenges they faced that made them who they are today. 

Max shared how the group members were sometimes fighting due to miscommunication. 

“Ako palasagot po kasi ako, alam ko po kung parang medyo mali ata ‘yung desisyon mo pero pinag-uusapan naman po muna namin [pag] may mga ganoong times naman po. ‘Yung isa sa mga naging struggle namin e ‘yung communication pero as time goes by, parang natuto [na] rin kaming kilalanin ang isa’t isa,” he said. 

Meanwhile, Joker shared that he had a phase where he doubted himself and struggled to receive criticisms with an open heart. 

“Pinakamahirap po bilang P-pop idol [e] kung paano ako magko-contribute sa group, paano ko ipu-prove na ‘yung posisyon ko na ‘to is para dito talaga ako and syempre pag may criticism na matatanggap, paano ko siya tatanggapin [and] itu-turn into positive energy ‘yun. ‘Yun talagang nahirapan ako, iniintindi ko at pinag-aralan ko [talaga],” he shared. 

Max further expounded the discourse, sharing that the group used to read criticisms online as an inspiration to perform better. But while criticisms are crucial for group improvement, Ace reminded people that we must still critique artists humanely

“Just be very humane about everything you do. At the end of the day kasi, it’s one community and we’re all human beings so be kind,” he said. 

Alpha, moreover, also shared the struggle of the group to be recognized by the public. But instead of being sad about it, he remains optimistic and hopes 2024 will be their year. J also reminded the group to trust the process and to always believe in yourself. 

“Siguro po, patience lang din pati yung tiwala sa sarili kasi hindi mo [naman] makukuha palagi ‘yung tiwala ng ibang tao, so mas mabuti na magsimula siya sa’yo. Pagkatiwalaan mo yung sarili mo at i-encourage mo yung sarili mo,” he shared. 

In 2021, the group finally made their official comeback with their second single, Oh!

During the interview, Max told republicasia that they thought this comeback would be the last for the group. 

“Kasi yung Oh!, it talks about our struggles and hardships during the pandemic so medyo mahirap po talaga noong time na ‘yun. And ‘yun din po yung kanta na parang tinuturing namin dapat last song namin kasi malapit na po kami mag-disband nung time na ‘yun. [Pero] lumaban kami, ayun po nandito po kami. Sobrang thankful kami sa fans namin [dahil] never silang nawala sa tabi namin,” shared Max. 

On the evening of December 31, 2021, the group surprised the fans with the announcement of their comeback in January 2022. 

The next month, the group released their comeback single ‘Shout Out,’ which would later top the Billboard Hot Trending Songs, making them the second P-pop group to achieve this milestone after SB19. 

Two months later, the group signed a contract with Warner Music Philippines. They would release two more songs, Turn Up and Dahil Sa Mahal Kita, before wrapping up their 2022 journey. 

In January 2023, 1st.One once again surprised their ForOne fandom with the release of ‘Problem Child,’ considered to be the highest budget P-pop MV yet worth P20 Million. 

This was followed by their new ballad single, ‘Oras.’ The group ended the year with their first-ever solo concert at the Teatrino Greenhills last December. 

Since their debut until today, the group has continued to produce songs that resonate with the hearts of many Filipinos. When asked what makes 1st.One unique as a group? 

Ace told republicasia that it was the ability of the group to incorporate and bond the different personalities of each member to form a certain group chemistry that makes them unique. In short, their uniqueness comes from creating harmony in diversity. 

He also added that most of them are rooted in the dance community, making their group much more flexible and creative when it comes to forming dance moves. 

But Ace reiterated that despite the uniqueness and different brandings of many P-pop groups in the country, the P-pop community should still support all groups as everyone is just trying to live their dreams. 

“Support Ppop and support all the groups out here, kasi I’m sure everyone is just trying their best to live the dream, so let’s be kind, kasi everyone is having their own struggles as well,” he added. 

Biggest 1st.One dream

This year, 1st.One revealed that they have a lot of upcoming surprises prepared for their beloved fans. According to the group, 2024 will be the year of a brand-new 1st.One with more music videos, content, and performances across the country. 

With the rebirth of the group, republicasia asked them what is their biggest dream for 1st.One.

Jayson responded with a short yet straightforward response, “More tours and performances sa ibang bansa.” 

For J, he dreams for the group to have a long-lasting legacy that will inspire many people. He hopes their songs may inspire future generations, particularly those dreaming of being an artist someday. 

Meanwhile, Alpha thanked his fans for always supporting them through their ups and downs. 

“FOR.ONE! We love you so much. Maraming-maraming salamat sa patuloy na pag-support sa amin sa ups and downs namin… Lalo na n’ung time nung Oh! era namin. Kayo talaga ‘yung rason kung bakit pa rin kami nagpapatuloy sa aming passion and music,” he said, smiling. 

Creative Head: Sven Gaffud
Executive Producer: Danica Rae Ulanday
Graphic Artist: Jadelyn Isiderio
Videographer: John Gabriel San Luis
Writer: Joshua Gerona

Production Staff
Charlene Pacinos 
Angelica Riego



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