"Medyo nao-overwhelm pa po kami pero at the same time, super thankful."
There's no way but up for the boys of SB19.
Over the past few months, SB19 has been capturing the attention of OPM fans and even the international media for their catchy tunes, angelic voices, and powerful dance moves.
SB19 is a Pinoy-pop (P-pop) group composed of Ken, Josh, Sejun, Justin, and Stell. They are the first Filipino group who trained under ShowBT Philippines, a Korean entertainment company.
PEP.ph (Philippine Entertainment Portal) learned more about the boys during their press conference for their latest single, "Alab," held on January 10, 2020 at the Novotel Hotel in Quezon City.
The idea of training Filipino talents in Korea started in 2016.
Charles Kim, CEO of ShowBT Philippines, said in a 2018 press conference of SB19 that hundreds of aspiring talents auditioned for the chance to train with their company.
Charles told the press, "We auditioned around 300 very passionate [talents]... And then we chose I think around ten. And then from ten, we cut it, cut it to five boys, which is now SB19."
That is how SB19 was formed.
According to Charles, the "SB" from the group's name stands for ShowBT. As for number 19, he explained, "We always want to be 19 years old."
For the members, SB19 has a different meaning.
Sejun told KStreetManila.com, "We had another meaning to SB—Sound Break. As a group, our main goal is to break into the music scene and to raise the bar for all the boy groups here in the Philippines.
"'Tapos yung 19 naman, it’s because SB19 is a collaboration between the Philippines and Korea. 19 because it’s the country code of Korea and the Philippines: 82 and 63. So if you add 8, 2, 6, and 3, it’s 19. And if you subtract 82 and 63, it’s also 19."
SB19 trained for two years under the strict supervision of producer Robin Geong and Adelaide Namki Hong, ShowBT Philippines' Academy Director.
And just like K-pop idols, ShowBT also has strict rules for SB19 to keep their image squeaky clean.
Charles told the press, "They were trained under very, very strict Korean entertainment management way.
"They come on time every time. If not, there are penalties... We really implement all the Korean way."
On January 10, Robin, or Tatay Robin to fans of SB19, also revealed, "No cigarette, no drinking, no girlfriend."
He added, with the help of a translator, "Basically kapag may ginawang kasalanan socially or legally, tanggal po agad... Kapag din po may problema sa attitude, tanggal din po agad."
Ken, Josh, Sejun, Justin, and Stell's trainee period was not a walk in the park.
In an interview with Showtime Online last October 2019, Stell recalled, "Nung nag-start yung training namin, ang daming tinuturo sa amin.
"Tinuturuan kami ng mga musicals, ang daming trainings namin before. Meron din po kaming basic ballet. Everything po tinuro sa amin, kahit personality development."
In a separate interview with i-Witness, Josh said they spent at least nine hours a day in rigorous training camps to help improve their performance and move as a team.
Josh gave further insight to their typical day as trainees. He recalled, "Every day po yung training namin 'tapos once a week yung usual rest day namin.
"Yung training, nagsa-start sa body conditioning, 'tapos vocal exercises, dancing, singing."
SB19 started performing in Korean-Filipino events and festivals as a way to introduce themselves to Filipino K-pop fans.
In August 2018, the group even opened the stage for K-pop girl group Momoland at an exclusive event in Solaire Resort & Casino.
On October 26, 2018, they released their debut single "Tilaluha." The music video starred BNF (Benefit) member Harang and Miss Korea Philippines 2018 Park Se Eun. At that time, the group received lukewarm reception from OPM fans but they didn't lose hope.
In July 2019, SB19 reaped the fruits of their hard work through their sophomore single "Go Up." Their comeback song went viral a few weeks after the music video was released on YouTube, with netizens praising the group's impressive vocals and synchronized dance moves.
It was later revealed that the members of SB19 were the ones who wrote the lyrics of the song. They also worked with Korean music producer Lee Oh Won, who has produced songs for top K-pop acts such as TVXQ, Kim Jae Joong, Stray Kids, and Wanna One. At press time, "Go Up" has over 5 million views on YouTube.
Just like other K-pop groups, SB19 also has its own official color and official fandom name. During a livestream in November 2019, members of SB19 revealed they chose sky blue as their official color to represent their "confidence and sincerity."
As for their fandom name, SB19 picked the word "A'TIN" (pronounced as "eighteen"), which suggests the group wouldn't exist without their fans.
SB19's popularity reached international status and they made history for being the first Filipino act to debut on the Billboard Social 50, a weekly "ranking of the most active artists on the world's leading social networking sites."
The group debuted on the 28th spot of the said chart last week. A week later, their ranking jumped to the 19th spot. Last weekend, SB19 climbed up to the 17th spot, beating American pop superstar Rihanna and K-pop icons Super Junior.
At their January 10 press conference, the group said they still feel overwhelmed by the massive support they received from their fans since the release of "Go Up."
Josh told the press, "Ang expectation po talaga namin, maliit lang po. Kasi ang iniisip po namin, talagang mabagal lang po kaming aangat. Slowly but surely.
"Pero ngayon po, kabaliktaran po yung mga nangyayari. Medyo nao-overwhelm pa po kami pero at the same time, super thankful.
"Wala po talaga kaming expectations na makakapasok kami sa malalaking charts lalo na sa international."
With such a strong fanbase, the group makes sure that fame won't go to their heads.
Ken explained, "Honestly, personally po, hindi ko po feel na sikat kami kasi hindi naman lahat ng tao kilala kami. Hindi naman po lahat ng tao napi-please namin.
"Pine-praise nila kami, yung skills namin. Pero sa grupo namin, mas fino-focus namin na yung feet namin is still on the ground."
To prove Ken's point, Josh said they still take public transportation when they're not working. He said, "Wala naman pong nagbago sa personality namin, nagji-jeep pa nga po kami."
Ken added, "'Tapos minsan po, like makikita namin sa T.V. sa train, 'Uy, kami yun!' Tapos yung mga tao [nakatingin sa amin]."
Currently, the members of SB19 are busy promoting their third single "Alab," their biggest hit to date. In the two weeks since its release, SB19's music video for this song has been viewed over 2.4 million times.
SB19 members are also working on their full-length album under Sony Music Philippines. The album titled Get In The Zone is expected to be released this March. The members also getting ready to visit key cities around the Philippines as part of their SB19: Get In The Zone nationwide concert tour.
Tatay Robin also announced during the press conference that there is a possibility for the group to work with Korean idols.
But for now, they are focused on establishing their careers first in the country before pursuing other projects.
Josh said, "May possibility po pero as of now, focus po muna kami sa P-pop. Pero in the future po, open naman po kami sa mga possibilities [na], 'What if mag-promote sa ibang bansa?' Hindi lang po sa Korea, what if sa U.S. din?
"Siguro open lang po kami sa possibilities and kung meron pong kailangang aralin, gagawin po namin."
Asked which among the current K-pop groups they wish to work with, Josh answered, "From the very beginning, BTS po talaga kasi since they're at the top, di ba po? Sila po talaga yung idol namin from the very beginning and up until now... and hopefully, in the future, makasama po namin sila in one stage."
SB19 is also looking forward to expanding its concert tour abroad.
Tatay Robin revealed, with the help of a translator, "Meron kaming nare-receive na contacts from other countries and ang plano po namin this year is to do a concert or tour in five cities abroad."
Full name: John Paulo Nase
Position: Leader, Lead Vocalist, Main Rapper
Birthday: September 14, 1994
Favorite local artist: Sarah Geronimo
Favorite K-pop artist: "Nagustuhan ko po yung K-pop dahil sa BIG BANG. And magka-comeback po sila sa Coachella!"
Background: "I studied sa Polytechnic University of the Philippines Manila, Bachelor of Arts major in English yung tinapos ko."
Full name: Josh Cullen Santos
Position: Lead Rapper, Dancer, Vocalist, and Visual
Birthday: October 22, 1993
Favorite local artist: Morissette Amon
Favorite K-pop artist: "I love BTS pero I'll go with G-Dragon kasi siya talaga. Yung hinahangaan ko from the very beginning. Parang ang dami niya nang na-change sa K-pop industry, kumbaga paano naging global yung kinikilala natin ngayon na mga ibang artist pa. Parang sa kanya nagsimula lahat."
Background: "I didn't go to college. I didn't go to high school, as well. Actually, elementary days, nag-stop ako pero I worked my way up. I started becoming independent at 16 then dun po ako nag-take ng Alternative Learning System, yung ALS. Then, nakuha ko po yung diploma ko for high school. Then, pinursue ko na yung performing."
Full Name: Stellevester Ajero
Position: Main Vocalist, Lead Dancer
Birthday: June 16, 1995
Favorite local artist: Morissette Amon
Favorite international artist: Bruno Mars
Favorite K-pop artist: "Marami akong ina-idolize na group. Kasama na dun yung BTS, VIXX, at saka TXT. Sobrang nakaka-connect lang po ako sa mga music nila. And kapag nanonood po ako ng mga daily videos nila, mga vlogs nila, parang nakaka-relate po ako kasi sobrang nararamdaman ko rin po yung passion nila sa dream nila."
Background: "STI College Makati po, tinake ko po yung Hotel and Restaurant Management po because I love cooking."
Full Name: Felip Jhon Suson
Position: Main Dancer, Vocalist
Birthday: January 12, 1997
Favorite local artist: Gary Valenciano
Favorite K-pop artist: "Si RM po ng BTS kasi grabe po yung passion niya when it comes to music. Sobrang hardworking po na tao kaya nakaka-inspire din po talaga na gumawa ng sarili pong kanta namin. Siya po yung isa sa mga hinahangaan ko."
Background: "Nag-college po ako first sa Cagayan de Oro College – PHINMA po. Dun po ako nag-college sa Cagayan de Oro, and then nag-transfer po ako dito sa Technological Institute of the Philippines ng BS Architecture."
Full Name: Justin De Dios
Position: Visual, Vocalist, Lead Rapper, and Maknae (which means the youngest member in Korean)
Birthday: July 7, 1998
Favorite local artist: Morissette Amon
Favorite K-pop artist: "Yung favorite K-pop idol group ko po is GOT7. Favorite number ko po is 7 and sila po yung first group na nakilala ko na K-pop group talaga. And parang hindi lang yung skills nila sa performing yung na-appreciate ko. Pati yung personalities nila kasi kapag nanonood ako ng reality shows nila sa YouTube, talagang natutuwa po ako na parang nakaka-relate ako sa kalokohan nila."
Background: "Ako po, I graduated po sa College of St. Benilde ng Multimedia Arts po last 2018."