New kids on the block: P-Pop group 1ST.ONE takes center stage

by Nikko Tuazon
Sep 1, 2020
The members of P-Pop boy group 1st.One (LR): J, Ace, Jayson, Alpha, Max, and Joker
PHOTO/S: Courtesy of FirstOne Entertainment

The latest all-male P-Pop boy group to enter the local music scene is 1ST.ONE.

This six-member boy group composed of Ace, Alpha, Max, Jayson, J, and Joker, officially debuted on July 31, 2020, Friday, with the single "You Are The One (Ttak Maja Nuh)." (Philippine Entertainment Portal) learned more about the group in an exclusive interview via Zoom last August 13, Thursday.


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(L-R) 1ST.ONE members: J, Ace, Jayson, Alpha, Max, and Joker

HOW was formed

The group is handled by FirstOne Entertainment, a Seoul-based talent management company headed by Lee Sang-min that was founded in January 2019.

It has three other talents in its roster, including "River of Tears" singer Na Yoon Kwon, rapper Kisum, and former F-ve Dolls member Heo Chanmi.

Members of 1ST.ONE underwent individual training for at least three years before they were launched as a group.

Ace, the group's leader and the first member, was already a singer in the Philippines before he became part of the group.

He has been a fan of K-Pop for at least five years and, in fact, was the Philippine representative to the KBS Kpop World Festival in 2015.

In 2016, Ace released the song "Blow The Night Away" under his real name, Val John.

This was followed by "Ikaw Pa Rin" in 2017 and "Giliw" in 2018. Both songs are under Star Music, the recording arm of ABS-CBN.

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Even though he was already launched as a solo singer, Ace still had to audition before securing a spot in the group.

Ace told, "Nauna po talaga akong mag-training sa Korea kasi nandun na po ako.

"Nag-audition po ako sa company, sa FirstOne Entertainment, and ako po yung unang naging trainee.

"Even way back, medyo talagang mahilig na po ako sa music and, of course, sa K-pop.

"So talagang nag-audition po ako, and I really wanted to pursue this dream."

According to Ace, he was the one who got Alpha into the group.

He related, "Nagkaroon po ng day na sinabihan ako ng president na magkakaroon ng audition 'tapos sinabihan ko po si Alpha... na magkakaroon ng online audition 'tapos mag-e-elimination.

"Siya po yung pinaka-close ko from way back. Pagka-contact ko kay Alpha, marami rin po siyang kinontact for auditions.

"Mga 20 to 30. 'Tapos yung natanggap lang finally… Mga 200 plus po [yung nag-audition]. Basta po online muna siya and then nagka-eliminations.

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"Dun sa live po na private auditions, siguro mga 20 to 30 [finalists yung napili] 'tapos eto na po kami. Sila rin po yung talagang pumasa."

Jayson, the last member to join the group, trained for about two years before he officially became a part of 1ST.ONE.

(L-R) 1st.One members: J, Ace, Jayson, Alpha, Max, and Joker1ST.ONE members: (standing) J, Ace, Joker, (seated) Alpha, Jayson, and Max

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Before they became 1ST.ONE, Ace, Alpha, Max, and Joker were part of a dance cover group called VJBros.

Their EXO dance cover performance placed first in the dance category at the 28th Philippine-Korea Cultural Exchange Festival that was held on September 28, 2019.

On November 10, 2019, they emerged the grand winner at the Seoul Music Awards PH 'Dance To Your Seoul'.

Part of their prize was to represent the Philippines at the Seoul Music Awards 2020.

According to, the group signed with FirstOne Entertainment following their appearance at the Seoul Music Awards last January.

WHAT THE training is like

The six members of 1ST.ONE also went through the rigorous K-pop idol training prior to the group's debut.

This entailed an eight- to ten-hour routine starting at 7 a.m. almost every day.

Ace told, "Iba-iba po yung training like yung rap, sa vocal, sa dance. Iba-iba po yung naging mentor."

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Alpha added, "May acting pa nga."

When asked about the most important lesson they learned during the process, Ace shared the FirstOne Entertainment's president would constantly remind them about humility.

The 24-year-old performer said, "Yun po kasi yung number one ng president namin.

"Hindi lang po yung basta sing and dance lang kasi tinuturuan din po kami ng conduct, humility.

"Every day po nire-remind kami na kahit gaano kami ka-talented basta kung mayabang or hindi humble, puwede kaming tanggalin kaagad."

They were all dormed during their training, and the most difficult part for Max was feeling homesick.

He said, "Yung isa sa pinaka-challenging po na nangyari sa akin is yung hindi ko po makita or makasama yung mga magulang ko po.

"Kasi sila rin po yung nagbibigay ng strength sa akin. Sila rin po yung support system ko.

"Pero okay lang din po kasi nagkaroon ako ng bagong pamilya, which is yung 1ST.ONE."

On the other hand, it was following a strict diet that Alpha found a bit tough to swallow.

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He said, "Siyempre, nami-miss rin po naming yung family naming individually and next siguro yung diet.

"Kailangan maganda pa rin kami tignan sa camera, ganyan. So strict po yung diet namin.

"Minsan, nagfa-fasting kami, mga 16 hours. Pag may shoot po, water or nagfa-fast lang po kami ganun. At the same time, nagte-training ka, whole day or whole night.

"Lakasan lang talaga ng loob at saka nagtutulungan lang talaga kami."

1ST.ONE members: (standing) J, Ace, Joker, (seated) Alpha, Jayson, and Max

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1ST.ONE members: (standing) J, Ace, Joker, (seated) Alpha, Jayson, and Max


Members of 1ST.ONE worked with South Korean producers and songwriters for their debut, which included songwriter and arranger Docskim who has produced music for BTS and Big Hit Entertainment.

For the group's songs, FirstOne Entertainment tapped singer/composer Shin Minchul, a former member of the K-pop group T-Max, which is known for the song "Paradise."

The song was used as an official sound track of the K-drama series Boys Over Flowers.

Meanwhile, Ryu.D, who has choreographed performances of top K-pop boy groups NCT127, BTS, EXO, StrayKids, and NU'EST, did the footwork for 1ST.ONE's debut single, "You Are The One (Ttak Maja Nuh)."

According to Ace, they were very much involved with the making of the song.

He narrated, "Nung sinabihan po kami na mag-debut kayo na gamit itong kantang ito and kailangan kung gaano kami ka-passionate sa craft namin, maibigay namin dun.

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"Naisipan po naming na umatake muna sa love or romantic na concept.

"'Tapos yung mga kanya-kanyang love stories naming from way back, nung batang-bata pa, ginather namin.

"Yung kani-kanilang rap parts po, sila po nagsulat. And then sa lyrics naman po, nagko-konsultahan po talaga kami parati.

"Since kakantahin namin siya, kailangan mafi-feel namin yung emotions ng kanta, so mas attached kami dun.

"So kahit yung nag-produce po sa amin is yung gumagawa for artists like EXO, Twice, ganyan, talagang binigyan po nila kami ng creative freedom para mag-input po talaga.

"Kailangan ma-fuse naming yung pagka-Pilipino naming dun sa kanta. Yun po yung pinaka-importante sa amin."

K-Pop fans have likened the group's first single with BTS's song "Boy In Luv," a major compliment for the group as each member idolizes BTS.

Ace said, "I think dito sa table na ito, walang hindi naglu-look up sa BTS. Sobrang idols po naming din sila not just sa singing, sa rap.

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"Kanya-kanya po talaga kaming pag-respect sa BTS and pag-idolize sa kanila po.

"So nung nakita po namin yun, etong si bunso [Jayson] sabi niya, ‘Nape-pressure ako!’ For us, sobrang compliment siya."

1ST.ONE members: (standing) J, Ace, Joker, (seated) Alpha, Jayson, and Max

(L-R) 1ST.ONE members: J, Ace, Jayson, Alpha, Max, and Joker

More than anything else, the group has yet to grapple with the overwhelming response they are getting from their fans whom they call "For One"

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Ace expressed, "Nakaka-shock po para sa akin, nakakapanibago po.

"Ako po, personally, hindi po ako sanay na may attention ng mga tao... sobrang natutuwa po kami, and, at the same time, overwhelmed.

"Unexpected po lahat ng nangyayari kaya sobrang thankful po kami sa binigay na blessing.

"Sa opportunity na ito na mapakita po sa buong mundo yung ginagawa namin, yung passion namin."

Joker added, "Nakaka-overwhelm po yung mga reaction ng mga tao, yung feedback nila na sobrang nagustuhan nila.

"Para sa akin, thankful ako kasi nakita nila yung hard work ng buong group and ng bawat isa na ito yung preparation namin pra sa debut na ito."

But, of course, more can be expected from the group.

As early as now, 1ST.ONE has a lot of projects lined up for 2021, beginning with a nine-country "World Tour Concert Kpop x Ppop Showcase."

They will be joined by the other K-pop groups being managed by FirstOne Entertainment.

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1ST.ONE has another treat their fans can look forward to—the participation of their "special member" Gift Falabrica.


1st.One Ace


Position: Leader, Main Vocal

Full name: Val John Librea

Birthday: November 7

Age: 24

Favorite K-pop group: NCT, SUperM, EXO, BTS, and DBSK

Favorite local artist: Garcy Valenciano, Martine Nievera, Regine Velasquez, Sarah Geronimo, Donnalyn Bortolome, and Ben&Ben

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Biggest celebrity crush: Donnalyn Bortolome, Kim Chiu, Chie Filomeno, and Sharlene San Pedro

Short background: "Nasa performing na rin po talaga ako before 1st.One. Talaga pong nasa music and artistry ako before. Habang nag-aaral po ng Management Economics."

1st.One Ace


Full name: Jonas Cyrone Cruz

Position: Rapper

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Birthday: October 28

Age: 21

Favorite K-pop group: EXO, BTS, SuperM, NCT, and SHINee

Favorite local artist: Gary Valenciano, Francis Magalona, and Gloc-9

Biggest celebrity crush: Liza Soberano

Short background: "Nung nag-aaral po ako ng Business Management sa University of the East-Caloocan, pinagsabay ko po yung... dati po nagsasayaw ako sa TV. Nag-TV dancer din po ako.

"Habang nag-study ako, pinagsabay ko po sila. [Nakapag-perform na po ako bilang member ng Maneouvers Ignite] sa ASAP, sa GMA shows, Eat Bulaga, sa TV5."

1st.One Ace

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Full name: Carlo Edwin Fernandez

Position: Main Vocal

Birthday: April 4

Age: 22

Favorite K-pop group: BTS and Big Bang

Favorite local artist: Michael Pangilinan, Jay-R, Bugoy Drilon, and Gary V

Biggest celebrity crush: Yassi Pressman and Nadine Lustre

Short background: "Dance coach po ako and at the same time student po sa National Teacher's College."

1st.One J

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Position: Rapper

Full name: Jesper Kyle San Agustin

Birthday: November 1

Age: 21

Favorite K-pop group: EXO and NCT

Favorite local artist: Michael Pangilinan and Gary Valenciano

Biggest celebrity crush: Julia Barretto

Short background: "Same lang po kami ni Joker, we finished Bachelor of Science in Aircarft Maintenance sa Villamor po, sa Philippine State College of Aeronautics."

1st.One Joker

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Position: Sub Vocal

Full name: Phillip Russel Balicad

Birthday: November 22

Age: 20

Favorite K-pop group: EXO and BTS

Favorite local artist: Gary Valenciano, Apl.d.ap, and Bugoy Drilon

Biggest celebrity crush: Catriona Gray and Nadine Lustre

1st.One Jayson


Position: Rapper

Full name: Jayson Lee

Birthday: March 18

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Age: 19

Favorite K-pop group: EXO, BTS, ASTRO, ITZY, and TWICE

Favorite local artist: Gary Valenciano, Ben&Ben, Sarah Geronimo, and Michael Pangilinan

Biggest celebrity crush: Taylor Swift, Liza Soberano, and Sharlene San Pedro

Short background: "Galing po ako sa national high school namin sa Dingalan, Aurora. Nag-short films din po ako [sa school] and kung minsan, nagfi-freelance din po ako sa pag-tour organize."

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Position: Special Member

Full name: Gift Falabrica

Birthday: July 22

Age: 20

Short background: Gift is also a member of VJBros.

Special thanks to Gion Santiago

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The members of P-Pop boy group 1st.One (LR): J, Ace, Jayson, Alpha, Max, and Joker
PHOTO/S: Courtesy of FirstOne Entertainment
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