Changes happen to us all.
Those are words that ring true for everyone but if there’s a classic example of how apropos a positive change can be—just look at how things turned out for P-Pop group BGYO.
BGYO is a five-member Filipino boy group formed in 2018 by ABS-CBN Star Hunt Academy. Its members are Gelo Rivera, Akira Morishita, JL Toreliza, Mikki Claver, and Nate Porcalla, representing a group that stands for “Becoming the change, Going further, You and I, Originally Filipino.”
More than a year since their official debut back in January 2021, opportunities and chances opened up for the group that propelled them to a remarkable place in the P-Pop scene.
They kicked off their debut with the official single “The Light” which surpassed 100,000 streams in Spotify in less than two weeks after its release. Over a month later, the song was included in Spotify’s “RADAR Philippines 2021 Roster.” Its music video received more than a million views on YouTube, making it the fastest debut music video by a P-Pop group to reach a million views.
BGYO on the cover of Metro | On Mikki: Jacket by Neric Beltran, blazer and trousers by Ryan Chris | On Nate: Overalls by Neric Beltran and shirt by H&M | On Akira: Blazer and trousers by Neric Beltran | On JL: Jacket by Neric Beltran | On Gelo: Trousers by H&M | Photography by Rxandy Capinpin
Another feather on the group’s cap is being tapped by ABS-CBN to do the OST of the hit romantic-comedy series He’s Into Her which also gained massive success and won the National Award for Best Theme Song in the 2021 Asian Creative Awards in Singapore. That led to another participation in the show’s season 2 OST with the song “Best Time.” The music video of their single, “The Baddest,” featuring Liza Soberano has gained more than 2 million views on YouTube.
BGYO also made waves on the international music chart scene. “The Baddest” charted twice at #1 at Billboard's Next Big Sound last year. After a slew of virtual shows and concerts, BGYO finally did their first-ever live stage overseas at the 1MX Dubai 2021 Filipino Music Festival along with other Pinoy artists. The group was able to do their first concert performance before the live audience locally through the 2022 P-Pop Con: The Ultimate P-Pop Fan Gathering.
Recently, BGYO was featured on a massive LED screen in Seoul as they emerged as the “Best International Artist” on Idol Pick, a K-pop website of Korea-based media group Dong-a, after getting the highest number of votes from fans.
On Gelo: Shirt by Neric Beltran, jumper and trousers by H&M | On Mikki: Jacket by Thian Rodriguez, tee by H&M, and trousers by Neric Beltran | On Nate: Top and trousers, Stylist's own | On Akira: Tee by H&M | On JL: Jacket by Erwin Flores and shirt by H&M
A testament to BGYO’s rising stardom, influence, and popularity is their growing number of endorsements and brand partnerships. They have worked with Coke Studio and have been tapped as brand endorsers of Xiaomi Redmi Note 11 series, clothing brand H&M, Sprite, Mentos, and Smart TNT.
Recently, BGYO likewise worked with streaming platform Netflix Philippines on the launch of Alas Netflix, a self-produced web series where fans can celebrate their favorite Netflix titles with their favorite celebrity barkadas. The first 3 episodes of the series feature “The Aces of P-Pop.”
BGYO is set to appear this year on TUGATOG: The Filipino Music Festival 2022 (July 15) and on BE YOU: The World Will Adjust Benefit Concert (July 22) with K-pop supergroup Red Velvet, BINI, and Lady Pipay. These boys will also join the Star Magic Tour in the US, and will be part of the concerts in Resorts World Manila (July 23), San Francisco (August 12), and Los Angeles (August 14).
The group—alongside BINI, Angela Ken, and Moira dela Torre—was also chosen to The Lunar Codex's “Polaris Collection” time capsules bound to the Moon in 2023, aimed at preserving contemporary works that future generations may discover.
Motivated by the encouraging entertainment scene these days and energized by the emerging recovery phase from the pandemic, BGYO members Gelo Rivera, Akira Morishita, JL Toreliza, Mikki Claver, and Nate Porcalla reflect on the year that was, the current state of their career, and the bright future unfolding for the group.
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"The Aces of P-Pop"
"The Aces of P-Pop"
By Metro.StyleDecember 04 2023, 3:16 PM
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Gelo Rivera is BGYO's leader and the kuya of the group. We caught up with him, and he shared some updates on how life has been since their debut.
“Simula nu’ng nag-debut kami, mas lalo kaming naging busy, mas hectic. Same pa rin naman noong trainees kami kasi busy din kami, pero ngayon naka-focus kami sa rehearsals, shoots, interviews, and sa mga pag-work sa bagong music and performances po,” Gelo explains.
It’s been quite a ride in the first year of their debut but we asked each member what they think the year’s highlights have been. For Gelo, it’s mostly centered on the fandom and community around BGYO.
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“Nakilala namin iyong mga sumusuporta sa amin at pinangalanan silang ACEs. Nakakatuwa na ramdam mo simula pa lang na nandiyan sila. Iyong performances namin internationally and locally na may live audience man o wala, sobrang nakakatuwa kasi kapag andun ka na sa stage, mararamdaman mo iyong support ng tao. Mafi-feel mo na worth it lahat ng pagod mo, ’yung mararamdaman mo na na-a-appreciate nila ’yung music mo,” the group leader emotionally shares, feeling grateful for the support of ACEs. He also considers releasing a full album and being a part of the series “He’s Into Her” OST as milestones.
One of his favorite moments with their fans would have to be when they flew to Dubai for a concert.
“Ang daming ACEs na sumalubong sa amin sa airport! Unexpected ’yun tapos kami [napaisip tuloy about] airport outfits namin,” he laughs, adding that he truly he felt the warmth of the fans’ reception.
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Looking back on their days as trainees and then after debut, Gelo is thankful for how their relationship as a group has improved and deepened.
“Noong trainees kami, nagkakapaan pa kami ng ugali so may mga clashes tapos naka-stay pa sa isang bahay. Hindi naman nawawala iyon pero mas healthy na ngayon kasi hindi na kami duwag sabihin. Matagal pa kami magkakasama,” he smiles.
Gelo also got excited sharing how he himself has grown over time as an individual and an artist.
Tee by H&M
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“I love music pero hindi ko siya na-focus [when I was a dancer] so nu’ng pumasok ako dito as a trainee, nag-improve ako nang sobra sa singing at parang mas naging aware ako sa mga techniques, kung paano mo siya mapalabas ng maganda at kung ano ’yung bagay sa’yo na range, songs, and style. Parang nahanap ko ’yung sound ko bilang Gelo,” he says. He also added that in terms of rapping with Mikki and Nate, they were able to find their rhythm and have a distinct style among the group. He also enjoys learning how to project on camera and explore the different emotions he has to show, as well as experimenting on dance moves and honing his songwriting skills.
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“Habang tumatagal kami as BGYO, mas natututunan ko na i-transfer ’yung thoughts ko para magamit sa music,” the singer says.
In the future, he hopes to also explore acting and even dreams of making a movie with his fellow BGYO group mates. But for now, he’s very much enthusiastic about the many things they can still accomplish as a group and the projects that will continuously help them makes waves, hopefully, not only in the local but also the global music scene.
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Akira Morishita finds their journey from debuting amid the pandemic very different to how things are for them now a year later. He got so used to life at home, facing the camera for livestreams instead of a live audience, and rehearsing to let the lockdown days pass by quickly, that he now feels like adjusting anew.
“Medyo nakakapanibago pa kasi nasanay kami na camera ang kaharap. Tapos noong nagkaroon na ng face-to-face, medyo mahirap po maniwala at parang second debut kasi nagkaroon na po ng tao, tapos parang panaginip pa kasi first time namin siyang naramdaman na may audience na sumisigaw sa amin kapag nagpe-perform,” he candidly shares.
In just more than a year, Aki collected some moments he feels are memorable for the group.
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“Isa na po iyong debut at ipinakilala kami ng ABS-CBN as BGYO from being trainees for almost three years po. Another highlight is nagkaroon kami ng endorsement na major—’yung Coke Studio—and then the Dubai and the P-POPCON concerts,” he says.
From their trainee days to their debut and a year of being officially BGYO, Aki felt the changes in the group dynamics, too. When the pandemic left the members no choice but to stay home together, they all welcomed the opportunity to get to know each other better.
“Mas nakilala namin ang isa’t-isa. Mas nalaman namin ’yung ayaw namin sa isa’t-isa at kung saan kailangan mag-adjust at makisama sa ibang tao. Mayroong mga alitan at mga away pero at the end of the day po, nagtatawanan kami, nagku-kwentuhan at inaayos namin ’yung problema. Mas nalaman namin ’yung mga kailangang gawin para mas mag-improve kami as a group at mas nalaman namin ’yung rhythm ng isa’t-isa para kapag nag-perform kami iisa, maayos at magandang tingnan, hindi magulo,” Aki explains.
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On a personal note, he’s happy that he’s showing signs of improvement as a performer and an artist as well.
“Nag-improve po ako sa dancing kasi kami ni JL, parehas kaliwa paa namin, so hirap kami mag-keep up,” he laughs.
“Personally po, parang mas lumawak po ang understanding ko about music—kung anong genre ’to, paano namin ibabato. Mas naging knowledgeable sa techniques at technical aspect ng pagkanta at pagsayaw. Mas natuto kaming makisama sa tao, Na-boost ’yung self-confidence kasi kapag pumupunta kami ng ABS-CBN, iba’t-ibang artists ’yung nakakasalamuha, so parang hindi p’wede ’yung hiya-hiya kasi minsan mapapagkamalan ng tao na suplado at hindi namamansin. Nag-level up po ’yung pakikipag-socialize namin sa ibang tao,” Aki candidly shares.
acket and Trousers by Neric Beltran and shirt by H&M
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For Aki, what impacts him the most is interacting with ACEs, the loyal and supportive BGYO fandom. When asked what the biggest compliment he ever received was, Aki turns serious and becomes more thoughtful with his answer. He shares the story of a comment from a fan going through depression who thanked them for making the song “Fly Away,” saying it saved him/her.
“Siguro kaya po tumagos sa akin ’yung comment niya kasi nasulat ko ’yung kanta na ’yun po ang pinagdadaanan ko. ’Yung parang sobrang tamad ko, ayaw ko na magtrabaho, ayaw ko na bumangon sa kama. Doon ko po siya ibinuhos sa songwriting. Noong nabasa ko po iyon, ang sarap sa pakiramdam na may nakaka-appreciate tapos sobra-sobra kasi parang nailigtas siya ng kanta kaya sobrang nakaka-touch,” Aki says, visibly moved. The singer is credited as the sole lyricist of the song.
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He also learned and felt so grateful of the fandoms’ various charity events on their behalf, like staging efforts to benefit cancer patients, the elderly and children in the orphanage. The ACEs would always include BGYO as part of the activities. Clearly, Aki adores the ACEs.
Despite the flowing reviews and people considering BGYO as one of the pillars and champions of P-POP today, Aki remains humble.
“Medyo unbelievable po na maisip na isa kami sa nauna. Nakakatuwa po kasi parang marami rin kaming na-inspire na tao. ’Yung mga ACEs po, ’yung music na pino-produce namin, iba ’yung tama sa kanila at natutulungan namin sila. Happy and proud po sa sarili ko at sa grupo kasi kahit ilang taon, kahit ilang ups and downs ang pinagdaraanan namin, magkakasama pa rin kami at nagpu-push pa rin kami sa goals namin,” Aki happily concludes.
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Responding to the frenetic life of a certified pop star, BGYO’s vocal asset JL Toreliza feels overwhelmed yet also ecstatic more than a year after their debut. In a way, this feels like a validation of all the hard work and sacrifices they’ve put in even when confronted with the challenges of debuting during a pandemic and amid network shutdown.
“After mag-debut, halos hindi ko na maalala pero parang rollercoaster sa dami ng nangyari. May mga ups and downs, may mga time na napapagod pero bumabangon at sobrang sarap sa feeling kasi ang dami naming achievements na naabot and ’yung fact na nakikita na namin ’yung mga ACEs na nag-grow talaga,” JL begins the conversation with his eyes glistening.
To him, nothing beats the feeling of connecting with their fans and the audience in a concert setting—be it virtually or on a live stage setup—and he considers it as one of the important highlights of their year.
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“Pinakanag-mark sa akin is ’yung concert namin last year kasi parang doon lahat namin ipinakita kung ano ’yung pinaghirapan namin. Sobrang hindi ko makakalimutan ’yung preparation namin kasi talagang pinaghandaan namin. Everyday wala talaga kaming pahinga that time,” he says. He also adds their participation in the Dubai concert last year as memorable.
“First out-of-the-country namin and ’yun ’yung first performance namin na may audience na talaga sa harap namin. Siyempre nakakakaba pero binigay namin ’yung best namin kasi first impression ng mga tao sa amin, so talagang hindi namin sila binigo,” he narrates.
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JL considers being in Dubai with the ACEs as his favorite moment with the fandom so far. According to him, being there gave them the opportunity to even have lunch with them.
“Parang meet-and-greet pero casual lang, magkakatabi po kami doon kaya lalo nag-sink in sa amin na grabe! Umaabot na sa Dubai ’yung music at group namin. Nakaka-touch kasi sinasabi nila na sa simula pa lang, sinusuportahan na nila kami. Isa sa hindi ko makakalimutan kasi kakwentuhan namin sila at sinasabi nila kung gaano sila ka-proud sa amin. Nakita nila lahat ng pinagdaanan namin kaya grabe ’yun,” he vividly recalls with so much fondness in his expression.
JL notes how he and his fellow BGYO members grew closer together and more open with their thoughts and sentiments as the year went by. He says they have learned to adjust with one another. As for his own growth, he feels proud to see himself improve as a performer.
Jumper by H&M
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“Sobrang layo ko na sa dati kahit noong debut lalo na sa dancing. More on singing po strength ko so ini-improve ko po dancing. Pati sa pagpe-perform and sa facial expressions. Actually, lahat kami halos kaya na naming pantayan iyong energy ng bawat isa kaya siguro mas nagwo-work kami together,” he shares, adding that he also makes it a point to check comments and feedback of ACEs on their performances so he knows which areas to improve on.
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For BGYO’s bright future ahead, JL wants to experiment with different sounds and hopes that fans will look forward to what they’re going to release next.
“Gusto ko lang ’yung something new na hindi pa nila naririnig, na kapag narinig nila sa amin parang bagong BGYO! Hindi siya katulad ng last year parang ganun. Gusto ko ’yung lalo namin silang makukuha, lalo kaming makaka-inspire ng tao,” JL concludes, optimistic and excited for what’s to come.
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That is how BGYO rapper Mikki Claver summed up the whole year of experience after the group’s debut. He speaks of feeling exhausted but also of being thankful for receiving so much blessings.
Mikki can name a number of things he considers as BGYO’s noteworthy highlights so far. It felt like literally counting their blessings in a year.
“First one is going to be the debut talaga because that’s what we worked hard for. The second one is the Bini x BGYO for the ‘One Dream’ concert kasi that’s the first time na nagka-concert kami and even though there’s no live audience po talaga, na-showcase po namin [skills] at mas nagka-experience po kami when it comes to performing. And the third one’s going to be the Dubai concert kasi po that was the first time na nakaalis ako ng bansa and also that was the first time we performed in front of a live audience po,” Mikki begins, poised to add more things he can think of.
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“The one with Coke Studio also because that tested our artistry po talaga, how we make music together and we collaborated with Ate Keiko (Necesario) so it was a first time for us as a group to make a song together with another artist,” Mikki notes, adding that it was hard but also so much fun and a learning experience for them.
“The other one is ’He’s Into Her’ (HIH)! Sobrang nagulat kami kasi it was really a big series po talaga starring DonBelle [Donny Pangilinan and Belle Mariano] and the rest of the cast. Nagulat po kami sa trust and sabi po kasi sa amin, ginawa daw po ’yung kanta at naisip po nila agad na pang-BGYO so we felt really blessed kasi even though we haven’t reached one year pa that time, they gave us the trust, too, and the song is really good,” Mikki beams proudly.
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Looking back, Mikki also realized how much he’s gone through even at a young age when it comes to pursuing his dreams. He felt that those struggles and experiences contributed to his immense growth.
“I actually saw myself improve and I felt the confidence na talaga whenever I perform kasi sobrang camera shy ako dati po, and I watched this one performance of me rapping like months before I enter Star Hunt Academy (SHA), I was like bleh! Ugh! Nag-cri-cringe po talaga ako. Training helped me a lot to gain my confidence,” he says, animated while narrating.
Jacket by Neric Beltran, tee by H&M, and trousers from ALand Korea
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He was feeling intimidated and insecure because he felt he was lacking in a lot of areas that’s why he cherishes it whenever he receives positive feedback and compliments.
“When the coaches and some of the members recognize ’yung improvement ko kasi feeling ko dati wala akong ambag sa grupo because I was not good in singing, dancing, nor rapping. Right now, nafi-feel ko na ang importance ko sa group,” the young rapper confesses. He also finds the compliments he spots on YouTube memorable especially the ones that say he has improved a lot.
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“Nakikita ko po and I’m happy to hear those. Alam ko binigay ko ’yung best ko so I need this kind of recognition na parang sinasabi ko sa sarili ko na, ‘Uy! Ang galing mo nang sumayaw.’ Nafi-feel ko na ’yung improvement ko,” he smiles.
Though BGYO is experiencing waves and waves of success right now, Mikki is excited to pursue more dreams for himself and for the group.
“I think my dream is to showcase our artistry na kami ang gumawa ng songs and album… So hopefully, sometime in the future, we get to do our vision, our concept, our sound na self-produced,” Mikki says, filled with hope for what the future holds for all of them.
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If the K-pop scene has the maknae, P-POP also has the bunso and BGYO has an extremely talented “golden bunso.” He’s Nate Porcalla and he’s more than ready to show more of what he and his group can do as they share their passion and talent to the world.
To sum up the year since BGYO’s debut, Nate gets real about it in our exclusive interview.
“It’s been very good. Work has gotten harder and the training’s gotten harder but it's a good thing because that means we're trying to do things that are on a different level than when we started po. We’re enjoying much more and we’re moving much faster than we started. I feel like everything has gotten more hectic,” Nate says.
For Nate, he also thinks one of the highlights of BGYO’s debut year is the Dubai Expo because it was their first out-of-the-country performance. He also finds calling their supporter ACEs a highlight, too.
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“I think another is performing with Tito Gary [Valenciano] because it was very new and it’s fun because he’s the legend, and Mr. Pure Energy taught us a lot of things,” Nate shares.
Because they’ve been through training and tough and happy moments together, Nate describes the BGYO members’ relationship not just as colleagues but also close friends and even like brothers.
“Our relationship is very connected, and when you look at it, it’s like free-flowing and we can do anything. It’s like we’re comfortable and we can say whatever secret now, even the biggest secret and the biggest comment,” the youngest member reflects.
Apart from the members getting closer everyday, he also took note of his personal growth and gives himself a much-deserved pat on the back.
“I think I’m still trying to grow in good ways, because I started out dancing early but I still try to learn new styles. I still look for new things to do in dance [even though] I went through all of the foundations of each genre,” he starts, pondering on the subject. He also shares how he thought his kuyas in the group will take care of the singing part but, lo and behold, he’s also singing now!
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“Everyday I still try to sing to the point where two weeks ago, I lost my voice and my voice hasn’t recovered. I still can’t sing to my full range. I lost it because I was singing so much even at home and even after performance when I should be resting, because I just love singing so much now,” Nate charmingly narrates.
He also finds strength and a boost of confidence in the compliments they receive. Interestingly enough, Nate has a different idea of what he defines as compliment.
“I think the most touching compliment we’ve received is when they said ‘You still got a long way to go,’ because it’s not good but it’s not bad. It’s like you’re not good enough right now but you still have somewhere to be so that means they still see growth in you—they’re just not happy with you right now. It’s like fire, it’s like motivation, it squeezes, it pressures you to do the right thing,” the bunso pensively says.
He also finds it amazing when they get to defy expectations. For instance, some would say that BGYO is a visual group that only focuses on face and projecting.
Shirt by Neric Beltran, tee and trousers by H&M
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“I think that’s a compliment because we really don’t spend a lot of time projecting. We don’t even have time in training to practice our facials. We haven’t spent our time trying to fix our face while singing or dancing. We’ve been really focusing on skills po,” Nate thoughtfully explains.
Right now, apart from rehearsals and other projects, Nate and the boys are working on new songs, practicing them so they can put them into work soon.
“We’re also trying to get on a different level of dance and reach a different level of choreography and self-artistry, like songwriting, producing, or even just recording covers. I think we are all trying to get there. I want to do solo covers. I’m trying. I have stuff to record, too. I’m trying to learn, watching, reading. I’m trying to learn how to do stuff and I also bought my second guitar now,” Nate offers, his face lighting up with excitement. He says that if given the chance, he’d like to do lo-fi, chill kind of music and collaborate with other artists, naming Ken of SB19 as one of the ones he’d like to work with.
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Through all the success, Nate doesn’t forget the ACEs and the role they played in their breakthroughs. He even has a favorite moment with fans, talking about their recent show in Tarlac.
“The whole crowd was so loud. It’s louder than usual, because usually, when we go perform somewhere since we’re very new, we don’t have the big following. In Tarlac, the whole crowd, even if they’re not ACEs, they’re screaming and like wow! That’s the first performance where I was able to experience it. Our moms were also there so it was very enjoyable. That was the first performance where I was able to experiment and where there’s, like, a fire in my face—like my face was naturally reacting and projecting. I was like, ‘Whoa! This crowd is like dragging the emotions out of me, it’s fun and I’m enjoying it.’ It was such a lively crowd po,” he gushes, forever grateful and appreciative of the new and old ACEs.
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This special cover with Metro not only celebrates their journey in the industry so far, but is also part of the #MetroxStarMagic30 content series in collaboration with Star Magic and its 30th anniversary this year. A Family Affair lead actress and top YouTube content creator Ivana Alawi was the first cover girl to be unveiled under this series. BGYO's sibling group, BINI, is also a part of this series.
Check out the performance video of their single, "Best Time," below:
Photography by Rxandy Capinpin
Creative direction by Chookie Cruz
Sittings editors: Geolette Esguerra, Red Dimaandal, and Grace Libero-Cruz
Grooming by Jaime Sy
Styling by Rain Dagala
Styling associates: Danel Louise and Rioliza Camantigue
Photographer's assistant: Joe Andy
Videography by Kyle Espiritu
Shot on location at Balara Content House
Special thanks to Star Magic, MQ Mallari, Jovy Aberion, and Lauren Dyogi