In the recent years, we’ve witnessed how the Korean pop culture has tremendously swept the world with its remarkable dramas and movies, world-class musical performers, and chart-topping hits, to which many of us are totally sucked into.
Although a lot of Filipino talents have introduced the country to the global entertainment scene through different fields and platforms in the past years and decades, it is still undeniably necessary for us to keep up with the current trend and global standard of showmanship. Thus, in order to do so, a lot of local individuals, groups, and talent agencies have started to adapt the kind of training that paves the way for phenomenal international idols to achieve worldwide stardom, such as MNL48 and SB19.
Rise of Pinoy Pop
As we all know, Pinoy Pop or P-Pop, which is a sub-genre of OPM, has been around for a long time, but it has not reached the certain level of success that the two aforementioned groups have attained. Apart from having huge throng of supporters here in the Philippines, they are also dramatically catching the eyes of international media and music fans because of their impressive performances and notable emergence of their songs in the music charts, further raising the flag of P-pop.
Despite not being inclined to KPop, MNL48, the first Filipino idol girl group and fifth international sister-group of the phenomenal all-girl sing-and-dance group AKB48 from Japan that was formed in 2006, has triumphantly garnered an impressive following among Pinoy fans. Through the collaboration of Hallohallo Entertainment Inc. and ABS-CBN, MNL48 was born in 2018 and had since captured fans’ hearts through their aesthetics, talent, and music. Aside from their innate skills in dancing and singing, they also go through international training under AKS, “the prestigious talent management of AKB48”, making them fully ready to conquer the global and OPM music scene.
It was also in 2018 when SB19, the all-Pinoy boyband that is the first-ever Filipino act to be trained by a Korean entertainment company, had their debut. Comprised of Sejun (John Paulo Nase), Josh (Josh Cullen Santos), Justin (Justin De Dios), Ken (Felip Jhon Suson), and Stell (Stellvester Ajero), the group has not only secured spots in various local music charts, but also became the first Southeast Asian talent to break into the Top 10 of Billboard’s Social 50 and Next Big Sound charts. They also had the chance to showcase their talent in MTV Asia recently after being named as its “Artist Of The Month” this August.
Birth of Star Hunt Academy
Noticing how the Hallyu wave has been relentlessly sweeping the country, Director and ABS-CBN’s Head of Entertainment Production Laurenti Dyogi got inspired and thought of establishing a training camp wherein young people who aspire to become superstars like their idols can develop or further hone their talents. Thus, the Star Hunt Academy (SHA) was born.
“He always believed that the Filipino talent has a place in the global stage. And for that talent to be fully prepared, we should be able to provide extensive training in the performance arts (voice and dance), as well as activities designed to boost their physical and mental health. He also wanted to start them at a young age so the trainees’ age range now is between 16 to 19 years old,” Mylene Quintana-Mallari, Head of Star Hunt Academy, said in an exclusive interview with Entertainment.ABS-CBN.com.
Apart from it being the venue to scout contestants for the various reality programs of the Kapamilya network, it is also through Star Hunt auditions that they’re able to search for young talents that would be fit for the pool they’re eyeing to create. After a series of auditions, a boot camp in April 2019, and several deliberations, it officially opened its door for training May last year.
When asked regarding the qualities they looked for in an auditionee for him/her to be considered to the SHA, she said that young talents who have exceptional skills in singing and dancing should make the grade. “Trainability and willingness to learn and work hard on a long term was also a factor,” she said.
According to Mylene, they initially auditioned at around 250 aspirants for SHA, which were shortlisted from the massive Star Hunt auditions in 2018. After the week-long boot camp, their number narrowed down to around 100 aspirants. Less than 20 trainees were left when they got housed inside the camp, and at present, their number whittled to 13 – five boys and eight girls.
Comprising the boys are Gelo Rivera, Akira Morishita, JL Torreliza, Mikki Claver, and Nate Porcalla. As a group, they certainly impress us with their intricate, synchronized, powerful, sharp rendition of NCT 127’s “Cherry Bomb”.
Meanwhile, we can see that swag, elegance, intensity, and sophistication from the girls Aiah Arceta, Colet Vergara, Maloi Ricalde, Gwen Apuli, Jhoanna Robles, Mikha Lim, Sheena Catacutan, and Stacey Sevilleja dancing to Young JV’s “Ngiti” and Red Velvet’s “In and Out.”
Those who were able to avidly watch PBB Otso are probably familiar with Gwen and Sheena for they used to be part of the second batch of its Teens Edition. They don’t have group names yet and are still collectively known as Star Hunt Academy trainees.
On-going trainings amidst community quarantine
As the community quarantine stopped us from doing some things that we usually do, this is not the same story for SHA as they used this as an opportunity for the remaining aspirants to focus on their training.
“The trainees have not gone home since March 15 when ECQ was imposed. This proved to be a blessing in disguise because they were able to be very productive. They were able to continuously train, shoot content for their YouTube channel, continue with their studies, do pictorial inside the house, and record songs and dances for their TikTok and Twitter accounts. They are very home sick but they will always soldier on,” Mylene shared.
Apart from being mentored by reputable Filipino voice and dance instructors, SHA also partnered with a training academy based in Seoul, South Korea in order to fully equip the trainees with the skills they’re going to need once they break into the entertainment scene, both local and global.
“The local trainers were chosen based on merit and reputation. Some of them we have worked together in various projects of ABS. [Meanwhile] The Korean trainers were chosen by our Korean partner, a reputable training academy based in Seoul, South Korea. The K-coaches had solid background on training other idol groups. They are also practitioners, as some have performed with BTS, TWICE, and GOT7 among others,” Mylene disclosed.
As they aim for the trainees to be well-rounded performers, the classes they have to take are not only limited to voice and dance, as they undergo lessons on performance arts, fitness and nutrition, and personality development as well. Also part of their holistic training are life coaching and counselling sessions and workshops about social media.
Even though they spend eight hours of their everyday training, except for weekends, Direk Lauren makes sure that the SHA trainees are well-educated as they enrolled them to online schooling in order for them to continue their studies while inside the camp. In fact, they recently had a Moving Up Day as they already finished one module.
The SHA trainees were initially introduced on the online pre-show of the PBB Otso Big Night, in which they first performed and were debuted as Star Hunt Academy trainees. They also experienced performing in front of a live audience, showcasing the fruits of their hours of rigorous trainings in their first-ever mall show in Taguig and at least two ABS-CBN events last year. They also appeared in a National Youth Commission event, where they were proclaimed as Youth Ambassadors, and at the 2019 Manila Southeast Asian Games thanksgiving celebration.
Barring any unforeseen hitches or uncontrollable situations, SHA eyes a grand launch for the SHA trainees in the last quarter of 2020. Before that, Academates (or what SHA followers are called) can already expect to see the two groups perform in the Philippine K-Pop Convention – the biggest online gathering of Hallyu enthusiasts this coming August 22 and 29. So, better watch out for this!
And, the future of these upcoming, new P-pop idols would be certainly so bright and glimmering, as they are set to shine on the global stage, just like SB19 and MNL48.
Just in case you want to take a peek on their life inside the camp, as well as see snippets of their intense yet fun practices and promising performances (or simply to get updates), you may follow them on their social media accounts: “Star Hunt Academy” on Twitter, Instagram, and Tiktok; “ABS-CBN Star Hunt” on YouTube, and “starhuntabscbn” for Kumu.