The early call time seemed like a daunting undertaking. The whole of Hacienda Comida Y Cocteles—an all-authentic Mexican restaurant and pub nestled at the heart of Forbes Town Road in Bonifacio Global City, just beside an unsuspecting strip of restaurants—was packed with a string of makeup artists, stylists and their associates, and a throng of restaurant staff sharing a small space to make the impossible happen.

Behind it, driving the insurmountable task of collecting the day’s roster of subjects, was the lean team of Cinco de Mayhem Music Festival. Proudly dubbed a first of its kind, the music festival spruces up everything you know about festival season.

For one, it adds flavor by running on a theme that has yet to be trodden by any music festival of late—banking on the fun, vibrant festivities of Cinco de Mayo. Think overflowing drinks, artistic installations, festive murals, and lush greens. Its makers, ProMedia Productions, made sure that fueling the promised unforgettable festivity are topnotch Filipino talents.  Hence, for the day’s shoot, we meet the Mayhem Makers. One look at the day’s call sheet, it is apt to call it one beautiful mayhem.

JAMES REID AND NADINE LUSTRE: An Education

The clock strikes 9 a.m. and we were soon met by the two young superstars to complete the day’s lineup—James Reid and Nadine Lustre—both coming from previous engagements and eyes red from what seems like an end result of sleep cut short.

On Nadine: Bralette top, Alexander Wang, Pants, Yves Camingue, and Heels, Christian Louboutin.

Nadine, a woman of 25, in a white tank top and jeans, walked slowly towards the location with a pillow tucked to her chest and her entourage in tow. She was followed by James, of same age, in his black shirt and shorts, tailed by the day’s scene stealer, Cal, the Corgi.

The first time I have met the pair, they were fresh from their second movie, Talk Back and You’re Dead—a logical much-needed sequel to the surprise success that was Diary ng Panget released four months prior. It was 2014 and it was an era of saccharine Wattpad-derived materials and their first outing gave birth to one of the most beloved portmanteau in the business: JaDine. Their surge in popularity was so unbelievable that the two were soon enough inducted to join today’s pantheon of revered celebrities.

On and off the screen, it’s their undeniable chemistry that made them a shoo-in to national fame—like an invisible thread that binds the two together. This very chemistry has propelled their legions of fans to anticipate and mark their every move, making sure that every new endeavor leads to online frenzy, top rated shows, and sold out concert and movie tickets. And why not? James and Nadine have both grown from newcomers raring to disrupt the game to mainstays of mainstream success.

On James: Turtleneck, Polo Ralph Lauren. Shirt, Wood Wood from Akimbo Uptown Mall. Parka, Opening Ceremony. Track pants, Dima Leu. Shoes, Gucci.

To their solid army of fans, they are and will always be #TeamReal. Beyond their public profession of their reel- to real-life relationship, they serve as the most apt, clear pictures of empowered, young adults who choose to live by their own rules, self-aware and more mature–now more than ever.

This very chemistry has propelled their legions of fans to anticipate and mark their every move, making sure that every new endeavor leads to online frenzy, top rated shows, and sold out concert and movie tickets.

Today, five years following their ascent to A-list status with one chance pairing, James and Nadine have undoubtedly etched a mark for themselves—together and apart. And they continue to brave new frontiers and live according to bars they have set for themselves and no one else’s, far from the time they were trying mightily to go through the motions of making their presence felt in a highly-competitive and fickle industry.

“I feel like from when we were starting, we just keep on getting and accepting everything that comes our way. Back then, it felt like we needed to strike while the iron is hot. But somehow, it came with a price. I ended up always getting tired and getting depressed. I wasn’t sleeping, I wasn’t taking care of myself. But all that has changed because I learned that I shouldn’t say ‘yes’ to everything,” Nadine tells Rank when asked about her brave, new disposition.

From their selection of roles to endorsements, down to appearances and projects they want to focus on, the pair has grown leaps and bounds from then to now. Their latest box-office starrer, in 2018, was widely-talked about but ended up showcasing them in their most raw, vulnerable, and real portrayal as Gio and Joanne in Never Not Love You under the helm of Antoinette Jadaone. Accolades followed suit, including nominations at esteemed award-giving bodies like the FAMAS Awards.

“I feel like from when we were starting, we just keep on getting and accepting everything that comes our way. Back then, it felt like we needed to strike while the iron is hot. But somehow, it came with a price. I ended up always getting tired and getting depressed. I wasn’t sleeping, I wasn’t taking care of myself. But all that has changed because I learned that I shouldn’t say ‘yes’ to everything,” Nadine tells Rank

Just recently, Nadine has become the first-ever Filipina to collaborate with retail giant H&M in an exciting summer line that not only ratified her tag as one of the Philippines’ sexiest (In 2017, she was voted top on the list of 100 Sexiest Women in the country by men’s magazine FHM Philippines) but her creative vision. This came over a year after she launched her beauty line, Lustrous, in partnership with Australian makeup brand, BYS.

“It always feels good going through that process of seeing something you’ve started slowly come true. It’s always challenging at first, but working hard for something and seeing the end result, the way you wanted it, is the most fulfilling thing. And right now, it feels great that I have greater control on the overall direction of every project I get my hands into,” she enthuses.

I asked James on his evolved sensibilities in his almost ten-year-old career. He replies, “I am definitely more mature now. I think when I started, I just wanted to do something in life. I just wanted to be successful—just like most young adults who want to be successful in something. But if you work hard enough and you’re lucky enough to make that happen, you will eventually start to see that that’s really not the point. You really didn’t just want to be successful at something, what you really want is to do something you are passionate about.” He continues, “For me, I found passion in music and that’s what has been occupying my time. That’s what gives me purpose.”

In 2017, James released “Palm Dreams”—an entrancing nine-song hip-hop and R&B record that had him writing his own songs and creating a distinct sound that is both smooth and invigorating, with tracks that talk lengths about young love. One pass as the entirety of the album and it is easy to regard its artistic merits as something that’s organic and genuine—separating him from all the others who tried to tread the same path as him. The album was well-made with impressive nods to James’ obvious influences, allowing a rebirth of an artist who is in full control of his instrument.

“I am definitely more mature now. I think when I started, I just wanted to do something in life. I just wanted to be successful—just like most young adults who want to be successful in something. “

“Palm Dreams” also showcased collaborations he had with friends like Sam Concepcion and Kiana Valenciano and of course, Nadine. But it was the long-standing friendship and creative partnership with Bret Jackson that allowed him to steer the wheel into building what today is considered a game-changing record label, Careless Music Manila.

“My manager, Vic Del Rosario of Viva, and I co-own Careless. I have complete creative control with what I have to do with the music and with the brand. And Bret is our A&R (artists & repertoire),” he notes. “It’s been fun because I get to work with my friends. But at the same time, it is also difficult because it is my first time. We were complete amateurs, doing what we love and hoping that other people will love it too. It was built out of our love for music and our friendship and that hope to make a difference in the music industry in the Philippines.”

With the success of “Palm Dreams”, then came the Careless Mixtape, consisting of 15 tracks bulked up and completed from additional talent in their roster of fellow renegades Dubai-born model turned rapper Luke Hassan a.k.a. AstroKidd, Dumaguete-based Haissam “Massiah” Morton, rapper-entrepreneur Mito “Curtismith” Fabie, and 19-year-old Tacloban native Sofia Romualdez—all making up the brand’s DNA of current flavor and carefree artistry that ultimately gives international records a run for their money.

“It’s been fun because I get to work with my friends. But at the same time, it is also difficult because it is my first time. We were complete amateurs, doing what we love and hoping that other people will love it too. It was built out of our love for music and our friendship and hope to make a difference in the music industry in the Philippines,” James shares.

“In the beginning, it was all the stress of getting all the artists together and the stress of making these tracks and handling all the stems on the music. Everything was messy at the start. We didn’t even know what Careless was until we finished the project,” James notes. “In the end, I realized that it is definitely all about what I wanted to do. I don’t think so much about trying to please certain audiences. It is showing the people our identity and that will essentially translate.”


BRET JACKSON: Diaries of the King

On Bret: Shirt, Guess. Corduroy jacket by Lazy Oaf.

Bret Jackson, the eyes and ears for new talent of Careless Music Manila, is unafraid to say that while music is at the core of his being, his momentary derailment allowed him to nurture his craft before going at it at 100%. Prior to joining Pinoy Big Brother Clash of 2010 with his good friend, James, Bret has long been making music.

“I was 19 when I joined PBB in 2010. I never really wanted or even thought of pursuing showbiz. I was writing songs since I was 14 and I was making cover videos on YouTube. Then, by accident, I got a call that I got in and then showbiz came. It became a means for me to take care of my family,” he shared.

After leaving the reality show, Bret took on several roles on television and films like any aspirant thrust in the scene would. But it was his proclivity with making music that kept him through. Bret and James continued their creative pursuit, with songs that they have worked on and released online. Their duo would then use the name We Are Whatever. Years after, Bret would continue on to use the name when the right time to do music came knocking right back at his door.

“We made a few songs together under the name, so, I kind of kept that to show that it is where I came from, this is where I started doing what I love and it made it all the more special because it was with my best friend.”

“We made a few songs together under the name, so, I kind of kept that to show that it is where I came from. This is where I started doing what I love and it made it all the more special because it was with my best friend. For years, I wanted to do music. I did some with James but we never really put it out or pushed it until the right time came.” He adds, “Then, in one of my first rap shows, the kids kept shouting, ‘King!’ ‘King!’ It was so surreal. I then decided to put the two together and it is actually a good thing since it rhymes with a lot of things,” Bret shares matte-of-factly, letting out a few impromptu rap lines as he recalled the story.

In a time of music covers, Bret would soon realize that he has to break out of the mold of mainstream practices at the time and found it in him to do something unique. This led him to go around and study his craft, which would mean putting in sincere effort by immersing himself in the music that he is gravitated in.

“When I was in the States, with my mom, I lived in the projects and I grew up around hip-hop and R&B. Rock music, at the time, is a really big part of me but then I also have this other side. Then I told myself that since I really loved hip-hop, maybe I should rap,” the 28-year-old artist enthuses.

Around 2011 and 2012, Bret would go around Manila and watch shows that would later on inspire and fuel his passion for his musicality. “I went to see different acts do hip-hop and stuff. And I would practice in my room. I would listen to beats, I would write. I just kept trying to develop my craft.”

Following the success of “Palm Dreams” as the CMM’s first jab as a label into producing music, Bret would soon release his own album, “Island City Poems” in the same year. The response was clear and the drive to create and expand intensified.

“Island City Poems” serves as a diary of Bret’s younger self, talking about things that he went through in 2014. “Even if it was released in 2017, the mood and theme was more me in 2014 as someone in the showbiz world but not really accustomed to how things go down. A look into the darker side of it and the emptiness of not knowing who likes you.”

The album contains songs he has made in collaboration with friends including tracks like “Caught in Your Feelings”, a collab with James, “Personal” with Kiana Valenciano and “1234” with Sam Concepcion.

ALEXANDER DIAZ: New Frontiers

On Alexander: Shirt, Supreme. Jacket, Kaye Morales. Shoes, Converse.

“I have always been passionate about music, meeting new people, and making the most out of life,” 24-year-old Alexander Diaz shares as he enters a new phase of his entertainment and creative career.

Alexander is no stranger to Rank Magazine, fronting the cover of our Push Issue where he shared a no-holds-barred confessional about how he feels he is taking on resurgence of sorts—a life of a renewed sense of ownership of his mistakes and growing from them.

“After two or three years of being on your own, you would sort of realize that there’s nobody who’s going to tell you to keep your circle small, invest more in yourself and less on temporary thrills. And so, a lot of those mistakes happened without someone tapping me on the back and calling me out on my faults.”

Also read: The Second Coming of Alexander Diaz

“I’m really at that point where I am looking at my career path clearer. I have realized a lot of things and it is, in so many ways, a resurgence of character for me,” he shared in an interview for his first-ever Rank cover. “Alexander 2.0” as he likes to call it.

In 2018, with a renewed sense of purpose and a drive that is proven unrelenting, Alexander has shown maturity of his character, weighing priorities and taking hold of opportunities that come his way.

He has continued taking on roles for television but has expanded in creating content for his YouTube channel (with a growing subscriber base of over 40,000 in matter of months) and his social media channels with a following of more than half a million.

“I’m really at that point where I am looking at my career path clearer. I have realized a lot of things and it is, in so many ways, a resurgence of character for me.”

For this year, he has worn yet another hat becoming the Creative Director for Cinco de Mayhem Music Festival, in partnership with ProMedia Productions, a premiere productions agency that has seen his potential and has nurtured it further.

“With his clout and his skill set, we really saw that he could be the driving force that would ultimately make this festival happen. He had vision and he has the drive and the energy to make that vision work,” shares Lahaina Mae Mondonedo, Director of Operations and a long time friend.

This year, he has made it clear to continue working on his music. Apart from his ongoing series of projects, he has also taken a more serious look at his music as his craft, having released two new singles “Dulo”, which he has co-written and has amassed over 1 million streams on Spotify and “Hide Away”, which he has written and produced himself.

“I am truly blessed that I get to do what I love and there are people who are responding well to it. With Cinco De Mayhem, I am really proud and ecstatic to share my passion with my friends who all gamely helped me make this vision a reality. From the guys at ProMedia to the lineup of local acts we have collected, there’s just so much I am thankful for,” he jests.

THE NEW AGENDA

James, Nadine, Bret, and Alexander—disruptors all—make up a new order of young, empowered, self-aware instigators of change, which they have prodded out of themselves as they journeyed their young careers with a mission not just to have a shot at fame, but a chance to influence and leave their own marks. It goes without saying that they are showing no signs of wavering their efforts in redefining the music industry.

“Music, definitely, is at my core. It started out as something that I just love doing but I believed and I knew that there’s more to making music than just letting out a single or two, I always wanted to do something that would redefine mainstream music in the Philippines,” James shares.

“Before, someone would make songs for us. We would go into the studio, and the songs are ready. Now, it is super different because there’s more effort and input in the overall direction of everything that we do. And that’s priceless,” Nadine shares on the shift in their musical and artistic journey.

According to him, a new Careless mixtape is already in the works with 20 songs from artists sourced from their current roster, along with talents and hip-hop acts they have scouted from Visayas and Manila—a vision that is rooted on the fact of cultivating talent that may have not been given the chance at mainstream attention and recognition.

 “Before, someone would make songs for us. We would go into the studio, and the songs are ready. Now, it is super different because there’s more effort and input in the overall direction of everything that we do. And that’s priceless,” Nadine shares on the shift in their musical and artistic journey.

“That’s what excites me about Cinco De Mayhem because it’s not just your average run-of-the-mill party–it is a celebration of musicality but we are doing something different. When you think of a music festival, you would think of the usual stuff. It’s all been done. But this makes it exciting because it is themed and the lineup is just a bunch of like-minded people who love what they are doing,” she continues.

Produced and creative direction by Leo Balante
Assisted by 
William Belicena
In partnership with ProMedia Philippines
Cover photography by 
Rxandy Capinpin
Styling by 
Patrick Pleno and Carvey Samonte
Assisted by Janine Valdez
Grooming for James Reid by 
Mac Naig Igarta
Makeup for Nadine Lustre by 
Jelly Eugenio
Hair for Nadine Lustre by 
Mark Anthony Rosales
Grooming for Alexander Diaz and Bret Jackson by Ruby Anne Rebucas and Jessica Joshua
Special thanks to Maquillage Professionnel
Videography shot by 
Joshua Ke
Edited by 
John Cydric Rufino at The One Raw
Shot on location at 
Hacienda Comida y Cocteles