Cover Story

Now, more than ever, Philippine Pop (P-Pop) has seen a seismic shift, and with its road built and fortified by its predecessors, the P-Pop scene has since been thriving more and more, carrying a new generation of artists and music that takes Filipino culture and artistic consciousness to new, dare we say, unsurpassable heights.

Born in the midst of the pandemic, we see a young, five-member group break new ground. Brought to the fore by talent management house Cornerstone Entertainment, given a name that is an apparent play on the word vision, the boy group, consisting of young recording and performance rookies, Vince, Sam, Patrick, Franz, and C13, made its emphatic debut at the onset of the year with a powerful, visually entrancing track, “The Beast”.

The recording and stage legends-in-the-making carefully paved its own path, with new perspectives for P-Pop in tow, but one with the industry’s goal of uplifting the Filipino music scene and declaring it a global music juggernaut.

Barely a year since its introduction, the group has since shown great promise, rightfully earning the tag, “Monster Rookies”. Charting their rather less-than-ideal and risky start in a time of uncertainty and uncovering the art of harnessing and shaping their own place in the vast expanse of Filipino and even global entertainment with much verve and grit, VXON tells Rank Magazine their story thus far.

An Introduction to VXON

(L-R) On Sam: Blazer, Edwin Tan. Deconstructed trousers, Benj Rogando. On C-13: Blazer and vest, Benj Rogando. Trousers, Kelvin Morales. On Patrick: Top and vest, Jorem Biadoma. Trousers, Nina Amoncio. On Vince: Patterned jacket and trousers, Benj Rogando. Top, Jorem Biadoma. Top (worn underneath), Uniqlo. On Franz: Top and trousers, Benj Rogando. Overcoat, Uniqlo.

More than finding a talented flock of soon-to-be performers, forming a group requires developing a great amount of oneness and chemistry. Developing skills, routines, and an arsenal of hits that would resonate to its demographic of supporters, handpicking members of any group is largely a game of trial and error and even of luck–but at its very core, as the group’s tagline goes, “Everything starts with a vision.”

The group’s leader and main rapper, C13, gamely shares memories as a young boy in the family, who has always been the center of attention in family events fondly referred as the famous boy to his aunts and relatives, the one who dances at will and collects all the gifts and treats as the family favorite. Fittingly, as he recalls, those years would propel him to dabble in the world of the performing arts.

Top, Uniqlo. Button-down top, Nina Amoncio. Vest, Jorem Biadoma. Trousers, Adam Pereyra.

“Hindi ko siya alam exactly kung paano nag-start but I think through dancing talaga. Super introvert din ako noon, yun lang yung way ko kung paano makipag-interact sa mga taong hindi ko lagi nakakasama that time.”

[I don’t really know exactly how it all started but I think it’s really through dancing. I was really an introvert before, and that’s the only way [referring to dancing] how I interacted with people who I don’t usually bond with.]

Leaning more and more into this passion, prior to joining VXON, C13 was a contestant of the reality survival show Under 19 in MBC South Korea, dating all the way back in 2018. When the pandemic happened, he went back to the Philippines and started taking a job as a call center agent, some commercial gigs and hosting online.

Learning of Cornerstone Entertainment’s plans to set up its first ever P-Pop group, C13 took a chance and did the work, leading him to become the leader and main rapper of the group, an immense task that falls on his shoulder to steer the group to the direction they envision themselves to tread on.

In his case, curiosity has always been Sam’s best friend. His family, like any other Filipino household, has always loved karaoke. This fascination with a microphone and all that it can do, as he had always seen in the hands of his mother, pushed him to have his own time with a mic.

“Alam niyo po ung mga batang sumisigaw sigaw sa mic? Doon po nag start yung drive kong maging isang magaling na singer.”

[Do you know those kids who constantly screams into the mic? That’s when my drive to become a great singer started.]

Sleeveless, deconstructed jacket, Benj Rogando. Tank top, Nina Amoncio. Trousers, Edwin Tan.

From a karaoke “ingenue”, his dreams to become a better singer grew even wider. It’s this very curiosity that brought him to learn more about singing and dancing. He adds, “Halos po lahat na-try ko, pati sports including volleyball, basketball, kung nasaan yung friends ko, I’ll be there.”

[I tried almost everything, even sports including volleyball and basketball, where my friends are, I’ll be there.]

Faced with an opportunity to showcase what he learned, he inevitably took the chance.  He adds, “Nagkaroon po ng band performance nung fourth year high school ako tapos sabi ko, ‘I will take this first step to show everyone kung ano yung mga pinag-aralan ko. There was no turning back from that.”

[“There was a band performance when I was in fourth year high school and right there, I said, ‘I will take this first step to show everyone what I learned. There was no turning back from that.”]

Sam would soon set his vision to pursue performing, a path that would soon lead him to dip his toes into the world of local entertainment, making him no stranger to life in front of the camera.

On his long list of profiles on the web, Sam was a former member of a boy group called CINCO, and an actor for several dramas like Oh, Mando! (2020), My Extraordinary (2020) and Wheel of Love presents Weekend to Remember (2021). Now, this proclivity for the performing arts would then bring him to be the lead rapper and sub-vocal for the group.

Printed button-down top, Kelvin Morales. Oversized pullover, Nina Amoncio.

For Franz, from the start, his exposure to the arts has always been present. He recalls, “Noong bata po ako, nung grade school, ang tawag po sakin ng madami is pabibo kid because sobrang active ko po sa extra-curricular activities.” 

[“When I was a kid, when I was in grade school, many people called me a ‘pabibo kid’  because I was very active in extracurricular activities.”]

He adds that he has always been chosen to perform by his teachers for school functions, and without a doubt, these school performances resulted in him further honing his skills in singing. He shares, “Doon po siguro nahasa yung pagpe-perform ko, especially when it comes to singing.” 

[I think that’s where I probably started harnessing performing, especially when it comes to singing.)

Not only did his school give him his first known opportunities to perform in front of an audience, his ever-supportive mom opened more doors for learning when he entered academies for singing to develop his talent. While surrounded by the art of performing, he then added another layer to his artistic inclinations when he entered college and took digital film.   

“Yung pagmamahal ko po nasa art na talaga, sobrang love ko ang art because I can express myself in a lot of ways. Pwedeng sa performing, sa drawing, and sa filmmaking.”

[“My heart really is in the arts. I really love art because I can express myself in a lot of ways, like in performing, drawing, and film making.”]

Juggling between his love for performing and academics, Franz chose to focus on his studies, especially during college. When the pandemic struck and the world saw the advent of the shift to everything online, he then tried searching for gigs for modeling.

Having envisioned himself as an artist in the long run, art came to him when he was scouted by Cornerstone to become part of their boy group. Not long after, he would become the group’s main vocalist.

Embroidered button-down top, Kelvin Morales. Mesh top, Proudrace. Trousers, Adam Pereyra.

Vince shares getting into a rather different kind of art when he started. Growing up, he’s into drawing and painting that his family suggested that he take architecture. However, he became happy to have chosen Entrepreneurship as a major.   

Vince has always loved performing that even his mom enrolled him to a center for pop music as a young boy but, like most of the group’s love for the arts, his passion grew bigger when he was exposed to school events and even street dance competitions. 

“Since then, I have always loved performing in front of many people, hanggang sa parang gusto ko na siyang gawing profession or i-develop more para ma-hone ko pa yung skills ko sa arts.”

[Since then, I have always loved performing in front of many people, until I feel like I want to make it a profession or to develop more so that I can hone my skills in the arts.]

This urge to be on stage has given Vince a chance when he was scouted and later on become lead vocal and visual of the group.

Custom Rank Magazine embroidered wide-collared button-down, Kelvin Morales. Oversized pullover (worn underneath), Nina Amoncio. Trousers, Benj Rogando.

Taking a leap of faith is what Patrick did to condition himself away from being shy boy that he was. Since he was young, he has always loved dancing but was too timid to perform in front of a lot of people. 

“Actually same kami ni C13, shy talaga ako. Hindi ako makasayaw sa harap ng tao na sobrang dami talaga. Nagsimula lang nung highschool na tina-try ko mag-perform, na labanan ang hiya ko.”

[“Actually C13 and I are the same, I’m really the shy type. I can’t dance in front of so many people. I just started when I was in high school. That’s when I tried to perform, to get over my shyness.”]

Patrick would then gain the confidence to join more school activities not only for fun, but to build up himself for greater things, starting with finding himself in front of a live audience.

“Simula nung nag-training kami, doon ko nalaman na buti na lang nag-try ako nung high school na mag-perform sa harap ng maraming tao. Ngayon, nawala na yung takot ko. Mas ginanahan ako na mag-perform sa maraming tao.”

[“Since we started training, that’s when I’ve realized that it was great that I’ve started performing in front of many people in high school. Now, the fear and that shyness have disappeared even more because of our training. I became more eager to perform in front of a lot of people.”]

As is customary in the formation of any group of young performers, these five talents have grown leaps and bounds from when they have started, what with numerous monthly evaluations, daily training and lessons, even a constant state of mixing and matching with other talents in Cornerstone Entertainment’s roster. In fact, the five final members of the group we are seeing today came from a long period of assessments and grouping with other talents who were initially supposed to be part of the VXON that we know now.

“[We] are proud to have artists who are unique, talented and [with] star quality. We’re excited because we believe VXON has all of it. They have been trained in all aspects by the best people from here and abroad. We have also invested a lot in music production to make sure their debut offering would be world class. [At] the same time, we also involved them in the creative process of the song so that the final output will remain authentic to who they are as artists,” Vice President Jeff Vadillo writes in a statement. 

VXON’s debut track, “The Beast”, written in both English and Filipino is a product of the concerted efforts of Korean music producer Knockloud, the group’s C13, Sam and Franz. The end result would be a sonic offering that delivers a strong message about self-empowerment.

Vadillo highlights,“Just like what we have said, everything starts with a VXON. And after a long time of training and preparation, we are confident their moment has now arrived.” 

“‘The Beast’ is a song that talks about empowerment. Be who you want be. Kahit anong sabihin ng iba as long as you love what you are doing, that’s all that matters. Kapag alam mo sa sarili mo yung gusto mong gawin, kaya mo siyang gawin,” C13 explains.

[“‘The Beast’ is a song that talks about empowerment. Be who you want to be, no matter what others say, as long as you love what you are doing, that’s all that matters.”]

For this reason, he adds, “We think na ito yung song na mag i-introduce sa VXON especially in an inspiring time na maraming P-Pop groups ang nagsusulputan at gusto naming ipakita na kayang kaya nating Filipinos. We can lift up P-Pop together. Kahit anong sabihin ng iba, basta we are enjoying what we are doing kayang kaya natin.” 

[“We think that this is the best song to introduce VXON especially in an inspiring time that we see a lot of P-Pop groups surfacing and we want to show the world that Filipinos can do it. We can lift up P-Pop together. No matter what others say, as long as we are enjoying what we are doing, we can do it.”] 

Shortly after the group made an emphatic entry in the scene through their powerful banger of an introductory track, just last April, a vibrant follow-up came through. “P.S.” is a lighter, but supercharged bop that brought their youthful spirit to the fore, trailing the course of young, promising love.

When asked about the origins of the group’s name, beyond the obvious play on the word it was derived from and how this factors in on their overall formation and development, it is Franz who explains that the roman numeral V stands for the five members and X means crossing paths. Putting these elements together aptly represents five individuals, different and unique in their own ways, crossing paths and united with that same vision.

The beauty of the name goes beyond this symbolism but a mark of the group’s overarching philosophy of singing for the dreams they have built for themselves and contributing in the continuing evolution of the genre that has been gaining ground in the Philippines the past couple of years that it has become a movement to elevate Filipino artistry, as we know it.

Starting out strong with their string of fresh, dynamic releases, and now strengthening their online presence even more through their active YouTube video series, VXON is also looking to get their hands into collaborating with artists that helped–directly or by affinity and influence–shape their group’s aural direction like the rap legend GLOC 9, P-Pop icons SB19, and fellow Cornerstone musicians Zephanie and KZ Tandingan.

“Every stage is a different KZ. Every time she gets on stage, we are always amazed,” Sam enthuses, relating this fascination to the group’s dream of having the same stage presence similar to that of Tandingan’s global firepower as a solo, proudly Filipino musical act. This same inspiration gets extended to their dreams of becoming powerful international performers with influences like Justin Bieber, Chris Brown, ITZY, EXO, and of course, BTS.

True to its tagline, the quintet takes it upon themselves to be living proofs that every success story starts by planting the seeds that would lead to reaching any goal anyone sets for themselves. And with this, the group’s music, and their overall reach transforms into a masterclass in developing that laser-sharp focus to have that vision and that sense of empowerment to be something.

“We have a vision to be excellent performers and more than that, we want to reach every single listener with a message that your dream could be turned into reality through music, through our help. Together, we can reach that goal of yours.”

“Hindi mangyayari yung pangarap mo kung hindi mo sisimulan. Have a vision, have plans, prepare for it, and embrace your flaws, everything. When you accept everything, appreciate everything, lahat po yan magpa-follow na lang. Everything starts with a vision,” Sam ends. 

[“Your dreams won’t become reality if you are not going to start working on it. Have a vision, have plans, prepare for it, and embrace your flaws, everything. When you accept everything, appreciate everything, everything will follow. Everything starts with a vision.”]

Produced by Rank Magazine with CS Music via Cornerstone Entertainment Inc.

Creative and styling direction and interview by Leo Balante

Photographed by Jharwin Castañeda

Cover illustration and animation by Lee Caces

Cover story additional text by Andrea Ysabel Andrea

Beauty direction and makeup by Nadynne Esguerra

Hair by Sean Nadera

Fashion by Nina Amoncio, Benj Rogando, Adam Pereyra, Jorem Biadoma, and Kelvin Morales

Fashion and creative assistant: Isaiah Bailon

Shoot assistants: Roni Mae Serrano and Patrick Dale Alog

Shot on location at the CS Studios

With acknowledgments to:

Executive Producers: Erickson Raymundo, Jeff Vadillo

CS Music Head: Caress Caballero