Watch out SB19, here comes HORI7ON

Television executive Laurenti Dyogi may have announced that the disenfranchised ABS-CBN is no longer a network and is now simply a media company and content supplier, but that does not mean ABS-CBN is no longer interested in catapulting a pop group of young men into the global entertainment arena.

The company’s executives, including Dyogi himself as head of TV production and Star Magic, hope to do it with HORI7ON (read as “horizon” and intentionally always written in all caps), an all-male pop group formed from the ABS-CBN talent search-reality show Dream Maker, which ran from November last year to February this year.

The group is composed of seven boys, thus justifying substituting “7” for “Z” in the septet’s name. They emerged as the winners from a crowd of 77 contestants.

Those ABS-CBN execs may never say it, but they’re hoping HORI7ON can — perhaps within a few months — overtake SB19, the Pinoy pop band formed in 2018 that has made it to Billboard and has done concerts in the US and Singapore. HORI7ON is Korean-mentored, just like SB19.

The ABS-CBN execs also don’t even say that HORI7ON will be a competitor of their existing all-male group since 2021, the quintet BGYO. Happily for the BGYO boys, there is no buzz about dissolving their band. In fact, BGYO performed with the HORI7ON boys upon their proclamation on 12 February as the winners (through text votes) in Dream Maker. A few days later, HORI7ON started doing promo shows in some malls outside Metro Manila.

The two other ABS-CBN executives on top of the HORI7ON project are Reilly Santiago and Marcus Vinuya. Reilly is a sibling of actor-directors Rowell and Randy Santiago.

What may be considered HORI7ON’s first big step was their signing of an exclusive contract with ABS-CBN and the Korean firm MLD Entertainment on Friday, 10 March. MLD collaborated with ABS-CBN and Kamp Korea to train 77 boys who joined the competition to be a HORI7ON member.

It’s a contest whose winners were ultimately determined by public votes through texting. The organizers decided around the first week of February to declare the 16 contestants who had the highest text votes as the16 finalists, but only the Top 7 would make it to the new pop group which is meant to be a global boyband — in the league of Korea’s BTS, who knows?

A website report said about 17 million votes were cast throughout the competition.

MLD Entertainment, ABS-CBN’s main partner in the HORI7ON project, is the home of K-pop acts  Lapillus, TFN, CocaNButter, Narin and JT&Marcus. It was also the former agency of the girl group Momoland.

Star search-reality shows seem to be popular in South Korea, where they are now known as “idol survival shows.” Among the most popular K-pop groups that have emerged from survival shows are Wanna One, IZ*ONE, I.O.I, X1 and Kep1er.

Dream Maker aired Saturday and Sunday nights on ABS-CBN platforms starting 19 November. The winning seven boys were announced on the final show on 12 February held at Caloocan City Sports Complex, hosted by Kim Chiu and full-blooded Korean comedian Ryan Bang, who has made the Philippines his home since 2010.

Rigorous training

The contestants, aged 13 to 22, went through rigorous training under the mentorship of Filipino and Korean stars and industry heavyweights.

The South Korean mentors were K-pop composer Seo Won-jin, music producer Bullseye, MOMOLAND and Lapillus choreographer Bae Wan-hee, former MBLAQ member Thunder, Brown Eyed Girls vocalist JeA and choreographer and Produce 101 dance mentor Bae Yoon-Jung.

The Pinoy stars who helped hone the boys’ talents were Star Power champion and singer Angeline Quinto, Now United member Bailey May, and pop performer Darren Espanto.

The seven boys who were voted by the public to make up HORI7ON are Jeromy Batac, 14; Marcus Cabais,13; Kyler Chua, 20; Vinci Malizon, 23 (on 11 March this year; he was still 22 when the search began in November last year); Kim Ng, 20; Winston Pineda, 18; and Reyster Yton, 20.

Note that two of them are minors — Batac and Cabais. The oldest is 23 (Malizon).

Photograph courtesy of IG/HORI7ON
P-Pop group HORI7ON.

Batac and Cabais are actually “young veterans” in joining competitions and peforming in front of live audiences. Batac gained the highest number of votes, followed by Cabais.

Born in 2011 in Caloocan City, Batac danced in a school program when he was just five. His mother was in the audience and was so impressed by her son’s performance that she decided to look for a dance coach for him. By 2018, he had joined the dance group Electrogroovers which came out champions in Australia’s World Supremacy Battlegrounds held  in Sydney.

At eight years old, Batac also performed in the ABS-CBN variety show Little Big Shots with his dance pair Thea. It was a dance medley that included some portions of Iñigo Pascual’s “Dahil Sa’yo.”

Cabais, on the other hand, started his career as an entertainer also at five years old. In 2015, he joined It’s Showtime’s segment “Mini Me,” playing a mini-version of American singer-songwriter Bon Jovi. He came back two years later in the show’s second season as a Wildcard performer.

The boy from Bataan who loves to compete also joined the SM Little Stars 2016 in SM City Pampanga and became the season’s grand champion.
At nine, Cabais performed as Young Simba in “The Lion King” musical staged in various countries. In the same year, he joined Team Yey!, a Philippine children’s TV show created by Yey! He showcased his talent in music during the “Sound Check” segment.

Cabais acted in Regal Films’ “My 2 Mommies,” directed by Eric Quizon and released in May 2018. He played Tristan, the son of actors Paolo Ballesteros and Solenn Heussaff in the story.

Oldest member

Malizon, the oldest HORI7ON member, hails from Sto. Tomas, Batangas, where he performed a lot in local events. He is reportedly a self-taught singer-dancer.

The contest mentors almost always gave him high points for his performances, which made him rank high consistently among the contestants.

Mentor Bae Wan Hee was quoted as saying about Malizon: “This is a level test. Vinci is the only one who understands K-pop. I can entrust him with the overall performance.”

On the show’s finale, Malizon was ranked fourth overall with 2,447,877 public votes.

In November 2022, Chua got blasted by netizens and social media personalities for ironically auditioning for a Kapamilya show despite having supported politicians who were behind its shutdown in his now-deleted social media posts.

His managers, Celebrity Studio, issued a statement of apology, saying it’s his youth that led him to take such a political stance, believing it would not offend anyone.

Dream Maker seems to be Yton’s first time to join a TV talent search. The guy from Cabanatuan City seems to be the tallest HORI7ON member at 5’8.

In episode 2 of the show, he was referred to as a “Total Performer” for his abilities in both singing and dancing.

Pineda, from Samar, had the lowest number of votes among the seven winners.

Kim Ng is from Bacolod. He joined a previous idol survival contest in the country, Top Class, which aired last year on TV5.

Astrology seems to have favored some of the boys who made it to HORI7ON. Four of them were born in February and have as Sun sign either Aquarius or Pieces. These four are Ng, Yton, Batac and Pineda.

The HORI7ON boys will leave for South Korea in mid-April, after promo shows in various parts of the Philippines, including some cities in Mindanao.

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