Monday, October 5, 2015


I am a big fan of boybands.

As in.

During my teenage years (when the term boyband wasn’t really that popular, if I remember it right), I was into boybands just like a lot of my female and gay classmates.

I was a fan of a lot of them: Backstreet Boys, N’SYNC, Boyzone, 98 Degrees, Code Red, Plus One, O Town, 3T, Human Nature, 5ive, The Moffats, Hanson, All 4 One, Take That, BBMak, Westlife – just to name some. I bought their cassette tapes/CDs, tuned in to MTV and Channel [V] to watch and even record their music videos, bought magazines featuring them, and watched their concerts here.

I think I was into them a little more than most of my peers. This was because I wanted a career in music.

As in I wanted to be part of a boyband.

I wasn’t just a fan of these cute and talented singers; I wanted to be like them, too.

And so I found myself listening to and learning all their songs, released or not. I studied the structure of their songs, the delegation of parts, the usual and not-so-usual topics, the patterns when releasing singles.

I also became familiar with the in demand songwriters and producers they worked with (Max Martin, Soulshock and Karlin, etc.), trends in album art, plus other things like the importance of branding, imaging, logos, and choreography.

So when GMA 7 announced they were forming a boyband through a show called To The Top, I was excited because I’ve always wanted to form my own vocal group and I’ve always wanted to form and manage a boyband and a girl group. I should learn a lot of things from the show, I thought.

I got even more excited when my boss one day invited an officemate and I to help him judge in one episode together with Joshua Zamora and Kuh Ledesma. We basically had to watch the performances of the three competing groups and rank them.

Kuh and I had different opinions on the contestants’ performances and I just loved it when she told me that after being in the industry for 37 years (37 nga ba?), she sure knows who can and can’t sing. Good TV moment there, Speidi would be proud.

A week after, I judged again, this time together with Jett Pangan and Ryan Cayabyab. 

Now I love Mr. C because, well, he is Mr. C! I met him a long, long time ago, when I auditioned for Smokey Mountain. Of course, I just had to remind him.

To The Top ended last week and I am suffering from separation anxiety. Watching the show on Saturday and Sunday nights became a habit. I also enjoyed live tweeting and exchanging tweets with some of the contestants (some of them recognized me as a guest judge and as someone from GMA Artist Center).

The good thing is that the boys are now with us.

I got to meet the winners – Miko M, Mico C, Adrian, Louie, and Joshua – just last week, as in for the very first time! I had coffee with them and it was nice to get to know them, of course. I asked them about their musical influences and the genres they like. I also asked about their love life!

I ended up giving them tips, as well, and showing them an interesting music video of another boyband.

The next day, I saw them again. My officemates and I were having a planning session and the boys dropped by to sing an original song called Paggising. Intro pa lang and I was sold! Harmony was great, Miko M’s runs were amazing. The whole song is pretty catchy and it is not forgettable so I hope a studio version becomes available soon so that you guys can listen to it.

By the way, the boys are now called T.O.P. but we haven’t finalized what the letters mean.

Transfer of Payment? Tower of Power? Throes of Passion???

We’re looking at either Top One Project or Tunay|Orihinal|Pinoy. What do you think?

As for the rest of the To The Top boys, don’t be sad because they are also with us and we do have plans for them so you will still see Cholo dela Cruz, Lance Busa, Edric Ulang, Lharby Policarpio, and the others. Who knows, maybe they’re really meant to be solo singers and not boyband members, di ba?

As for my dreams of being a member of a boyband, I have given up on that already so you won’t see me doing choreographed moves while blending with others.

Like I said, maybe some people are meant to be solo singers and not boyband members nga, di ba??? ;)

Sunday, October 4, 2015


I loved singing and performing for relatives and guests at home when I was young.

One time, when I was about four years old, my mother asked me to sing Tomorrow for our relatives who were visiting.

I instantly burst into song.

However, after singing the first line with so much passion, I decided to stop and asked to be excused.

I went inside my room, did a proper entrance, and then whipped out my milk bottle, which I used as a microphone. I sang “The sun will come out tomorrow” again and finished the song.

No doubt about it: even when I was just a kid, I already knew I wanted to sing and perform for others.

Fast forward to my high school years.

One day, I read in the papers that Ryan Cayabyab was forming an all-male version of Smokey Mountain. Of course, I just had to try out. I didn’t tell my parents about it. My friends and I decided to try our luck.

For those who have no idea what I’m talking about, Smokey Mountain was a vocal group composed of 3 guys (James Coronel, Tony Lambino, and Jeffrey Hidalgo) and 1 girl (Geneva Cruz). They were responsible for hits like Kailan, Can This Be Love, and Mama. And oh, they dressed weird (look at the photo above).

When they disbanded, James Coronel stayed and was joined by another guy (Jayson Angangan) and 2 girls (Zhar/Shar Santos and Chedi Vergara). They had hits like Kahit Habang Buhay and Nahan Ka. They were kinda weird, too, but instead of clothes with toothbrushes, they experimented with crazy hairstyles.

Going back to the auditions, my friends and I went to Sunvar Plaza in Makati to try our luck. All the guys were with their parents and my friends and I felt so cool because we were on our own.

To my surprise, I passed the initial round and was asked to return a couple of times. I don’t know how many guys auditioned – maybe hundreds or even thousands, but I eventually made it to the "finals." I think we were about 10 or 12.

Honestly, I don’t even remember the songs I sang, but I think Can This Be Love was one of them, and that it was really surreal singing it because Jeffrey himself was there.

One thing I remember is that I had a wireless mic inside my backpack – it wasn’t working, of course, I just liked bringing it wherever I went – and that I lent it to this guy in a sparkly vest because he was singing with an invisible mic.

Another thing I remember is that I was doing all these Mariah Carey finger movements, which distracted Chedi. I heard her say that one of their teachers would definitely ask me to stop doing that.

Sadly, nothing happened to our batch – no boyband was formed. I don’t remember the exact reason but I think it was because we were so few and they wanted more people. They were so sure some of us wouldn’t be able to endure training or would get lazy or would prioritize school or would turn out to be assholes or something.

A year after, I got surprised when they got in touch with me again, asking me to return. I had to undergo a couple of auditions and eventually ended up as one of the final 10 or so guys. The difference was that there was a group of girls, too. I didn’t know how many guys they were looking for but the fact that they were including girls made my chances slim.

Unfortunately, I didn’t make it to the final lineup.

They chose three girls and just one guy. The group was named Kaya and the guy who beat me is Brenan Espartinez, who is an amazing singer.

And that, ladies and gentlemen, is how I almost became part of Kaya/Smokey Mountain batch 3.

Friday, October 2, 2015


I am so happy for Alden Richards.

He is doing so good right now, thanks to his love team with Yaya Dub/Maine Mendoza called AlDub. This has opened a lot of doors for him; inquiries for endorsement deals, mall shows, and magazine features and covers have been pouring in. In fact, he hasn’t had a day off for more than a couple of months now because he has Eat Bulaga! from Monday to Saturday, and Sunday PinaSaya on Sundays, plus all the rehearsals and shows and photo shoots and recording sessions and trips to the gym.

Being part of the AlDub love team is not the only thing responsible for his immense popularity right now, although we all know how much it has helped his career, of course. There is no denying how attractive and charming he is. Alden is also a talented actor and more importantly, a serious and disciplined hard worker. He didn’t give up; he was patient enough to wait for his time (aka tamang panahon – yes, I just had to use it) so now he is enjoying all the fruits of his labor.

Alden has made my job so much easier! I don’t even have to knock on doors anymore; magazine editors themselves have been getting in touch with me, asking if they could feature him.

Released last week was his cover for Manila Bulletin Style Weekend For Men and I have to say all the shots are great (thanks to Advan Ramirez!) and that styling is on fleek (thanks to Leo Marvin Balante)!

I love the color palette and how simple the styling is. After all, you don’t need much when you’ve got that face, that smile, and those dimples.

Just look at this set of headshots. That one on the lower left is killing me.

He sure knows how to rock the jeans – white tee – black leather jacket combo, too, noh?

Also out now is his cover for Inside Showbiz. I used to be the EIC of Inside Showbiz so I am happy that they put Alden in the cover.

We shot this in a hotel – in the hallway, in the bedroom, by the pool – and I love how simple the styling was, just like with Style Weekend.

It was fun doing the shoot with people I got to work with when I was still part of the magazine, such as John Ocampo, who is responsible for the great photos of Alden. I can’t wait to see the inside pages and see the rest of his photos, plus read the story of Maan Pamaran, who is always fun to be with.

Highlight of the Inside Showbiz shoot? I saw Alden’s feet – he was barefoot while doing the interview – and my gawd they were so smooth and clean!

Don’t forget to grab a copy of Style Weekend For Men and Inside Showbiz magazines. You better watch out for Alden’s other magazine features.

Follow me on Instagram at @MarkSablan for behind-the-scenes photos from the shoots.

Friday, September 25, 2015


I admire entrepreneurs and businessmen. Those who do it full-time are amazing because starting a business involves a LOT: a lot of money, a lot of time, a lot of sacrifices; it involves taking a big risk, as well, because if it doesn’t succeed, that’s a lot of things down the drain.

I am also impressed by those who do it part-time. We all know how juggling things can be quite challenging.

This is exactly why Louise delos Reyes, Arianne Bautista, and Ryza Cenon have my respect. All three talents of GMA Artist Center have just started their own food business. 

Arianne, one of our new artists, is not a newbie when it comes to business; she is one of the owners of Tornado Peri-Peri Chicken, a restaurant that serves Portuguese food. Obviously, it’s turning out to be a success and she is loving what she does, leading her to start another food business endeavor: North Wing, together with Louise, which is located in Maginhawa. 

As the name suggests, they offer chicken wings. Apart from the usual barbecue flavor, other interesting variants are garlic cheddar, sweet chilli, hell fire, choco flare, and caramel blaze. 

They also have pasta dishes and pizzas if chicken is not your thing (who doesn’t like chicken???).

And then we have Ryza, who is taking the bazaar route with PaBurrito. I love the concept: your paboritong ulam in a burrito. 

And she wasn’t joking when she said paborito because all the burrito variants feature my favorite ulam: chicken BBQ, beef caldereta, pork tocino, longganisa, pork adobo, and sisig. They also offer dips to go with the burritos, such as green mango salsa, BBQ sauce, and sour cream. 

For those who don’t like rice, they have nachos in original, pork longganisa, and chicken jerky.

All this food talk has gotten me hungry. Can you believe I haven’t been to North Wing and that I’ve never tried PaBurrito? That’s got to change very soon, of course. 

Sunday, September 20, 2015


A couple of months ago, my nephew Inigo lost his two front teeth.

He arrived at my birthday dinner with a big smile, minus two teeth – and he looked funny-cute.

Sadako was amazed and couldn’t stop staring.

Back at home, Sadako went on and on and on about how her Kuya Inigo must have forgotten to brush his teeth regularly, resulting to the loss of teeth. She added that she’s pretty sure he has bad breath now. 

I’d laugh every time Sadako mentioned that and every time I saw Inigo’s photos where he’s smiling. Deep inside, however, I was afraid of Sadako’s turn to lose her milk teeth.

That happened sooner than expected, as in awhile ago.

My nap got cut short when I heard Sadako crying and Honeybun talking to her, mentioning the word “tooth” and asking her where it was. I instantly got up and checked her mouth. She was missing one of her lower teeth in front, and we couldn’t find it anywhere. She didn’t even want to tell us whether she swallowed it or not.

Sadako was inconsolable. No matter how much we told her that losing teeth at her age is normal and that they would get replaced eventually, she didn’t buy it. She just cried and cried and cried, even if we promised her ice cream to make her feel better. She just stopped when she got something in her eye and it took us 15 minutes to wash it out. And then she fell asleep.

I wonder how she’d feel about it tomorrow morning.

I wonder how she’d feel when she loses her two front teeth, just like her Kuya Inigo.