Ace as the Leader of 1st.One Thinks Relevance Can Only Get You So Far
It takes a leap of faith to go down this path. And for this pop dreamer, he took on every challenge, every obstacle, every hurdle for his dreams. No matter how much he stumbled, he never fell. No matter how many times he’s tripped up, he’s never lost faith. And here he is now—fearlessly challenging the vibrant P-Pop scene as Ace.
1st.One’s leader goes by the stage name “Ace,” and when you hear such a word, it usually embodies excellence. True enough, Ace relentlessly strives to become the best version of himself, inspiring five fellow dreamers to reach their utmost potential. Under his exceptional leadership, what was once a group that rarely got attention has transformed into one that has found its own color in the P-Pop scene and now commands the spotlight.
Last year, the group achieved a remarkable milestone by joining SB19 as one of the rare P-Pop groups to top the coveted Billboard charts, but their journey doesn’t end there. This year, 1st.One is determined to deliver extraordinary and high-quality content, as evident by their record-breaking budget for their “Problem Child” music video. This breakthrough is seen as their big opportunity, and the group anticipates soaring to greater heights from this point forward.
But behind all the achievements, 1st.One at their core is a band of brothers who intend to lead the P-Pop rise with a greater purpose. As Ace sees it, more than anything, it’s all about heart and soul. “Relevance is good but too much influence of the thought that ‘quantity is the best option to be relevant’ is the worst trap ever. The balance between Quantity and Quality will always be the best route to take and being true to your craft will always be authentic, unbeatable, and irreplaceable.”
In this special feature, we highlight the pursuit of Ace’s dreams and the struggles and joy of being 1st.One’s leader. Read on as we explore the promising path that lies ahead for 1st.One and its guiding force.
Q. Tell me about how you became the leader of your group.
Ace: Thinking about it I think I could start by saying that a leader is someone who is not only elected but someone who is built endlessly by the people he serves and leads. I became the leader of 1st.One in a mixed kind of way. I remember our president telling me that they would be expanding the management and operating in the Philippines. They mentioned holding private auditions in the country and that the survivors of the remaining trainees will become members of 1st.One—who I have to lead in a way that would create a group built with both the Philippine and Korean systems. The management didn't want to create a K-Pop boygroup coming from the Philippines; it was always about creating a P-Pop boygroup capable of representing our pride as Filipinos both in our country and internationally as well. In order to create this group, the training and preparation was literally like hell. I remember rehearsing from 7AM up to 10PM everyday until it was perfect, until we could sing and dance to it without committing mistakes. The system was very strict. It was the height of the pandemic. Practices happened all day. Because of this, I was very strict to the team to the point that we had fights. But thanks to our members, all of them accepted and respected my leadership. We would fight but we'd all end up talking together and fixing everything together. We learn from each other and they'd always push me further to be a better leader each and everyday. I owe my leadership and me being a leader to the people I serve, lead and represent.
Q. You were on the road to steadily establishing your solo career with releases such as “Blow the Night Away,” “Giliw,” and “Ikaw Pa Rin.” But your love for K-pop led you to leave the spotlight and pursue this dream. What was the decision process like? What were the factors you need to consider? How was the transition to the P-Pop scene like?
Ace: I felt like I had a greater calling, a greater vision. I was impressed with and learned to love K-Pop’s system, and as I continued to push for this love, I grew to love Korean culture as well. I ultimately learned their language when I lived in Korea for four years as part of my idol training and preparations for 1st.One. A lot of sacrifices were made, and I had to step out of my comfort zone. The blood and tears I shed with my 1st.One brothers in our grueling practices reborn me as a new person and artist. The transition to P-Pop was not easy, but I must say that it was worth it. They say nothing beautiful or great is ever achieved easily, and it is indeed true. Now I'm part of a movement revolutionizing our Filipino music and entertainment industry and representing it to the whole world. I am thankful from the bottom of my heart and soul.
Q. Looking back, with all the achievements that 1st.One has accomplished, do you think you’ve made the right decision? If you were to change one thing in your journey, what would it be?
Ace: Learning from the past, living in the present, and fighting for the future is how I would love to put it. I would never change anything from the past. All the achievements we've reached came about because of the decisions we made. Had we changed anything in the past, the results would not have been the same. They say there is always a reason for everything, so instead of changing the past, it is better to learn from it and improve on it in order to grow, evolve, and make better decisions for the things that we are trying to reach for.
Q. Seven years in the industry, including your solo career days, is considered long enough. As a veteran in the group, what were the significant lessons you’ve learned and applied in 1st.One and how do you ought to maintain these to carry on the legacy of FirstOne Entertainment?
Ace: As a veteran in the group, it allowed me to share my personal knowledge and know-how with my brothers both off and on stage. It's fun to be able to add to the skills of everybody and witness our growth together. However, more than the additional skill set I have imparted, I think one of the greatest things I was able to share with my 1st.One family is the down-to-earth attitude. When we are on stage, we transform into completely different versions of ourselves. We harness that controllable burning fire within us to deliver remarkable and inspiring stages for our audience—be it a fan, a hater, or just a casual passerby. But once we step off, we should always remain humble, with our feet on the ground and our eyes on the sky.
Q. How do you handle the pressure of being a leader and maintaining the reputation of your group, particularly coming from a Seoul-based entertainment company that's well-versed in the intricacies of the K-pop scene? What particular difficulties have you encountered in this position, and how have you handled them?
Ace: It is true that being a leader has its pressures, and there have been a lot of difficulties along the way. Even though we've already come quite a long way since we debuted, we still undergo the same Korean training system on a normal day—wake up early and practice until late at night. We do get tired and drained. When these things happen, the members clash with each other. So as a leader and as brothers, we make efforts to fix everything together. But most importantly, to handle the pressure, we have to stay true to ourselves. In all these scenarios we go through each day, it's easy to lose the truth. And when you lose the truth, everything becomes harder, unbearable, and collapses. But if you stay true to yourself, it's easy to be grounded, to be patient, and to handle situations better. The image, the reputation, the pressure control, and everything else will follow if you remain true.
Q. You previously indicated that all of you in 1st.One are very involved in the production of your music, and two of your specialties are song composition and choreography. How do you, as the group's leader, strike a balance between each member's aspirations and skills and the group's overall goals?
Ace: Well, this may sound crazy, but I let everyone clash. These guys are a bunch of very talented, dedicated, and passionate individuals. Controlling them by the neck would just limit their potential. Especially when it comes to producing music, choreography, staging, or whatnot, I let everyone clash first and fight for what they want. It's a fun and interesting process because you wouldn't be able to imagine all the ideas that were produced along the way, which may not have surfaced at all if all of us didn't clash. The funny and magical thing here is that after everything, the balance just happens naturally. I don't even have to force anything.
I think I am blessed and thankful to have a team of brothers who have their own individualities but have a clear understanding of what we are as a team. I think that enables the synergy of balance to just magically happen. The best way to unleash the team's full potential is to unleash each member who makes it to their full potential. It's like seeing a clash of marvelous colors that unfolds into a beautiful painting at the end. Of course, it's undeniable that I have to step in and make the final call at times but I'm proud, and I love my team.
Don't miss ACE and his band of brothers, 1st.One, as they take the stage at the highly anticipated PPOPCON MANILA 2023 this July 14 to 16 at Araneta City. Secure your tickets now at TicketNet Online. or through TicketNet outlets nationwide.
Additionally, don't forget to grab a limited edition print of our Volume 3 | Quarter 2 Issue at parcinqmarketplace.com. You can either claim your copy at the PARCINQ booth during the PPOP Convention or have it conveniently delivered to your doorstep. Hurry and take advantage of our exciting freebies!
Produced by Parcinq Team in collaboration with PPOPCON
Photography by Rxandy Capinpin
Art Direction by Joe Andy
Production Coordination by Chardy Baldoza
Features Writers Queenie Cailing and Marielle Filoteo
Communications Manager: Rhanica
Production Manager: Arby
Artist Coordinator: Jessette
Content Producer: Erica
Team Rain X Em
Fashion Film By Ian Francisco
Video Associate Pogs Francisco
Camera Operator Anghel Millar
Gaffer Edward Logorta
Set Design by Rabbit Hole Creatives
Food Sponsors: Illo’s Party Trays, The Sandwhich Guy
Elemental Cafe Iced Coffee
Studio Partner Siren Studios