It’s BINI’s World And We’re Just Living In It
The girls of BINI are both exactly who you expect, but also not really.
They’re poised and elegant but not pristine like the carefully-crafted barbie dolls you might think they are. They’re reminiscent of the images of a ‘strong, independent woman,’ but they’re also humble to a fault when it comes to their achievements. They’re well-spoken on their endeavors and vision for the future, but they also laugh at the slightest jokes and feel like the friend group you wish you had in your high school years.
Two thoughts were ruminating in my head when I met Gwen, Colet, Maloi, Stacey, Jhoanna, Aiah, Sheena, and Mikha. One, they’re actually so pretty IRL that I felt like hiding away in a random corner in fear of being deemed unworthy of their presence (Note: They would never do that). And second, how was I supposed to interview and write a cover story that did justice to them?
With my quivering voice and shaking hands, I felt like I was way over my head to create something for this next generation of P-Pop. But, in the depths of my mind, I thought: Why not? Who better write about a girl group empowering other women than a woman herself?
They say women are catty, emotional, bossy, and competitive with one another. But, in truth, women today have reclaimed their identities—away from the male gaze or anyone’s gaze for that matter. And through BINI, we can see they’re more invincible than ever.
The Journey to BINI
The eight-member girl group, BINI, came from all sorts of backgrounds. Some came from modeling and pageant life, others came from dance groups or sports, while the rest were regular students living their lives. Not everyone dreamt of becoming the total performer they are now, but I guess that’s where the ‘born to win’ aspect comes along.
Through the Star Hunt Academy program in 2018, BINI came to be. Deriving from the K-Pop-esque training idols go through, ABS-CBN brought that concept to the local scene to hone young talents on the global stage. But, from 250 auditionees to the final eight members (including the final five from their sibling group, BGYO), forming the group wasn’t an easy pick-and-select. There were hurdles of callbacks, even more auditions, and later on, a week-long boot camp for the final deliberations.
It was a lot for just the audition process, but the reality: It was only the beginning of the journey. Next came their 2-year long training arc trained by a mix of esteemed local coaches and South Korean coaches. From what they described, it was a highly strict process that not only looked into their voice and dance but also their genuine trainability and willingness to work at it for the long haul. There were restrictions for their diet, nutrition, and weight to keep up with the harsh regimen. And living in an apartment together, it was even tough for them to go out anytime as practice took over most of their lives. It was tough, to say the least.
Gwen says about the experience, “Sobrang hirap mag-adjust physically and mentally. As in kailangan matatag ka talaga kasi may tanggalan. Tas ‘yung training, sobrang intense. ‘Yung workout pa, especially sa mga taong hindi sanay mag-workout like us. Sobrang hirap talaga. Tas biglang nag-diet. Nagulat talaga kami sa sistema dun sa loob na parang everyday training. Hindi kami malayang nakakalabas lang kasi dapat focused ka dun sa training.”
[“It was so hard to adjust physically and mentally. Like, you really have to be strong because there were eliminations. Then the training was so intense. There was also a workout which is tough for people not used to working out like us. It was really hard. Then suddenly, we had to diet. We were surprised by the system inside because it was really everyday training. We weren’t able to just go outside whenever we wanted because you really have to stay focused on the training.”]
As Sheena explained, “I can’t remember kung ilang gabi kaming every after training naguusap usap tuwing gabi—’group breakdown’ siya. Halos lahat kaming member naisipan mag-quit dahil nga nabigla. Parang sobrang hirap na, parang hindi na siya healthy for us. Iyak kami ng iyak dahil sobrang strict yung coaches namin that time. Pero thankful kami kasi dahil sa kanila, kaya kami ganto ka-natural na synchronized.” Sheena went on to explain that it was really a challenging time that even they haven’t fully expressed what they felt and went through to the BLOOMs. But despite everything, they’re incredibly thankful for being BINI and wouldn’t change a thing about their journey.
[“I can’t remember how many nights every after training we came together to talk at night—it was a ‘group breakdown.’ Almost all of us thought about quitting because of how sudden it [the training] was. It was so hard on us already, and it didn’t feel healthy for us anymore. We were crying and crying about how strict our coaches were at that time. But we’re also thankful because it’s because of them that we’re naturally synchronized [in dance].”]
BINI went through many hardships to debut with being away from family, risking their school life, and other personal struggles. But the kicker came when 2020 hit as two significant events made their way that year—the COVID-19 pandemic and the ABS-CBN shutdown. At the time, they were terrified that this P-Pop project they’d sacrificed so much for would close down like the many other projects they witnessed close down in the halls of their company. There were delays, cancellations, and genuine anxiety for their future in between everything else. But, as described by them, it was a risk worth taking. It made them stronger than ever, but most importantly—stronger together.
Enter: The Nation’s Girl Group
It’s common to think that there’s a formula for success, that the major artists of our time are only a result of rigorous training, image marketing, and even accusations of plastic surgery. These sentiments have been commonly pointed out to the likes of K-Pop idol groups and female pop stars. And in turn, it’s widely associated with their primary fan base: Teenage girls. But as described in NME, “Formula alone isn’t guaranteed to translate into success. You need to create the spark that ignites the most valued demographic.”
That’s where BINI’s “Da Coconut Nut” comes in.
For their pre-debut single, BINI left a mark that forever changed the course of their career through “Da Coconut Nut.” It’s a rendition of the classic song by national artist and composer Ryan Cayabyab and popularized by the band Smokey Mountain. What makes it so unique is that, yes, they have the elements of K-Pop through the synchronized dance, the sing-and-dance combo, and the cutesy image. But beyond that is something distinctly Pinoy. This was the same spark that earlier groups like MNL48 and SB19 had. It’s borrowing elements of the prior art, forming their own renditions, and turning it into something distinctly for them, by them. “We have our own style. We put our touch of Pinoy in it. Like the touch of Pinoy is our harmonies and just—excellence. We truly aim for excellence ever since we started training,” as said by Mikha.
There was a wave of support that came to the girls. But, it translated to their later debut, showcase, headline and joint concerts, and even today’s album—“Born to Win.” For all the reasons they were known, it continued on and even became better. Jhoanna shared her thoughts as, “Honestly, kinabahan ako kasi yung mga comments before ng debut namin is naghahanap sila ng Tagalog song. But samin naman, hindi naman siya nakikita sa lyrics ng song kung Tagalog ba yan or English. ‘Yung importante kasi ‘yung nagbibigay ng sariling touch namin and style sa song kahit full English man ‘yan. Matatawag mo parin siyang OPM.”
[Honestly, I was nervous because the comments before debut were that they [the public] were looking for a Tagalog song. But for us, you won’t see in the lyrics if a song is Tagalog or English. What’s important is giving your own touch and style to the song, even if it’s in full English. You can still call that OPM.]
With the seeds already planted, there’s a goal to see this music thrive worldwide. So naturally, like every other P-Pop artist, BINI aims for a P-Pop rise. “Sobrang laking achievement nun for BINI na makikilala as one of the rising groups na nagpakilala sa P-Pop kasi ‘yun naman talaga yung goal namin una palang is makilala talaga yung music at talent ng Pinoy. Siguro hindi pa natin napapakita yung mga P-Pop groups [worldwide]. Kasi na-ccompare rin siya sa K-Pop, which is a good thing naman, pero syempre, gusto namin ipakilala yung P-Pop na may sarili tayong music, na may sariling atin,” as told by Maloi.
[“It’s really a big achievement for BINI to be known as one of the rising groups that led to P-Pop being known because that really is our goal first and foremost, which is to have the music and talents of Pinoys be known. I think we haven’t fully shown P-Pop groups out there. Because they also get compared to K-Pop, which is a good thing, but of course, we want to show P-Pop as our music, as our own.”]
But, at the end of the day, BINI isn’t just about amazing performance and music—it’s about empowering Filipinas everywhere through those. To be BINI is more than just a name for a girl group. It’s a platform for more. As expressed by Aiah, “To be BINI, we always adhere to the word binibini. We always adhere to what it means: someone aware and informed. We always try na kahit we’re inside the house, we make the effort to connect to what’s truly happening outside. Ang daming nangyayari na unfortunate things and we try to help others and express it through our music, through our performance. And ang sarap talaga sa feeling na when we’re performing, ang dami mo na palang nattouch na lives.”
[“To be BINI, we always adhere to the word binibini. We always adhere to what it means: someone who is aware and informed. We always try that even if we’re inside the house, we make the effort to connect to what’s truly happening outside. There are so many unfortunate things happening around us, and we try to help others and express it through our music, through our performance. And it’s a great feeling that when we’re performing, we get to touch lives.”]
The definition, look, and quality of a ‘nation’s girl group’ has changed a lot through the years. But, one thing’s for sure, empowering other women has always been what’s important. Because after all, what kind of influencer are you if you’re not influencing good? Colet shares over BINI’s platform, “It’s a great platform na makapag-inspire kami ng mga tao. Maganda siyang platform para ma-share yung ma-eexpress namin, ma-share namin yung stories namin, kung paano namin narating kung nasaan kami ngayon, at ma-share yung talent namin sa buong mundo.”
[“It’s a great platform to inspire other people. It’s a good platform to share what we want to express, share our stories, how we got to where we are now, and just share our talent to the world.”]
The Future Is Female
Women rule over the pop scene—it's a fact, no lies. No amount of misogynistic music critics and egotistic label executives can bend over backward trying to deny that. The greatest pop icons of our decade, such as Beyoncé, Taylor Swift, Madonna, Lady Gaga, Mariah Carey, and more, are living proof of this fact. And where would we be without the groups that have paved the way to 'girl power' in music through The Spice Girls, Girls Generation, 2NE1, and even the SexBomb Girls in our local scene?
For the longest time, men's interests were proclaimed as the tastemaker. But lately, there's been a shift. And we're finally seeing female artists as what they are: Changemakers. Whether it's in music, culture, or the arts, they have just as much contribution to these things as any more male artist. We've seen Olivia Rodrigo, Dua Lipa, Blackpink, Twice, Billie Eilish, Chungha, and so much more take over the mainstream scene. We're slowly moving past seeing them as less and viewing them more as a force to be reckoned with. And in that same vein, we're moving past an era that has demonized girls' interests.
Although, there is admittedly so much more to do. Just because there is change, it doesn't mean the problem has completely been gotten rid of. As long as women's interests are still called 'basic,' teen girls are still being given backhanded compliments like 'not like other girls,' or fangirls are still met with sneers as being 'crazy,' there's still a lot more work we need to put into it. But, what matters is change is happening, growing, and thriving. As VOX explains, "Across the pop culture landscape, teen girls—as both fans and creators of mass culture—are getting more respect now than they would have just five years ago."
So, where does P-Pop fit into this? When P-Pop came into our eye level, it was natural for a flood of girl groups to come into our midst. But, the thing is, much of the spotlight has gone to the boy groups, which is not a bad thing! It's never a bad thing to see another artist thrive! But, we want more diversity in this spotlight. The goal isn't to get rid of existing groups in place of other groups. It's not a competition of who deserves more or who deserves less. It's letting more people shine in the process.
And now more than ever, we're clawing for more girl groups in the future. Not only to debut, but to get the awards, the stages, the concerts, the magazine spreads, and everything else in between. So, what does BINI see for this? Some of the girls wish for more debuts of girl groups; others want to see collaborations and joint concerts between the girl groups. But, for Mikha, she goes the inspirational route: "I want to see that P-Pop girl groups are being confident and independent; that they're really aiming for what they want and not what the world wants. I want them to have their own stand."
Many young girls may look to BINI and be inspired to take this route. And that's something BINI has always tried to create with their work—empowerment, confidence, and perseverance have always been closely associated with the girls. But through taking on this route, they're not going to lie that it's a harrowing one. But, they'll never want others to be discouraged for the things they dream in life, especially with how thankful they have been for everything. As Stacey said, "Don't be afraid to chase your dreams. ‘Wag kang matakot sa sarili mo. ‘Wag kang matakot sa sasabihin ng mga tao. Ipagpatuloy lang mga pangarap natin girls!”
["Don't be afraid to chase your dreams. Don't be afraid for yourself. Don't be afraid of what others will say. Us girls need to go for our dreams!"]
Earlier in the interview, Stacey chimed in with "Itayo ang bandera ng mga babae!" but to cap off The Future is Female issue, I'm ending it with what she said last: "Laban lang mga babae!"
["Raise women up!"] ["You go girl!"]
Cover story and Interview by Marielle Filoteo Produced by Philip Vargas Photography and Creative Direction by Rxandy Capinpin Art Direction and Final Art by Joe Andy Fashion film by Ian Francisco Assisted by Renz Francisco Styling by Ica Villanueva Makeup by Julius Cabanisas Hair by MJ Rone Video Content Hosted by Nikki Viola Special Thanks to Mq Mallari, Jovy Aberion, and Star Hunt.