“That’s My Bae: Twerk It,” a former dance contest of the noontime variety show Eat Bulaga!, became the launching pad for (left to right) Kenneth Medrano, Kim Last, Miggy Tolentino, Tommy Peñaflor, and Jon Timmons.
Now collectively called EB Baes (short for Eat Bulaga Baes), these good-looking boys are ready to take on showbiz, and they’re taking things one step at a time.
(At the time of the YES! shoot, “That’s My Bae” member Joel Palencia was on hiatus.)
Although no one can be credited for its popularity, Bae started appearing in R&B and hip-hop songs in early 2010. This term of endearment also came to be known as the backronym for “before anyone else.”
In these parts, Bae could mean anyone who’s pogi, matipuno, and generally, a likeable guy, the type that any girl would be proud to bring home to her parents.
In recent years, Bae has been associated with Alden Richards—better known as the Pambansang Bae. The bedimpled actor, who made the “pabebe wave” cool for a time, is one half of the phenomenal AlDub love team, the other half being Maine “Yaya Dub”Mendoza.
Still in these parts, Bae refers to the Eat Bulaga Baes, or EB Baes, a group of good-looking and talented fellows. The group was formed after the successful run of the noontime TV show’s dance battle segment, “That’s My Bae: Twerk It.” So who are the Eat Bulaga Baes? One balmy evening, YES! Magazine sits down with—in no particular order— Kenneth Medrano, Miggy Tolentino, Tommy Peñaflor, Kim Last, and Jon Timmons, to find out what makes this all-male dance group different from other boy groups in showbiz.
More pointedly, to get what makes them click as a group meriting their own daily show, the morning coming-of-age dramedy Trops.
HUMBLE BAE- GINNINGS
Before they became the EB Baes, they were just simple fellows who led simple lives.
Kenneth Medrano, who emerged as the grand winner of That’s My Bae, is the first to admit that there’s nothing extraordinary about them.
Kenneth was born and raised in Cebu. The 26-year-old is not ashamed to admit that he spent his childhood living in the slums. “Tumira kami sa squatter [area],” says Kenneth. “Ako naman po ’yong normal na bata na naglalaro do’n sa kalsada. Parang lahat na yata ng larong pambata, nagawa ko na po.”
Even though living conditions back then were less than desirable, Kenneth never stopped dreaming. “Pangarap ko po talaga maging artista noon pa,” he says. “Kasi, isipin mo na lang, minsan lang po yata na magkaroon ng opportunity ang mga taga- Cebu na maging artista. Parang malabo. Kasi, more on Luzon lang po ’yong mga auditions.”
Kenneth persevered. He did everything—joined contests and male pageants, took on hosting stints for events and local shows, and at one point was a ballroom dancer and a barista for a coffee shop in Cebu. “Dati po, may variety show sa Cebu, nagho-host po ako. ’Tapos, after mag-stop no’n, naging ballroom dance instructor po ako. ’Tapos po no’n, nag-artista din po sa local TV. After po no’n, nag-aral po ako.”
His “ticket to showbiz” came in early 2015, during his third year of college at the University of Southern Philippines Foundation in Lahug, Cebu City. Popular then was “Dubsmash,” where a person records a selfie video while lip-synching to a song or an audio of a scene from a movie. Dubsmash was all over social media.
One night, Kenneth, out of boredom, recorded a Dubsmash video of himself with the 2014 Brandon Beal hit “Twerk It Like Miley” as background music.
“Galing po akong gala no’n, ’tapos parang bored lang ako sa bahay,” he recalls. “’ Ta’s nakita ko ’yong ‘Twerk It Like Miley’ na Dubsmash, kasi sikat no’n. Wala pa ako nakikita masyado nagda-Dubsmash no’n, si Maine [ Mendoza] pa lang—’yong mga Kris Aquino videos niya. ’ Tapos, bigla lang po akong nag-trending, umabot po ako ng one million views.”
Kenneth received a call from the producers of the GMA-7 magazine show Kapuso Mo, Jessica Soho. Shortly after being featured on KMJS, he got another call, this time from the people of Eat Bulaga! He was invited to audition for “That’s My Bae,” the new segment of the variety show that would feature goodlooking men with dancing skills.
Hosted by Sam YG and Alden Richards, who subsequently earned the moniker Pambansang Bae, “That’s My Bae” was the modern incarnation of “That’s My Boy,” one of the show’s earlier contests involving male toddlers and pre-schoolers. It was the break Kenneth had been waiting for.
As fate would have it, he sailed through the eliminations, and after several weeks of dancing and modeling, he was declared the grand winner.
“Marami po kami sa umpisa, mga thirty yata. Pero siyempre, hindi po ako magpapahuli. Cebuano ’to, Bisdak ’to, e,” he says with pride.
( Bisdak is short for Bisayang dako, which literally means “big Visayan,” but also figuratively means someone who was born and raised in the Visayan region.)
Miggy Tolentino, 21, shares the same humble beginnings as his comrade Kenneth. Miggy grew up in the congested and often dangerous streets of Tondo, Manila.
“Sa family po namin, tatlo po kaming lalaki, dalawang babae,” Miggy explains. “’ Yong Papa ko po, pintor ng mga sasakyan. Ang Mama ko naman po, may karinderya, nagtitinda po siya ng almusal.”
But unlike Kenneth, Miggy never dreamed of getting into show business.
“Actually, ang pangarap ko no’ng bata ako ay maging pulis. Dalawa po kasi ’yan, maging pulis o maging teacher po sa P.E. [Physical Education]. P.E., kasi mahilig ako sa fitness—basketball, swimming, boxing. Gusto ko naman magpulis dahil marami kasing kriminal sa lugar namin talaga. Kaya rin siguro lumaki akong palaban.”
Miggy clarifies that he may be “palaban” but he was never “maloko” or “palaaway.” He admits to being a bad boy, but only when provoked.
“Hindi po ako maloko, puwera na lang pag ’yong mga kaibigan ko, aanuhin mo, e. Iba na ’yon. Lumaki po talaga akong basagulero, bad boy sa lugar namin po. Palaaway po ako, pero pag inaaway lang naman po kami.”
He decided to try his luck in showbiz only when he reached high school. Although he knew he had the looks, Miggy hadn’t given showbiz much thought earlier because he didn’t know where to start.
“Hindi po sumagi sa isip ko maging artista kasi mahiyain po ako. No’ng high school po ako, torpe nga ako no’n,” says Miggy, who went to F.G. Calderon Integrated High School in Tondo. “May mga nagka-crush daw sa akin. ’Tapos, habang tumatagal po, parami sila nang parami, hanggang sa naging third year na ako, pinupuntahan ako sa room namin ng mga estudyante. ’Tapos, ’yon, hanggang sa nakilala na po ako sa buong school sa Manila... ‘May pogi sa Calderon, do’n siya nag-aaral.’ Gano’n po.”
Miggy’s popularity grew on campus as well as online. He claims he has no idea why his photos generate so much interest among netizens.
“Pag nagpo-post po ako ng pictures sa Facebook, nakaka-seven-hundred-likes. Pataas nang pataas po siya, hanggang sa
pinagpapasa-pasahan na po ’yong picture ko sa iba’t ibang websites, iba’t ibang pages sa Facebook. Meron pa nga sa malalaswa na sites, ’sinasali din po ’yong mga pictures ko na kita abs ko.”
And just like Kenneth’s Dubsmash videos, Miggy’s Facebook photos and videos became viral. It didn’t take long for the creative guys at Eat Bulaga! to take notice.
“Dumating ’yong time na dumami ’yong followers ko. Nagkaroon na ako ng 60K, hanggang 100K na followers,” he recalls. “Nasa 163,000 followers na po ako no’ng may kumontak sa akin na tagaEat Bulaga! Pumunta daw po ako sa audition.”
At the auditions for “That’s My Bae,” Miggy thought he didn’t stand a chance against the taller, more good-looking auditionees. “Mukha lang po akong naligaw do’n,” he remembers with a laugh.
Deflated, Miggy left the studio not expecting a return call from the producers. He was on his way home when he received the good news: he made the cut!
Another “proud probinsiyano” who succeeded in joining the group was Tommy Peñaflor. The 24-year-old hails from Dinalupihan, Bataan. His parents separated when he was seven years old. His mother became the family breadwinner and worked in Saudi Arabia for seven years. While vacationing in the Philippines, she suffered a massive stroke that left her debilitated.
“Bale seven years na siyang stroke patient,” Tommy recalls. “Hanggang ngayon, kasama ko siya, inaalagaan ko siya.”
As a child, he had always been fascinated by the lives of celebrities. “Ang goal ko talaga dati, mag-artista,” Tommy admits. “Pinangarap ko talagang mag-artista. No’ng nine years old ako, ’yong sports complex sa Dinalupihan, may mga nagpe-perform na mga artista. Pag nakakakita po ako ng nagsasayaw o kumakanta sa stage, sabi ko, ‘Ang sarap naman makapagpasaya ng tao.’
“Kasi pumipila ako, nakikipagsiksikan ako, para lang makita sila. Simpleng ngiti ng mga artista sa mga fans nila, parang malaking achievement na sa mga fans tulad namin no’ng time na ’yon. Kaya sabi ko, kahit sa simpleng pagngiti ko, gusto kong makapagpasaya ng mga tao.
“Kaya sabi ko no’n, pagdating ng panahon, ako naman magsasayaw sa stage na ’yon. Mga kababayan ko, papanoorin ako.”
He dreamed big, but Tommy lacked self-confidence. He was overweight and didn’t think he was good-looking.
“As in, nilalait po ako. Hindi ko nga po alam na may hitsura ako. Mataba pa ako dati. Forty-six waistline ko. Nilalait ako, pinapaiyak ng mga babae. Kaya sabi ko, magda-diet ako.”
While working on his weight, Tommy continued with his studies. After finishing high school in Bataan, he moved to Manila and earned a bachelor’s degree in Radiologic Technology (B.S. RadTech) from the Perpetual Help College of Manila.
“Promise ko kasi sa sarili ko, kailangan maka-graduate ako,” he says. “After kong maka-graduate, gagawin ko lahat ng gusto ko. Try ko lahat. Tingnan ko kung anong career ba talaga ang nararapat para sa akin at kung ano ang ipagkakaloob sa akin ni Lord.”
While waiting for a RadTech job, he applied for work as a casino dealer at a five-star resort casino in Parañaque City.
It was around this time that opportunity came knocking at his door.
“May nag-text lang sa akin na magaudition nga daw ako sa ‘That’s My Bae.’ So sinubukan ko siya. Pagka-audition ko, nakuha naman.”
Tommy would later be booted out of the competition, but he remained unbowed. “No’ng natalo ako no’ng first day, sabi ko hindi ako papayag na hindi na ako makabalik. After ilang days, nasalang naman po ako.”
Fortunately, the Eat Bulaga! executives decided to introduce something new to the contest—a wild card. They wanted to shake things up by bringing back someone who had been eliminated. That lucky someone was Tommy.
“Ako lang ’yong talo na nakabalik, and hanggang ngayon nandito pa rin,” he says. “Sa akin ’yong place na ’yon, sabi ko.”
FROM UK & LA
If his Philippine-born “brothers” got into “That’s My Bae” by accident, Londonbased Kim Last planned his way to joining the show.
The Filipino-British Kim was born and raised in London, the capital city of England, in the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Nothern Island (UK). After completing his high school education at London’s Chelsea Academy, Kim, then a wide-eyed 17-year-old, came to the Philippines in 2014 in hopes of starting a life of his own.
“Ever since I was a kid,” Kim recalls, “dami pong nagsasabi sa akin, ‘O, try mo mag-showbiz sa Philippines.’ Pero sobrang bata pa ako no’n, mga six years old. But it’s been in my head ever since, parang tumatak sa isip ko na it’s something I have to do before I die. My original plan was to move here when I’m twenty, pero the opportunity came three years early.”
At 17, he was young and uncertain of where he was going. He wanted to make it on his own, but he didn’t know how to do it. Then the chance to appear on Eat Bulaga! presented itself.
“I was part of this dance group na nagba-backup dito sa Eat Bulaga!,” Kim says. “They’re saying sumali nga daw ako. E, parang nalaman ko na puro pagpapapogi ’yong segment, sabi ko, ayoko. Pero a little voice told me, ‘You know what, before you go back to the UK, try it.’ Kasi nga, wala naman akong ginagawa dito for one year. I said, ‘Sige na nga.’”
While he had the personality that could light up a room, Kim still lacked self-confidence.
“I had no confidence in myself, whatsoever—as in, zero,” he says. “Parang feeling ko nga po, hindi po ako aabot sa second round.”
What motivated Kim to strive harder despite feeling homesick?
“There is something about this group na kailangan kong mag-stay. There’s something about Eat Bulaga! that makes me want to stay. There was something in my heart and soul that said, ‘No, you can’t go back to the UK. Kailangan mong mag-stay sa Philippines.’ My heart spoke for me.”
He adds that he stayed for altruistic reasons. “Showbiz is a great platform. Kasi I have so many things I wanna do, like start a charity. It sounds corny, and parang some people say na ‘gusto lang niyan mag-start ng charity para he’d look good.’
“Pero para sa akin po, I really want to do stuff like that. One thing I love about the Philippines is I can be a good person and a good Catholic, because here, no one will scrutinize you. Pag sa UK, medyo parang corny if you keep saying, ‘Thank you, God! Thank you, God!’ Pero dito, it’s accepted. I want to be a good role model.”
For Filipino-American Jon Timmons, who was born and raised in Los Angeles, California, “That’s My Bae” was a second attempt to join showbiz.
“My mom is pure Ilocana and my dad is one-fourth Filipino, one-fourth Spanish, one-fourth Irish, and one-fourth German. So, parang sixty per cent akong Filipino,” says Jon, who has an Associate Degree in Science from El Camino Community College in California.
He was 11 when he lived in the Philippines for a year. He did commercials, including one with a very young Pauleen Luna who, years later, would become a mainstay of Eat Bulaga! “Coincidence talaga. Pero when I moved back to the States, growing up, I always wondered, ‘What if I had stayed [in the Philippines]?’ Showbiz was at the back of my head.”
While Jon was content with life in the U.S., there was something missing.
“Actually, when I was going to school for respiratory therapy [a medical course], I felt like parang hindi siya para sa akin. Parang I didn’t want to work in an office or take a nine-to-five job. I wanted to do something different.
“I wanted to be my own person, be my own boss. I always felt like I was meant for more. All throughout college sa States, I was always trying to find myself. I was thinking about joining the U.S. Air Force. I was thinking about becoming a nurse or a respiratory therapist.”
And then it hit him. Jon realized he had unfinished business in the Philippines.
“And that’s when I knew na parang showbiz talaga was for me. That’s why I felt more comfortable here. I could feel it in my blood na showbiz was really for me. It was the one thing that clicked, and the one thing I was sure of.”
Jon packed his bags and flew back to the Philippines. In his heart, he felt he was doing the right thing.
“For two years after I moved here, I was going to VTRs [videotape recordings] for commercials, doing background extras for TV shows and movies. One day, people started asking me, ‘Hey, why don’t you audition for the Twerk It Like Miley dance contest ng Eat Bulaga?’
“I didn’t know what it was back then. Sinearch ko pa sa YouTube and, ayun, that’s when I found out about the auditions. ’Tapos I started watching Eat Bulaga! and they said, ‘Come to the studio three to five p.m., Monday through Friday, para mag-audition.’ Since dance contest siya, at siyempre ’yon po ’yong talent ko, I figured why not give it a shot?”
Now that he’s part of the EB Baes, Jon feels he’s continuing the legacy of his father, his namesake, who was an actor in the Philippines in the 1950s.
“My dad was actually an artista dito sa Pilipinas, dati no’ng time ni Ramon Magsaysay. Oo, sobrang tagal na po. So, parang I felt like showbiz runs in my blood. I’ve always wanted to be known. My dad passed away no’ng 2005.
“My dad’s name sa showbiz was Jon Timmons. That’s why instead of Jonathan Timmons, I used Jon Timmons para I can continue the legacy of my dad’s name, kahit he passed away na… So, I’m actually doing this not only for myself. It’s also my way of honoring him.”
Jon Timmons, Kim Last, Tommy Peñaflor, Miggy Tolentino, and Kenneth Medrano may have come from different backgrounds, but they are bound together by the same hopes, the same goals, the same aspirations.
Tommy puts it best: “Nakakita ako ng mga kapatid ko na kagaya kong iisa ’yong pangarap. Nagkasundo-sundo kami kahit hindi kami magkakakilala. Parang imposible nga na mangyari na para kaming magkakapatid ngayon. ’ Yong samahan namin, ’yon ang hindi ko maipagpapalit kahit matanda na kami.”
Kenneth couldn’t agree more. “Ako po ’yong nanalo, pero hindi po ako ’yong angat. Wala po ’yong leader sa amin. Pantay-pantay lang po kami sa grupo. Walang lamangan.”
Jon, an only child, is grateful that he found a group of friends he can call his family. “The main thing is the brotherhood. I’m an only child. I love having brothers now. It’s the best feeling in the world.”
As newbies, the EB Baes have had to deal with lots of adjustments. The most difficult one, perhaps, is coping with the hectic and erratic schedules of tapings for their TV series Trops, as well as live shows, which could stretch for days in places outside the metro.
Tommy Peñaflor (rightmost), the tallest in the group, admits it could be stressful and exhausting. But the boys have found a solution to keep each other’s energy up. Tommy explains: “Pag kasama ko sila kasi, lagi lang kaming tawa nang tawa. ’Yon ang technique namin. Kapag puyat sa set, sa tapings, ganyan, nagbibiruan na lang kami. ’Tapos, tawang-tawa na kami. Hindi na namin mararamdaman ’yong oras. Tapos na pala ’yong taping.”
While the group is tight, “That’s My Bae” winner Kenneth Medrano (center) does not discount the possibility of a co‑member leaving to go solo in the near future. “Dadating din po ’yong panahon na gano’n, e,” he says. “Ready naman po kami siyempre. Pero sa ngayon po, magkakapatid po kami. Hindi man same ’yong nanay namin, magkakapatid pa rin kami.”
Kenneth maintains that they met each other and came together for a reason. Since the group was formed, they’ve gained confidence and a sense of direction. He says it’s not always fun and games for the group, as most people think. “Ang ganda po kasi ng grupo namin, nag-o-open-forum kami, nagba-Bible-reading, sharing, gano’n po. Hindi po kami ’yong tipong grupo na puro chicks dito, babae do’n, gala dito, inom do’n. Minsan-minsan ’yong inom, pero di umaabot do’n sa wasted na wasted.”
Miggy Tolentino (rightmost, above left photo, wearing a bandanna), the boy who grew up playing in the crowded streets of Tondo, never expected the EB Baes to become so popular. Never in his wildest fantasy did he think fame would come his way and this soon.
“Dati kasi, iniisip ko, ‘Sana nandiyan ako [ sa showbiz], para maganda ang buhay ko, gano’n po. Na hindi lang masaya, natutugunan ko pa ’yong mga pangangailangan ng pamilya. Pero alam n’yo po, wala naman palang imposible.”
Like the rest of the group, Miggy has been able to provide for his family, especially now that the EB Baes have more projects.
“’ Yon naman po ang goal naming lahat,” he says. “Hindi na po nagtrabaho [ Mama ko], two years na simula no’ng nag-That’s My Bae ako. Pinatigil ko. Papa ko rin po, hindi na nagtatrabaho.
“Napapinturahan ko na ’yong bahay namin, nakabili na ako ng ref, nakabili na ako ng mga kailangan sa bahay, nakapagpakabit na po ako ng kuntador, nakabili na ako ng laptop para sa kapatid ko na IT [Information Technology], ’ta’s pinag-aaral ko na ngayon ’yong kapatid ko na nagpupulis.
“Proud ako, proud ako sa pamilya ko, proud ako sa lahat, kasi kahit gano’n kami, pinalaki ako nang maayos ng mga magulang ko.”
The EB Baes: (L-R) Miggy, Kim, Kenneth, Jon, and Tommy Jon Timmons (second from right), who moved from Los Angeles to Manila to follow his dreams of becoming a star, admits that showbiz can be overwhelming at times.
“Overwhelming, but in a good way. It’s something I feel you have to get used to. If showbiz is really for you, then it gets easier. Kasi ang daming nangyayari, halimbawa sa backstage or ’yong mga fans, mga pictures, ’yong lights, cameras… It’s organized chaos, but in a good way. This is what we live for.”
It’s chaos, all right, but Jon thrives in this environment. “I love it. You smile, you give a simple picture to a fan, and you’ve made her day. Being able to make people [happy] just by being yourself, that’s the best thing about showbiz.”
Kim Last (second from left, front row), one of the youngest members of the group, is grateful to be part of the EB Baes. He’s not only besties with co-members, he has found a family that shares the same faith. “Hindi lang kami brothers, we’re brothers in God,” he says. “Even though we’re not too famous, we’re not too rich, dahil sa grupo na ’to, we all found God. We all got closer to God. So, that’s the best thing.”