They’ve been called many names: addicts, cellphone snatchers, monsters, virus, jejemon.
People shout profanities at their faces, laughing as if watching some circus freak show. Their social media accounts are flooded with bashers day and night, churning expletives ranging from sarcasm to obscenity.
But behind all the nasty comments, behind every humor-filled video, photo, and Facebook status are ordinary teenagers dreaming of an extraordinary life of glitz and glamour.
They call themselves "Hasht5."
As the name connotes, Hasht5 is a group of five teenage boys -- CJ, Marlou, Vincent, Jhimwell and Eric -- who call themselves entertainers.
Marlou, the oldest at 18, is the most easily recognized with his eccentric ensemble of clothes and unusual hairstyle. Supposedly, he is a college freshman taking up Business Administration, but due to financial problems, he had had to stop his schooling.
Vincent is the elected leader while Jhimwell is the acknowledged “face of the group.” CJ and Eric are the newest members. All three are 15 years old and in third year high school.
Online bashers and the definition of 'guwapo’
The way Hasht5 claimed the spotlight on a platform brimming with celebrity wannabes in the most unusual way.
Their stepping stone: an army of haters.
Hasht5 members: (from left to right) Eric, Vincent, Marlou, CJ, and Jhimwell. Photo by Laira Elayne Ocampo
For the boys, it was not difficult to explain why they attract bullies: “Sa itsura po namin, du’n po kami naba-bash,” Eric quickly said.
“Siguro hindi nila tanggap… Hindi siguro ganitong mukha ‘yung gusto nila,” Marlou added.
While members of the group agree that they are no One Direction in terms of looks, the boys are determined to challenge society’s definition of handsome.
“Hindi tayo pare-parehas. May kanya-kanya tayong abilidad o itsura na ibinigay sa atin ng Panginoon,” Marlou said.
Vincent, for his part, said: “Kailangan nating i-accept na guwapo tayo para sa iba malaman nila na guwapo ka.”
The group believes that physical looks are not enough to be called “guwapo.” For them, the old adage that inner beauty matters above all holds true.
“Talented, marunong gumalang sa mga nakatatanda, tapos ‘yung may takot sa Diyos at marunong magpakumbaba.” This, for Vincent, is the definition of “guwapo.”
When asked if they see themselves as handsome, in unison, the boys responded with a resounding “yes.”
Dealing with hate
In the midst of the seemingly endless barrage of hateful comments, the boys admit that they are also hurting underneath the goofy facade.
They have been called “rugby boys” and drug addicts, told that their parents should have aborted them, and accused them of not bathing daily -- and all these comments sting.
But for the record, the five clarified that they do take a bath daily, sometimes even thrice a day.
“Si Marlou nga po lima pa eh,” Eric said in jest.
While they can make fun of the comments hurled at them, the group of teenagers said they are most offended at the expletives directed at their parents.
“Yung minumura ‘yung mga magulang namin… mga bad words. Hindi raw po kami tinuturuan ng magandang asal,” Jhimwell said.
But it does not seem to stop there. One time, the group received a message from a person threatening to kill them.
“Minsan po may nag-chat na magdala raw po ng pera at balisong, papatayin daw po kami,” Jhimwell recalled.
“Natakot kami tapos pinabayaan na lang namin,” Vincent added.
Some suggested that they file a complaint. But Marlou refused, saying they don't have to react to every insult directed at them.
“Sabi ko ipapademanda natin lahat ‘yan, eh ang dami niyan. Milyon ‘yan. Ubos ang tao sa Pilipinas, mauubusan ng kulungan,” he said, laughing.
Fans taking selfies with the Hasht5 members. Photo by Laira Elayne Ocampo
Initially, the group confronted hate with hate. They are, after all, ordinary teenagers who are highly emotional and could be very much impressionable.
Later on, they learned that it’s not worth it to respond to bullies. Laughter became their armor and shield.
“Pinagti-trip-an na lang namin. Nagtatawanan na lang kami. ‘Yan naman ang talent nila eh, mang-trip,” Marlou said.
“Mas masaya po kami ‘pag bina-bash kasi mas sisikat kami. Sila masaya sila kasi may nasasaktan sila na damdamin ng ibang tao,” CJ said.
For Vincent, being the leader, he said he’s harnessing all negativities for inspiration to further uplift his group.
The group simply believes that theirs will be a different road to fame. If other celebrities earned fans before haters, for these boys, it could be the other way around.
A recent trip to an amusement park proved that despite the online, the group is definitely growing in popularity. Girls shrieked at the sight of the boys, youngsters ran asking for selfies. “Hasht5… Hasht5,” they chanted.
How it all started
Marlou and Vincent were church choir members. Before they met Jhimwell, they were hanging out with a friend Angel (not his real name), planning to form a group of boys who can sing, dance, and act to dominate the Internet.
Later on, Angel left and the remaining three decided to look for new members.
Eric approached Marlou and asked him to join the group. CJ was inducted to the group through Vincent as the two used to be members of the same dance group in school.
Finally assembled, the five put up a Facebook account where they posted photos and parody videos. In a span of three months, the page attracted over 160,000 ‘likes’ with each post garnering thousands of ‘likes’ and comments.
A collage of Marlou’s photos reached more than a million followers, earning 93,121 ‘likes’, comments and ‘shares’. Another photo of the boys visiting a mall got almost 1.5 million reach with 89,758 ‘likes’, comments and ‘shares’.
“Noong una, katuwaan lang ito. Tapos nu’ng nag-viral na, sabi ko nakalagay du’n sa page namin ‘entertainer.’ So as an entertainer kailangan po naming i-entertain ‘yung ibang tao,” Marlou explained.
Road to stardom
The boys believe that talent will bring the kind of stardom they dream of.
Marlou and Vincent see themselves as serious actors. Having been members of a community theater group, the two said that they underwent several acting workshops. Marlou even boasted of an experience in modelling.
CJ thinks of himself as the dancer aside from his beat boxing talent. Jhimwell sings while playing the guitar while Eric raps his way to center stage.
The boys jamming outside one of their members' house in Cavite. Photo by Erik Tenedero
Countering their army of detractors is their league of supporters: family, friends, neighbors, teachers, and classmates who remain supportive of their goals.
Vincent’s grandmother Elena said she is proud of what her grandson has achieved and believes in what he is aspiring for.
“Okay lang kung ‘yan talaga ang gusto niya pero kailangan lang huwag niyang pabayaan ang pag-aaral niya,” his grandmother said. “Mas okay na ‘yan na mapunta siya diyan kaysa sa barkada na hindi maganda.”
Even their teachers have encouraging words for the boys.
“Sinasabihan nila kami kung ano ang gagawin namin, na huwag naming pansinin yung mga bashers kasi lahat daw ‘yun mga nagpapapansin lang, mga naiinggit lang, mga insecure daw,” Vincent said.
“Meron sinabi sa ‘min na hindi namin makakalimutan. Tandaan daw namin na kung sino ‘yung bashers ninyo sila pa ‘yung fans ninyo,” Marlou said.
Like or dislike, supporters or bashers, the boys said they could not care less. What's important, they said, is that no matter how peculiar they may seem to others, they believe in themselves.
They can tell each other "you can" even when the world is telling them "you can't." With Ivy Mae Polintan, abs-cbnnews.com