THE grand prize winner of Popeyes’ online talent competition is now under fire after his winning video montage of Eraserheads songs was called out for allegedly ripping off the musical arrangement of Ang Huling El Bimbo: The Musical.

On Aug. 2, shortly after the CJ Villavicencio was named the winner of the Pop Stage competition, musician and composer Myke Salomon took to Twitter to accuse Mr. Villavicencio of having “copied/ripped-off our musical arrangements” for the musical including its “musical treatment [and] concept” without permission.

“He won P1 million and an artist contract. I feel bad for the other contestants,” Mr. Salomon said in the tweet before adding that since the production and the judges included “concept and originality” in their criteria for judging, it meant that they “tolerate ripping off.”

Pop Stage is an online talent competition which started in May conducted by food chain Popeyes Philippines and Viva Artists Agency. Contestants were asked to submit entries online showing off their talents. The grand prize winner of the tilt would get P1 million and an artist contract from Viva.

Ang Huling El Bimbo: The Musical is a jukebox musical featuring the songs of the Eraserheads with musical arrangements by Mr. Salomon. The coming-of-age musical enjoyed two sold out runs in 2018 and 2019. The musical became available for streaming for 48 hours on May 8 and 9 on ABS-CBN’s Facebook and YouTube pages as a fundraising project for those suffering from COVID-19 (coronavirus disease 2019) via the ABS-CBN Foundation’s Pantawid ng Pag-ibig program.

On July 27, Mr. Villavicencio uploaded his music video — a medley of songs including “Alapaap,” and “Pare Ko” (both of which were used in the musical) — with an accompanying note written in Filipino that the video and performance was for “all students, former students, and those who weren’t given the chance to be students” and that he was “happy to conceptualize, write, and co-direct this performance.”

There was no mention of the musical until July 30 when he edited the post to say, “Thanks for the inspiration, Ang Huling El Bimbo: The Musical. You gave us the drive to persevere in life.”

Aside from Mr. Salomon, other people were quick to notice the similarities between the arrangements of the medley and the musical, with El Bimbo ensemble cast member Stephen Vinas posting a video of a side-by-side comparison of the songs in question as used in the musical and Mr. Villavicencio’s performance. Another actor, Jeff Flores, also release a video comparing the song “Pare Ko” as performed in Ang Huling El Bimbo and Mr. Villavicencio’s video.

And then, on Aug. 3, Eraserheads frontman Ely Buendia took to Facebook to lament that “there is still a culture out there, not just in entertainment, that somehow makes it okay to take credit, and be rewarded, for someone else’s work.”

In particular Mr. Buendia pointed out that the Reserve Officers Training Corps sequence of the Ang Huling El Bimbo featuring “Pare Ko” was his favorite piece in the musical as “the most striking and original renditions I had witnessed and enjoyed during its original run.”

“It took something old and was inspired to make it new and fresh. Therein lies the difference,” Mr. Buendia said.

Mr. Villavicencio’s entry also featured the song “Pare Ko” while dancing on bleachers, seemingly using the arrangement of the musical.

Mr. Buendia pointed out, the musical’s crew “poured all their hearts and souls in creating something that was true to material and to their craft” and that he hoped “this matter is resolved soon and credit is given to those who deserve it.”

Mr. Villavicencio’s last post on his Facebook page, which announced the finals’ show, was first filled with comments wishing him good luck and congratulations, then flooded with comments accusing him of being a copycat.

BusinessWorld has reached out to both Popeyes Philippines and Mr. Villavicencio and as of this writing has not heard back from them. — Zsarlene B. Chua