The idea of having an all-girl idol group in the Philippines is quite surprising. Although it is common to see in some Southeast Asian countries, most commonly Korea, it is definitely a relatively new concept for Filipinos. With the conception of MNL48, there will certainly be something new to look for in the idol world.
The first time I've heard of MNL48, I paid them no mind. Though they caught my attention, the thought of an all-Filipina idol group, in all honesty, made me cringe a bit. At that time, now that I think about it, I did not even stop and ask myself why I did. I know for a fact that I am not the only one in that situation. On July 4, I asked around on Twitter if there are people who had the same situation as I did. I was met with the responses of people who wants to share their story with me.
One of these people is Twitter user, @rianxtic. "Hindi ko talaga sila bet nung nakikita ko sila sa It’s Showtime. I thought na they were Japanese wannabes, " she said. Another Twitter user, @haektuans, said that he is watching the girls’ perfomances during their time in the ABS-CBN’s noontime variety show just to make fun of them. "[I'm] not really a loud basher, but I like to watch their performance sa It's Showtime to make fun of them," he said. Twitter user, @louieffy, also shares the same sentiment. "Hater lang talaga ako nung It’s Showtime era kasi di ko trip tugtugan nila noon tapos hindi talaga sabay-sabay," he said.
I have only been a fan for at least two months now, but I have known of the existence of MNL48 ever since they debuted on the noontime show. Like I have said, at that time, like these Twitter users, I didn't pay much attention to them. However, during this period of quarantine, the group have made me realize that they are worthy of my support. But before that happened, I needed to change my perspective on things first.
As we all know full well, Japanese music is prominent all throughout the world. From banging anime opening songs, to rock bands and artists like ONE OK ROCK and LiSA, this genre of music has been here since when we were young. As someone who loves music and anime, anime openings have made quite an impression to me. One certain example of this is Soul Eater's second opening song, Papermoon, or Tokyo Ghoul's Unravel.
Although I claim to listen to Japanese music, I have no knowledge about the Japanese idol scene. That is why I was quite surprised that MNL48 is going to be formed as a sister group of AKB48, Japan's most prominent all-girl idol group. I told myself back then that there is no way I am going to listen to this group. And am I glad I was wrong.
On around March of this year, I decided to check out a certain person I saw mentioned in a certain Facebook group. That person is my kami-oshi, Andi Garcia. I was very entertained by her page's content, so I decided to also check out her group. I immediately went to YouTube to watch their music video of Aitakatta - Gustong Makita. At first, I just thought it was okay. I still did not pay much attention. Until I found their music video for Gingham Check.
Gingham Check is the very first MNL48 song that made me want to listen more. The energy I felt from the song reminded me of those upbeat shoujo anime opening theme songs. But, like how most people viewed their vocals, I also regarded theirs as cringey and "tunog pabebe". Although if you think about it, several Japanese pop songs have vocals that are akin to this: energetic, high pitched, and "cutesy" vocal lines. And I knew for a fact that MNL48 was a sister group of a Japanese idol group. That's when it hit me.
There are already so many people who have covered Japanese songs, and even translated them to their own language. I enjoyed those kinds of music, and even admired some of the people who did it. So, I asked myself "why do I have to cringe at this girl group, even though I have seen other people do this before?" That was the time that I thought that there is no reason for me to not like MNL48. I like their songs, their dances, their personalities, everything.
The thought I have stated also applies to their variety shows (i.e. I-School, MNLife, etc.). It was a concept that I was already familiar with, so I had no more problems with watching them. I laughed, even though some jokes were corny, because I thought to myself that that's probably how the joke would go if I said it. The personalities of each individual member complement each other, and that is what makes these variety shows a bit more exciting.
Speaking of personality, the Japanese idol scene has its own, one that is different from Korean idol culture, which most Filipinos are used to. That said, it would not be correct to compare Korean groups from Japanese ones. That is also one thing I have observed from the years where I disregarded MNL48.
As I have said in the beginning, an all-Filipina idol group is a relatively new concept to most Filipinos. Although that is so, MNL48 is already here. They have come a long way since their It's Showtime era. Many has left the group, but the ones who remained has improved significantly. Though we may still wait for a bit longer, the girls, and their fans, still hope that the Philippines will finally love and appreciate them as the first ever Filipina idol group.
DISCLAIMER: The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not reflect the views held by the entirety of PAKSA MNL and fellow MNLoves.