OVERTURE: A scribe’s tale of admiration from a distant land
It seemed too good to be real. I can interact with my oshi, alongside with a hundred more, showering her with words of admiration and gifts seemingly made in seconds. We all listened intently to her with every word she said as the 3rd General Election were up during those times. Taking up my composure, I was ready to create a question when suddenly…
“Kuya, do the dishes na. It’s almost 9 in the evening now.” I looked back to see the irritated face of my youngest sister. “Sheez, you’re really addicted to MNL48”, said she while retiring to her room.
Oh yes. I remember now. I was watching a replay of kami-oshi Alyssa’s Kumu live replay and an MNL48 aspirant back then. And so, I resumed work, transcribing the statements of the aspirant for an upcoming article I was assigned to for PAKSA MNL, which was on its early stages back then.
“I’m sorry Mr. Cambosa, I’m afraid you have to repeat your experiment. I mean, the majority of your samples are contaminated.”
I left the faculty office, my spirits in its lowest. I hate to break it to my thesis partner, who was also getting tired of repeating the fifth time, and spending another fortune for our microbiological experiment.
A year and a half had already passed, and I was also on the verge of giving up. I was running low on finances also, but I kept my problems to myself. For me, I never wanted to pile up my personal problems to other people, whom I think are also dealing with some other issues worse than mine. And so, I found solace online, creating a pseudo-interaction by watching YouTube, browsing Reddit and God-knows-what search result on page 12 of a Google search of your name.
In the midst of my online interactions, I found solace also on the genuine exception of songs.
Just to be clear, I would consider myself to be an EDM-inclined person. Porter Robinson, Madeon, ILLENIUM, Said the Sky, Skrillex…you name it. But there are moments when a completely ‘new’ song gets recommended by the algorithm, I’d take a moment to pause and listen.
And on one faithful day in November 2019, I stumbled across a track: one that spoke of the dying creative soul in me. Perhaps, lifting me to the heavens so to speak:
Buhay ay eroplanong papel
Dala ang pangarap, ito’y lumilipad
Kasabay ng pag-ihip ng hangin
Patuloy sa pagsulong
Sa halip, di alintana ang layo
Kung sa’n ‘to naglakbay
At kung saan mapadpad
Ito ang mas higit na mahalaga
Tibok ng puso ang gabay
Tatlong daan animnapu’t limang araw
To be blatantly honest with you, I’m a sucker for mellow songs like this. But there was something about this group, whom I never knew back then, that made me want to explore their discography further.
As I was searching for their discography, my Facebook timeline popped up something out of the blue: a shared post of one of my friends (who was already an MNLoves) of that one picture by Gabb, Lei, Ecka and Bella wearing white garments, as if they just descended from Mount Olympus.
And so, I had my lead. The search went on.
When I first learned about MNL48, I barely knew anything about the idol industry. The only reason I got an idea about the industry and the genre as a whole was when AKB48 made a cameo appearance on the Japanese electronic dance group WORLD ORDER’s music video “Have A Nice Day” (to which I listen faithfully to).
As I was doing my informal research about MNL48, I stumbled across one fan-made video: “Monsters” it was called. As I watched through the short video, it then dawned to me how the genre itself was still recognized in this country. It seemed a locally-grown idol group, supposedly receiving love and support from their countrymen, was receiving the opposite. There was one line that struck me the most in the video, and it was Sheki’s statement that even if they can’t be loved and supported, the country can at least respect their craft and their presence.
Suddenly, the creative soul in me awoke from its deep slumber for years. I felt that a rush of the numerous possibilities of how I can pay tribute to them.
By the 15th of February, 2020, I found myself writing a free verse poem to a Team NIV member to which I was thankful back then. But before I knew, I had created a total of 48 poems for each member, each with their accompanying graphic, and I was about to give it to them digitally.
Several projects followed suit: I wrote another collection of personality poems to those that went live on Kumu for the 3rd General Elections, and ran an online tribute series where I curated the best song cover from each cover (went dormant).
I never had attended any physical events to date, but I’ve always tried to create some form of appreciation for the girls as a whole, and I felt like that I needed to explore various channels to bring the message across.
Sometime in April 2020, I was idly scrolling through my Twitter feed, when I saw this tweet:
Suddenly, it got me thinking: She’s right that there’s a need for an alternative media group for publishing news and related articles, human-centric wise about MNL48. And through the collaborative effort of other like-minded individuals who see the potential of such endeavor, established PAKSA MNL, an online media group creating journalistic endeavors for the MNL48 community.
I’ve always had stark memories of our initial days at PAKSA MNL when an opinion article of mine on the stance on individual and group support was posted, or when we put focus to MNL48 aspirants to get know more about them, or how about the progress of certain MNL48 members for the upcoming days of the 3rd General Election.
Looking back to all those times, I’m always reminded of my role as a scribe: to put into words not only show the appreciation for the group but put focus on the human aspect of MNL48: that despite the achievements and the spotlight we’ve received, we’re still prone to mistakes and downfall moments.
As I steered away from my fandom life for the meantime due to work duties, I’d like to live up to my olden days of knowing that someday, the words that I have inscribed and dedicated to them can be brought to life-given the chance I could attend an event. I yearn for the day that I can meet my oshis face-to-face, and with tears in my eyes I could say my utmost gratitude for their music and words that saved my own creative soul from extinction.
Until then, I’ll keep creating pieces in tribute to them. Perhaps it’s befitting that my pieces are like the paper planes mentioned in 365 Araw ng Eroplanong Papel: soaring high into skies, laden with dreams for the group to be known widely. Perhaps it’s encouraging to say the least that I was never alone in this journey, even when I chose to stray away.
AUTHOR'S NOTE: To my kami-oshi Alyssa, thank you for being that prime figure that inspired to always create meaningful pieces in tribute for MNL48: you will always be that creative fairy. To oshis Miho, Jamie, Jan, Ruth, Thea and Yzabel, I’d like to thank you always for every interaction we had in the past. I may not stand out in the midst of obscurity, but I’m always glad you get the respect and love you deserve. Relevancy is cruel, art is pain but sometimes it’s the pain that’s within us that drives us forward to creat meaningful art and other interactions.
“The Hiatus Musing Collection” is still out digitally for those who haven’t read it: a collection of personal random MNL48-related thoughts in the midst of a long provincial hiatus.