From Underdogs to the Top: The MNL48 Story

by Anton Deguito

With many Original Pilipino Music (OPM) bands rising in popularity, there is one all-girl idol group who is not too far behind. Meet MNL48, one of the 15 domestic and international sister groups of Japan’s number one girl group AKB48, and considered as the new face of P-pop and J-pop today.

With their fans MNLoves, and recognition from people around the country and in the world, they rose from an underdog to one of the top idol groups today.

Seifuku. This uniform (seifuku) represents MNL48 and their story as the first idol group in the country. © Lorenzo Viray

To where they got their fame, their story started out not like what you would expect for a J-pop inspired girl group.

The Start of their Journey as MNL48

Their humble journey started on the noontime show “It’s Showtime” as a segment to the program. It was criticized by netizens for the members were “messy” and they had “average performances.”

At one point, they were the laughing stock of the show and of the nation to the point where they were taunted and hated on social media. 1st Generation Center, Sheki Arzaga said her biggest challenge was being booed at in a mall show in Pangasinan; she shared on a Kumu live with her fans.

She stated “Sobrang unforgettable mall show sa akin ‘yon ha, […] ‘di ko na alam ano gagawin ko like, specifically do’n sa performance namin, kasi may technical problems like ‘yung mic, naka-instrumental pala kami lalo. Then, lalo na sobrang dance nag-PKM (Palusot Ko’y Maybe) and PFC (Pag-Ibig Fortune Cookie) instrumental talaga walang backtrack, so live na live ‘yong boses namin, and then, s’yempre may naririnig kami na audience nagbo-boo ganyan.

[Translated: This mall show is so unforgettable. I did not know what to do. Our mics had technical difficulties and we are about to perform with an instrumental. This is especially since PKM and PFC have dances and we have no backtrack. So, we hear people from the audience echoing dismay.]

She added that “Wala talagang mic ‘yong [MNL48] as in, walang kumakanta, s’yempre per part kami doon, mga gano’n, so napre-pressure ako kung ano gagawin ko para maging maganda yung performance namin.” Arzaga added.

[Translated: The girls had no mics. No one can sing but we all have a part. So, I’m pressured with what to do so that our performance is beautiful.]

MNL48, Other Groups, and Genres’ Impact to the Philippines

MNL48 is currently preparing for their 6th single (RIVER) and their 3rd General Election. Their current fan base is growing due to the members overflowing talent and dedication for the group.

Besides MNL48, other bands like SB19, CLOVER, and others which have foreign influence are also starting to get their spotlight.

Theres no doubt Japanese, Korean, and many other cultures had a big impact in the Philippines throughout the years. With more people getting hooked to K-pop groups such as BTS, TWICE, GOT7, IZ*ONE, and many groups; in addition with J-pop groups such as 48 Group, Sakamichi Series, EXILE, and many more.

With many national and overseas musical groups on the rise, there’s no stopping international music and cultures from spreading across the Philiippines and in the world.

The Growing Influence of Other Cultures to the Philippines

Mainly the Philippine music industry, until now, is mostly based on bands, soloists, and idols had almost no space to fit in the industry. Eventually international cultures spread, especially Japanese and Korean culture in the Philippines; with their music, shows, and the like is huge with their fanbases rising in the masses, and with more people getting interested in their culture and heritage.

The spread of their cultures and other cultures will always come with people hating or bashing it. in the end, however, the culture and heritage was slowly embraced and accepted by the open-minded public.

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