MNL48 Officially Debuts to the Press

Localized versions of AKB48 hit “Aitakatta” and “Skirt Hirari” performed; music video shown

Story by Reginan Abang. Photos provided by HalloHallo Entertainment.


Despite heavy monsoon rains, MNL48, the Philippine sister group of AKB48, Japan’s most famous idol group, has successfully launched their anticipated debut single in a press launch at the newly-revamped Movie Stars Cafe in Quezon City last Saturday, August 11.

In the said launch, 16 out of the 48 members performed their title track, “Aitakatta! — Gustong Makita,” the localized version of the Japanese Idol Group’s major debut single and it’s signature song that topped the Japanese Oricon Music Charts in 2006. It was followed by their performance of “Skirt Hirari — Umiindak na saya,” another localized version one of the group’s original Japanese songs.

Gio Medina, General Manager for Hallo Hallo Entertainment (HHE), said that the other 32 members will have its own songs and performances in the near future.

After the performances, the girls introduce themselves to the press and guests.

“Overall, through the hardships that we went through during the music video shoot, we were so thankful that our passion passed midnights. And that, I think, is the reason why we enjoyed every single thing.”

The audience inside the cafe also witnessed an exclusive reveal of the full music video of “Aitakatta! — Gustong Makita,” which was shot at various points around Intramuros in Manila, as well as the Manila Bay. Sho Makino, the Japanese Director behind the music video, said that he is happy to be part of its creation and the reason why he chose the historical city as the location is because they wanted to showcase it, along with the other known historical places in the Philippines, to the world.

His inspiration in making the music video, however, was from the original version’s music video in hopes of sharing what really an “aidoru” (“idol”) really is to the Filipino audience.

Sela Guia, one of the “senbatsu,” shared their experience, saying that it was “delightful” and “a privilege working with him.” “Overall, through the hardships that we went through during the music video shoot, we were so thankful that our passion passed midnights. And that, I think, is the reason why we enjoyed every single thing.” She further added.

They later end the event with them singing “Mga Talulot ng Sakura,” the localized version of AKB48’s 2005 debut single, “Sakura no Hanabiratachi.

This song is for our fans”

Shekinah Arzaga, the center, or the top girl of the group explained the message behind the “Aitakatta! — Gustong Makita” in their question and answer segment with the press.

“It means na may isang tâo[ng] sabik na sabik kang makita to the point na gagawin mo ang lahat ng paraan, kahit marami kang pinagdaanan, to make that someone very special for you.” Arzaga said.

(“It means that there’s one person who is really eager to see you to the point that you will do anything, despite having a lot of challenges, to make that someone very special to you.”)

She also emphasized that every time they sing the song, they reminded of how they want to see their family and fans, and want to thank them for the support that they give to the girls since the day of their formation.

Arzaga was elected as “center” and part of the Top 16, or the “senbatsu,during the first ever MNL48 General Elections, a yearly custom that started by AKB48 in 2007 where the fans throughout Japan pick their favorite members through voting. Before that, she was one of the chosen 48 girls among the 4, 134 aspirants who were selected through a series of nationwide auditions that was started last September 17, 2017 until they were revealed last April 28 during the General Elections.

As long as we wanted to”

Abelaine Trinidad, a member of the “senbatsu,” emphasized that they are not like any other girl groups in the Philippines who are disbanded after few years of activity.

She even said that one will remain as an idol and as a member of MNL48 as long as she wants to be an idol.

Wala po itong year ng kontrata. Kung meron man, pwede kang mag-renew basta kung gusto mo ang ginagawa mo, kung gusto ka ng mga fans, kung kâya mong mahalin ang pagiging isang idol ay pwede pa kayong tumagal.” She said to the press.

(“There’s no yearly contract involved. If there’s one, it can be renewed as long as you like what you do, if your fans like you, if you can love your being as an idol, you can stay.”)

If I am not a member of MNL48…”

The girls asked if what are they doing right now if they are not a part of the girl group. Alice de Leon, the group’s Overall Captain, answered that they want to continue pursuing their studies, while several of them want to pursue other careers like modeling and acting.

For Ashley Garcia, she will continue taking on Majors in Japanese Studies and having the opportunity to study in Japan. As for Jemimah Caldejon, she will continue pursuing Law. For the likes of Christine Coloso and Ella Mae Amat, they will continue their careers as dancers in their own field.

We will meet you again very soon”

“The level of excitement while we’re doing this album keeps us in high spirits. The process [is] not easy, but we were able to do it that’s why we are here, showing you the “new” version of us. This is the finished product.”

To cap off the question and answer with the press, Arzaga expressed her gratitude to those who are in the event despite of the weather as well as her overwhelming excitement about the debut single.

“The level of excitement while we’re doing this album keeps us in high spirits. The process [is] not easy, but we were able to do it that’s why we are here, showing you the “new” version of us. This is the finished product.” Arzaga said.

She also leaves a message for their fans, saying that they will meet them again very soon in future shows and events.

“Don’t worry, malapit na tayo magkita (we will see each other soon) and we’re excited to perform in front of you again while hearing your loud cheers! Thanks for your consistent support. I hope you’ll continue to love and fight for the girls. I love you so much. May God bless us always!”

HHE and Star Music will be releasing the CDs for “Aitakatta! — Gustong Makita” within this month containing a complete 6-song track (3 main tracks plus 3 instrumental versions), a lyrics sheet, and a ticket for their “Handshake Event,” while they will release the debut single in digital format on iTunes and Spotify this August 31, 2018.

The Music Video will be released on ABS-CBN’s “It’s Showtime” on August 18 and will also be aired on the MYX Music Channel on the 31st.


Reginan Abang, a friend of mine, is currently a researcher at The Manila Times. The original title for this story is “Not just your ordinary girl group: Idol Group MNL48 successfully launched debut single.” This was eventually published in the Times as “Girl group MNL48–Japanese pop stars AKB48’s PH spin off.”

On a personal note: Prior to posting this story, he has released this story online. I took the liberty to make minor adjustments to his story with his permission. My personal decision to have his story shared here is in line with my support in disseminating the idol culture in the country.

You can also pitch in your story by sending me an email at [email protected]