A woman walks into frame, plays a beautiful melody via a music box, and whispers into a hanging microphone. It’s to elicit a euphoric feeling of calm, she explains, before gently tapping a plastic jar.
In another video, a different girl pulls out old, embarrassing pictures of her to funnily highlight how far she has come.
Both are “campaign videos,” and they are for an election quite different from what you are possibly thinking of. This is not your typical “halalan,” which usually features grey-haired, middle-aged men.
No, this one is being held to determine who among the dozens of teenagers and young women get to stay in the all-female group MNL48.
The “Senbatsu Sousenkyo” is a concept borrowed from their sister group, Japan’s AKB48. It is an annual popularity contest where fans need to buy merchandise in order to vote.
In MNL48’s case, those interested had to get a copy of their latest single, “365 Araw ng Eroplanong Papel,” among other items, to secure a code which they can then use on an app to vote.
It is set to culminate in an event this Saturday at the ABS-CBN Tent in Vertis North, where the top 48 will be announced.
Sheki Arzaga, who won the first edition last year, said that the whole process, while tough on the members, has helped foster a healthy competition within the group.
“Dito namin natututunan kung paano i-set aside iyong emotions po namin,” she explained. “Hindi po ito nangyayari para masira ang relasyong nabuo namin sa isa’t-isa.”
Sela Guia, who came in second behind Arzaga, shares this sentiment, though she added that she has mixed feelings about putting a price tag on each vote.
A single CD costs P250, but some fans buy multiple copies to help their favorite win.
“I’m going to be be honest here: Filipinos put all their major blood and sweat just to earn money, and personally I don’t know how to feel whenever our fans pour their savings just to save us from this general election,” she admitted.
In Japan, the contest, designed primarily to boost CD sales, draws in more than a million votes each year.
Ricky Cortez, a college student who logged in several votes for his favorite member, Ash Garcia, said that the election is a way for fans to tangibly show their support.
“I want to see her become the idol she wants to be,” he said.
He did add that he does not approve of the decision of Hallohallo Entertainment (HHE) — the company that manages MNL48 — to eliminate members who will not make the cut as AKB48 normally just rotates members depending on the results.
MNL48 has 77 candidates total — current members and aspirants — vying for a spot.
HHE president Paulo Kurosawa said in an interview with Anime Pilipinas that financial constraints have forced their hand.
He explained that unlike with AKB48, where members are handled by different talent agencies, the MNL48 girls are all signed with HHE, making it “impossible” to maintain a large group.
This added pressure of possibly being cut has taken a toll on some of its members like Garcia, who admitted that she finds it difficult to stand out to from the other members to increase her chances because she says she’s not as “talented” nor as “pretty.”
She finished outside of the top 7 last year, but was eventually included in it after some members quit.
She said that one of the main reasons why she has not left is because of the fans: “We are not the only ones who are stressed in dealing with the elections, but also them. Seeing their efforts to help us keep on chasing our dreams is my driving force to keep going.”