A 17-year-old from Quezon City who once joined "Tawag ng Tanghalan" is the first-ever center girl of AKB48's soon-to-be-launched sister group MNL48, it was revealed Saturday.
Shekinah Arzaga --known for her elegant voice fit for ballads-- was voted queen on "It's Showtime," earning the central position in future music videos and other public appearances by MNL48.
Arzaga is considered one of the hardest workers of the group, having achieved her place in the top girls through perseverance. She dedicated her nights performing at birthdays and at small basketball leagues to garner votes.
She broke down in tears when the results of the popularity poll were announced, saying: "Thank you po sa lahat ng sumuporta sa akin, thank you po sa lahat ng bumoto sa akin!"
Addressing their fans, whom she calls "sakuras," after cherry blossoms, for the first time, Arzaga promised to dedicate her career in making people happy along with the other MNL48 girls.
"Hindi po matatapos ang MNL48 nang hindi kami nakakapagpasaya ng tao. Itong MNL48, ito po ay para sa inyo talaga," she said.
Abby Trinidad and Marsela Guia finished second and third, respectively. They lead the group's top 7, which also included Christine Coloso, Zennae Inot, Alice de Leon and Trixie Tano.
As part of the top 7, they will fly to Japan and train with AKS, the talent agency that handles AKB48, in addition to being promised endorsement deals, recording contracts and opportunities to perform abroad.
Meanwhile, included in the top 16 are: Quincy Santillan, Mary Grace Buenaventura, Lara Layar, Faith Santiago, Sayaka Awane, Jem Caldejon, Gab Skribikin, Ash Garcia, and Ella Amat.
The results were said to have been determined through the votes cast via the official MNL48 app.
The MNL48 project was first announced in March 2016, with auditions beginning last December. It is one of the newest AKB48 sister groups outside of Japan in addition to already existing units in Thailand, Indonesia and Taiwan.
After its debut (date still unannounced), the all-Pinay idol group, its official website explained, will continue AKB48's concept of "idols you can meet" by performing daily at its own theater.
AKB48 was first formed in 2005, and have since become one of the most successful idol groups in Japan with album and single sales numbering tens of millions.