Extra lang? Or Extra Love?

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October 24 was a historic day for Philippine entertainment. Eat Bulaga held its Tamang Panahon Concert-for-a-Cause, as a treat to the fans of fictional love team AlDub (of GMA7 actor Alden Richards newcomer internet star Maine Mendoza) and to raise funds for public school libraries all over the Philippines. It was aptly called Tamang Panahon (in English, Right Time or Proper Time) because, as Lola Nidora said, it’s now the right time for Alden to begin courting Maine properly: he can visit her, treat her out, spend time with her to get to know one another well.

But it was also a Tamang Panahon to launch the career of Maine, who plays a lip-syncing Yaya Dub in the series. In the said concert was a short bio film about her, a shy teenager who dreamed of becoming an actress. Family and friends described her as a clumsy introvert, yet she kept to a small group of loyal friends. She found solace and expression in social media: she was an active user of Facebook, a WordPress blog,  Twitter, and Youtube. Later on she discovered the ultimate voice for her creative aspirations, a free smartphone application called Dubsmash. She recorded her videos of dubbed songs and dialogue clips of Kris Aquino, with matching absurdly funny facial expressions. She shared them to her friends and family to make them happy. Her friends shared and re-shared her funny clips, millions of times, eventually making her the reluctant overnight Queen of Dubsmash. That would be her ticket to Eat Bulaga and to a skyrocketing fame.

Her initial contract with Eat Bulaga would last only a few months. She was just an extra character on the set of ‘Juan For All, All for Juan’ segment, playing a snotty personal assistant to the snobbish rich matron Lola Nidora, played brilliantly by ace comedian Wally Bayola.

But God had other plans. The accidental pairing of her with heartthrob Alden Richards touched a live wire among Filipinos. The fan base exploded. The creative team of Eat Bulaga quickly crafted a love story, filled with weird challenges, Pinoy values, side stories, relationship goals, and of course humorous characters, led by Bayola’s Lola Nidora. The story would eventually be called Kalyeserye (literally, street series, as opposed to TV series) since the love story is unfolding semi-live on the street where the segment is being held.

The AlDub love team quickly became the center of attention and affection of the whole nation, across all economic and social strata. It didn’t take long for the extra lang to become the extra love. It has brought unprecedented ratings and commercial success to Eat Bulaga, GMA-7, the corporate sponsors, all the actors of the series, but especially to Alden Richards and Maine Mendoza.

It’s unfair to call Maine’s rise another case of talentless fame. Although she’s super raw to the entertainment world, she gave the nation something it wants: wacky faces, a simple hand wave, sincere, kilig acting. Her quick rise also reveals that the world doesn’t always need actors who are super talented with Olympian god- or goddess- looks and physique. Sometimes the world just wants someone they can relate to. Someone real, simple and funny who can give extra love to the weary.

Wacky is the New Pretty.

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maine new tvc
Maine’s new endorsement. Fans say it’s a shampoo commercial.

Maine Mendoza is all over the news in traditional and new media. And why not? She plays Yaya Dub, and together with young heartthrob Alden Richards, they form the accidental yet phenomenal AlDub loveteam. In a little over two months, and almost coming from nowhere, Maine has emerged as the most recognizable face and name of a Filipino celebrity. No less than Joey De Leon and director Mike Tuviera of Eat Bulaga and TAPE, Inc.. have described her as ‘gift from Heaven’, bringing much commercial success and youthfulness to Eat Bulaga and GMA7 and joy to the whole nation.

An early wacky picture as Yaya Dub.
An early wacky picture as Yaya Dub.

In two months, the AlDub love team has done two major TV commercials (McDonalds and Talkn’Text) and started shooting for the movie “My Bebe Love”, which topbills Vic Sotto and Ai-ai delas Alas and directed by Jose Javier Reyes. Maine has also finished shooting for a shampoo commercial. Rumor has it that Coke (Phils) will get the couple for a Christmas TVC and a romantic comedy is up for the two in February 2016. Wow! All of that in 2 months because of the surging, tsunami-like popularity of the AlDub love team.  So how did a young couple, virtually unknown before July, suddenly become so hot?

Alden has been around for maybe 3-4 years, acting in teleseryes and movies and recording songs for GMA. In Eat Bulaga he was a co-host, and between this and that he is doing mall tours and appearances in town fiestas and pageants. Colleagues have praised him for his work ethic, strong Catholic faith and acting intensity. Yet despite accolades his career did not seem to get the traction it deserves. Enter Maine Mendoza, a 20-year old livewire, with a rubbery cartoonish face that can project any emotion. She entered show business through the non-traditional route, though YouTube and Facebook. Over one boring summer she filmed herself doing funny dubsmash videos using a popular smartphone application. She uploaded them in FB for her friends and got shocked when the videos were shared and re-shared and viewed to a tune of at least a million hits. Eat Bulaga noticed her and that’s it. But a million other wannabe actors are using dubsmash and social media, so why Maine?

Wacky is the New Pretty

Comedy it seems, is the safest and fastest route to stardom. Comedy disarms viewers’ reservations and natural distrust. It makes them feel at ease. And Maine is a natural comedienne. Friends claim that, although she’s reserved around new people, she’s in her natural wacky element when she’s with friends. She can contort her face, twist her lips, open her mouth loud, raise her eyebrows, so easily as if all of her facial muscles have its own brain. She could look morose, disgusted, shocked, coy and giggly like a high school teenager meeting her crush. She could look sensual and sweet. She could also look like a clown and a mule!

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maine wacky 3 maine wacky 4

Maine’s antics are refreshing to viewers who are used to the cutesy but staled pretty faces of commercial models, child actors, and manufactured love teams. Maine came in like a lighted dynamite, with her raw comedic power and self-deprecating humor. She loves the camera and with little coaching she could carry the plot of the story and hold out her own against the veteran trio of Wally Bayola, Jose Manalo, and Paolo Ballesteros. She brought in something new yet familiar. Fans are more emotionally drawn to her antics. She won our hearts and maybe Alden’s as well.

Queen of Social Media

Maine had always wanted to become an actress but didn’t know where to start. Besides, she claimed she didn’t think she had the right looks and talents to become one. Although shy, she explored and developed her social media presence. She maintains several social media accounts: a blog, a youtube channel, a facebook page, twitter, instagram, and ask.fm accounts. These are where she uploaded her videos, shared her thoughts, feelings, aspirations and rants. She didn’t expect the onslaught of fans, but she was ready. The fans had an early Christmas with a truckload of her pre-fame pictures, videos, and thoughts!

Before she wanted to entertain people, but only the people in her own small world. Little did she know that the whole world would come crashing in her door one day. For Maine Mendoza, the whole world is her oyster now.

May Tama si Lola. As always.

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O, ano? Mas matamis ang bunga kapag pinaghirapan di ba? Mas masarap kung pinagsumikapan?

Behind her 'evil' eyes is actually a golden heart.
Lola Nidora (portrayed by Wally Bayola). Behind her ‘evil’ eyes is actually a golden heart.

I imagine Lola Nidora saying the above words not just to the star-crossed YayaDub and Alden, but also to each fan, to each viewer, to each one of us. Rightly so. I strongly believe that in these last two months of Kalye Serye, she is really the foundation of the story and the star of the show. Like a foundation that is hidden from view but supports a building. Like a star that does not force its shine on us. Many times we take stars for granted, but whether we like it or not, they shine. Lola’s wisdom, her shine, guides us as it guides the young smitten lovers.

We can say the whole AlDub nation (as fans call themselves) have been on a roller-coaster ride of emotions from the hit segment of Eat Bulaga. Of course, the kilig is there, overflowing and sometimes sweeping us off our feet. But it was the character of Lola Nidora who provided the occasion for the kilig, for the values, for the whole story. Many of us thought that, ah she is the evil stepmother who prevents the physical meeting of YayaDub and Alden. Well in fact she did! She had Alden beaten up. She had Yaya locked up in a van. She gave challenges for Alden to surpass. She even even encouraged a rich suitor for Yaya and nearly executed a false wedding (to defraud the suitor). And for her that was not enough. When she finally approved of Yaya’s meeting with Alden, she had a wall fall down between them just when the two were a foot apart. What cruelty! But she had her reasons. She wanted the two to grow their fondness from kilig to real love, from infatuation to sacrificial love. From the spur of the moment emotion to finding the Tamang Panahon.

Lola Nidora (and her two sisters) give a gift of an all-expense paid DATE to YayaDub and Alden.
Lola Nidora (and her two sisters) give a gift of an all-expense paid DATE to YayaDub and Alden.

Well Lola also ‘developed’ in these last two months, from being strict to being sympathetic and now, supportive of the two. Ngayon pagkatapos ng dalawang buwan ng panghahadlang, pinayagan na nyang magkita ang dalawa sa isang date. Peron may pahabol syang lesson, which the media and twitter fans kinda missed. She said in a meek voice (I summarize) Bakit ba kayo excited e first date pa lang naman to? Hindi pa nga nila kilala ang isa’t isa.

Ang galing di ba? And tama si Lola. Love is sweeter, more lasting when it is worked for and fought for. Kapag pinaghirapan, kapag pinagsumikapan. 

Now we don’t know how Eat Bulaga’s creatives will develop the story. It seems they will finally give voice to Maine Mendoza, who plays Yaya Dub. (Maine and Alden will star in Vic Sotto’s movie and shooting begins next week) Most probably, the KalyeSerye love team will continue, but on a higher note. Mag bf/gf na talaga ang dalawa.  In any case, we look forward to it and to Lola’s wisdom.

No Fairies in this Tale! Only Dynamites.

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Like thousands of Filipinos, I’d like to know how the AlDub phenomenon has taken over the online and offline Philippines. The split-screen loveteam, virtually unknown two months ago, has cut across geographic, social, economic, and gender strata, and endeared Maine Mendoza, Alden Richards, and the comedic trio of Jose, Wally, and Paolo to millions of Filipinos. Indeeed, Eat Bulaga’s ragtag team has done what no politician could ever do: unite the entire nation in less than two months.

Anyare?

It’s futile to explain its success, but I think five reasons stand out: the discovery of Maine Mendoza (a.k.a Yaya Dub), the Pinoys’ love for what’s nakakakilig, the silly storyline and new format of telling it, the strength and persistence of its social media fan base, and the comedic genius of Jose Manalo, Wally Bayola, and Paolo Ballesteros (Jowapao for short).

Imagine entering a dark, moldy warehouse. Lights don’t work, so you bring out matches. You light a match and you gleam boxes stacked from floor to ceiling. You go near a column of boxes. With your lighted match you read the written text on the box: dynamite. The boxes of dynamite are the dormant whatever that’s just lying there. Maybe a collective sentiment of a need for high school romantic giddiness, a desire for pure love, or for a humorous respite from the mounting daily problems. Whatever. And the lighted matchstick is Maine Mendoza. Only a spark is needed for an explosion.

It’s true that Eat Bulaga (EB), the longtime leader of noontime shows, stumbled upon a goldmine in getting Maine Mendoza, who became famous herself for her dubsmash videos on Youtube. But it takes hard, insightful work to make that goldmine produce gold. EB’s writers and directors have masterfully turned an accidental discovery into a bursting ecosystem of engaged fans, new actors, and a simple story line running on humor and family values.

I’ve written earlier about Maine. In many episodes, she has proven that she is more than a pretty teenager who can distort her face to any emotion. Of course, her acting range has so far been limited to live skits, dubbing, and TV commercials. But she loves the camera, she loves her fans, and she loves to entertain. And so her fans are increasing in ranks and are already clamoring she joins the Vic Sotto – Ai-ai romantic comedy, of course, with her beau Alden Richards (the movie is to be directed by no less than Jose Javier Reyes).

Now for the story. Maine acts as a personal assistant, a Yaya, to Lola Nidora. In one episode, kinilig si Maine when she saw her real-life crush Alden looking at her from the studio. EB spotted a love team. The following day the two were already giving each other affectionate gestures, like pabebe waves and flying kisses (maybe upon directions from EB directors). Yaya continues her dubbing of songs and videos, but this time, directed to Alden, who also responds. This long distance, split-screen love affair, is absolutely frowned upon by Lola Nidora, who does everything to keep the two from physically meeting each other. The various episodes are also occasions for Lola Nidora to teach ‘life lessons’ or values to the couple and to the viewers. The basic plot is Alden and Yaya must hurdle all obstacles towards their final meeting, without disobeying Lola.

It’s a re-telling of Cinderella and her prince charming, with a lot of hurdles and humor from Frankie Arinolli (Yaya’s suitor favored by Lola and portrayed by Jose), Duhrizz (Lola’s NY-based fashionista and biological apo portrayed by Wally), Lolo Franing (Frankie’s lolo and Lola Nidora’s classmate), the Rogelio bodyguards, the kidnappers, the riding-in-tandem guys, plus the sisters of Lola Nidora, Lola Tidora, and Lola Tinidora, and the alleged parents of Yaya Dub, Mommy Isadora and Dudung, the water vendor.

However, there’s more to it than several fairytales.

Unlike Cinderella, there’s no fairy godmother who will transform YayaDub into a princess. There is no slavish drudgery. In fact, Yaya enjoys taking care of Lola 24/7 and she’s also in love with Alden 24/7. Lola Nidora, for all her opposition to the smitten lovers, is not an evil stepmother. Rather, she dotes on Yaya to the point of making Duhrizz wickedly jealous. Alden is the charming ‘prince’, who for some reason is trapped in the Broadway Centrum studio of EB, while Yaya is with Lola on barangay missions. Now why didn’t Lola approve of the love affair early on? My guess is:
1) that would be inconsistent with the character of Lola
2) that won’t develop the loveteam properly (hilaw)
3) that won’t entice the viewers since patience makes the love grow stronger and makes the hearts grow fonder. (walang struggle, walang lessons, walang kilig)

Lola Nidora delays the physical meeting of the couple until the right time (sa tamang panahon), which not even the creative dept of EB knows. But from that simple premise, we can glean a lot: 1) that Alden and Yaya Dub are young, hence, mapusok ang damdamin at kailangan i-guide; 2) Lola wants them to mature in their love for each other; 3) Lola wants the two to be inspired by love in their work and daily life. That is, Lola wants them to traverse from giddiness to real love, shown in sacrifice for one another. Now that’s a loaded and comprehensive life advice.

It would be too tedious to recap what had happened in past two months. Everything is available in youtube and facebook anyway. But for sure, the writers and directors of EatBulaga are having fun while cracking their brains how to develop the story. The story is simple, right?
Now how do you tell a cliched story and make it gripping? In fact, there’s a lot of loopholes, missing details, and inconsistencies in the tumultuous story. But we know that already, and frankly, we don’t care. We are having a great time watching the series.

A lot has to do with the improvisation by the veteran actors. There’s a basic plot and timing set by the directors, but mostly Jowapao does the adlib. Alden and Yaya Dub provide the kilig moments, while Jowapao do all the talking and carry the show. It’s done live at the barangay and the studio. We can see the raw, unguarded emotions, and that makes it more ‘real’ compared to teleseryes. No ‘take twos’. It’s all ‘action’! If it’s more real, mas nakakarelate ang mga fans.

There are no fairies in this tale. Only real dynamites.

PS
EB has added mysteries/parameters to the story. One is Yaya’s voice is never heard on live TV. Maybe she will speak sa tamang panahon, when she’s finally united with Alden (sounds like Little Mermaid).

The Maine Reason We Love Her

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I wrote in my previous posts why Maine Mendoza (aka Yaya Dub in Eat Bulaga’s kalye serye) is a natural actress and a fast-rising one. But I failed to mention why she is endearing to us.

She is very comfortable in front of the camera. Everyday she becomes more and more relaxed, hence, her acting becomes more and more credible. Of course, the natural kilig with ‘better-half’ Alden Richards sometimes comes out, prompting Lola Nidora (ace comedian Wally Bayola) to chide her live on TV: “Huwow, actingan lang ‘to, huuy!!”  But she can hold out her own against the comedy trio of Jose, Wally, and Paolo.

She can twist her face to the whole spectrum of human emotions: she can be pa-cute, she can look really mean and murderous, she can look like a cartoon, she can giggle like a swooning high school teenager. I heard that only the basic storyline and scripts are given to them, the night before, so it means she can act in a moment’s notice. That’s a tough act.

Moreover, Maine’s actions outside the camera are more wonderful. She ‘reprimanded’ a fan of hers for bashing Kathryn Bernardo. She encouraged a fan who was starting to blame God for the hard times she was going through. She requested her fans not to spend their hard-earned money to give her gifts, saying a simple Thank You is enough for her. She writes well and intelligently (have you read her blog?).

We can go on and on. So what’s the Maine reason we love her? Maybe the lyrics of the theme song God Gave Me You can help. The refrain goes:

And God gave me you, to show me what’s real.

God gave us Maine, acting as Yaya Dub in a make-believe world, to show us what’s real. That Maine’s graciousness, kindness, wackiness, simplicity, and desire to entertain are what endears us to her.

She’s real.

Kilig Me Softly

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Fans of the yet-fictional AlDub love team have renounced their Filipino citizenship and moved to ALDUB kingdom. And they did for one reason, Kilig. The AlDub royalty (actor and host Alden Richards and Youtube star Maine Mendoza) gives them a kilig overdose. The best English translation for Kilig I found would be Giddiness. To be giddy is, according to urbandictionary.com, ‘to feel extremely excited as if you just saw a rock star, crush, celebrity, that made u seem speechless or incompetent of acting normal. In case of AlDub fans, that would include teasing laughter and shrieks, muscle spasms, loss of oxygen, short breaths, and fainting spells, all at the same time. Kilig may also kill. And judging from the tweets of fans, the AlDub kilig has killed a lot: OMG!!! Namatay ako sa kilig!!! GRABEH Ako rin!!!

So what makes AlDub nakakakilig? Is the kilig from other love teams inferior to the AlDub version? I watched again the pivotal July 16 episode of Kalye Serye, where YayaDub (Philippine queen of dubsmash Maine Mendoza) unexpectedly saw her real crush Alden Richards smiling at her on split-screen. Her snobbish eyes widened, her pouting lips suddenly but faintly curled up, she lost her dubbing composure, and she covered her face briefly with the large fan she was holding. Uy! Kinilig si Yaya. Actually tayo din. at more pa. The directors of Eat Bulaga saw a potential love team and quickly developed a story line for the couple. The kilig was sustained and intensified and eventually swamped us helpless.

Kilig is a universal emotion, both raw and old, powerful yet intimate. Apparently it’s the first stage of the long-mysterious process called romantic love and it has a scientific name, “limerence”: a spine-tingling, heart-twisting, can’t-stop-staring feeling, when it seems as though the world stops whirling, and time itself bows down and pauses before the force of your longing (Love in the Age of Big Data).  And it seems kilig, at least in the kalyeserye series, can be developed as well.

The July 16 episode showed the blushing and shyness of YayaDub. I watched the weeksaries and saw how Maine’s portrayal (whether real or not)  matured in the budding but forbidden love affair. The kilig became more natural, spontaneous, more familiar. From the corny love notes or fansigns, to the pinky swear and stolen screen kisses, and recently, the standee hugs and kisses. But my personal favorite is the more modest and intimate whispers, with or without wings 🙂 I believe Love has a language words cannot and must not express. It is not noisy. It does not find a need to tell the whole world, only the beloved, and whispers are enough. Maine’s antics became less reserved as well, and more comfortable, more herself. Arent we at ease with the people we love? As the romance blossomed, she became more and more in her element.

But still, how can a very private feeling, this kilig, infect thousands, millions of onlookers? Filipinos are romantics. We love to be kiligized and lampunganated. We remember our high school crushes. We’ve enjoyed (secretly or openly) being paired with a classmate or an officemate. Ay, si ano single pa yon, bagay kayo, magaling syang mag-jejespeak. We see ourselves in AlDub. We love Maine because she glides from being wacky to being lost and forlorn. We love YayaDub because she balances her obedience to and love for her Lola with her infatuation with Alden. We love Alden because he’s Alden (haha). He’s clean, neat, elegant yet simple (honestly, I love his hairstyle and how he carries his clothes). We love Lola because she reminds us of our grandparents and own parents.

We love the show because, as esteemed Director Joey Reyes succinctly put it in his blog:

“The common reason is that they give good vibes.  They herald the return to innocence.  To fun. To good clean fun that does not involve insulting or downgrading anyone for looks, reputations or whatever… And all the audience really wanted was a return to good old falling in love.”

By the way, the word Giddy comes from the old English Gyddy, which means to feel dizzy as if about to fall. No wonder you don’t see true love coming. You just fall in it. And if kilig kills, so be it. Ang mamatay nang dahil sa yo.

Part 3: I Like All Love Stories, But Ours is the Best