Feeling the ALDUB fever

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For those who have been living under a rock in the past few weeks, there’s a new phenomenon sweeping the Philippine entertainment landscape, the likes of which have not been seen since perhaps the days of Guy and Pip, and it is decidedly a thunderstorm, to borrow the latest weather catchword; nope, make that a cloudburst of non-stop laughter, childlike giddiness (the nearest translation to ‘kilig’ that I can think of) and overall positive vibes pouring down on households, eateries and office lounges all around.

Hashtag ALDUB is breaking records on social media – trending nationwide and worldwide almost every day (in the millions of so-called ‘tweets’) – and in the process piling up ratings that the 36-year-old TV program has not enjoyed in quite a while. If you think this is just a superficial matter, the rival network which operates the predominant cable service in Mega Manila is said to be already resorting to ‘sabotage’. The signal for ‘CATV 12’ suddenly turns awry when it is time for the ALDUB ‘kalye-serye’. On TV, ratings is king, so…

So, why is this latest Filipino pastime clicking with viewers of all ages and walks of life? The hysteria is mind boggling, to say the least. Even toddlers avow their ‘love’ for the character of ‘Yaya Dub’. Young girls go gaga and scream like lunatics at the mere sight of ‘Alden’s’ be-dimpled mien. Pedicab drivers take a much-needed break from the heat of the sun to watch the show in their terminals together with their passengers. Housewives and grandmothers bond over dessert and ALDUB’s exchange of ‘fan signs’. Grown men are seen lining up at Broadway Centrum where the show is being staged ‘live’. Celebrities post on Twitter and Facebook their reaction to the day’s episode. Office workers sneak a peek at the bosses’ TV sets to get their daily dose of giggles and sniffles. Sari-sari stores put up signs on their window holes at lunch time saying “closed for kalye-serye”. And yep, politicians are riding the bandwagon by quoting ‘Lola Nidora-isms’ and coining their own ALDUB combination. What the F is going on?

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Curiosity killed the cat – I watched it once and I got hooked. Kudos to the show’s creative team, you got it right this time. ‘Eat Bulaga’ has been going on for so long it has become dated, repetitive and mostly just rehashing old glories. What can an almost four-decades-old ‘variety show’ still do to reinvent itself in this era of the selfie, self-promotion and short attention span? Thanks to an ‘accidental’ pairing, a new craze is now serving as a welcome diversion from the muck and ruck that Filipinos are subjected to everyday. Give me ALDUB anytime and spare me the faces of those trad-pols jostling for attention even when the campaign season is still a few months off.

Hosts of the show were quoted to have said that ALDUB was not intentional. It was totally a spontaneous occurrence, like a pleasant afterthought that has gone totally into the mainstream of things – ‘viral’, to use an overused Internet gobbledygook. Although ‘Eat Bulaga’ was still recording higher ratings over its primary rival show, its viewership has grown by leaps and bounds because of ALDUB. The following on social media alone has become unprecedented, and Filipino communities all over the globe are in on the frenzy as well. The July 16 episode, when the characters of Yaya Dub and Alden were first paired off, might well go down in the show’s history as the day it was reborn.

 

‘Kalyeserye’

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Is this so-called ‘kalyeserye’ just another excuse to escape from reality? Cynics and skeptics might quickly dismiss it as such, but if one looks closely, it actually serves to remind us of the halcyon era when young people actually listened to the wisdom of their elders, when patience was a virtue, and respect was given where it was due. It does convey moral lessons cleverly spun around carefully constructed dialog and delivered with aplomb by overly made-up characters the better for the audience to take in from above the sound of unadulterated laughter. Lessons that parents have forgotten to impart to their children, and that children simply disregard and consider as mere relics of the past. Using humor and parody as the means to get the message across is the perfect antithesis to the inanities being passed off these days as TV shows. The pretentious reality spectacles proliferating elsewhere could take a cue from this new incarnation.

Comedy is back in vogue and comedy actors are getting their fair share of well-deserved recognition.

Wally Bayola, a former theater thespian who plays the central role of Lola Nidora, was embroiled in a video scandal not too long ago that made his career go into smithereens. But superior talent wills out in the long run. The show gave him a second chance; upon his return, he tearfully acknowledged his mistake, apologized for his indiscretion and resumed his rudely interrupted hosting chore on a subdued state of being. The audience – and his family – apparently accepted his apology and today, he is credited by his co-hosts as the force that carries the show to its stratospheric heights. “Sa tamang panahon” (at the right time is the literal translation, in God’s perfect time is the more euphemistic equivalent) is now spoken by everyone like a mantra.

Jose Manalo, who plays multiple characters on the series, was also the subject of ‘negative publicity’ in the past, mostly about domestic issues. But he has managed to wriggle out of awkward situations involving his family with the support of his colleagues and on sheer talent as a multi-faceted performer. His comedic ability comes naturally, not trying hard or put-on, and he elicits most of the loud and spontaneous laughter on the show.

Together with Paolo Ballesteros – famous online for his makeup transformations – Bayola and Manalo form the riotous ‘Kalye’s Angels’ triplets. If you don’t find yourself laughing at their antics and adlibs, you seriously need to get some psychiatric help or you have become too stuck-up for your own good. The trio is just very funny, period.

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Alden Richards, for his part, is no overnight sensation. The adulation he relishes today is not the usual flash-in-the-pan type of fame that others of his kind have experienced before him. The mestizo leading man with the now-most coveted dimple in show business has been slugging it out for a good many years before success with a capital S arrived at his doorstep with a bang. He joined a couple of talent searches in his teens but ended up empty handed. However, his home network saw his potential and he was given seminal roles in several dramas. His role as the other half of ALDUB is the affirmation of that potential, and where he goes from there would depend largely on how he handles his uber-popularity of the moment.

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But the kalyeserye’s biggest find has got to be the actress who essays the Yaya Dub character.  Maine Mendoza was an unassuming wannabe whose “secret dream” was to become an actress. She was not totally obscure, though, as she already had a considerable online following for her ‘Dubsmash’ videos and is invariably known as the local queen of ‘Dubsmash’. In a blog post, she recalled the day when someone from ‘Eat Bulaga’ called her for an interview and how incredulous she was at the quick turn of events. Before the culinary arts student knew it, she was being launched on the show as ‘Divina Ursula Bokbokova Smash’ aka Yaya Dub, Girl Friday to the wealthy ‘Lola Nidora’.

It turns out the young lady is not your average showbiz hopeful – she comes from a well-to-do family, is armed with a college degree, and possesses other talents outside of lip-synching and facial contortions. It was also reported that her ‘Dubsmash’ posts have already caught the attention of a Broadway (as in the Great White Way) personality and wants to get her for a play being planned about the genre.

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And so it goes that Maine Mendoza is now ‘Eat Bulaga’s’ best-kept secret. Although it is plain to see that the girl is talented and a beauty in her own right notwithstanding the nanny cliché, she is still essentially a mystery. Her followers have yet to hear her speaking voice, much less the actual sound of her singing. Does she even speak at all? Of course, she does but ‘Eat Bulaga’ is keeping her under wraps for as long as they can milk the lip-synching angle dry.

Truth to tell, ALDUB wouldn’t be such a success without Maine Mendoza being the other half of the equation. Even if Alden Richards is the more popular of the two, one would think it took an ordinary girl from the ranks of aspirants – not the succession of stars and starlets that he was teamed up with before – to bring him to the lofty place he now occupies. Endorsements and projects are coming in buckets for the affable young actor; the same could not be far behind for the other affable half. It wouldn’t be a surprise if presidential candidates fall over themselves trying to get the valuable ALDUB thumbs-up.

What is remarkable about the whole brouhaha, though, is the fact that its fandom, hailed as ‘ALDUBnation’, is all about positivity. The bashing and bullying are kept at a negligible minimum it is almost an aberration considering the mudslinging rampant in most entertainment websites. The comments they dish out are generally amusing and lighthearted, it’s as if the humor (and Lola Nidora’s wise counsel) is rubbing off on them.  If only for that, the show might have already achieved its purpose, albeit inadvertently.

Nonetheless, the ‘kalyeserye’ is still the most watchable show on TV today. Hopefully, the creative team keeps the ‘Lola Nidora-isms’ coming and does not stretch the ALDUB saga (as is the predilection of many soap operas) to the point of exasperation thus prematurely running its course. As it is, the show is a mammoth success because the story and situations are highly relatable to many people – the yaya is almost omnipresent in every domicile where there is a toddler (a stroke of genius, if I may say so), teenage girls have been screaming for the newest pretty face to catch their fancy since the rock-n-roll era, macho men whether they admit it or not are also suckers for the Cinderella legend, the boy-meets-girl tale is as old as time but is always new in every retelling, the average man on the street sees the metaphor not with a jaundiced eye when things in fact happen on the street, and laughter is still the best medicine for the jaded heart.

So, yes, Joey De Leon – ‘kalyeserye’ is the most apt description for it. Congratulations.

(Photos from Eat Bulaga’s Facebook page)

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