The Social Significance of AlDub
By Wilfredo G. Villanueva
Picture me. Going on 64. Four daughters, all grown up. Thirty-three years married. Battle-scarred political animal with the survival instincts of a tortoise, hard shell, soft heart.
Therein lies the entry point of AlDub for me.
Before I proceed, a review of the last two months is in order as far as AlDub is concerned. It’s a segment of a 36-year-old show on GMA Channel 7. It was supposed to feature a lola (grandmother) who was actually one of the hosts of a segment called Juan for All, All for Juan, a get-down-and-dirty show which situates the show deep in Philippine society, a slice of life, where viewers would see jobless, toothless (not to demean) citizens of the republic who would cry over about a hundred thousand pesos (USD 2,200) worth of cash and goodies from the show sponsors. They would greet the show’s main host Vic Sotto a happy birthday, never mind if it’s been several months ago, and thank him with tears rolling down their cheeks for the largesse.
Before that segment, they had a problem-solving portion where they would answer nonsensical and not so funny questions — like what to do about a husband’s asthma. The lady doctor — played by Wally Bayola prescribed a medication from the breath of a hyena, sprayed three times into the ears, but before that inhale and blow through the ears, the asthma will exit through the ears, something like that. She had to return to South Africa to attend a seminar on herbal medicine.
Dora D’Explorer left, and Lola Nidora the millionairess arrived, also played by Bayola for the question and answer. Towed by Lola Nidora is Maine Mendoza as Yaya Dub. Yaya is Pilipino for nanny. Dub is short for Dub Smash, a software to mimic the facial expression of a singer or artist using the original soundtrack, and it would elicit laughs. Maine achieved fame when she did an impersonation which garnered a million likes overnight, something like that. Eat Bulaga productions got her for her fame in Dub Smash.
It so happened that on July 16, this year, she would come to see Alden Richards at the monitor where the moveable feast of Juan for All, All for Juan was staged. Alden was at the Broadway studio hours away from the Eat Bulaga outreach. The audience saw that she was taken in by the handsome young man’s looks, resident director Mike Tuviera of the show saw an opportunity, and the rest as they say is history. The kalyeserye (street series) was born.
Lola Nidora would move heaven and earth to separate the two but the attraction seemed to be mutual and coming from a deep well, to Lola’s consternation, and the audience got hooked because Yaya Dub seemed genuinely hooked on Alden, and vice versa. They wanted the two to meet each other in person, as young lovers would naturally want, but Lola always stood as sentinel, dishing out Filipino traditional values in the process. “Sa tamang panahon” (at the right time) became a meme, and the audience would switch on every day Mondays to Saturdays as the love story unfolded.
Alden would transfer water from drums to a huge tank to fill it up so that he could see Yaya Dub, but it was not yet meant to be. He ran from the studio to Cubao commercial district about three kilometers away in searing heat carrying a pile of firewood as a condition for Alden to be able to see Yaya, endearing the young man to the audience, perhaps remembering how it was when Filipinos courted their lady loves in the days gone by before texting and social media dismissed traditional courtship and instead settled for eyeballs — eye-to-eye meetings at the instigation of texting within moments of first encounter.
And so the story went on, and AlDub Nation was born. Lola Nidora discovered that she was part of triplets, Lola Tinidora played by Jose Manalo, and Lola Tidora played by Paulo Ballesteros creating a rambunctious mix of fun and hilarity as the three hosts hammed it up in drag, dressed identically, manly oil smearing makeup.
On September 5, Alden and Maine (Alden would call her Maine, ditching the role name of Yaya Dub, and Maine would call him Den) finally got to see each other in person but before they could hug or kiss, a wall of plywood painted the same way as the walls of the corridor dropped down, sealing the two from each other, and Lola Nidora castigated them for not following her expressed wishes to not to get cozy with each other. Alden would shed tears for not getting up close to his lady love, and Maine the same way, but before the episode ended, Maine was kidnapped and spirited off somewhere. End of episode.
The following Saturday, September 12, in what was possibly the most tingling show, the two got to get close to each other bodily, shoulders brushing against each other, almost breathing the same air, but they were blindfolded, both being kidnap victims. They would drink latte from the same straw not knowing that the other was sipping from it, too. The audience loved it and cried buckets when Alden was whisked off by DuhRizz, also played by Bayola, who was a grandchild from the United States of Lola Nidora, the mastermind of the double kidnap. Lola Tinidora (Jose Manalo) and Lola Tidora (Paulo Ballesteros) were able to trace DuhRizz and they lectured her on not being envious and to forgive, because she had wanted Alden for herself and was jealous of Yaya. Yaya was set free (and Alden, implied) and DuhRizz walked dejectedly away never to be seen up to this point.
On September 16, the second monthsary of the two, Lola Nidora had a surprise announcement: they can see each other but again subject to several conditions. They did meet, face to again without a panel of plywood between them and no blindfold, but they were still separated by a long table — they had to sit on opposite ends.
They were already ready to enjoy their first date, partaking of isaw — chicken stomach I think marinated in barbecue sauce and grilled — Maine’s favorite and quail’s egg soup, the egg spilling from her mouth as she gulped down the soup aware of her loved one’s presence about 12 feet away, self-conscious, and she laughed at herself for spilling the food; things like that endears her to the audience, it’s not every day that Filipinos see authenticity and honesty (read: Binay) and they are so hungry for humanity that they lap up every twist and turn in the AlDub story (pun on love story) like love was invented only yesterday.
Twelve million tweets for this last episode. They made history with 3.65 million tweets several weeks ago. The tweets kept on swelling every week until the 12.1 million after last Saturday’s episode. How will it end? Is there a parallel condition or situation when almost an entire country across the board in ages, from children to grandparents adored a love team so much that you can overhear young people mimicking the way Lola Nidora talks, and the names of the two young lovers are on everyone’s lips?
Well, in our time, there was Beatlemania, it was still about love, but there was no physical presence of the opposite sexes and most was in musical poetry, generic, up in the clouds. There were the Spice Girls and One Direction, but they didn’t cut through the age groups, limited in scope. This time in the Philippines, the adulation for AlDub is like a tide, a flood, like weather, sunny or stormy, lingering, pervasive, encompassing, unlimited in its potential.
Potential for what? As a lover of things Philippine, I am always on the lookout for a break, a miracle, a turnaround, a u-turn from the present scheme of things.
No, AlDub isn’t and won’t be a political force, but it speaks of a country kidnapped by some mythical monster over which we have no control. That monster is corruption in high places. That monster is lack of trust in government. That monster could eventually kill all initiative to work for and earn a good country.
AlDub is first of all a good break. Naysayers, doomsayers, trolls, negativists sometimes are finding their mark, that the country is headed nowhere, that it will self-destruct, to become an adjunct of a powerful country in the near future. Why? Because music and faith — as identified by the brilliant Jesuit Father Horacio de la Costa — is not enough to unite us as a nation. Something is missing. Why would we ever venture out of our homes which are countries in themselves, safe and secure from outside vagaries, until traffic turns us in one seething mass, until Binay’s corruption turns us into one seething mass, until Grace Poe’s candidacy can throw a monkey wrench on Mar Roxas’s candidacy and turn us into one seething mass under the political leadership of the Binays, center of all evil.
AlDub could be the deus ex machina, an unexpected intervention from a powerful force come to defeat us, something to wake us up from our stupor, to keep us from falling over the cliff.
We have tried everything. The political genius of Marcos, we have tried that and failed. The peaceful transition and people power of Cory Aquino, we have tried that and the country still remained at the bottom. Ramos, Estrada, Macapagal-Arroyo, bought us some time, but we simply cannot get our act together. AlDub could be a return to the things that endear us to each other — respect for elders, patience, emotional IQ, delayed gratification, the thrill of the journey not just the destination. In other words, AlDub represents the good things about being a Filipino.
Yes, let’s repeat that: 12 million tweets for the last episode, when the two finally meet face to face, from across a long dinner table.
It’s a phenomenon. We must write about it, reflect on it. As Alvin Toffler would say: “Are we dying or are we being born?” Whether Alden Richards and Maine Mendoza are acting or not, we don’t know. What we know is that they’re:
1) Speaking the truth about being in love, being apart from their loved one, being thrilled by the experience of even just a peep, a brush, a love note, kisses on split screen.
2) Representing the OFW population and those who have long-distance relationships, and generally those who are in love. Flowers from Dangwa, small notes, the mere suggestion of a touch, that’s what we’re missing, and the OFWs know how it is to miss a loved one.
3) Revisiting tradition by way of the lolas — especially the character of Wally Bayola. Reminding us of delayed gratification, obedience to elders, and the values that defined Filipinos in a forgotten time. Sex has become a mere handshake, for one. Answering back elders is another. Sad. AlDub is showing that love gathers strength if obedience to elders is present, if we are patient and tolerant enough. The message has some Godly significance considering Bayola was involved in a video with a woman who was not his wife. Sinners do make the best homilies.
4) Improvising, making the most out of present circumstances, carrying our own weather, being happy in spite of the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune. That is a truly Filipino trait — observe the jeepney — something that increases our resilience in the most trying times considering our country lies in the path of storms, in the realm of volcanic eruptions, earthquakes and all other natural calamities.
5) Speaking to the average Filipino and Filipina. Forty-seven per cent of our population is composed of millenials, mean age 23. So if you’re selling tocino, life insurance or endorsing a politician, AlDub is the way to do it. Talk to this age group. That’s where our country is, the youth among us.
“The secret [of our success] is the love of the fans for AlDub,” Malou Choa Fagar said, as reported in the Philippine Daily Inquirer. “After all, Alden and Yaya Dub impart a positive message to their fans. It was just accidental that turned into something magical: a long-distance love affair, a fairy tale come true. It’s all about love.”
Yes, it’s all about love. Sometimes we forget. Sometimes we center on possessions, career, gadgets, social media, individual advancement, the least human touch the better. AlDub shows us how precious human contact is, don’t you agree?
You don’t know what you have until you lose it, and AlDub shows us that they really want to sip from the same straw or touch shoulders or hold hands, but circumstances prevent them from doing so, but it’s all right, there’s always a next time, the future belongs to the patient. And the loving.
I am just, errr as affected as the next guy, as to how this story unfolds. God bless all of us, that we have rediscovered how it is to fall in love, to stay in love. When we discuss how government sucks, how incompetent it is and how the thieves and pretenders can get away with almost everything, the lesson of AlDub is that love will find a way. As long as we want a good country, we will have a good country, but we will have to wait a bit, waiting for the “tamang panahon,” the right time, if we follow our values, our traditions, our kindness, our love.
Aah, love. . . . Nothing is lovelier.