reaping the cost of solitude

Saturday, February 13, 2016

The Rise of Maine Mendoza

Kalye Squad
One could argue the best thing that's ever happened to local TV happened not too long ago - October 2015 to be exact. Twitter was alit, records broken, and in its wake the world was left wondering: What the hell is Aldub? Now that the fanfare has slightly subsided, and now that we've seen the lengths Eat Bulaga and its famed Kalyeserye segment are willing to traverse to guarantee Aldub's longevity, I, a forever closet fanatic, am finally out (hence this post). Surprise, surprise, I am an Aldub fan - which explains... nothing. Or a lot?

To the (presumably very few) uninitiated: Alden Richards + Yaya Dub = AlDub. It's basically what most Filipinos refer to as a 'love team', a pairing of two local celebrities preferably (and eternally) male and female, ordained by one of only two networks in heavy monopoly of broadcast television in the Philippines with the sole purpose of melting the gullible hearts of the average Filipino; because we are admittedly a bunch of idealistic love-addicted hopeless romantics. The thing about Aldub is, while they are by all means a network-backed 'love team', in its heyday none of it seemed manufactured. Sure, it needed the guiding hand and gentle coaxing of Eat Bulaga's producers and hosts, but in hindsight it was essentially a glorious accident borne out of spontaneity. Yaya Dub's very existence can attest to that.

Here she is. Forgot to take her meds again.

Entry to EB

A love team was pretty much far from the minds of Eat Bulaga's producers when they started doing casting calls for a new segment in their program. The bill: a comedian who had an affinity for Dubsmash. Enter Maine Mendoza, a 20 year old fresh graduate with zero experience in showbiz that had a knack for lip syncing as well as contorting her face in front of the camera; who also enjoyed a bit of success on Youtube, Facebook, and other social media outlets. Her persona screamed: I am no Anne Curtis and most certainly not love team material. I am however something you can laugh at. Want to see my teeth? For awhile, she was just that, doing what she did best, apron and all. But that would change in just a matter of days.

#AlDub Day 1: Yaya DUB meets Alden #KiligPaMore
Si Yaya DUB na-distract kay Bae Alden! ;) #KiligPaMore #PabebeWavePaMore
Posted by Eat Bulaga on Thursday, July 16, 2015

Alden and the Pabebe Wave

Upon discovering Maine had a crush on Alden, the show's producers immediately capitalized by scheming an 'ambush' on Maine: Alden sits in the audience with a camera pointed at him and once Yaya was preoccupied doing one of her dubsmashes, Alden's video feed is skillfully propped up on the opposite screen. She glances to the monitor and finds her crush watching her - rather amusingly. The rest is history. Maine desperately tries to revert back to Yaya Dub mode, but it's too late. The trap has been sprung and it's too much for her to handle.

As a testament to her natural ability to think on her feet, she eventually recovers from Alden's laser stares by sending shy-girl flirtatious ogling back his way - as well as launching several Pabebe Waves in the process, much to the delight of the hosts and live audience. Aldub's status as a love team has now been minted 'official'. The two continue to share a flirty, hey-I-just-met-you-semi-awkward back and forth amidst the constant teasing, and the audience gobbles it all up.

The show's producers were quite happy with the result of their little experiment. They would continue to do the bit on each episode; always with Alden in the studio and Yaya in whichever barangay she and JoWaPao were situated at. Interest in the show continued to grow with much of its appeal revolving around the unscripted nature of their exchanges, the subsequent kilig, and the insatiable hope that one day these two would finally meet in person.

Yaya Dub faints

Yaya Dub faints.
While the show was steadily gaining new fans each day, it wasn't quite at the level of fame it enjoys today. Tamang Panahon was certainly at the pinnacle, but if there's a single episode that could be credited for laying the groundwork for the show's eventual launch to the stratosphere, it was the YaKie Wedding where Yaya Dub faints (apparently from exhaustion). Like a lot of people, I only ever started hearing about 'Aldub' from the buzz this specific episode generated. The word of mouth went: This one character, Yaya Dub, was so excited to see her long-time crush for the first time that she fainted from the excitement. While this info was erroneous, I was intrigued regardless. Who exactly is this Yaya Dub?

The episode brought in a considerable, viral-like amount of new viewers; mostly out of curiosity. Coupled with Maine's Instagram post from the hospital - shrugging the whole incident aside in her usual clownish humor with all traces of worry and melodrama swept under the rug - she caught many people by surprise. Many expected a politically correct P.S.A. but were instead treated to a laugh. The brunt of curious onlookers who wanted to take a peek seemingly became Yaya Dub fans overnight, further adding to the already strong Aldub Nation fandom headcount. She was anything but a traditional Filipina celebrity, and people seemed to love it.

Funny to think the Aldub phenomenon found its stride out of people's morbid curiosity of seeing someone faint on live TV rather than in the show's actual merits. It all worked out well for the show in the end since they managed to keep those figures up by continuing to deliver the goods it was already known for. The show would eventually reach several milestones and landmark episodes during its continued rise: The First Meeting, The First Date, The Date at the Mansion, and then there was Tamang Panahon...

Yaya Dub vs Maine Mendoza

As interest in her grew, many people began wondering who the person behind Yaya Dub was. A self-proclaimed introvert, Maine Mendoza doesn't really see much of herself in the character she plays. She claims she and Yaya share the same humor but only when she's with family and friends. She mostly keeps to herself behind the scenes according to JoWaPao and the Kalyeserye crew; and only transforms into the loud and animated Yaya when the cameras start rolling. She loves to write. She keeps a blog and is surprisingly open and honest about her private life. She also claims to have incredibly low self-esteem, which is hard to believe coming from someone who plays probably the most flamboyant character on TV in recent memory.

Despite her many insecurities, she manages to suck it up and deliver the Yaya Dub goods on a daily basis. Being an introvert myself, I could barely stand in front of a crowd and pretend to care without feeling sick to my stomach. Which leads me to wonder if she only has a mild case of introversion, or maybe she just has balls bigger than mine. That's essentially the irony that is Maine Mendoza, a Jekyll-Hyde of sorts in Philippine media, and it adds to her mystic.

The clown. (photo from her Instagram)
Besides her already proven comic skills, a huge part of what I think really captivated audiences is the fact that she is an underdog. She wasn't bred to become a celebrity. She doesn't look the part - even preferring to have ugly photos taken of herself. She's also quite straightforward in interviews, shying away from lip service and preferring to answer with as much honesty as possible. Lastly, she doesn't take herself too seriously. She does her best to downplay her popularity and continues to live a normal life among family and friends. While she resides in an industry filled with fictitious and fake people, she rises above the muck because she reminds us too much of ourselves: real, unfiltered, sometimes brave, oftentimes fearful, confused, and full of love. She is basically us. That's why she is loved by many.

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