By Arnel Ramos

ANG PAGKIKITA: (c) Eat Bulaga

Their eyes finally met, in real time. But then…

When Alden Richards and Maine Mendoza, otherwise known as TV’s hottest new sensation, AlDub (portmanteau for Alden and Yaya Dub, the characters they play in Eat Bulaga’s game-changing kalyeserye), laid eyes on each other for the first time this afternoon, netizens reacted, full of excitement; as a result, impassioned social media posts more than 3 million tweets. Some, even confessed to having shed a tear or two for the star-crossed screen lovers’ first meet-up, albeit aborted.
Fans outside Eat Bulaga’s studio, and even those inside the cavernous venue reacted with deafening shrieks, they took to the goings-on with glee and in wild abandon, cheering in unison for Alden and Maine, loudly instructing the two how to find each other in the strategically-prepared maze.
But then, AlDub’s sweet, yet stern nemesis, Lola Nidora (played to perfection by underrated comedian Wally Bayola), firmly prevented the two from finally locking each other in a tight embrace. And when the modern day Romeo and Juliet’s way was blocked, hearts collectively sank.

(c) Eat Bulaga
(c) Eat Bulaga

How it all began 

Just as today’s AlDub cliffhanger went, the unexpected love team’s beginnings can be traced to – you guessed it – a seemingly innocent meeting of the eyes. Reportedly, Maine Mendoza (a Dubsmash expert) has long been harboring a “crush” on the underappreciated Alden Richards. And so, the brains behind Eat Bulaga may have thought, why not play a prank on the smitten Maine? They turned the camera on Alden while Yaya Dub was going about her dubsmashing segments and voila, the show stumbled upon a goldmine.
In no time at all, the AlDub craze caught like wildfire, sending GMA-7’s rival network’s existing noontime show on red alert. Before the rival show could even think of ways to counter the brewing phenomenon, Eat Bulaga was once again clobbering them. And this time mainly on the strength of the AlDub magic.

Has Vice ceased to be a vice?

In frantic mode, Vice Ganda was made to do a Willie Revillame, that is giving away cash to random people. Acts of kindness, displays of charity, the rival show’s spin doctors trumpeted what others deemed as “desperate moves.” Good intentions are, of course, always welcome, only that, based on the ratings where it truly matters, viewers aren’t exactly biting.                                   It will be a bore to bombard readers with figures, numbers, statistical data. Other media platforms can take care of that.
In the end, it all boils down to how a show, a tandem, a combination, a spark of genius affects people. And in a business as fickle as show business, track records matter. With over three decades of success to its name, Eat Bulaga is entitled to be proud of its legacy. Oh, it is still a far cry from the classier, more subdued noontime shows of yore (Student Canteen easily comes to mind) but then again, over decades, Eat Bulaga has wisely pioneered and added social responsibility to its very DNA – donating chairs to public schools, sending deserving but underprivileged kids to school, promoting virtues like unity and the spirit of bayanihan to communities all over the archipelago, the list continues.                         The more curious aspect of Eat Bulaga’s resurgence and supremacy is, no doubt, how it has created another spellbinding affectation that at the moment, viewers can’t seem to get enough of and in some cases, breathe without.

What’s it all about…AlDub?

(c) Local Pulse
(c) Local Pulse

This massive attention that Eat Bulaga’s charming, innovative kalyeserye is currently enjoying rests largely on the sleeper hit tandem of Alden Richards and Maine Mendoza. Some of its appeal is courtesy of — and this has to be mentioned to give credit where it is due — the formidable talents of Wally Bayola and Paolo Ballesteros as top-of-the-line comedians. Wally, in particular, is always spot-on in the many roles he plays in the series — as Lola Nidora, or even as the New Yorker “apo” and in his punchlines delivered Babalu style. Paolo is a riot as Lola Tidora, Lola Nidora’s twin sister who is prettier, sexier, and gutsier than her sibling, with her own bump-and-grind bodyguards addressed as her “Bernardos.”   Always, Wally and Paolo observe circumspection when they perform. Which is what is lacking in the many ways Jose Manalo tries hard to elicit laughter. His comedic style can be best described as “brash” and believe that we are being very, very kind. Imagine one time when Wally as Lola Nidora was rambling on about how when they were still tots, Paolo as Lola Tidora would bully her and Jose’s walang kagatol-gatol na take on it was: “Eh ‘di sana bata ka pa lang nagpatiwakal ka na” which Wally wisely ignored. Manalo has, as of late, become less careless with his wisecracks.                              One writer suggests that the AlDub kalyeserye is a hit because it brought back the basics of romance to mostly cynical and weary Pinoys, from heartaches, personal woes, and the sheer tragedy of being Pinoy with a government that hardly answers their many needs.
But then again, how do you explain magic? Can you pluck it from the air and hold it in your palm?                                                                                                                                                                         AlDub’s peaking popularity highlights, among other things, the creativity and inventiveness of Eat Bulaga’s writing team (even when the plot is hackneyed and not without glaring loopholes), the truth that love that goes the distance always triumphs, and serves to remind us what true screen chemistry is all about. So unlike other tandems from the Carmen and Roger days to the KathNiel and JaDine craze, AlDub features a love team whose reel characters have not even met – until today — in the flesh. And in the hands of two winning, classy, bright performers (Alden and Maine), what is potentially boring and directionless comes out fresh, novel, and oh yes, electric.
When one claims that AlDub doesn’t move you, it is tantamount to launching a lone crusade. AlDub critics would say that its greatest challenge is to prove that it is not a flash-in-the-pan. But then again, as Maine Mendoza has so beautifully pointed out in a social media entry, she would rather just enjoy the moment. And that there is no room for negativity in her journey.

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