REMEMBER when Maine Mendoza first flashed “the look” at Alden Richards?
It was July 16, 2015, on the “Juan for All, All for Juan” segment of the top-rating, long-running noontime Eat Bulaga on GMA, and neither of them was a brand yet. One was simply a bedimpled actor, still looking for yet another big push in his seemingly stalled showbiz career, and the other a television fresh-face, who made the jump from Internet fame. Then came that day, along with the life-altering split-screen closeup.
He was smiling on one end, and she was contorting her face to a “Dubsmash” on the other. It was supposed to be “Yaya Dub” in that frame all throughout, but when Maine saw the onlooking Alden, her real-life crush, she broke character. Her lips pursed, cheeks puffed and eyes gleamed. No Dubsmash could’ve translated what her face said.
It was an organic moment that birthed the phenomenal love team coined “AlDub”, one that had the world watching, netizens tweeting, Guiness recording and advertisers calling. It was a genuine reaction that defined their tandem: raw and real.
Two years and 2,000 milestones later, the mentality has not changed.
Ask the pair what’s their approach to projects—like their blockbuster debut movie last year Imagine You and Me and the new prime-time series Destined to Be Yours, airing on GMA beginning February 27—and you’ll get answers that range from “ganun pa rin po”, “natural lang” and “kung ano kami”, before underscoring their roots.
“Lahat ng mga ginagawa namin, iba man ’yung title, iba man ’yung konsepto, meron at meron pa rin po kayong makikitang maliliit na remnants ng ‘Kalyeserye’ sa aming dalawa. Kasi ’yun po ang minahal sa aming dalawa ni Maine: We keep it real,” Alden said, referring to their hit parody segment in the noontime variety show where they took off. “Parang iba’t ibang klase ng luto ng adobo. Adobo pa rin siya, pero iniiba lang namin ’yung flavor at spices.”
In the trailer of their new soap, they served a new version of the dish. Benjie Rosales (Alden), an architect, has a construction project in the mountains of Pelangi, where he meets local radio jock Sinag Obispo (Maine). The scene featured the two devising a plan to act as a pseudo-couple, and Benjie teases that a real one kisses. “Ako ba niloloko mo, Benjie?” Sinag replies, before turning around, only to hide a goofy smile—an eerily familiar one at that.
“’Yung kiss, seryoso ’yun,” Benjie persists. “Tigilan mo ko!” She replies, walking away, but still with that smile on. (WATCH TRAILER: Destined To Be Yours Trailer: The hand of destiny)
There was palpable chemistry in that scene, where lines flowed naturally while the acting felt authentic. And as Alden disclosed during the show’s recent news conference, it’s exactly because that scene wasn’t scripted. “Ang maganda po kasi kay direk [Irene Villamor] at sa mga tao sa set, binibigyan po nila kami ng chance to go beyond the script,” he said. “Minsan, after the scene, hindi pa kaagad nagka-cut si direk para makita pa niya kung meron pang pwedeng mangyari.”
The show will be Villamor’s prime-time teleserye debut, following a couple of big-screen projects. She said aside from the romantic arc between its bright headliners, her team focused on ensuring that all the characters were intertwined within the single idea that no matter what, there is always a helping—and loving—hand ready to help.
Also part of the cast are Boots Anson Roa as Helen Rosales and Lotlot de Leon as Amanda Rosales, Benjie’s adoring grandmother and affectionate mother, respectively; and Gardo Versoza as the sculptor Teddy Obispo and Janice de Belen as the painter/sooth-sayer Sally Obispo as Sinag’s parents. Young actors Sheena Halili (Ninay) and Dominic Roco (Jason) are also in as the respective confidants of Sinag and Benjie.
The cast, especially her onscreen mother de Belen, are the ones who helped Maine get through her first teleserye jitters. “Dama mo ’yung nerbyos, ’yung stress niya. Sabi ko, relax lang siya,” the returning GMA actress said, before commending Maine for her natural timing. “Ke-kanta, ke-sayaw, ke-comedy, she has timing.”
With only the “Kalyeserye” and a couple of movies to show for (besides Imagine You and Me, there was the 2015 Metro Manila Film Festival entry My Bebe Love), Maine admitted that she was, indeed, nervous for her first go-around on a soap opera. Adjusting to the rigors was no easy task, from operating within an organized script, as opposed to the spontaneity of live television, to the demanding work hours. “Sa puyat naman sanay na ako, pero iba pa rin ’yung may kailangan gawin the next day. Like after ng taping, kailangan namin mag-Bulaga,” she said. But true to form and to the name of the character she plays, Maine lit up. “Walang tulog, walang pahinga, pero laban nang laban kahit walang kalaban!”
Though there were times that Maine’s body gave up, that was just part of the process, according to her more experienced counterpart who showed her the ropes. Alden reminded Maine that she’ll adapt soon enough; that even he had a hard time adjusting to the grind of shooting. He soon learned that whatever was asked of him, he had to deliver, be it crying at three o’ clock in the morning, or drawing big movements even when you’re sleepy and tired.
For his part, Alden felt that he, too, had to make some adjustments. The actor said he felt rusty from soap-opera acting, as his last prime-time appearance was a guest appearance in the blockbuster fantaserye Encantadia last year. Soon enough, Alden felt that he got his groove back, crediting his director’s support.
And it has always been like that for both Alden and Maine. The two hardly ever say just “thank you” when a compliment or a good thing comes their way. There always has to be another person, another circumstance, another force that they must share their triumphs with.
Sitting beside the two stars at the news conference was veteran Roa, who said, “This couple is really so wonderful kasi unaware sila of the fame and the adulation that they get. Totoong mga tao sila, and I hope it remains that way.”
De Leon, Alden’s onscreen mother, echoed the sentiment. She called her working relationship with Alden “refreshing”, and recalled the time when the young actor watched over her when she got sick on set. “He’s a very loving son, that’s for sure.”
Before the presser wrapped, Maine said everything they do is a form of giving back to their fans. Alden agreed, adding each project has its own lesson to offer, and this one is no different. “From the title, gusto namin iparating sa mga tao na hindi pa huli ang lahat, na ang buhay ng tao, nagbabago overnight; sa snap of a finger, nagbabago ’yan. Right love at the right time, para sa mga naniwala sa destiny, para sa mga naniniwala ng tamang panahon,” he said, with the kind of conviction of a living testament.
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