Of all the things I could write about here at Patheos, I didn’t think I’d be writing about a Filipino love team. And yet here I am, prompted by this video making the rounds. Here’s a good primer. Since I’m in the US, I comment as an outsider, piecing together what I’ve heard from friends and online sources, but here’s my 2 cents’ worth.
A few basics to understand the AlDub phenomenon:
- Filipinos are social media maniacs (and I say that in the most loving way possible). They’re into every new gadget and trend out there, so millions of tweets propelling this pair to world famous status isn’t surprising at all.
- Filipinos are nothing if not romantics. Courtship and dating rituals are part of our heritage.
- Filipinos are all about family.
Combine those and you get the winning formula that is AlDub. Let’s go a bit farther.
According to the latest survey, there are 2.3 million Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs) — that means 2.3 million Filipinos separated from their families, often not by choice but by necessity. Family members often have to live in separate continents in order to survive, to finance educations, to seek greener pastures and secure futures, to develop independence and be able to start new families. Government corruption and unfavorable conditions for jobs and businesses in the homeland force people into these lifestyles, which often lead to broken relationships and broken families. Not surprisingly, many of the usual shows portray (and even glorify) what has become the norm for many — infidelity and mistressing.
AlDub is a refreshing break from the usual, and fills the gap that other shows have missed. It is entertainment that spans continents — it’s shared experience — one more way to connect for those who are physically separated. The values it promotes are values parents want to impart to their children: lessons on love, dating, and courtship that they are not able to teach firsthand because they are absent. Fans live vicariously through the celebrities they admire. Sometimes, that admiration even turns into emulation.
AlDub highlights what many Filipinos have gotten right: courtship, within the context of family, because relationships don’t develop and grow within a vacuum. Of course, people tune in for what Filipinos call kilig — roughly translated: THRILL. And though the majority of fans probably won’t even think about this, they tune in because of what Dawn Eden calls The Thrill of the Chaste.
What is kilig about? It’s excitement at POSSIBILITIES. People tune in because they anticipate that this couple will end up together, at least onscreen if not off. But beyond that, this early in the game, and despite historical evidence to the contrary, social media commenters are already imagining a lifetime for this pairing, using words like asawa (spouse), kasal (wedding) and anak (offspring). Though celebrity pairings are rarely permanent, it doesn’t stop people from hoping anyway.
The celebrity relationships that do last are seen as occurring outside of the norm, and therefore unrelatable. And yet people remain in want of stories showing exactly that. But it’s often seen as elusive, and therefore un-sell-able, hence the default to the common denominator which mirrors Filipinos’ lived experiences more: pain, suffering, heartbreak.
That’s something writers and producers could perhaps chew on, though AlDub is an accidental hit and one that’s difficult to manufacture or copy. While intrigue and melodrama will always sell, people’s hearts are most engaged when something hits them at their core — not just their Filipino-ness, but their human-ness. That AlDub fans are attracted to the concept of permanence demonstrates not shallowness, but truth. People are attracted to anything that ultimately speaks to the deepest longings of the human heart: the need to belong, to be loved, to find out what a happy ending is like. For many Filipinos for whom reality = separation, AlDub is not just an escape from the humdrum of daily existence. The thrill, excitement, and anticipation that a pairing could go on indefinitely keeps people watching. It’s the HOPE that they all have for themselves, and for their family. Everyone wants a happily ever after.
I was just about ready to hit publish when I stumbled on this interesting discussion on AlDub and The Four Loves (!!) in the combox of this post: AlDub Love Defines the Country. “You, me and all others who can see beyond the craze must draw up a plan or something to move the love to agape level, which is what Philippine love should be.”
Whether the AlDub pairing lasts remains to be seen, but the positive impact it’s making can’t be denied. Here’s one for starters: AlDub’s contribution to the common good: LIBRARIES!!
The Social Significance of AlDub