Alden Pa More!

CONVERSATIONS - Ricky Lo - The Philippine Star

As is his wont these past two months, Alden Richards wakes up this morning and pinches himself hard to make sure that he isn’t just dreaming. He faces the mirror and what he sees is the same old Alden Richards, his dimples digging deep into his cheeks as he smiles, except that things are not really the same at all.

“I still can’t believe that what’s happening to me is true,” Alden admits in an exclusive Conversation. “Parang nananaginip lang talaga ako.”

Everything came about by accident. Or is it destiny? Alden was virtually just one of the Kapuso resident stars, hardly ever really noticed even if he has done TV shows, until he was taken in as a co-host of GMA’s Eat, Bulaga!, the longest-running (going stronger after 36 years) and top-rating noontime show hardly dented by the competition. With Sam YG, Alden hosts the opening segment That’s My Bae, which is a variation of the show’s Mr. Pogi search (among whose winners were Jericho Rosales and Edgar Allan Guzman).

One month later, added to the show was Nicomaine Dei “Maine” Mendoza, a St. Benilde Culinary Arts graduate who did her OJT (On the Job Training) in Upstate New York. She comes from a well-to-do family that owns several businesses (gas stations and a mini-mart, among them) in Bulacan, perceived as a Pops Fernandez lookalike, and yet she’s cast as Yaya Dub, the nanny of Lola Nidora (a spin-off of a doctor-character named Dora, both played by Wally Bayola) in the show’s Problem-Solving portion of the Juan For All, All For Juan segment aired by remote telecast from wherever the team (also including Paolo Ballesteros, the man with many faces, and Jose Manalo) is assigned.

Like her YouTube persona on Dubsmash who impersonates celebrities (most notably Kris Aquino), earning her the monicker Queen of Dubsmash, Yaya Dub delivers no dialogue although she lipsynchs songs or lines from movies, etc.) prepared for her by the writers the night before. Her main job is to keep Lola Nidora cool with an abanico so wide that two people could hide behind it and to dish out the medicine when Lola Nidora’s blood pressure rises.

Then,what has become known as a kalyeserye came along, turning Alden and Yaya Dub into an accidental love team that has caught the fancy of the whole country (and Filipino communities around the world reached by Pinoy TV, GMA’s international telecast), never mind if their romance is carried on only via split-screen, with Alden at the studio and Yaya Dub out in the streets (now you know why it’s called kalyeserye; check out Joey de Leon’s Me Starzan on Page D-8 for backgrounder). No, the lovers have never met and they may not for a  long time, even if they almost did last week when Yaya Dub competed on Bulaga Pa More at the studio, a much-awaited meeting aborted by the over-protective Lola Nidora who put Alden to an herculean task (ladling water into a huge tank) to prove himself worthy of Yaya Dub’s attention and affection. The love team has just marked its first “monthsary” (first month together) last Friday, Aug. 14.

Not since the ’90s telenovela Marimar (now on its second remaking by GMA, starring 2013 Miss World Megan Young and Tom Rodriguez, airing starting Aug. 24) has a serye kept the country glued to TV sets, trending by the millions on social media and unwittingly disrupting the diurnal schedule of people high and low, mula Aparri hanggang Jolo as the show’s intro song puts it.

GMA Artists Center suggested to the Bulaga guys to try Kapuso stars as co-host.

“They said, ‘Try natin si Alden.’ I was supposed to be on a try-out period for one month, kaya pinag-butihan ko talaga. I made an effort to impress the people of Bulaga.” Alden clicked and the rest is Bulaga sensation. He beautifully blended with the Dabarkads. “Mababait silang lahat. Walang iwanan. Kahit baguhan ka, tutulungan ka ng lahat ng host so you won’t feel like an outsider.”

The one most surprised by the unexpected turn of events (the kalyeserye is unscripted, improvised on the spot) is Alden who has become known as Pambansang Dimples (you know why, don’t you?), hailed as the newest Crush Ng Bayan and cuddled as Papa Ng AlDub Nation, creating riot anywhere he goes now, be it on the mall or an event like the Nyognyugan Festival in Quezon. He is adored by people of all gender, would you believe!?!

The lovers’ pa-bebe wave (a variation of the beauty-queen wave) generates shrieks and screams across all sectors of society, proving that…hehehehe!!!...all men are created equal. Mababaw ang kaligayahan, admit it!

“Before I joined Eat, Bulaga! parang, ‘Okey si Alden,’” Alden admits. “But after Eat, Bulaga! tinitilian na nila ako, nagpapa-picture sila, nakikipag-selfie…mas napapansin  na talaga ako. Parang hindi pa nag-sink in ang lahat sa akin. Kung ano ako before, ayokong baguhin. I just enjoy the moment.”

Four years ago, Alden auditioned for the GMA talent search StarStruck (the new edition airing soon) and finished among the 60 “being considered,” then the number was winnowed down to 30. Alden didn’t make it. Fourteen were chosen as finalists, from which the winners were  chosen. In the batch was Rocco Nacino who is now among the network’s brightest actors.

A former Ginoong Laguna (2010), Alden confesses that he was about to give up his showbiz dream, saying, “It’s not meant for me,” and thought of just finishing college (a Business Management undergraduate of La Salle Canlubang), until he was called back to audition for the fantasy-adventure Alakdana.

“After that,” adds Alden, “tuluy-tuloy na ang projects up to now.”

His only regret is that his mom didn’t live long enough (she succumbed to pneumonia eight years ago) to see Alden’s dream come true.

Basically, Alden is still mabait, humble, down-to-earth and approachable, and only his schedule has changed…drastically! He still goes home to Sta. Rosa, Laguna, where he lives with his widower father and three siblings, although the family has a safe house in Metro Manila for Alden to rest in when he has to work overnight.

“I wake up early, at around 6 a.m. I drive 30 minutes to Alabang to work out at a gym from 7:30 to 9. Then, I go straight to Broadway Centrum (Quezon City) to prepare for Eat, Bulaga! After that, I attend to my other commitments and go back home. I’m in bed an hour before midnight. That has been my schedule for two months now.”

Quite exhausting for most people. So how come Alden looks so fresh, so alive and lively, and so “with it” on the TV screen?



“I take vitamins and I eat healthy. My cousin cooks for me, food na healthy, low-fat/high protein/high fiber diet, and she brings it to Broadway Centrum every day.”

Maine is free and so is Alden (once linked to Julie Anne San Jose). Any possibility for them to be an item in real life?

“Kaming dalawa, so far never been kissed, never been touched,” Alden says in jest. “’Yung tanong mo, ‘yon din ang tinatanong ko. Maybe when we see each other in person…who knows? I can’t tell, nobody can tell. I’m single and I heard wala daw siyang boyfriend.”

Aside from Eat, Bulaga!, Alden is also in the cast of the new GMA noontime show Sunday PINASaya (with Ai-Ai delas Alas, Marian Rivera and Julie Anne, among them). He has just signed a one-year exclusive contract with GMA Records.

Would he include a song (on what will be his second album) specially for Maine?

“Why not?”

Maybe Alden should cover God Gave Me You by Bryan White, used as the AlDub theme song (not another song with the same title).

By the way, when will he and Yaya Dub ever meet?

“Like everybody else,” smiles Alden, “that’s what I’m also waiting for.”

(E-mail reactions at [email protected]. You may also send your questions to [email protected]. For more updates, photos and videos visit www.philstar.com/funfare or follow me on www.twitter/therealrickylo.)












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