Team ElNella
Irish Christianne Dizon (The Philippine Star) - January 15, 2016 - 9:00am

MANILA, Philippines – Here at this Supreme photo shoot, we are witnessing the birth of a love team. Photographer Mark Nicdao is on a roll, asking Elmo Magalona to put his hand on Janella Salvador's waist, making her lean in closer to his chest. But the awkwardness between the two is palpable; the hugs are a little clumsy and you could tell they are feeling iffy. A wall clearly exists.

It’s completely understandable. It has only been a month since they were formally introduced. With a little prodding, we got them to admit that they only began texting each other the day before this shoot.

Ayaw niya nga mag reply sa akin eh,” Elmo jokingly complains, which Janella counters with, “No, the first text kasi, siyempre number lang (lumabas). Sabi niya, ‘Janella pa fansign po.’ Sabi ko, ‘Who’s this?’ Tapos di na nag reply.”

It’s interesting to watch Elmo and Janella, two self-confessed introverts, work. In a matter of weeks, they’re expected to become a full-fledged love team with a TV show on ABS-CBN and an industry-standard couple nickname to boot. ElNella is what they’ll be called. Born For You is the show, and audiences are waiting to see if this new coupling will sprout wings.

“How are we going to do this? How are we going to make people feel the kilig they feel with other love teams,” Janella asks out loud.

Showbiz Progeny

On paper, Elmo Magalona, 21, and Janella Salvador, 17, seem like a promising match. Mo and Jea (as long as we’re getting to know them, we might as well get comfortable) have many things in common. First, they’re both showbiz progenies who never harbored artista ambitions as children. (He’s the son of the late OPM great Francis Magalona; she’s the daughter of actress-singer Jenine Desiderio.)

“I’ve always loved performing, but I can’t say being a celebrity was my dream. I think the stars just aligned for me to do this,” Mo explains. Janella seconds her new screen partner’s sentiments, saying, “Everything was being given to me [on a silver platter] — auditions, VTRs — but I was really shy.”

But at 14 (in her case) and 15 (in his case), that saying “it runs in the blood” proved true. The two regular students were offered opportunities to enter their famous parents’ field and everything just worked itself out. Turns out he has flow like his pops, turns out she can slay a microphone like her mom. Music, their shared passion, would turn out to be the reason their worlds collide a few years down the line.

‘Born for you’

Last December, Elmo transferred to ABS-CBN. He wasn’t expecting to be given any show right off the bat. Akala ko nga it was going to be a slow, long ride, but magically, I got this project,” he says. The powers-that-be, showbiz’s matchmakers, decided to pair him with Janella because of their music roots.

That project is Born For You, a made-for-TV rom-com whose cute trailer has been getting rave reviews online. Janella says the story is anchored on that “red string of fate” lore the Japanese believe in. “There’s an invisible red string connecting people destined for each other,” she says with conviction only unhardened 17-year-old girls can muster. “So, no matter where you go or what happens, you’re going to meet because of that unseen red string.”

The cameras haven’t started rolling and the production people are keeping details airtight. The only thing they can share about the storyline is that he plays a singer, while she’s a “banda banda girl.” Don’t expect a local Glee rip-off, though. “It’s not a musical,” Elmo emphasizes. “But music is definitely going to be a big part of the show.”

 Keep it Real

It does seem that the two are getting tuned into each other’s frequencies. Their taste buds, at least, are in sync. As we wrap this shoot, we catch them seated side by side, contentedly munching on their salads. His, quinoa; hers, grapes. They share the same unshakable belief that they are “fat” despite our protestation.

For a moment, we see a flash of the future; a vision, perhaps, that powerful showbiz hands had when they created ElNella. Here is a tandem that is completely unexpected and experimental and fresh. While Elmo admits that they’re still working on kindling the chemistry, he promises this much — and perhaps he has the key: “We won’t fake anything.”

Not faking anything means being honest with the public from the get-go, continues Elmo, who has a real-life bae in this reel-life world. Which is why he ‘ships the timeless love team that is John Lloyd Cruz and Bea Alonzo. “They don’t have to have a relationship outside of work for them to work in front of the camera. It’s just inspiring. Why can’t new teams do the same thing?”

Putting down her grapes, Janella takes a sip of her lemonade and calls a spade a spade: “No one’s gonna get kilig with fake.”

How refreshing. Maybe we’ll end up rooting for this team. 

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Tweet the author @IrishDDizon.





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