While there have been countless love teams that have fascinated Philippine audiences in recent times, this uniquely Filipino showbiz phenomenon actually dates back to as early as the first years of Philippine cinema in the 1920s.
Today, love teams are more popularly known by their portmanteaus, such as JaDine for James Reid and Nadine Lustre, AlDub for Alden Richards and Maine “Yaya Dub” Mendoza, KathNiel for Kathryn Bernardo and Daniel Padilla and LizQuen for Liza Soberano and Enrique Gil.
In the early days, there was Mary Walter and Gregorio Fernandez — perhaps you can call them WaFer? — whose team-up in the country’s pioneering silent movies in the 1920s was considered to be the precursor of the love team phenomenon in Philippine cinema. Many more popular showbiz couples emerged thereafter, such as Rogelio dela Rosa and Carmen Rosales in the 1950s, Nora Aunor and Tirso Cruz III in the ‘60s and ‘70s, Sharon Cuneta and Gabby Concepcion in the ‘80s, Rico Yan and Claudine Baretto in the ‘90s and John Lloyd Cruz and Bea Alonzo in the past decade.
In the Philippine entertainment industry, love teams rule. Love teams have transformed many run-of-the-mill actors into overnight stars, helped by major studios that have been responsible for many of these popular on-screen couples. A love team consists of two usually young actors who are promoted as a romantic couple.
Love teams have a big role to play in making a movie or television soap opera more marketable in the Philippines, which is the reason why producers don’t stop discovering, creating and developing potential money-making couples.
“It’s being hyped by TV stations. Love teams are being promoted heavily. They are even given singing opportunities even if they don’t have any singing talent,” says Rolando Morallo, a Cebu-based journalist.
Many of these onscreen tandems have become unforgettable pairings in show business — icons of generations of television and movie fans. Some of them have also become real-life couples, such as Concepcion and Cuneta, whose high-profile marriage later ended in an annulment.
Although Hollywood and other Asian countries also have their versions of celebrity pairings, such as Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie (Brangelina), the Filipinos have taken it up a notch. For instance, many fans organise themselves into clubs complete with officers, regular meetings, meet-ups with their screen idols and other activities.
With such fanaticism, some love teams that become popular end up being at the mercy of their fans, who tend to be possessive. There are slim chances for actors in a love team to be paired up with other stars. Love teams are expected to act sweetly to each other both on and off camera. They are always under the scrutiny of the public, especially hardcore fans, to the extent that people hope that the love team will end up as a real-life couple.
There are also many instances of fans of rival love teams quarrelling with each other, and social media has only opened new fronts for many to show their loyalty to their favourite showbiz couples, or hostility towards rival pairings.
And once a love team breaks up for whatever reason, fandoms will mourn the demise, and sometimes it could even lead to the end of the actor’s career.
But why are Filipinos so engrossed and enamoured by love teams? The Philippines is one country where romance and love are at the very core of society. Filipinos love fairy tales and warm up to love stories, especially those with happy endings. Filipinos love seeing things that inspire them and find optimism in love and romance. For Filipinos, love teams give a glimpse of young love, true love, great beginnings and happy endings.
“We are romantic people. We idealise everything. We love drama, from our TV screen to our politics, the Philippines is one telenovela [television soap opera]. Love teams almost always represent our idealised self, our idealised partners, our belief that love conquers everything. And love teams are a good escape from our reality,” says Rex Yadao, a marketing specialist.
John Paul Pepito, a Philippine-based reporter agrees.
“I guess we’re being too illusionistic about perfect couples and relationships that we hope to experience in real life, but it won’t really happen in reality,” he says.
Cerwin Nacorda, who works as a teller, says it like it is: “Filipinos are just addicted to love.”