Reliving the Rizal-Bracken Romance
in the Al-Dub Love Team
(This is the unedited version of the article published in Women Today in 2016)
On the left: A right-side portrait of Josephine Bracken carved by Jose Rizal
On the right: A left-side portrait of Jose Rizal painted by Juan Luna
What if televisions and social media were already existing during the time of Dr. Jose Rizal? What if instead of the Al-Dub phenomenon people would be watching a Joe-Jo love team (Joe being the pet name of Josephine Bracken for Rizal, and Jo as a shorten form of Bracken’s name)? What if we compare the historic Joe-Jo with the present talk-of-entertainment-world Al-Dub? Hmmm... Quite intriguing wouldn’t you say.
Allow me to borrow Herbert George Wells’ Time Machine and take you back in time and give some enlightened glimpses of the romance between Jose Protacio Mercado Rizal (1861-1896) and Marie Josephine Leopoldine Bracken (1876-1902) at the same time make some candid comparison of their “love team” with that of Richard Reyes Faulkerson Jr and Nicomaine Dei Capili Mendoza, a.k.a. the Al-Dub.
Around 120 years ago, Josephine Bracken heard about Jose Rizal’s skill and success as an ophthalmologist and was eager to meet him if he could do something about her foster father’s blind eyes. Meet they did. An acquaintance that developed like a modern day soap opera complete with spicy moments and unexpected twists.
Jo (Bracken) was already anxious to meet Joe (Rizal) after the many good things she heard about the Filipino hero, his talent and intelligence. Jo’s kilig (tickled pink) moment was switched on the very first time Joe started a conversation with her. Jo was immediately mesmerized. She was, shall we say, “hero-strucked” in an instance.
Alden Richard and Maine Mendoza
(“People of the Year”),
on the cover of People Asia(December 2005 – January 2016)
In the same manner, like reliving that instance in time in 1895, in the Eat Bulaga soap opera parody Kalyeserye (street series), Yaya Dub (Maine Mendoza), which is already “star-strucked” beforehand about actor-singer Alden Richard, felt her first kilig moment upon seeing Al (Alden Richard) in the show’s live split screen monitor. Deja vu!
This is but one coincidence. There are more similarities between these two century-elapsed love pairs. In addition, there are also interesting contrasts that only the keen imagination can underscore.
Back in 1895, Jo accompanied her foster father, Mr. Taufer, coming to the Philippines. She served as his alalay or personal assistant. When Joe and Jo got quite attached to each other, Mr. Taufer was the first to vehemently object. He even tried slashing his own neck in protest. Eventually, as the saying goes, sa tamang panahon (in the right time), Mr. Taufer gave his tentative consent for Joe and Jo’s relationship.
Fast-forward to the present, Mendoza was cast as Divina Ursula Bukbukova Smash or Yaya Dub for short, initially as personal assistant/yaya to Wally Bayola’s Lola Nidora character. In this storyline, Lola Nidora forbids Yaya Dub to meet, more so to have a relationship with Alden. The cunning lola even used her ailments to dissuade Yaya Dub from meeting Alden. Later on, however, she also gave in to the saying “love can be achieved sa tamang panahon.” Or did she?
What about the villains and the kontrabidas? How do they compare and contrast?
In Rizal’s time, his family was lukewarm in accepting the Joe-Jo relationship. A couple of Joe’s siblings didn’t mind it at all and are happy for whatever makes their brother happy. Some like Maria was suspicious about Bracken. Rizal’s mother for her part was worried about the burden that his son is carrying in his heart and mind. She knows that no Catholic priest will marry the two unless Rizal retracts his charges against the friars and Catholic Church of sexual misconduct and political corruption.
The real kontrabidas were in the Catholic Church hierarchy and their puppets in the persons of whosoever sit in the Spanish colonial government in the Philippines. Yes, the obispos and prayles who gossiped about Joe-Jo living together without the benefit of church wedding, while they themselves wallowed in sexual exploitations and perversions, abusing women and having mistresses. The very charges that Rizal accused them, which he refused to retract, and thus the Bishop of Cebu forbid all priests to marry the two, constituting the burden that he carried until his death. Yes, the guardia-civil, who constantly harassed them upon the instigation of the prayles, even if they were peacefully living unmindful of the intrigues sowed against them.
Notice the similarities and the contrasts with today’s Al-Dub love team kalyeserye? Since the start, Alden and Yaya Dub have gone through literally a labyrinth of obstacles, and that’s just for their first meeting. Lola Nidora (Wally Bayola), Lola Tinidora (Jose Manalo) and Lola Tidora (Paolo Ballesteros) are acting like prayles concocting all sorts of impediments to prevent Alden and Yaya Dub’s love from getting even to first base. The Tres Lolas’ bodyguards are like guardia-civil always on the follow-the-lolas’ biddings.
The Joe-Jo love team was, shall we say, the newsmaker of 1895, while Al-dub is the newsmaker of 2015. The huge difference, though, is how it came to be. In the case of Joe-Jo, it was the gossiping clergies of Dapitan that started it all, while Al-dub’s popularity was ignited by the fans of “Juan For All, All For Juan” segment of Eat Bulaga. In a trivial funny way, the Joe-Jo’s affairs was blown by the Bishop of Cebu’s fart into scandalous wind, while Al-Dub, curiously, was initiated by a mere burp by Yaya Dub on live television.
No matter what the friars and their cohorts gossiped or dastardly stirred up against Rizal and his beloved Josephine, their marks in the Philippine Revolution stood firm. The incidence and the surrounding circumstances became a blot in the Catholic Church’s reputation rather than on Rizal.
Alden Richard on the cover ofInside Showbiz (October 2015)
With regards to Al-Dub, the Manila Times did an editorial cartoon that criticized the pouring reception towards their love team. The editorial cartoon depicted that several national issues in the Philippines are being ignored because of people’s seemingly magnetized attention to it. Even such social impetus did not deter the fanaticism towards it. On the contrary, the newspaper even got lambasted by Netizens because of the cartoon criticism. Al-Dub is like the Marvel comic book character Juggernaut, unstoppable the moment it started moving.
Coincidentally, the initials of the lovers’ names – R & B – are also akin in some silly way: Rizal to Richard and Bracken to Bukbukova. Now that’s “Rhymth and Blues!”
Maine Mendoza on the cover ofStyle Weekend (March 11, 2016)
By now, you’re getting the point. Al-Dub is much like Joe-Jo with a certain entertainment twist and sans the heroic aftertaste! Plain in simple, if Rizal had his “Sweet Foreigner,” Alden has his “My Bebe Love!” But the deja vu continues.
Historically, written exchanges between Rizal and his mother and siblings showed our national hero defending his beloved Josephine, praising her person and everything she did. Presently, we hear Alden’s Lola Babah trying to belittle Yaya dub. In a debonair’s move similar to Rizal, Alden tells her lola, “Lahat sa kaniya ay mahal ko” (“Everything about her, I love”). In both circumstances, neither Jo nor Yaya Dub, nor any normal woman, for that matter, wouldn’t get tickled pink or giddy.
Even in the waving of hands, we can relive the Joe-Jo experience in Al-Dub. In the Joe-Jo affairs, we read Bracken waving goodbye to Rizal several times. The last time was with tears in her eyes seeing her beloved uttered the words consummatum est as he felt the bullets hit his body. During the Spanish times, waving of hands, whether to greet or to bid goodbye, was done in a demure way akin to what beauty pageant contestants are doing today. Yaya Dub, on the other hand, has a more entertaining and amusing waving of hands, the so-called Pabebe Wave, which is a running gag-parody of a beauty queen’s gesture.
Rizal wrote beautiful verses and created wonderful arts for his dulce extranjera. Bracken cooked delicious food and took good care of Rizal while they were in Dapitan. In contrast, Alden sings “Wish I May” and “God Gave Me You” (which he also did a duet with Yaya Dub) for the Dubsmash Queen. Yaya Dub, for her part, using dubsmashes and pabebe waves, fought tooth and nail for Alden.
Finally, a revolutionary coincidence for Josephine Bracken and Maine Mendoza. The role that Bracken played in Philippine History is not merely limited to being the wife of our national hero, Dr. Jose Rizal. She also supported the cause of the Katipunan and helped, in whatever she can, in the Philippine Revolution against Spain. Mendoza, for her part, is not merely a wacky dubsmasher love team partner of the national male hottie, Alden Richard. She also has a much profound side being a vocal supporter of the cause of the Lumad.
In a frivolous thought, it can also be noted that both Joe-Jo and Al-Dub are accidental lovers. Although the women of both love teams already carry admiration for the men, both couples met nonchalantly and both were love-strucked the moment they saw each other’s partner. The Joe-Jo love team lasted for 22 months, give or take a few days? How long will the Al-Dub love team last?
The Al-Dub Kalyeserye touches on the most popular topics: love and the predicaments and scruples of people. This is the reason why it has gained so much following. It has reached phenomenal proportion. On record, with over 41 million in total tweets in 24 hours, it has overshadowed the tweets for the 2014 FIFA World Cup semi-final match between Brazil and Germany. Worldwide, it is the most tweeted event of 2015-2016. It is the talk of the town; the talk of the entire archipelago; nay, the talk of the entire world. It is a love team of global magnitude. Who knows, Enochian extraterrestial beings from Alpha Aquilae could also be watching Al-Dub and deliberating on coming to Earth for a close encounter with them.
Al-Dub has become so popular that even international celebrities are tweeting about it. Who knows, Pope Francis might be the next one to tweet, or he may have already secretly offered to marry them if they really end up with each other, sans the comedy scripts. Speaking of Pope Francis. Would it been different had Jorge Mario Cardinal Bergoglio lived to be the Bishop of Cebu and, hypothetically, allowed Rizal to marry Bracken? That would be something. Rizal’s Last Farewell could have been Now and Forever! Then again, his martyrdom could have been diverted to a different path and we wouldn’t have a national hero.
Alden Richard and Maine Mendoza (Al-Dub)
with Wally Bayola (Lola Nidora) and Jose Manalo (Lola Tinidora)on the front page of the Philippine Sunday Inquirer (August 16, 2015)
There’s an argumentative tenet that says “Nothing lasts forever.” Even the expansion of the universe, scientists are now saying, has an endpoint. Well, perhaps the only forever in the universe, biblically speaking, is God and life-everlasting. The Joe-Jo love story, sadly, went to a somewhat tragic trajectory. Rizal died on the firing squad, Bracken became a widow, went revolutionary for a while, disinherited by her husband’s family, remarried, and died poor and lonely.
At present, for three years Al-Dub is on a roll, full of unexpected turns and twists. The Chinese would say that no matter how delicious the viand, there would come a time that people would shun from eating it. At present, we could say that the Al-Dub phenomenon is merely peaking. What would happen after a hundred Saturdays more?
Where would the Al-Dub love story leads? Will it follow a similar path that the Joe-Jo love story went? Is the love team altar-bound, an event that didn’t happen to Rizal and Bracken?
The kilig should now progress to satisfy itself. If Rizal and Bracken, against all odds, went on to marry each other under Heaven’s witness, what would be the next step for Alden and Yaya Dub? If their families would not allow their union, would they elope and marry each other in the same manner. If, on the other hand, everything went their way, will they really go “all the way?” That would be the “grand celebration” for Eat Bulaga!
There’s no such thing as an endless series. They kept on floating the word “forever,” even in commercial endorsements. Take a cue from a rubber band, it is very elastic, but if you stretch it beyond its elasticity it would eventually snap. Forever lies in the sense that a rubber band is circular. It goes round and round endlessly. Applying this principle to Al-Dub, the kilig factor continues to captivate its audience. For how long? Only time, twist and taste can tell.
The phrase “sa tamang panahon” must now have a clear storyline and, of course, conclusion. Twisting the storyline several times may be good, but too much twists can also lead to a boring wall. Filipinos have a peculiar taste that dramatically changes the moment they sense repetitions. This is true even in comedy. The moment giggles turn into forced laughter, it’s over. Perhaps the word “forever” will have a tangential meaning if and only if Al-Dub translates into reality. If and only if Alden Richard and Maine Mendoza, not merely the characters they portray, really, truly, falls in love with each other. The soap opera will not end, but continue to the “reality” level, where they would encounter what Rizal and Bracken experienced in their relationship. Hopefully, it would go a different path, and Alden and Maine would then “live happily ever after!”
Alden Richard portrayed Jose Rizal
in the GMA7 TV series Ilustrado.
One more startling coincidence: Alden Richard won his first Best Actor Award (29th PMPC Star Awards for Television) for his portrayal of Dr. Jose Rizal in the TV historical drama series Ilustrado (2014).
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