'AlDub': A social media phenomenon about love and lip-synching

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Fan art of 'AlDub'
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Look out Twilight, fans across the Philippines have been proudly declaring their devotion to the show and its young stars

It is a surreal and wildly popular show which has smashed global social media records. But few outside the Philippines have even heard of the phenomenon called AlDub.

What follows is everything you need to know about lip-synching, being in love with somebody you have never met and how to break records on Twitter.

What or who is 'AlDub'?

For several months, viewers across the Philippines have been tuning in to watch 'Eat Bulaga!', a popular afternoon variety show, which features a skit with a pair of lovers who have never met in the flesh.

On the show, their romance is conducted via a split screen and as it developed, obstacles after obstacle cropped up to prevent the onscreen duo from meeting.

'AlDub' is a play on the first names of Filipino actors Alden Richards and Maine Mendoza (who plays the character Yaya Dub on the show), both stars with huge followings on social media.

Image source, Rappler

It all became too much for the multitudes of adoring fans, who began to take action on social media by lobbying for the couple to finally meet in person. Each week, an episode spawned multiple and hugely popular Twitter hashtags to this end.

"Brangelina has got nothing on AlDub, they are my favourite super power couple - I love them so much," gushed Filipino Twitter user Maria Joy Coloma, a fan from Cebu province.

"When will AlDub ever overcome the odds and unite? That will be when my life becomes complete," lamented another Twitter user Desiree Lopez in the capital city of Manila.

And then they finally met...

On 24 October, fans got their wish and for the first time, finally got to see the couple meet - on the set of a huge charity concert celebrating the show's 36th anniversary.

Image source, RAPPLER
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Last week, fans got their wish and finally saw 'AlDub' meet in person for the first time

Thousands attended the event and in just one day, the hashtag #AlDubEBTamangPanahon (translation: AlDub, in the right time) drew more than 41 million tweets, smashing the previous Twitter record held by Brazil's 2014 Fifa World Cup defeat to Germany.

And it isn't just the local fans. US politicians and even alternative rock bands, have declared their love for the show and its young stars.

The formula for a phenomenon

Image source, RAPPLER
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Legions of fans in the Philippines have been rooting for the popular couple to finally meet and get together

TV host and blogger Daphne Osena Paez explains that their love story appealed to all sectors of Filipino society and was created by playing on a popular formula used in the Philippine entertainment industry.

"Actors and actresses are often paired up so fans hope they end up together in real life. But what's different about 'AlDub'... is that it wasn't just the creation of a TV network or movie production," she said.

Their pairing began on live TV when they started reacting to each other spontaneously within the Eat Bulaga variety show.

Now, she says, they are the most popular "love team" in the Philippines.

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Rico Hizon explains why "AlDub" are so popular

But another key to their popularity is their ability to connect with ordinary people.

"They appear very down-to-earth," says BBC presenter Rico Hizon, who admits to being a huge fan of the series.

"I believe that one big reason they are so popular is because the actors are very humble despite their massive success - they keep thanking fans as well as everyone who supports their work.

And now for the lip-synching part

The Philippines is a musical country where the online art of Dubsmash has become a craze. Dubsmash allows social media users to lip-synch over catchy songs, speeches or film quotes, and is featured prominently on the show.

Skilful lip-synching was what propelled Maine Mendoza, who was already an internet celebrity and known as the "dubsmash queen", onto the show in the first place.

Image source, Facebook: Maine Mendoza
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Filipina internet celebrity Maine Mendoza was propelled into social media stardom for her role as 'Yaya Dub' on the series
Image source, Getty Images
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Along with Taylor Swift and Katy Perry, she has one of the fastest growing followings on Twitter

She began interacting via a split-screen with Alden and the rest is history. Amazingly, neither of the characters have any speaking lines on the show.

Instead, they express their adoration for each other by blending lines from popular love songs and movies.

Thanks to her role as Yaya Dub, Ms Mendoza has now become the third fastest-growing celebrity on Twitter, after US singers Taylor Swift and Katy Perry.

The secret power of trend-setting Filipinos

Twitter called it a "global phenomenon" after it most recently broke social media records.

Image source, RAPPLER
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More than 50,000 fans flocked to the stadium in Manila to catch a glimpse of stars from the popular variety show

However, one earlier hashtag which followed after a controversial episode that saw Yaya Dub almost marry another character, spawned 800,000 tweets in a day. Other regular hashtags related to the show, regularly draw millions of tweets.

"'AlDub' was a global phenomenon on Twitter and it shows how our platform, as the social soundtrack to TV, has really connected Filipinos who love a good love story," the site's Asia Pacific Vice President Rishi Jaitly told Philippine news portal Rappler.

"None of it was planned," adds Ms Paez. "It's not like the show hired social media experts to strategise a plan - they realised what they had: a new and younger social-media savvy audience."

For many in the Philippines, the fact that the show broke a global social media record was no surprise.

Analysts say Filipinos are particularly social and community-centric. "There is often a strong connection between an individual and his community or home town," Ms Paez told the BBC.

The internet has become one of the most natural places for Filipinos to forge community.