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A philosopher’s two cents on the #AlDub craze

Leander Penaso Marquez

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A philosophy teacher shares his thoughts on why many Filipinos are hooked on AlDub

It’s official. The AlDub phenomenon has taken the Filipino nation by storm.  

Reports indicate that tweets from the AlDub nation episode on Saturday, September 26, with the official hashtag “ALDubEBforLOVE” reached a record-breaking 25.6 million worldwide.

The reason I decided to write this essay is an editorial cartoon I saw online that draws a comparison between the attention being received by AlDub and by important national issues, from us, Filipinos. I would like to offer my two cents on this issue.

From a philosophical perspective, the metaphysics of St Thomas Aquinas teaches us that one of the general properties of being is beauty – the property that makes a being pleasing to behold. In this sense, we find pleasure in looking at something beautiful. Similarly, many subsequent philosophers commenting on aesthetics associated beauty with that which attracts, pleases or satisfies our physical (senses), emotional (passions) or intellectual (reason) faculties.

From this, we can glean that we cannot help but focus our attention on AlDub because it is showing us something that is beautiful, and as human beings, we derive pleasure from looking at beauty. 

Both Alden and Maine are good-looking. Their on-screen chemistry, the attraction between them, the spontaneity of most of the scenes, and the anticipation of what would happen next are all appealing. Most importantly, the theme that holds everything together is that of a “budding love.” And I would like to believe that, for most people, love is still perceived as something beautiful.

Pressing national issues pale in comparison, in terms of beauty, when placed side-by-side with the AlDub phenomenon. This is despite national issues being more important than AlDub.

From a personal standpoint – from the standpoint of being a Filipino – we cannot help but focus on AlDub because it reminds us of things that are very important to our collective consciousness as Filipinos. I would like to focus on 3 points:

1. Respect for elders

LOLA. Alden accepts the many challenges, lessons, and requests from Lola Nidora. Screengrab from GMA

The AlDub Kalyeserye underscores the virtue of respect for elders. It was showcased by the kissing of hands (pagmamano), the use of po and opo, following orders, and most importantly, listening to advice and admonitions. 

Our respect for the matatanda or elderly is rooted in our respect for their tanda. By tanda, I am not merely referring to their age but to their tanda or nata-tanda-an (memory). 

Our ancestors respected their elders not only because of their age, but more importantly, because of their knowledge. Since within tribal villages, the elders have lived the longest, they are the most knowledgeable. Of course, knowledge is useless if one cannot remember it.

Thus, elders are respected because they are considered as receptacles of knowledge. This is reflected today in the respect that we accord to teachers, doctors, and lawyers, among others, whom we believe to be knowledgeable.

2. Patience and perseverance

ALDUB. Will they ever get together? Screengrab from Facebook

The AlDub Kalyeserye showed how Alden and Maine waited for the right moment (tamang panahon) with patience and persevered to surmount every challenge that came along their way. Following the popular adage, “Patience is a virtue” and our very own, “Kapag may tiyaga, may nilaga,” Alden was finally granted permission by Lola Nidora to visit Maine at home. 

Our ancestors, most of them hunters, fully understand the value of patience and perseverance in order to bring home food for the village. They have respected and perfected the virtue of waiting and hard work and the art of acting at the right moment to catch their prey, since acting sooner or later than needed could mean that they will not have anything for supper.

3. Respect for women

CHALLENGE ACCOMPLISHED. Alden manages to complete Lola Nidora's second challenge just so he can be with Yaya Dub. Screengrab from Twitter/EatBulaga

In the Kalyeserye, Maine is portrayed as the quintessential woman. She did not need to show some skin for her to earn the admiration of Alden. She was faithful to her obligations to Lola Nidora and puts family first more than herself as indicated by her urgency to leave her date with Alden just to make sure that she could give Lola Nidora her medicine on time. 

Simply put, her actions are worthy of respect. Respect for women is an inherent part of our culture. Our forefathers respected the women of their villages because only the women are capable of childbirth and, thus, ensure the posterity of the village. They are also responsible for taking care of the needs of the family and for child-rearing.

Our forefathers considered women as equals and gave them positions of honor and authority such as being babaylan (village healers and messengers of the spirits).

National issues vs Kalyeserye

In contrast, I think that current national issues are not appealing to many of us because we would rather focus on our personal and family concerns than on national concerns. 

Similar to the points discussed above, which are all in the context of the village or the tribe, our present-day tribe is our families, friends and religious communities and we would rather focus on them first than on anything else. 

The AlDub phenomenon has caught the Filipino consciousness in a universal scale because it highlights our ancestral values, which are, deep down inside, our very own personal values. As the pscyhologist Rogers puts it, “what is most personal is most universal.”

To conclude this essay, I would like to leave 3 things: First, in the September 25 episode of the Kalyeserye, I thought Lola Nidora asked Alden to bring chicharon because chicharon is a specialty of Sta. Maria, Bulacan – Maine’s hometown – so that Alden would go to Sta. Maria (on the 26th) to visit Maine and to formally meet her parents, as expected in our traditional courtship practices. 

Second, a message to the AlDub couple: Alden and Maine, you are very popular now. The youth look up to you and idolize you. I hope that whatever happens, the two of you will not allow politicians to take advantage of your popularity by thinking twice before endorsing any of them in the coming elections.

You have created something beautiful. Please do not let it be soiled by the dirt of politics. The power of your fans – the AlDub nation – to generate more than 25 million tweets is not lost among politicians, so be responsible of your popularity.

And third, perhaps one of the important things that we can pick up, as a nation, from this analysis of the AlDub phenomenon is that we should learn and strive to make our national issues our own personal issues. Maybe, then, we can begin to give as much attention to them as we have given AlDub. —

Leander Penaso Marquez teaches philosophy at the University of the Philippines Diliman. 

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