Maine Mendoza is not a sob story. She did not come from a poor family, so she was not using her God-given talent to lift her family out of poverty. She did not come from a talent search where she would have to charm her way into the audience’s hearts. She did not gamble everything she had to make it to where she is now.
In short, before the craziness of the past four months, hers is a story that would not make for a good dramatic episode of Magpakailanman. She lived a peachy life, and her only problem was what to do with the rest of it.
“Actually, before po talaga ako pumasok dito, parang sobrang nalulungkot ako, kasi hindi ko alam kung ano ’yong gusto kong gawin sa buhay. Ano na? Kaka-graduate ko lang. Ano’ng gagawin ko?”
Nicomaine Dei Capili Mendoza, Maine for short, recalls her dilemma as she sits beside us in one of the dressing rooms of Broadway Centrum. She is in a simple blue plaid long-sleeved shirt, jeans, and gold ballet flats.
We comfort the 20-year-old by telling her that most people her age are going through the same thing. It’s a phase, we say.
She shakes her head and replies: “Pero wala po akong tulad ng iba na merong... may goal. ‘Ito ’yong gusto ko. Gusto kong maging ganito, gusto kong maging ganyan.’ Parang ako, wala.”
Born on March 3, 1995, Maine is the fourth child in the brood of five of well-to-do parents whose businesses include gasoline stations in their hometown, Sta. Maria, Bulacan.
In college, Maine decided to take up hotel, restaurant, and institution management (HRIM) at the De La Salle–College of Saint Benilde in Manila, which offers courses in hospitality management, tourism management, and culinary arts. At the same time, she thought that being a flight attendant might be a good career option for her in the future.
“Parang okey siya sa akin. Okey ako sa kanya, and bagay sa akin ’yong flight attendant. Pero hindi ko po siya, as in, gustong-gusto talaga.”
Instead of taking up tourism management, the obvious choice for a would-be cabin crew member, she decided to go with culinary arts.
In her blog, MaineMendoza.com, Maine explains (reproduced as is): “Back then, I already had a plan on being a flight attendant/cabin crew when I graduate BUT when I knew that airlines does not necessarily pick applicants who are Tourism graduates, I’ve thought maybe it would be better if I take other track instead (of Tourism), just for me to acquire different knowledge and skills about other Hospitality-related stuff. So I ended up choosing Culinary Arts; well I was kind of interested in knowing culinary skills/terms and food preparation before anyway...”
Eventually she realized that the track, or specialty, that she had chosen was not for her. She thought of shifting to another course, perhaps something to do with media, but decided against it because “I didn’t want any inconvenience to come about during my mid-college years. I decided to stick with my first choice.”
In a last-ditch effort to determine for sure if cooking was for her, Maine went to New York last year for her on-the-job training. There, she experienced what it was like to be on the staff of a working kitchen. Although she had fun, she didn’t enjoy it enough to change her mind. Her six-month stint in a culinary establishment only strengthened her belief that cooking was not her calling.
“Sinasabi po sa akin ng parents ko na magtayo ako ng restaurant. Naisip ko naman, hindi ko naman passion ’yong pagluluto.”
The girl had a secret dream: she wanted to be an artista.
“Gusto ko po talaga, bata pa lang ako,” she tells us. “Naalala ko noong bata po ako, pag nakakita ako ng magazines and sa billboards, parang iniisip ko, ‘Shit! Parang gusto ko.’ Parang gusto ko lang talaga makita ’yong sarili ko sa TV, gano’n. Pero parang naiisip ko po no’n na paano ako magiging artista, e, parang hindi ko po nakikitaan ng talent ’yong sarili ko? So hindi ko alam kung ano ’yong magpe-pave ng way sa akin sa show business.”
After graduation, Maine decided to wait for a Philippine Airlines (PAL) recruitment event for applicants. In the meantime, she helped her parents in running their businesses, but: “Parang hindi rin po kasi swak sa akin ’yong family business namin.”
In her spare time, she lived her artista dream by making homemade videos “na pinagtitripan ko din ’yong sarili ko.” Early videos of herself uploaded on the Internet include her doing “the water diet,” where she consumes water as a drink, a salad, and a soup.
She explains her inspiration for creating such funny clips: “Kasi mahilig po akong manood ng mga videos ng mga YouTube po, sa States, mga Amerikanong mga nagpapatawa. So siguro do’n, nagkakahalo-halo na lang siguro ’yong mga ideas.”
Then Dubsmash came along.
The smartphone application gives users a chance to record videos of themselves while lip-synching famous songs, movie lines, and quotable quotes. Locally, Maine was one of the more prolific users, uploading more than 20 videos during the summer—and counting.
Her impersonation of Kris Aquino was a super huge hit: she uploaded a compilation video on Facebook on April 22, and within 24 hours it had garnered one million views. (By November 2015, press time, that video had 3,719,186 views.)
Before Maine became Yaya Dub, she had already been dubbed the Queen of Dubsmash.
“Kaya ko talaga siya in-upload, kasi sa akin—hindi naman tawang-tawa—natuwa lang ako... So parang naaliw ako, kaya ko siya in-upload, pero hindi ako, as in, tawang-tawa do’n sa mga pinaggagawa ko.”
She says, in hindsight: “Parang, actually, minsan naiirita na rin ako sa sarili ko, naiirita na rin ako sa pinaggagawa ko. Parang nakakaumay.”
A week before the scheduled PAL recruitment event, Eat Bulaga! contacted her, inviting her to audition.
Maine decided to give it a try. Jenny Ferre—senior vice-president for creatives and operations of TAPE, producer of Eat Bulaga!—told her to go with the “Juan for All, All for Juan” cast. Maine was to observe what they did on location.
So Maine tagged along with the JoWaPao trio—Jose Manalo, Wally Bayola, Paolo Ballesteros—whose daily assignment is to visit different barangays, usually urban poor settlements, and give away raffle prizes.
Jenny admits that she didn’t think Maine, who’s used to a comfortable life, would agree to join EB, much more last long. “Pag nakita mo ’yong mundo sa barangay... Kung ako nga, e, talagang sabi ko, ‘Hindi ako tatagal dito.’ Hindi naman sa ano, pero mainit, papawisan ka.”
But sweating it out proved to be an unforgettable experience for Maine. She says it gave her a sense of appreciation for what she had. And she endeared herself to the barangay folk, whom she wouldn’t have met had it not been for EB.
“Maawain kasi akong tao. So, kahit mga simpleng bagay, lalo na sa mga matatanda, kahit simpleng bagay na sobrang mata-touch ako, and parang naiisip ko na lang din, sobrang lucky and blessed ako na okey ’yong buhay ko compared sa kanila. Na parang ako, ’yong ibang bagay naman sa akin, hindi naman deserve. Pero sila, sobrang lahat ginagawa, pero gano’n pa din ’yong buhay nila. Parang sobrang thankful na din po ako.”
After Maine’s two-day immersion, Jenny asked the auditioner if she wanted the job. To Jenny’s surprise, Maine said yes. Jenny then dropped a bomb of her own.
“Two days after that po, do’n na ’ko isinalang!” Maine recalls, still shocked at the sudden turn of events. “Do’n po ako sobrang nagulat. Parang, huh? Agad- agad? Parang ine-expect ko siguro, after a month. Parang ipe-prepare pa ’yong character ko po. Pero ayun, biglaan pala.”
Jenny explains that such is the culture in EB—you have to just simply do it to get a feel of things. “Hindi kami ’yong bebe-bebe... ‘Okey lang ’to. ’Wag kang matakot.’ Hindi kami gano’n.”
On July 4, Maine was introduced as Yaya Dub, the alalay of Wally, who took on the role of the rich and conservative Lola Nidora. In the original concept, both Lola and Yaya were supposed to dish out advice to barangay residents. Yaya was supposed to be snobbish and aloof. And Maine was not supposed to get out of character under any circumstance.
But then Alden happened.
On July 16, upon learning that Maine had a crush on EB co-host Alden Richards, Jenny asked Alden to sit with the audience and watch the “Juan for All” segment. She meant for it to be a joke.
Alden had already finished his hosting duties for the “That’s My Bae” segment. He was supposed to go on his lunch break. But he was game for Jenny’s spur-of-the-moment brainchild.
Back in the barangay, Maine was doing a Dubsmash in response to a tweet that Wally had read. The girl was doing an animated performance when she noticed the monitor, which showed Alden on the other half of the split screen, watching her.
For the first time onscreen, Maine broke out of character and broke into a giddy kinikilig smile.
The “Juan for All” studio panel—which is usually composed of Vic Sotto, Joey de Leon, Tito Sotto, and Allan K—was quick to catch on. Allan K teased Maine: “Hala, Yaya! Nako-conscious ka kay Alden! Hala, Yaya, nagpapa-cute ka!”
Thus was AlDub born.
“Kinikilig na po talaga ako, minsan,” Maine reveals, smiling. “Hindi ko na po ide-deny. Kinikilig ako minsan.”
What started as tuksuhan has now become an ongoing teleserye of sorts within EB—a KalyeSerye, to use the segment title coined by EB host and master punster Joey de Leon.
The kalyeserye, to use the generic spelling that has since evolved on social and regular media, follows the fictional love story of Alden and Yaya Dub, with Lola Nidora playing the kontrabida who tries to keep the two apart.
In the first weeks of the street teleplay, AlDub only communicated through written notes and Dubsmash conversations via the split screen. To preserve the magic, they were under strict instructions not to communicate outside their one-hour-or-so spot on EB. Since Alden was assigned to the studio and Maine was in the barangay in the first part of the kalyeserye, it was uncertain when the two would meet face to face.
On September 5, Maine was set to perform in the studio, Alden’s turf. She didn’t exactly know what would happen in that episode.
After all, no scripts with detailed narration and dialogue are given prior to each show. Cast members are only given scenarios, or plot outlines, for them to react to, along with instructions for their blocking on the spot.
After a few “almost encounters” in past episodes, Maine had an inkling that she and Alden were going to see each other that day.
“Ang sinabi sa akin is, if masusunod namin ’yong mga cue sa amin, may possibility na magkita kami,” she says. “Since good girl ako at good boy siya, naisip ko magkikita kami nang araw na ’to, sigurado ako.”
Maine predicted right. With the cameras rolling, the two were given the chance to see each other for the first time in the backstage hallway of Broadway Centrum.
Once again, the TV audience saw Maine getting flustered at the sight of Alden.
“Na-excite ako,” she reminisces. “Kinakabahan din, at the same time. Kasi ’yon na ’yong first meeting namin talaga.”
Talking about it now, Maine can’t help but smile. She admits that it was one of her favorite episodes so far. “Kasi ’yong reaction ko do’n, raw kasi. As in, nangangatog, naiiyak. So no’ng pinanood ko ’yon, ‘Ay, ako na ’yan. Hindi na si Yaya Dub ’yan. Ako na.’”
Lines are easily blurred between fiction and reality in this new TV format that Jenny and her team have created. The stars are made to react in any way they feel, improvising in real time.
Maine is not a trained actor. She has never joined school plays. She didn’t even attend acting workshops before joining EB.
“Bahala na kung ano’ng mangyari,” she says, talking about ad-libbing before an episode.
(During the YES! interview with Maine, she’s set to receive Alden as a guest in Lola Nidora’s mansion the following day. It’s the episode where Alden is able to hold Maine’s hand for the first time while he’s giving her water to drink.)
“Bahala na kung ano’ng i-react ko sa harap niya, kung ano’ng mangyari bukas,” Maine says of that next kalyeserye episode. “Worth it naman po talaga. Feeling ko, mag-eenjoy naman kaming dalawa, sana. Sana siya din, kasi ako, nag-eenjoy. Nag-eenjoy talaga ako sa AlDub.”
Maine reveals that she always watches the kalyeserye’s episodes uploaded on EB’s official Facebook page.
“Hindi ko po nafi-feel na ako po ’yon. Parang normal din ako na parang nakikinood lang din. Parang hindi ko naiisip na ako ’yong pinapanood ko. Kinikilig din po ako, pero not as Yaya Dub.”
Maine knows that she is just playing a role, but she admits that a real-life romance has crossed her mind. “Naiisip ko siya minsan, kasi posible naman po siya.”
She and Alden are, after all, both single, and they’re of the right age: she’s 20, he’s 23. Plus, the whole AlDub Nation, as their millions of fans call themselves, is rooting for them. Some fans are going as far as saying that they support MaiDen—a portmanteau of Maine and Alden’s names—cheering for the two to become a real-life couple.
Maine admits that she is starting to feel the weight of the fans’ expectation.
“Ang nakakaano lang is ’yong pressure nabibigay, lalo na kay Alden, ng mga fans na ‘Oy, i-pursue mo na si Maine.’ So, parang ako, naawa din ako sa kanya, kay Alden, nang konti, kasi nga... Ewan ko kung nape-pressure siya, pero ’yong ibang fans, masyado silang nag-eexpect kasi. Pini-pressure kami na tototohanin nga po ’yong lahat, gano’n.”
For now, Maine simply wants to get to know Alden “not as Yaya Dub,” but as herself. “Siyempre, gusto ko po makilala si Alden off-cam—kung ano po siyang klaseng kaibigan, klaseng katrabaho, gano’n po.”
She actually finds the prospect a bit intimidating. “Do’n po ako kinakabahan, sa time na mag-uusap na talaga kami personally. Feeling ko, mahihiya po ako sa harap niya. Parang siguro, hindi ako makapaniwala na ang tagal namin sa TV nag-uusap-usap, ’ta’s biglang ito na, totoo na!”
And what will she tell Alden when they’re finally allowed to talk to each other?
Maine quickly replies, her face serious: “Sinusundan mo ba ako?”
But she just as quickly pulls back and jokes: “Charing! Hahahaha! Ang kapal ng mukha!”
She imagines not being able to keep a straight face when that time truly comes. Knowing herself, she will probably do things “pabiro,” because “palabiro din akong tao.” She adds: “Bukod sa ‘Hi,’ wala na akong masasabi kundi kalokohan na. Ayun po. Kalokohan.”
Since she still doesn’t know how long it will take before she and Alden will get to really know each other off-camera, Maine contents herself with the stories she hears about Alden. (After our interview, she asks us, “Kuwentuhan n’yo pa po ako tungkol kay Alden!”)
From her network of tipsters, also known as the Dabarkads, she has learned that Alden seems to be a “sobrang nice guy.” She adds: “Parang siya ’yong tipong taong di gagawa ng masama, parang gan’on... Parang total opposite kami. Hahaha!”
Maine has also gathered that the Pambansang Bae is “God-fearing,” “mabait,” and “super gentleman.”
And what does she look for in a guy?
“Gentleman po,” she says with a smile.
If that’s the case, then Alden is qualified!
“Pasok na pasok talaga si Alden,” she concedes. “Parang bonus na lang talaga ’yong looks niya. Kasi wala talaga sa akin ’yong looks at all... Personality po talaga ’yong nakakakuha ng atensiyon.”
She explains that “hindi po talaga nagma-matter sa akin ang looks at all,” citing her past experience with the one boyfriend that she has had. “High school pa po ’yon,” she tells us. But she also reveals that it took her two years to move on from that relationship because “matagal po akong maka-move-on.”
Realizing that she’s becoming comfortable with us, she quips, “Biglang nag-share, e. Hahaha!”
Then she turns serious:
“Matampuhin din kasi ako. Mga simpleng bagay lang, mabilis akong magtampo.”
So, how did she move on?
“Pa’no ba?” she says thinking out loud, before breaking the mood again with another jest, “Hindi yata ako sanay mag-move-on. Charing!”
Maine says she probably just forced herself to stop thinking about her heartbreak. “Wala naman akong ginagawang specific na action para maka-move-on, pero parang inaalis ko na lang ’yong isip ko doon sa nangyari or sa tao, hanggang sa tumagal, hindi ko na siya naaalala. Ayun, naka-move-on na ako. Gano’n lang kasimple, pero matagal, matagal po akong maka-move-on.”
After the long process of getting over that ex, Maine had a few “m.u., m.u., gano’n.” But none of those “mutual understanding” relationships, where there’s mutual attraction but no commitment, developed into a serious relationship. She has been single for the past five years.
And so we ask her, why don’t she and Alden just give it a try?
“Sa tamang panahon,” Maine says, echoing what Lola Nidora always says to Alden and Yaya Dub. “Lahat naman po ng bagay, sa tamang panahon.”
In just four short months, Maine has become one of the most sought-after stars in showbiz.
At press time, apart from our feature on her, she has two more cover photo shoots with two fashion magazines, one of which is Preview, YES! Magazine’s sister publication. At press time, she has appeared in five TV commercials—McDonald’s, Talk N’ Text, and Zonrox with Alden; O+ cellphone with Wally (as Lola Nidora); and 555 Sardines, by herself. Plus, she has accepted a role in the upcoming Metro Manila Film Festival (MMFF) movie entry My Bebe Love, which stars Vic Sotto, Ai-Ai delas Alas, and, of course, her love-team partner, Alden Richards.
“Hindi pa nagsi-sink-in,” Maine admits, talking about the recent turn of events in her life. “Madalas nga, pag sa sasakyan, wala, titingin lang ako sa labas, ’tapos iisipin ko ’yong mga nangyayari sa akin ngayon—’yong sa Eat Bulaga!, ’yong AlDub, ’tapos ’yong mga commercials, ’yong mga bagong opportunities... Parang ako, ‘Totoo ba ’to?’”
Maine still cannot believe that she is living her dream of becoming an artista.
“Ang iniisip ko, ‘Ano’ng meron ako? Ano’ng ginagawa ko na hindi kayang gawin ng iba? Bakit ako nandito? Ano’ng meron sa akin?’”
She shakes her head and tells us that “lahat nagbago sa pamumuhay ko.”
Overnight, without any warning, Maine has come to the point where she must deal with the pitfalls and perks of being a celebrity, a public figure. She can no longer do some of the things she normally did freely in the past, like aimlessly walking around a mall. She now gets hounded by hordes of fans. “’Yong crowd po minsan, hindi nakakayanan, so uuwi na lang kami.”
But even home has ceased to become a private preserve. “Kahit ’yong bahay namin sa Bulacan, na-invade na din. Every Sunday po, madaming grupong pumupunta sa bahay namin.”
It’s a good thing that her family remains “supportive” of her career, although their own private lives have also been disrupted. For example, fans have started following the personal social media accounts of her siblings.
“As much as possible, ayoko na nadadamay sila sa nangyayari sa akin,” Maine says. “Parang ayokong nadadawit ’yong family ko and ’yong private life ko po. Pero siyempre, talagang imposible namang mangyari ’yon. Talagang madadamay at madadamay. Mauungkat at mauungkat ang lahat. Kaya adjust na lang kaming lahat. Wala pong magagawa, gano’n po talaga.”
All these new developments don’t come as a surprise. At press time, the girl has over 1.4 million followers on Instagram and 2 million followers on Twitter—followers who helped make Twitter history by generating over 25 million tweets about Alden’s visiting her in Lola Nidora’s mansion in the September 26 episode of the AlDub kalyeserye.
Wally surmises that Maine has not fully grasped the reality of her popularity. The newbie, he says, insists on doing “normal” things like buying her own lunch, going to public places, and running errands—and she does all this on her own.
“Nagulat kami na nagkakagulo na naman ’yong mga tao, nagsisigawan,” he says, recalling an incident on the set. “Si Maine, kumuha pala ng pagkain, bumaba. Hay! Pinapagalitan ko, ‘Ano ka ba!’”
Wally, whom Maine sees as a “father figure,” is also concerned because the newbie does not have a P.A., or personal assistant.
He remembers telling her:
“Kakailanganin mo ’yan—’yong may bantay ka, may tagabitbit ng gamit mo. Pag ikaw, laging puyat na marami ka nang iniisip, minsan hindi mo na alam ’yong gagawin mo. Hindi mo na naaalagaan ang sarili mo.”
Every day, Maine travels from her hometown in Bulacan to go to work—often to a far-flung location. After her EB duties, she shoots scenes for her launching movie. In between, she also shoots for commercials and magazine pictorials.
Wally often checks up on the overnight sensation, asking her how she is coping with showbiz so far.
“Pina-pack-up siya nang madaling araw,” Wally reveals. “Hindi siya nagsasabi kahit kay Pat, ’yong handler niya, na nanghihina siya. Sa akin lang nagsasabi. ‘Nanghihina ako. Parang hindi ako makatayo nang matagal.’ Sabi ko, ‘Bakit kasi hindi ka kumakain?’”
Wally explains that he understands why Maine occasionally chooses to skip meals. “Tayo, di ba, may sistema tayo sa katawan na mas gusto nating magpahinga muna kesa kumain?”
He often scolds Maine because he catches her tinkering with her phone instead of eating or resting during breaks. He would tell her: “Pag break, huwag ka nang magse-cellphone. Huwag ka nang nagso-social-media. Imbes, itulog mo na lang. Masasayang lang oras mo.”
It also doesn’t help that Maine is not in tip-top shape. Members of the cast and crew have told her to gain some weight.
They have even told her that Alden prefers a girl with some fat in her.
Maine has always been trying to gain weight, but has not succeeded.
She tells us that there is a reason why she is so skinny.“Kasi ’yong sinundan ko na kapatid, medyo chubby. Na-CS [caesarean section] ang mother ko sa kanya. So natakot na ulit ’yong nanay ko na biyakin ’yong tiyan niya, kaya hindi siya nagkakakain... So, ayun, pagdating sa ’kin, eto na, payat na.”
Lack of weight is not Maine’s only problem. Wally and the rest of the staff have recently been advised that Maine will be absent once a month.
Wally remembers asking: “Bakit? May interview? May inaasikaso?”
As it turns out, Maine usually suffers from extreme dysmenorrhea, or pain during menstruation. That was the reason why, in the August 8 episode of the kalyeserye, where Yaya Dub was supposed to marry Frankie Arinoli, Maine fainted. (Jenny maintains that this was not scripted.)
Given all of Maine’s health problems, Wally and Maine have hatched a plan: whenever Maine starts feeling woozy because of fatigue or the onset of dysmenorrhea, she will give Wally a signal.
Wally told her: “Basta ako bahala. Pag hindi mo na talaga kaya, pisilin mo lang ako. Pae-exitin kita. Kunwari, uutusan kita. Pero huwag naman ’yong tipong pagpisil mo, hihimatayin ka na. Hahaha!”
Maine admits that she never thought the life of an artista would be this hard.
“Before kasi, parang as a viewer, parang iisipin mo, ‘Ay, madali lang mag- artista.’ Pero ngayon pong nasasalang na po ’ko, mahirap din po pala. Hindi siya madali talaga. Mahirap...
“Iyon nga po, medyo naninibago pa po ako ngayon. Lalo na do’n sa sunod-sunod na shoots na walang tulog, walang pahinga. Pero kaya naman po. Kakayanin naman po. Kaya ko naman siya.”
People have started to ask her, “Paano mo nakakaya ’yang ganyang trabaho?” She is, after all, from an affluent family.
“Hindi naman po kasi kami pinalaki nang sobrang sarap ng buhay,” she explains. “Parang talagang tinuruan din kami na parang pag may gusto kang isang bagay, paghirapan mo din. Wala sa aming magkakapatid na lumaking spoiled. Hindi din naman kasi lahat, ’binibigay sa amin. Kasi ’yong parents ko, lumaki sila, hirap din. So pina-pass lang din nila sa amin ’yong mga natutunan nila. Hindi puwedeng lahat sarap, gano’n. Kailangan maghirap ka din.”
Maine is trying her best to adjust to her new life as fast as she can. But she is still grounded enough to recognize that all of this might go just as fast as it came.
She is also thinking about the longevity of her love team with Alden. “Iniiisip ko rin po, tatagal din kaya ’to? Iyong AlDub, ’yong Yaya Dub... Hindi mo din masabi kung ano na’ng mangyayari, kung magiging present pa rin ba ’yong kilig factor and ’yong chemistry after naming mag-usap...
"Baka kasi hanggang split screen lang ’yong kilig, e... Pero huwag naman sana.”
Instead, she chooses to stay positive.
“Parang iniisip ko na ‘Oo, kaya ’yan. Kayang iraos ’yan. Kayang patagalin pa ’yan.’”
Right now, she is simply having the time of her life.
“Sobrang saya na nandito na ako... Ito na ’yon. Ito na ’yong dream ko.”
And as if she is reminding herself, Maine says out loud: “Kaya mo ’yan!”