A New Wave: These Young and Rising Stars are Bringing a New Sparkle to the Screen

For two years, the COVID-19 pandemic has been a harrowing force that changed the way we live. And it has since cloaked the world with varying levels of caution, fear, and uncertainty. As this global crisis affected all the sectors in society—we have seen this generation’s youth combat this seismic emotional shift to isolation and distance through their makeshift platforms in the limited confines of their homes and virtual connections that attempt to celebrate their individuality, artistry, and creativity. 

People relied heavily on entertainment in whatever form—from verticals on social media to streaming services that thrived on the virtual space—to bridge the gap on human connection where moments of solitude were fleetingly replaced with an escape to joy and emotional stimulation. As is an integral cog in Filipino culture, in consuming entertainment, love teams play a huge, exciting, and sometimes culture-shaping part.

With its recent announcement of reinvigorating its longstanding history of producing some of the most recognizable names in the industry from the likes of Alden Richards, Heart Evangelista, Julie Anne San Jose, Derrick Monasterio, Ruru Madrid, Sanya Lopez, and Gabbi Garcia, among others, Sparkle GMA Artist Center, this year, teases Filipino Kapusos, nationwide and around the globe, with a new batch of love teams that are looking to take over the local scene.

https://www.instagram.com/p/CYJreHPBowR/

On list are five of the most-anticipated love pairs to watch for, from familiar industry faces to social-media bred stars-in-the-making, introducing beloved portmanteaus that are slowly collecting attention from throngs of supporters namely Mavy Legaspi and Kyline Alcantara (MavLine), Allen Ansay and Sofia Pablo (AlFia), Althea Ablan and Bruce Roeland (AlBruce), Abdul Raman and Shayne Sava (AbdAyne), and Jamir Zabarte and Zonia Meija (JaNia). 

Breaking New Ground

Image courtesy of SPARKLE GMA Artist Center

This new generation of artists, like the rest of us, are forced to live in isolation as a result of the pandemic and gradually adapt to the changes of the times as they remain ensconced in the comforts of their homes and behind their mobile phones. However, as the world moves forward, these young artists find the strength to keep going in their own ways in the face of the new normal.

For Kyline Alcantara, one who has been in the entertainment industry since childhood and in the Kapuso network since 2018, it is always about surrounding yourself with an impenetrable support system to push you to move further, especially in these dire times.

One of the first Rank Magazine New Agenda issue cover celebrities tells us, “I feel like, at this moment in time, we all need a support system to keep us sane, and that’s the role of my loved ones. With God, He made me realize that we don’t know the future, the only consistent thing that will happen in our lives is change, so we need to adapt to those changes, and have hope and faith in him that everything will make sense in the end.” 

Mavy Legaspi, who hails from a rich lineage of showbiz greats, shares, “Honestly, at the beginning of the pandemic, I really had a difficult time adjusting to the situation since it was filled with so much uncertainties. But this time around, I think everyone is well adjusted to the situation. I think with time, people will learn how to get back on their feet and adjust to the current times. It may not be easy, but I believe the youth have so much going on in their lives and they can always take action (following all the guidelines and safety precautions, of course). One thing’s for sure, when it comes to the youth, they should not lose hope and if anything, look forward to a brighter future ahead of them.”

Mavy Legaspi and Kyline Alcantara

This same sense of resolve and hope is what the Starstruck-produced Allen Ansay carries over during the pandemic—focusing on workshops and finding a way to bond with the “Fia” to the “AlFia” love team, Sofia Pablo, through their joint YouTube account, AlFia Official.

Pablo, having starred in shows Sherlock Jr. and Prima Donnas, had to juggle her time between studying and acting. Like an ordinary student thrust in an almost-otherworldly dimension of online classes, the student-actress shares how she managed to keep going, “I did my modules in advance, so when I come back to work, I won’t have to think about it anymore since I did an advance studying.” 

“In the beginning, I was a bit down since aside from the fact that there was a sickness spreading rapidly, I also wasn’t allowed to work for one year due to DOLE restrictions. But as the months go by, I decided to use my spare time to improve myself.” She continues,”The pandemic and quarantine really had a big impact on my artistry. Before, we used to do tapings on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. Now, we have to commit ourselves to a one to three month lock-in taping.”

Guarding the title as the future “Kapuso Hunk”, Bruce Roeland highlights how the pandemic has aided him to appreciate the little things and reflect on his craft more by self-studying and treading the path to self-improvement. “I realized in these past years that you don’t always need materialistic stuff, what brings out enjoyment and happiness is appreciating what you already have around you, which for me are my family and real friends. The pandemic has affected everyone’s lives, but what makes us keep on going and pursuing dreams is faith and believing that everything will go back to a normal state someday.”

“It allowed me to discover and learn more about the art of craft and what acting is really all about. Quarantine actually made me realize that being an actor is what I really wanted to do,” he shares.

Shayne Sava and Abdul Raman

For Shayne Sava, the standstill was a rather disappointing halt on what she felt was a bright start for her career. She opens up, “For a girl who is just starting on her dream, it’s not easy. My career is just starting, then COVID-19 happened. It sucks, to be honest. During the height of the pandemic, I cried to myself. Thinking about all the plans and projects that had been stopped and delayed. Life in the pandemic has been very difficult. My uncle Bong died. My aunt Karissa died. Lots of news about people’s lives lost. There are so many things that you always do before, that you can’t do now because of the protocols.”

But in this darkness, there’s always a need to move forward and soldier on. “Life must go on. Get back on track. Assess things. Work with it. Pray. Have Faith on Him. As I always say, ‘In God’s perfect timing.’”

This same ideology applies on her onscreen partner, Abdul Raman, who learned the value of the now in his lockdown experience. “I’ve learned patience and acceptance of the situations given to us and to hope for a better future.”

The Anatomy of a Love Team

Image courtesy of SPARKLE GMA Artist Center

Love teams do not start with instant “kilig”. Pairing strangers and praying that a natural chemistry would blossom to build the foundation of a collective unit that would then give birth to swooning fans and box office sales are just bits and pieces of the bigger puzzle of developing a pair that would make waves onscreen.

Prior to being paired up and before reaching a level of familiarity and ease, own prejudices and impressions come to play. But, the formula is never predictable and almost unspoken. Yesterday’s strangers, could very well be today’s industry partners.

Even before their official launch, MavLine is one of the most emerging and dearest young Kapuso love teams of today. Their presence alone banks heavily on their natural chemistry that gets amplified whenever they come together and portray characters onscreen—be it in music videos and television appearances. This, of course, is no small thanks to their “twin dimples” and megawatt smiles that easily serve as their passports to win the hearts of the viewers.  

Alcantara shares who Legaspi is inside her head before their partnership, “I thought that he is ‘hambog’ (laughs). Because, of course he has ‘royal blood,’ so I expected him to be like that. But when I got to know him even more, he was definitely the opposite.” 

Legaspi, who is born to prominence with an unmistakable showbiz background, with television spots to his name long before he even came off legal age, rose to even greater popularity as soon as he took his first steps into the scene. In the midst of the pandemic, he has since tested his mettle as a young actor gaining his footing in the industry his parents have walked on but making his own mark with his friend and now onscreen partner. Together as MavLine, the pair has just wrapped up their recent show I Left My Heart in Sorsogon, with Heart Evangelista, Richard Yap, and Paolo Contis.

Talking of first impressions, Legaspi describes Alcantara, “[Kyline was] probably the cutest person I have ever met. She was so bubbly and energetic.” But when asked what brought about them becoming the pair that they are today, he discusses, “I believe it’s because of our strong friendship. We have been friends for three years, and we really have this strong bond. You can say we have this special relationship that we can only understand. But with that, we really have something special going on that we can’t wait to show our fans.”

He continues, “I guess being genuine, without anything to hide is our thing. What you see is what you get. We are not afraid to be ourselves and that is the message we want to send to our fans. That it is okay to be yourself and you should love yourself for who you truly are.”

Allen Ansay and Sofia Pablo

Gaining the favor of the Internet is AlFia or #TeamJolly, who has attracted the support online with their candor and charm as seen on their video content on Youtube. Before working on a project together, Ansay admits already having a small crush on Pablo, on the Prima Donnas star, “My first impression of Aki (referring to Sofia) is that I really found her cute,” he admits matter-of-factly, recalling his first memory of his partner

“When I saw her standing at the door, it looked like she was taking a picture of me, but of course, I wasn’t sure because I wondered, ‘Why would she take a picture of me?’ But when we started talking, I realized that I was right. (laughs) Of course, I got really excited because I used to watch her in Sherlock Jr., and she has been my crush even before.”

The half of JaNia, Zonia Mejia, shares how she swerved lanes once she got to know her partner, Jamir Zabarte. She enthuses, “My first impression of Jamir was that he is very jolly and he really talks a lot. But when I got along better with him, I saw that he’s not just jolly and talkative, he’s also a very deep person. He knows his priorities and goals, he knows to fight for himself when he knows he is right. He is a very loving person. He is a good person.”

Zabarte then shares, “Zonia and I have known each other for quite a while now since Heartful Cafe. We enjoy each other’s company, share jokes and stories to laugh at. I am very blessed that she got to be my partner. She is very kind and beautiful and fun to be with. I am looking forward to being her partner and friend for a long time.”

Jamir Zabarte and Zonia Mejia

What’s especially crucial when it comes to love teams being introduced to the public is building a strong foundation of chemistry and connection in front of and beyond the cameras and the challenge of translating this creative synergy to their roles portrayed on the screen.

Mejia equates good onscreen chemistry springing from a good relationship behind the camera. “In a love team, it is important to know and be comfortable with one another on a deeper level and I think that’s why we were paired because we are always there for each other, through thick and thin. We understand each other, even with just one look. (laughs). And I think we click onscreen because we made sure that we are not forcing anything. We are happy doing our part as a loveteam.”

For Alcantara, when asked about the nitty-gritty of finding the perfect pair, she swears by the ease and comfort she has found with her partner, “It’s not challenging at all. Promise. Because we have a really strong foundation. [Surprisingly], there’s no ice to break, no more awkward moments. Because we’re really really close off cam, and I hope it translates, so the audience can feel it on cam. ”

Pablo then takes pride on how easy it was for them to work with each other with no room for awkwardness, “The other prods we have already worked with call us ‘Two of the most natural!’ We never had a hard time shooting our kilig scenes because our chemistry was natural between us. We have never experienced a time when we can’t show the chemistry in the scene. Direk Gina, after taping, said ‘Thank you Sofia and Allen, you two didn’t give me a hard time.’”

Althea Ablan and Bruce Roeland

The beginning of AlBruce, reveals quite the opposite. Ablan discloses, “My first impression of Bruce is that he’s ‘masungit’ because of his aura and I always say that because of his eyebrows. But then I was wrong because he’s actually very kind, sweet, and caring.” She adds, “Pressure is there because we’re still teenagers and we are just starting to build the love team. [But] it’s exciting.” 

But for Roeland, the challenge of starting a working relationship was simple, “I first met Althea in 2017 and my first impression of her was that she was very kind. I realize now that she is not only kind, but truthful, independent, and the most caring person I know.” He adds, “The chemistry that we have, we did not train [for]. It just came naturally by spending time with each other.”

On the formation of the AbdAyne chemistry, Sava highlights. “I think we were paired together because of our chemistry on- and off- cam. Maybe it’s because of our authenticity, being true to ourselves and just us, going with the flow. [Abdul and I] are close. We can talk for how many hours, not realizing that it’s already late. I guess, we all know that feeling when you don’t notice the time when you are enjoying.

To have and to hold

Love teams, once established, take years. Not only will they be with each other’s work places but will perpetually be linked to their names, whether they continue being partners or go their individual paths in the future.  They’re built to be a fully-functioning unit in every project but it doesn’t mean that their relationships will only be confined with on-cam scenes. These young actors and actresses, share the common thread that ties their goals for their team-ups, and it all comes down to the foundation built by their friendship off-cam.

Learning from each other, Alcantara tells this of what being a tandem with Legaspi was, that goes deeper than being an onscreen partner. “He knows that I’m an overthinker. And with him reminding me every single day, it made me feel calm and [at] peace.” But she wants to impart valuable learning to her partner the way he has been able to influence her, starting from learning to express himself more. “I want to teach him to express his emotions instantly. Knowing him, whatever he’s feeling at that moment, he will definitely not share it. [But] he’s in the process of learning that.” 

On his end, Roeland shares what he learned from being with his partner, “Althea made me understand what being a professional is all about. She taught me how to be in the moment rather than worrying about what will happen in the future. I really admire her and she motivates me to keep on going, to always do my best, and to keep my feet on the ground.” 

Ablan, when asked what she would teach her partner, goes on a simpler, more practical route, “I want to teach him how to cook and how to do household chores because he doesn’t have any idea about household chores that’s why I always tease him.”

Pablo learned to speak Bicolano, from Ansay’s hometown, with him teaching her at least 1-3 words per day. And in return, she says on what she wants to teach her on-screen partner,  “I want to teach him how to memorize scripts fast. Because, whenever we have scripts that are suddenly given, he’ll always be so nervous because it’s a bit hard for him to memorize, it seems like nervousness [takes] over him first,” she reveals.

With their on- and off screen partnerships going beyond the scripts, the social media frenzy, the klieg lights, and the cameras, these young actors lean on their creative and personal relationships to build each other up as they roll up their sleeves walk the lane once trodden by the icons they look up to as role models.

Roadmap to the future

As they officially walk down the path to stardom, officially launched as the next breed of love teams of GMA Network, these sparkling love pairs are looking at limitless opportunities that are set to shape the long road ahead of them.

#TeamJolly both wish to try zombie genre films, finding inspiration from the characters of On-jo and Cheong-san in the series All Of Us Are Dead. Pablo shares, “We’re both really into zombie series or movies so I’m curious what if we were to actually portray something similar to those characters.”

For Ansay, taking on the elaborate and tedious challenge of being in a zombie film is what he hopes for their team up. The two also wants to remake a Philippine Version of the iconic Korean series, Boys Over Flowers.

Finding inspiration from their senior artists and love reel-turned-real couple Gabbi Garcia and Khalil Ramos, AlBruce wishes for the same kind of success in their exciting new endeavors. Ablan states with a light chuckle, “I want to do stories about the bad guy who falls in love with a sweet and simple girl who really likes the guy but the guy is always ignoring the girl or something because he doesn’t want to let her know that he is falling for her. That interests me.”  

For Roeland, who happens to be a lover of Western romantic movies, he wants to try stories similar to his favorites, “ I am such a movie lover and from all the films that I have watched, [Althea and I] would definitely love to give our own spin on romantic dramas similar to 10 Things I Hate About You, Romeo and Juliet, 5 Feet Apart, and other movies that make us step out of our comfort zones.”

For Raman, whose team up with Sava will soon be tested once again on the screen, wishes something offbeat and transformative. He notes, “I wanna tell a story about grief and the journey to overcoming it and finding peace from within.”

Going for the heavy survival drama is what Alcantara eyes for in the future. She enthuses, “Let’s go heavy. Maybe a story about survival? Obviously, we’re young and we don’t know a lot of things. For me, [I think it would be] interesting for the viewers to see how we can survive without any help from the adults and how we can help each other in the challenging times. And with that, you can see each other’s character development.” 

When asked on the genres and stories they want to go after, sharing the same dream with her love team partner Mejia tells us, “Jamir and I are dreaming and claiming that we can make a film with genres such as drama, action, and comedy.” But, like the rest of the young actors in the roster, it really is all about staying ready to take on the direction their careers are heading,  “We are really game for anything,” she adds.

Banking on well-loved performances in the past that attracted an army of supporters, coupled with the limitless opportunities awaiting them in the future, these rising stars are set to take their acting careers to greater heights as they join the ever-growing constellation of stars that makes today’s world—well, sparkle.

Produced by SPARKLE GMA Artist Center

Photography by Dookie Ducay

Cover layout by Patrick Dale Alog

Additional text by Leo Balante

Glam Credits:

On Althea

Styling: Eldzs Mejia

Makeup: Don de Jesus

Hair: Mark Anthony Rosales

On Bruce

Styling: Eldzs Mejia

Grooming: Dexter Gonzalgo

On Sofia

Styling: Patty Yap

Makeup: Don de Jesus

Hair: Mark Anthony Rosales

On Allen

Styling: Patty Yap

Grooming: Dexter Gonzalgo

On Zonia

Styling: Patty Yap

Makeup: Jason delos Reyes

Hair: Mark Anthony Rosales

On Jamir

Styling: Macky Combe

Grooming: Dexter Gonzalgo

On Shayne

Styling: Patty Yap

Makeup: Jason delos Reyes

Hair: Mark Anthony Rosales

On Abdul

Styling: Macky Combe

Grooming: Dexter Gonzalgo

On Kyline

Styling: Shark Tanael

Makeup: Gela Laurel

Hair: Brent Sales

On Mavy

Styling: Cath Sobrevega

Makeup: Marben Talanay

Hair: Brent Sales

With acknowledgments to Chester Singian