Image courtesy of www.teenvogue.com
What if Miley Cyrus and Liam Hemsworth starred in every single movie together?
What if Selena Gomez and Justin Bieber only released duets with one another — while simultaneously maintaining a very public relationship?
Are the feels rolling in? Is your heart fluttering yet?
Welcome to the concept of a "love team." In the Philippines, fans aren’t squealing over boy bands or just any celebrity; they’re obsessed with this concept in entertainment that is unique to the country’s outlook on romance. A love team completely elevates the portrayal of love in movies, TV, music, and books in a way that westerners don’t even think about (or avoid altogether).
The entertainment industry in the Philippines is a little different than it is in America. There, actors must have a wide range of skills to appear on the big screen, meaning acting is actually just a small part of their jobs. Being a star includes singing, dancing, and, most importantly, getting people to ship you with your costar. Almost everyone who is cast in anything eventually gets paired with a fellow star who they’re expected to do everything with. And as a conservative, predominantly Catholic country, the concept of monogamy is heavily emphasized throughout all forms of Filipino entertainment. It's a heavy commitment that the stars take on, but similar to arranged marriages, the actors have a high chance of staying together on and off-camera. The secret is their willingness to work together — hence the term "team" — to meet the extremely high expectations of hopeless romanticism.
Though the actors are matched as a result of their natural chemistry, they're never forced to date IRL. Most of the time it just works out that way. How could you not fall for the person, who ideally resembles your soulmate and that you also spend almost every waking moment with?
This is the reality of JaDine — or James Reid and Nadine Lustre — who are currently one of the most popular love teams in the Philippines. They only started making movies together two years ago, but the stars have completely won over the hearts of the Filipino community. (The couple officially announced they're dating only a few months ago on Feb. 11 and fans are already celebrating their "monthiversaries.")
While you may be discouraged from dating your coworker, the exact opposite was at play for James and Nadine. “The first time we got paired together was for his music video,” Nadine tells Teen Vogue. ("She was the girl I picked, it was just instinct,” James corroborates.) But it took two years of working on set as love interests before either copped feelings for one another. “After that music video, nothing really happened…[until] our first movie," he adds, referencing the filming of Diary ng Panget (Diary of an Ugly Person). "That’s when the JaDine love team started, the fans made the name."
At first, the duo admits that their pairing was all part of the job. "We never pretended to be together or lied to the fans. We were just friends, but they didn’t think so,” James says. Even though they had no interest of being in a relationship at the time, there was an unbelievable amount of pressure to be the ideal couple. “When you’re in a love team, you have to work together,” James says. Nadine is quick to add that “people hated seeing you with someone else. When they did, fans started talking. There was a lot of drama.”
James and Nadine say they never tried to be anything they weren't and this transparency is what set them apart from other love teams. A partnership that started out as a mere example of what the ideal love looks like transformed into a real, undeniable romance that the country fell head over heels for. The two are even nicknamed Team Real, which is also the title of their debut book. (Beyond the couple's movies and soap operas, they also sing duets to accompany their on-screen projects.) As cliché as it sounds, JaDine has proven that there’s really nothing they can’t do in the name of love. “If you’re in a love team, you get all of the projects together. You’re a package deal,” Nadine says.
Love teams aren’t without their haters. JaDine especially are criticized for being overly public with their relationship — even to the point where fans argue that everything they do is solely to promote their careers. That's a line the duo say they never cross, as they try to make their relationship as private as possible. This risk of backlash is actually what deterred James and Nadine from opening up about their feelings in the first place, but going public as a couple "was a good decision and a weight off our shoulders," James points out.
The gossip around their romance isn't even the main concern for their OG shippers. "[Filipinos] are some of the most romantic people. They can take cheesy all day and no one says anything bad about it,” James says. JaDine's signature extra-long gazes into each other's eyes at the end of every performance, or their sweet pet names — such as hubby and wifey — are the things that really get fans going.
Much more so than movies produced in the west, Filipino cinema often makes the idea of true love the norm. The depictions of romance are often conservative and there is rarely kissing or allusions to sex on-screen. Love teams actually play a crucial part with the Philippines' cultural monogamy as the dream is to ship actors for as long as possible. While some love teams only ever work together professionally, there are costars that end up getting married. Regardless of whether they've dated off-camera, consistently seeing two people team up over and over again instills the hope that there really is one perfect person out there for everyone. (For a more recent American example, think about the swoon-worthy news of Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone — who first appeared together on Crazy, Stupid, Love — coming back with their second costarring roles in La La Land.)
All of JaDine's projects tackle love's major challenges. From the struggles of a long-distance relationship in their latest movie This Time to fighting for love in the pair's hit soap opera On the Wings of Love, they appeal to anyone who's ever opened their heart up to the concept of romance. The only disconnect may be their consistent happy endings, but "the lesson we’re teaching the fans in our movies is that true love can withstand any obstacle," James says. "Also if you love someone, you’ll work it out."
People may have a more pessimistic practical outlook on love, but there’s no shame in being a hopeless romantic — especially when it comes to celebrities. Whether they’re in front of the camera or not, the biggest stars are the relationship goals we all aspire to. A study even shows that the way pop culture shapes our idea about love is more beneficial than having no romantic standards at all.
"People with romantic beliefs did have higher expectations, but they were also more likely to see their partner as meeting those expectations," the researcher of that study, Sarah Vannier, Ph.D., who is a postdoctoral candidate at Canada’s Dalhousie University, told Glamour. The only difference is, Filipinos don't turn off their imaginations — and that's something the rest of the world could learn from. These moments shared by love teams often stand as clear examples of what your own love life could be, taken to an idealized level.
From shipping costars who constantly work together to simply fantasizing your faves one day having a random meet-cute, love teams exist everywhere. It's a natural reaction for anyone to root for any relationship. Love in entertainment is the cheapest and most low-stakes form of escape, as anything is possible in movies, TV, music, or books. This isn't to say love is that simple. Every relationship requires true commitment and hard work, and it's not just about the sweet hand-holding and elaborate celebrity dates the paparazzi take photos of. (We're sure love teams have dates in ratty sweatpants, too.) At the same time, that also doesn't mean you shouldn't take these moments to heart. Go with the butterflies the stars give you. Your feels are there for a reason. Trust them.
Whether you've been burned before or have yet to find your match, there’s something special about seeing what could be. It makes you realize the kind of relationship you really deserve because just like the most iconic love stories, settling for second best should never be an option. That's what JaDine — and nearly every other Filipino love team — opens all audiences up to. No matter what point you are in finding "the one," seeing someone have their own fairytale ending can help you believe that yours is out there, too.