The unique world of Filipino cinema's 'love teams' – why people are so angry about Kathryn Bernardo's new film

The fan loyalty is closer to that of a hardcore football supporter than cinema fan, and it is very rare for members of a love team to appear alongside another romantic lead. That is about to happen

Kathryn Bernardo's latest film Hello, Love, Goodbye has stirred up some unusual drama. Photo: Instagram / BernardoKath
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There's a huge controversy brewing over a reported kissing scene in forthcoming Tagalog romantic drama Hello, Love, Goodbye. In fact, some fans on Twitter have been urging for a boycott of the film – which stars Kathryn Bernardo and Alden Richards – over the alleged scene.

Why is this attracting such ire? The answer lies in the perhaps uniquely Filipino notion of on-screen "love teams." In romance-heavy Filipino cinema, male-female pairings are frequently seen together in several movies and TV shows over the course of many years. 

These "teams" attract a fanatical following, with fans wearing T-shirts of their romantic idols, attending regular meetings to chat about them, giving them shared names (such as JaDine for James Reid and Nadine Lustre), and imploring them to become a couple and get married in real life.

James Reid and Nadine Lustre, aka Jadine. Courtesy Star Cinema

The fan loyalty is closer to that of a hardcore football supporter than cinema fan, and it is rare for members of a love team to appear alongside another romantic lead.

Both Bernardo and Richards are already part of a love team. Bernardo is one half of KathNiel alongside real-life boyfriend Daniel Padilla, and these two picked up the Best Love Team Award at this year's PMPC Star Awards (showing just how legitimate a phenomenon it is). Richards is half of AlDub alongside "Queen of Dubbing" Maine Mendoza. Fans of the two teams, it seems, are not happy with Bernardo and Richards working together in Hello, Love, Goodbye – the Filipino cinematic equivalent of Barcelona and Real Madrid fielding a combined 11 in the European Champions League.

Daniel Padilla and Kathryn Bernardo, aka KathNeil. Courtesy ABS-CBN

Recently, at the movie’s official global launch, which was held in Manila and linked via satellite to Dubai, London, Hong Kong and the US, director Cathy Garcia-Molina sought to ease tensions, stating diplomatically: “Whether they kiss or not, it does not matter. The story will stand on its own.”

'It wasn't easy for me' says Bernardo of stepping out of her 'love team'

Bernardo, meanwhile, admitted that it had been a challenge starring without her long-time partner. "It wasn't easy for me. It's really hard for both of us because for six or seven years we've been together, we work together. Even if we work abroad we're always together. This film is totally different," she said.

Bernardo admitted that Padilla had tried to visit her on set, but because she was shooting a “heavy scene” that day, the crew had kept him away. Ultimately, however, Bernardo insists that her partner, both on and off screen, is 100 per cent behind her latest project: “The lesson that I learned is just to have trust. I always tell him to have trust. That’s it. It’s hard to work if you have a heavy heart. The challenge was if we’re apart for a long time, he’s very supportive. He’s all out for this film.”

Fans may have to prepare for more of this heartache. In an open letter to the Philippines' Preview magazine in March, Bernardo revealed that she and Padilla would not be taking on any projects together on screen in 2019, although their off-screen romance remains healthy. "Late last year, we made a mutual decision to not accept projects together this 2019. We both know it's going to be tough for both of us and maybe even tougher for our fans, but we really gave it some thought, and while there's nothing we want more than to make you happy, we'd appreciate if you can give us this year to pursue our individual growth this time around."

 Hello, Love, Goodbye is in cinemas across the Philippines on Wednesday, July 31 and cinemas across the UAE on Thursday, August 8.