MANILA — Even Donny Pangilinan and Belle Mariano were surprised upon hearing their new title as a tandem, the “New Gen Phenomenal Love Team,” as declared in the trailer of their launching movie which comes on the heels of their successful debut series also released this year.
Coming from the phenomenal run of “He’s Into Her,” which broke records in terms of iWantTFC viewership as well as online ticket sales on KTX.ph, the love team dubbed “DonBelle” is starring in another Star Cinema offering, “Love Is Color Blind,” this month.
The romantic-comedy movie, directed by John Leo Garcia, will be released on December 10, with a digital premiere scheduled the night prior.
In the film’s media launch held Thursday, Pangilinan and Mariano admitted they were not aware of the title given to their tandem, until the trailer was shown for the first time during the virtual gathering.
“Wow,” they both said, when asked to react to being tagged the “New Gen Phenomenal Love Team.”
“Honestly, it’s super flattering na matawag ng ganoon,” Mariano explained.
Pangilinan agreed, saying: “It’s very much appreciated. It’s humbling. We’re just happy. If I already had goosebumps watching it, now, hearing that pa, dumagdag pa.”
Mariano, 19, and Pangilinan, 23, were first cast in the TV adaptation of Maxine Lat’s “He’s Into Her” in late 2019. At the time, they were an untested pairing, and would only share the screen once in supporting roles in “James and Pat and Dave,” released in early 2020, prior to their first project together as leads.
After delays due to the coronavirus pandemic and the broadcast crisis of ABS-CBN, “He’s Into Her” finally premiered to hot anticipation in May this year. The series became a massive success, leading to a second season getting a green light, and launching to stardom the DonBelle tandem whose shared and respective careers have since expanded exponentially.
Aside from being paired onscreen, both Pangilinan and Mariano have become recording artists, and emerging brand darlings with successive new endorsements.
“We’re very grateful — we’ll never get tired of saying that. Sobrang grateful lang kami to be given this trust by everyone,” Pangilinan said, mentioning in particular Star Cinema. “It’s been a journey, a rollercoaster ride, and we went through it together.”
Referring to the filming of “Love Is Color Blind,” he added: “Marami rin kaming pinagdaanan, good and bad, but at the end of the day, tama ‘yung sinabi ni Belle, we have a movie, and we’re so blessed to be here.”
Mariano also waxed sentimental, pointing out that despite the limitations of the pandemic, she and Pangilinan still feel the fervor of their loyal fans.
“Hindi po kami mapapgod sabihin ‘yun, we’re very grateful. Just imagine na kahit online lang lahat ngayon, nararamdaman namin ‘yung suporta at pagmamahal nila,” she said.
The meteoric rise of DonBelle has drawn comparisons to other well-loved love teams in Philippine showbiz, particularly the reel and real-life partnership of Kathryn Bernardo and Daniel Padilla.
Both Pangilinan and Mariano have been vocal of their admiration for their fellow Star Magic artists, with Mariano once sharing that she hopes DonBelle will achieve the same level of success as KathNiel.
Responding to observations they are poised to achieve just that, Pangilinan said, “We’re very humbled and flattered.”
“Sila KathNiel, KathNiel na ‘yun, e! They’re already KathNiel,” he enthused, with Mariano agreeing.
“We’re very flattered,” Pangilinan added, “but also we’re focused on getting our own path, our own journey, learning every day and learning from each other, supporting each other.”
“[We are focused on] just making sure that we keep our feet on the ground and we never stop learning, and that we give the glory to God all the time.”
As love teams go, as seen in those that came and went or have remained, their longevity also depends heavily on the halves getting along in real life.
In DonBelle’s case, they were quick to respond when asked whether they see their pairing to be for the long haul.
“Oo naman,” they both answered, looking at each other.
LEARN ABOUT AND FROM EACH OTHER
Over the course of their partnership so far — spanning two years, if the announcement of the “He’s Into Her” casting is counted — Pangilinan and Mariano continue to “discover” new things about each other, they said.
“Mas nakita ko kung gaano siya ka-passionate sa ginagawa niya, kung gaano niya kamahal ‘yung craft niya,” Mariano said of Pangilinan.
“This whole lock-in, sobrang challenging. Yet, nakita ko ‘yung similarities niya lalo with Ino, na despite ng mga pinagdadaanan, hindi sila susuko pareho,” she added, referring to her co-star’s character in the film.
Pangilinan, too, spoke highly of Mariano’s dedication to their shared passion for acting.
“I know this already na sobrang hardworking niya. More and more, I see it. More and more, it’s evident, especially dito sa lock-in na ‘to,” he said.
Turning to Mariano, Pangilinan said, “‘Di ba ang dami nating pinagdaanan ng challenges? Sobrang hirap minsan.”
“Nakita ko talaga na there’s nothing that will stop her from learning, and showing what needs to be shown. I learn that more and more every day.”