Sofia Pablo and Allen Ansay: Young Love
Sofia Pablo and Allen Ansay’s love team is off to a good start this 2023. Their team up is fairly new and was born during the pandemic, but they’ve already received a good break in their careers. Currently, Sofia and Allen headline GMA Network’s primetime drama series, “Luv Is: Caught In His Arms.” It is their first solo teleserye, not to mention their first primetime series. The show was also the Kapuso network’s opening salvo for 2023, putting a lot of pressure on their shoulders.
But, for Sofia and Allen, the series was a result of how they’re in love with their craft, their dream, and the love team that they’ve built together. In this FreebieMNL Spotlight exclusive, Sofia and Allen—known as Team Jolly—look back at their young love team’s humble beginnings and how their love for their craft led them to where they are now.
Loving the craft
Sofia and Allen did not actually start in showbiz together. Sofia started as a child actress, playing bit roles in ABS-CBN and GMA shows. She recalls, “Noong time na ‘yun, hindi pa po ako fully aware na gusto ko talaga. Siyempre, bata pa po ako, pwedeng nalilibang ako, na-e-enjoy ko siya.” Years later, she got her big break in the 2019 series “Prima Donnas,” where she played one of the leads with Jillian Ward and Althea Ablan. Then 13 years old, Sofia realized, “Gusto ko talaga siya, hindi ko siya ever na i-gi-give up, kahit pagsabayin ko pa sa pag-aaral ko. Doon ko na-realize na kahit mahirap na yung role ko, na-e-enjoy ko pa rin siya. So, sabi ko, ‘Ah, gusto ko talaga siya.’ Kasi kahit ang hirap ng mga eksena, puyat, pagod, tapos may school pa in between, hindi ko po talaga siya ina-ano na ‘Ayaw ko nang mag-taping.’ Never po siya naging option.”
Meanwhile, Allen started as a finalist of “StarStruck” in 2019. He wasn’t a strong contender at the beginning, but with his hard work, he finished as first runner-up. However, it was long before that when he realized he wanted to enter showbiz.
It first became clear when Allen did a short film as a bit player. He shares, “Wala po akong experience noon tapos nakapag-shoot ako. Noong nag-take kami, sabi ko sa sarili ko, ‘Wow, mahal ko yung ginagawa ko, gusto ko pang ituloy.’” He then decided not to return to his home in Bicol and instead stay in Manila to audition for “StarStruck.”
Being part of the competition wasn’t an easy ride. Allen admits: “Parang may mga times na ma-fe-feel mo na ‘Kaya ko ba ito?’ Kasi, nakaka-pressure talaga, lalo na yung wala pa naman akong experience; yung mga nakasama ko, may mga experience na sila.” The hardships just made him more eager to become successful. “Noong tumatagal na, nakukuha ko na kung paano yung industriya ng pag-aartista, mas na-realize ko pa rin na mas mahal ko pa rin siya at gusto ko siyang ipagpatuloy.”
Then came Team Jolly
When they got their showbiz breaks, Sofia and Allen had different career paths. GMA was grooming Sofia to become one of its new-generation drama princesses, banking on the popularity of “Prima Donnas.” Allen, on the other hand, was still shying away from being part of “StarStruck.
Somewhere along the way, Allen and Sofia crossed paths and became good friends, but being a love team was still not part of the plan. Sofia even recalls: “Noong nagpaalam po ako kung pwede ko siyang i-post, sabi, ‘Huwag na muna kasi baka ma-issue kayo.’”
Their respective careers, however, were put to a halt when the pandemic came. Both of them weren’t allowed to work as they were still minors then. Sofia’s character in “Prima Donnas” was written off; Allen was not allowed to work in “All-Out Sundays.”
Being neighbors and good friends, Sofia and Allen thought of collaborating on a TikTok video that, to their surprise, raked in millions of views. “Yung TikTok na yon, wala pang one day, nag-three million tapos binalita sa ‘24 Oras,’” recalls Allen. “Doon na nag-start na yung fans ni Sofie, mga fans ko na, ‘Ah, pwede ito.’ Hanggang sa dumami na nga yung mga fans, binuo nila yung Team Jolly.”
Sofia and Allen did what they could to make sure that Team Jolly wouldn’t just be a fad. They tried to do another TikTok video to see if the reception would change, but it garnered even higher views than the first! “Sabi namin, ‘Uy, mukhang magwo-work tayo. Gawa kaya tayo ng vlog?,’” remembers Sofia. “Tapos yun na po yun, doon na po namin ginawa na baka pwede tayong maging love team,” Sofia shares.
Finally, Sofia and Allen are AlFia
With the team-up that they had at that time, Allen proudly declares that “talagang minahal ko yung kung anong meron kami.” Allen also appreciated how Sofia would help him as the newbie in the industry. “Binu-boost niya rin yung confidence ko kasi lagi akong ‘Ah, hindi ko kaya ‘to.’ Pero lagi niyang sinasabi sa akin na ‘Kung kinaya mo nga noong ‘StarStruck,’ bakit di mo kakayanin ‘to?,’” shares Allen. “At saka totoo po na kapag mahal mo yung trabaho mo, kakayanin mo lahat. Kumbaga, oo, kakabahan ka kasi, siyempre, si Sofie, matagal nang artista. Ikaw, wala ka pa namang experience. Pero kung gusto mo talaga yung ginagawa mo, magagawa mo siya.”
But when Sofia had to return for “Prima Donnas” season two, Sofia got nervous that the network might not support their love team. She says: “Sabi ko, ‘Hala, paano si Allen? E, may na-build up kami na parang Team Jolly, YouTube.’ E, sa ‘Prima Donnas,’ wala siya sa story. Kaya masayang masaya po ako noong sinabi na he’ll be part of ‘Prima Donnas’ ‘tapos siya na yung love interest ko.”
And the rest is history. While filming “Prima Donnas,” they were introduced as AlFia, a part of Sparkle Sweethearts—the next big love teams of GMA Network. Aside from “Luv Is: Caught In His Arms,” AlFia will headline a digital series produced by GMA Public Affairs.
“Loving” each other
Sofia and Allen have been close friends for more than three years now. And as the pandemic allowed them to bond almost every day, they’ve learned to know each other’s full personalities, even meeting each other’s family members. In fact, what they love about each other has something to do with how they treat their families.
Sofia says Allen is not the type who would enable her if she had an argument with her mom. “Hindi po siya yung type na friend na kapag nag-aaway po kayo ng mommy mo, susulsol pa lalo tapos susulsulan ka rin niyang gumawa ng mga mali, mag-lie. Kapag nag-away po kami ni mommy, aawayin niya rin ako. Kakausapin niya po talaga ako ng maayos na ‘Aki, hindi ka dapat ganon kay mommy. Mag-sorry ka, sumasagot ka.’ Sasabihin ko, ‘Hindi. hindi ako sumasagot.’ Mag-so-sorry na ako kay mommy kasi ma-re-realize ko na tama nga naman.”
But actually, Allen loves how Sofia loves her mom dearly, which he witnessed during the pandemic. “Love na love niya si mommy niya. Noong pandemic, medyo mahaba rin talaga yung pinagsamahan namin.” Allen, who used to live with extended family, was a witness to the relationship between Sofia and her mom, especially that they’re the only ones who live under the same roof. He then says, “Ipinangako ko sa sarili ko na ipaparamdam ko kay Sofie, kay mommy, na kung ano yung pakiramdam ng merong malaking pamilya.”
Allen gave Sofia the feeling of an extended family through his own. When pandemic restrictions eased out, he brought Sofia and her mom to Bicol to meet the rest of his family, to the point that “yung nine-seater na van, naging 15-seater!”
Sofia truly enjoyed the experience. “Yung mga tita niya, lahat po sila ang gagaling magluto, pinataba nila ako. At saka very welcoming,” she says gratefully. “Talagang aasikasuhin ka nila, ipaparamdam po nila na parang part of the family ka po talaga.”
“Tamang Panahon” for Allen and Sofia
Of course, fans of Allen and Sofia are looking forward to knowing the real score between the two of them.
During their interview with FreebieMNL at their recent Cabdury event, Allen said that his message to Sofia would be “Hihintayin kita;” Sofia’s for Allen would say, “Please don’t go.”
For FreebieMNL Spotlight, Allen was asked to give more details behind his “hihintayin kita.” After giving a smile, he says, “Hindi, marami po kasing meaning yun!”
After thinking it over, Allen explains: “Siyempre, hihintayin ko siya sa tamang edad, sa tamang panahon, kapag pwede na,” affirming that he has plans of courting Sofia when she reaches the right age.
Sofia is turning 17 on April 10, and Allen is 19.
He adds, “Kasi may mga nagtatanong kung kami na ba ni Sofie, kung nililigawan ko na ba siya. Pero hindi ko pa po talaga siya nililigawan, and we’re really close best friends.” Sofia chimes in: “Wow, English! Gusto ko yun!”
Allen then continues again, saying, “Sinabi ko din kasi yun kay mommy [ni Sofia], kasi sinasabi ni mommy na ‘Bata pa kayo, pinagbibigyan kayo, nag-e-enjoy kayo, love team kayo, napaka-blessed niyo, lahat ng pangarap niyo natutupad na. Pero huwag niyong gagawin yung mali.’”
Allen assured Sofia’s mom that their dreams remain their priority. However, he admits asking her, “Mommy, pwede ba sa tamang panahon? Hihintayin ko si Aki kung pwede ba. Alam mo na yun, mommy!”
Sofia agrees that they should wait until the time is right. “At least, kapag dumating yun, sure na sure ka na gusto mo na talaga yung tao. Hindi yung, ‘Aki, gusto kita now, dyowa na agad kita bukas, tapos after a month, ayaw ko pala!’ At least, kapag dumating man po iyon, kilalang-kilala na namin yung isa’t-isa.”
When Sofia asked what her answer would be to Allen’s “hihintayin kita,” she laughs before saying: “Ako rin! Wow, char!”
Allen, who was surprised with her answer, exclaims, “Uy! First time mo sinagot yun, ha! First time ko narinig yon.” He even jests, “Naka-record po ba yan? Pwede po pa-send?”
Despite the teasing, Sofia confirms her statement. “Siyempre, hihintayin ko rin,” she says. “Kasi hindi naman ako yung type na gusto ko mag-try ng iba, ganun. Meron po kasing mga ganun na ‘Hindi, baka mas may iba pa akong mas kasundo [ko].’ Kasi kung ako po, kasundo ko naman yung tao, we’re happy, e, di bakit pa mag-aano ng iba?”
But right now, Sofia and Allen are clear with their common priority: their careers. Of course, aside from their parents and GMA Network, they also do not want to let down the people who trust them: their fans.
Sofia says of this, “Grabe po talaga yung utang na loob and love namin sa fans namin. Kasi sila talaga yung number one reason ng success. Meron nga pong nagsabi, nag-start po kami as sarili naming sikap. Ibig sabihin, sila talaga yung isa sa dahilan kung bakit tayo meron ngayon kasi kung nag-start tayo tapos wala naman tayong fans, wala. So, sila talaga.”
Photography Jerick Sanchez
Art Direction Alexandra Lara and Dani Sison
Art Alexandra Lara
Interview and Cover Story Jimpy Anarcon
Styling Francis Chee (Sofia) and Regi Cruz (Allen)
Associate Stylist Jaun Paulo Buendia (Sofia)
Hair Maja (Sofia)
Makeup Kaye Misajon (Sofia)
Grooming Julius Renon (Allen)
Special Thanks Chester Singian and Felix Ilaya of Sparkle GMA Artist Center