The first time I witnessed the skyrocketing tandem of Inigo Pascual and Maris Racal was during the MYX Music Awards back in May where the former was a nominee and one of the channel’s current VJs and the latter was a performer. When Maris appeared on stage for her song number, she was accompanied by Inigo with one hand in hers and the other holding her guitar. As Maris took her spot, Inigo, with his gentlemanly ways, put the guitar on Maris, fixed the train of her dress, and left with a good luck peck on her cheek. The crowd easily went wild, and I, with my limited knowledge on their on- and off-screen chemistry, felt a smile crack on my face.
As I learned later on, the emergence of MarNigo was something unexpected when compared to other massively supported love teams that started off by being thrown together in a project. They’ve come a long way from their first link-up which happened when Maris was a contestant on Pinoy Big Brother: All In in 2014. Inigo’s dad Piolo Pascual visited the set and mentioned his son to Maris who was clueless back then. “Hindi ko alam na may anak pala si Papa P! Ganun ako ka-outdated,” she says. When Maris got out of the competition, Inigo recalls sending a tweet to her which a surge of fans reacted to.
So, with all that hype, how did their first meeting actually go? “Awkward!” Both of them exclaim as they reminisce over the cringe-inducing encounter. Inigo accompanied his dad to the set of Hawak Kamay where Maris was also starring in. “Sabi ko, ‘Hi,’ tapos nagtinginan lang kami. Nagtago na ako sa kuwarto, tapos nagtago siya sa banyo,” he tells with a fit of laughter. “‘Yun ‘yung story, literal!”
It was only when they were casted together in Bloody Crayons when they finally broke the ice and discovered how much they click as they bonded over their personal stories (“Girls, boys–’yun ‘yung pinag-uusapan namin,” Maris reveals) and their similar tastes in music. From then on, MarNigo became a thing. “Ang weird ng pagiging love team namin. It wasn’t the management’s decision,” Maris says. “Parang naging noise lang siya, and then ang dami na naming guestings together. Because of that, we got to write songs. Then came the concert.”
From their “awkward” beginnings to their now irresistible bond, Maris and Inigo’s synergy progressed naturally. It’s a hit among showbiz fans who are looking for their daily dose of kilig. But while most may hinge on the romantic chemistry between the two, I particularly witnessed (and subsequently admired) the kind of friendship that Maris and Inigo have. They are partners, above all else, making their tandem an unshakeable one.
When I ask if being part of a love team makes work easier, both of them agree. “Everytime I’m on set or somewhere else and Maris is not with me, I kind of feel more nervous,” Inigo shares. “Kapag may kasamang kang ka-love team, may mapapagsabihan ka ng takot mo, frustration mo. This person can make you feel like it’s okay, you got this, we got this, we’re going through this together.”
This ease comes in handy when the cameras start rolling, and they’re put in the spotlight. Maris and Inigo often host together, specifically in One Music’s online show, Popssss. “Alam na namin ‘yung galaw ng isa’t-isa,” Inigo says. “‘Yung tipong, ‘I know you, you know me, let’s do it.’” Luckily, they vibe with each other without much effort, making their work flow seamless.
When it comes to music, Maris and Inigo synch just as well, frequently recommending songs to each other. “It’s one of our things–we like to share music,” Inigo starts. “Tapos mapipikon kami kapag hindi nakikinig or naka-focus ‘yung isa,” they laugh in unison.
Beyond the tunes that they both jam to, it’s a delight to know that these two have an authentic collaborative process when they make music together. “It’s so easy to work with Inigo. Hindi siya work,” Maris claims, which Inigo affirms, “It’s more like passion. Sa amin, it comes naturally. The way we’re able to provide input to each other’s work is a blessing.”
With the recipe for a successful young love team locked in, it’s only fitting that Maris and Inigo’s chemistry will soon transition to the big screens. After all, you’re not a true star in the Philippine entertainment industry if you haven’t had a blockbuster hit. There’s no pressure for these two, though. Their upcoming film entitled Ellenya L, the coming-of-age directorial debut of actor Boy2 Quizon, is every bit of the feel-good comedy that the “insta” generation can surely relate to.
Aside from Ellenya L, Maris and Inigo are slated to go on a US tour to see their overseas fans. Individually, Inigo just released his single "Lumang Tugtugin" which will be followed by a full-length album soon, while Maris has a brewing solo project which both of them are still tight-lipped about. Things are certainly coming up roses for these two, all thanks to the overwhelming loyalty of MarNigo fans.
On a final note, I ask Maris and Inigo how they see themselves growing in the industry. For Maris, she hopes to be known as an actress whose work could change not only her life but others' as well. "Gusto ko magfocus sa quality–choosing the right characters and stories that can inspire people," she shares. Inigo, on the other hand, aims to put out songs that could be the anthem of a generation, ones that won't be drowned out by the quick turnover of the music scene. "'Yung tumatatak talaga," he emphasizes. And before I can form the thought in my head, the words instantly fly out of Maris' mouth. "Nagawa mo na, my god! 'Yung 'Dahil Sayo,'" she bursts, referring to his 2016 major pop hit. Inigo blushes and shyly thanks her.
The thing that strikes you about these two is not the over-the-top romance, but rather their reliable support for one another. And it's enough to conclude that, yes, MarNigo is real, in case you were wondering.
ALSO READ: #ChalkGen18: Meet The 18 Individuals Of This Year's Chalk Bright Young Manila
Photographed by Miguel Alomajan
Creative Direction by Madel Asuncion
Art Direction by Mikka Caronan
Styled by Ryuji Shiomitsu (Maris) and Aaron Mangsat (Inigo)
Makeup by Jelly Eugenio
Hair by MJ Rone
Grooming by Jay Herrera