Finally, Kathryn Bernardo and Daniel Padilla have broken their silence, respectively speaking up for what is right—but not everyone is happy. Amid a slinging of uncalled for untruths, their fans are standing up, defending an honor that speaks of everyone at a time like this.
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“Alam ko po na marami sa inyo na may alam, matagal ko pong piniling manahimik. Bakit? Kagaya po ng iba sa inyo, natakot po ako. Kasi nung huling beses po na ginamit ko ‘yung platform ko sa usaping politika, hindi naging maganda ‘yung nangyari,” says Kathryn Bernardo in a video she posted recently on Instagram, recalling the 2016 presidential election, in what her words was a traumatic experience not only for her, but for her family as well. “Sinabi ko po noon sa sarili ko na ‘yun na ang huling beses na magsasalita ako sa ganung usapin, kasi ayoko nang maulit ‘yun. Pero ngayon nandito po ako kasi pakiramdam ko, kailangan. Pakiramdam ko, kahit wala man kasiguraduhan na marinig ‘to, at least may ginawa ko. Pakiramdam ko kailangan kong maging boses ng iba. Kaya andito po ako, pinipili kong magsalita kasi nagpatong-patong na ‘yung dahilan.”
But that’s where she was wrong—everyone not only heard her, but they listened.
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“Maaring marami ang sa inyo iniisip po na maginhawa po ang buhay namin kumpara sa iba. Opo, pero hindi po dun nagtatapos ‘yun eh. Mas may responsibilidad po kami tumulong sa iba,” she continues in a calm and conversely manner. “Nandito po kami kasi responsibilidad namin makaramdam, para maging boses ng mga taong hindi mapakinggan. Kasi kung hindi kami magsalita, sinong magsasalita para sa kanila?” Kathryn Bernardo is of course talking about the recent unmasking of celebrities: from bystanders who were once quiet to a fault in the face of deliberate attacks on the liberties that safeguard the democracy we and many of the brave souls and pioneers before us have worked long and hard to protect, to now being critical voices who are breaking their hushed whispers for thunderous bellows roaring far and wide. Just like Taylor Swift in the Netflix documentary, Miss Americana, where she fought hard to speak her truth and put her foot down with regard to issues that both matter to her, this is the crucial point of pivot wherein Kathryn Bernardo has fully finds her voice as a young woman of conscious volition.
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“Sana matuto tayong makaramdam. Makaramdam para sa labing isang libong empleyado na nanganganib mawalan ng trabaho. Matuto tayong makaramdam sa ilang milyong Pilipinong nawalan ng libreng access sa impormasyon at libangan. Huwag po nating palalain ang inequality. Ang choice, hindi lang ‘yan dapat sa may pera. Magtulungan tayo,” she elucidates, alluding to the reality of her character, Joy in her career-turning film, Hello, Love, Goodbye, which in many ways has informed how she understands the world in the context of the circumstance that she and many other stars find themselves in as of late. Everyone from the likes of Angel Locsin and Angelica Panganiban to the more riled up Kim Chiu and Coco Martin, all of whom have consequently earned the ire of naysayers and gossip-mongers to varying degrees, belittling their statements and invalidating their opinions for the most innocuous reason of them being celebrities comfortable high up in their towering pillars of ivory. “Bilang Pilipino, tungkulin natin na maging mapagmatyag. Karapatan natin ang magsalita. Pero kasama ng karapatan nay an ay responsibilidad—responsibilidad na siguraduhin na ang sinasabi natin ay tama at higit sa lahat ay makatao para sa tao,” explains Daniel Padilla, essaying his personal thoughts on the matter. “Ano ho bang masamasa manindigan sa sariling kabuhyan, at sa kabuhayan ng marami? Sa lahat ng pumupuna, nagsasalita, alam ko ho magkaiba tayo ng opinion. Alam ko na kung anuman ang halaga sa amin ng ABS-CBN ay maaaring hindi iyon ang halaga sa inyo. Pero sana ho huwag tayong makalinmot na rumespeto sa pinagdadaanan ng iba.”
Sure, the effect of the pandemic has not been as obscenely abrasive to them as compared to others, but here they are, voluntarily stepping down from pedestals and being just as accountable and affected as the next person. Naturally, this isn’t enough for the narrow-minded thinking of the collective of die-hard administration supporters, as well as of bashers and trolls assembled to lacerate every fiber of integrity, honor, and moral in their being. One particular and blatant criticism came from a blogger who goes by the pseudonym, Banat By, who went as far as demeaning Kathryn Bernardo and Daniel Padilla by attempting to refute every line of their respective filmed statements—albeit with fallacies and feeble attempts at character assassination.
“Considering that both have been silent about anything related to politics since the last presidential election, plus the fact that celebrities are generally perceived as apolitical (or at least usually silent about their politics), I think having two of the biggest stars of their generation speak up is so important because it implies urgency,” says actor, poet, and spoken word artist, Juan Miguel Severo of the impressive and inspiring online movement of respectful gatekeeping that the KathNiel fans have enacted amidst the smear campaign of the trolls for their dear idols. “This is a huge push for those who’ve been clamoring for better governance, because finally their call is validated by people with the mileage they lack. For those who are ambivalent, I hope this means a nudge to the right direction. All things considered, the statements the two gave are quite tame. They aren’t radical. The reaction from trolls and mouthpieces of the state, the need to discredit and malign them despite their considerably mild pronouncements and requests only highlights how terrible things are: they must deflect any kind of criticism in order desperately conceal their incompetence.”
Leaving their statements as is and letting them take root in the passionate plane of the internet, it was as if a fierce flame of resolve blazed across many a timeline, growing into a forest fire, its throbbing embers cackling at every aggressive, agitated, and aimless misstep of the trolls. In fact, in the eruption of this war online, there was no encouragement from either Kathryn Bernardo and Daniel Padilla. They’ve said their piece, and now it was a choice made solely by the intelligent and socially aware KathNiel fandom. Not one to fight obvious fire with fire, the highly protective supporters banded together in defense of their celebrity idols, calling for their ranks to launch an anti-troll effort, which not only meant disengaging from them, but ultimately reporting, muting, and blocking them, which resulted in succeeding Twitter trending topics filed under #WeBlockAsOne and #WeBlockedAsOne. It was such a massive undertaking that the video broadcast of the said blogger was interrupted. The message of the fans were clear: You messed with the wrong crowd, something that Juan Miguel Severo was more than elated to witness as a mainstay on Twitter. “These fans have a long history of defending the two from cyberbullies and online trolls. They also know so well what taking a political stance has done to their idols back in 2016. They were unprepared for the backlash then, so they made sure they were ready for the possible backlash this time. As soon as Kath and DJ posted their videos, I saw that they were already readying themselves for the blow. They were both worried and empowered. It was amazing to watch. Para talaga silang tinawag sa giyera,” he explains. “But here’s where it gets extra interesting about these fans: As much as they understood KathNiel’s silence, a lot of them were also hoping for their idols to speak up long before the ABS-CBN shutdown. When the pandemic started, Kath and DJ fed front liners and donated PPEs to different hospitals, but they never talked about the government’s lack of system or the injustices happening here and there. Most fans defended their silence with these gestures and some understood the need for them to speak up despite the trauma 2016 left them with. Sabi ko nga, ang tatalino ng fans ninyo. Kahit di pa kayo nagsasalita, nagsasalita na sila. So yes, I think those videos they posted empowered their fans—mobilized them, even—but I also think that their fuel has always been there. They just had to be lit up.”
Clearly, they have had it, officially—and now, if Kathryn Bernardo and Daniel Padilla have broken their silence and taken a stand, their supporters are fighting back. In the same way that the general public was caught off-guard by the decidedly iron-clad resolve of the pair, the defensive counter-community of bumbling brawl of bashers was likewise collectively dumbfounded, with no straws left to grasp at, and they are instead, flailing in the air for anything else to hold on to. Unlike them, the ardent fans who have come together made it known that they are not backing down now, never once stooping down to their acrimonious level. Instead, they are dusting themselves off from this skirmish, and looking to their leaders for light in the greater grim reality.
“Sa mga kapwa ko Pilipino, huwag ho nating talikuran ang pagiging makatao. Buksan ho natin ang mga puso natin para sa pinagdadaanan ng iba. At buksan natin ang mga mata natin para sa katohohonan. Mas mainam pa ang maging bulag kaysa sa nagbubulag-bulagan,” says Daniel Padilla, rounding off his statement with gut-punching restraint. Meanwhile, Kathryn Bernardo rouses her audience, perhaps readying them for the long and arduous battle that is still ahead of them, of us. “Tayong mga Pilipino, sana matuto tayong manindigan sa kung anong tama. Sana magamit natin ‘yung boses natin para mapahayag ng responsable kung ano ang mga saloobin natin. At sa mga kabataan, sana ‘wag akyong matakot. Kasi kagayo niyo rin ako. natakot ako, pero kung ‘di kasi tayo magsasalita ngayon, sino? Tayo ang magmamana ng Pilipinas kaya may karapatan tayo.”
Prophetic as it may sound, it seems that Taylor Swift perfectly immortalized this moment for all of us way before we even knew of it in her song, Only The Young, which punctuated her candid video of self-study. “Don’t say you’re too tired to fight. It’s just a matter of time, so run,” she breathes. “Up there’s the finish line, and run, and run, and run.”
And so, we run, not just for the thrill, but for the purpose of the greater good.