Once there was a big-hit onscreen love team popularly known as KathNiel.
Kathryn Bernardo and Daniel Padilla had been the top revenue-generating tandem in the advertising and box-office receipts of ABS-CBN, its erstwhile free TV Channel 2 and other tube broadcasts, and the network’s film arm, Star Cinema.
Cable networks and livestreaming apps are still showing their films, which will soon be collectors’ items, indeed blockbusters.
Their hordes of fans are frantic, fanatic, yet ever supportive.
KathNiel had established a certain “too-good-to-be-true” image, whether in reel or real life. That’s what has endeared the duo to their followers.
Imagine the impact on the fans on Nov. 30 when Kathryn spilled the beans: that she and Daniel, also known as DJ, had called it quits as lovers offscreen.
She didn’t exactly reveal the reason for the breakup, but the speculation was that his fellow Star Magic and Kapamilya artist Andrea Brillantes was involved, and so was newbie Gillian Vicencio, whose initials GV allegedly caught the fancy of DJ when they were doing the ABS-CBN teleserye “2 Good 2 Be True” (an allusion to KathNiel, of course).
Then there’s DJ’s perceived “playboy image,” which in fact the whole Padilla brood is known for—Robin, Rommel, etc., all chips off the old Casanova block of Roy Padilla.
So KathNiel Nation is at a halt. Huge numbers of Filipinos are affected by the split—the young ones and the young once. Most moms who are ardent followers are sad, if not devastated, weeping over the dissolution of the team. Even dads are curious about the breakup.
Millennials, baby boomers, Gens X, Y and Z, teeners—name them, they are there, sympathetic, emphatic, males and females who may not even be conscious of their hurt.
But the collapse of KathNiel and the resulting anguish indicate yet another phenomenon: of the collective frustration of many parents dreaming of a model union for their own children, and finding it in Kathryn and DJ, the seemingly ideal young Filipino couple.
This middle-class as well as lower-class parental infatuation has been molded by the illusion fed to them by film and TV on the love narrative (on- and off-stage) of KathNiel.
Wait till the emergence of the next fantasy Pinoy romance on the landscape of capitalist mass media consumerism—another panacea, whether conscious or unconscious, a “cure” to social ills and deprivations, whether one accepts it or not.
Now, the market is weighing who is the spoiler and spoiled between the major players, and picks and buys up the item, sides with the perceived underdog and blindly shuns the oppressor—all based on the spin churned out by the respective camps.
Kathryn hasn’t said anything against DJ, and simply described the past bond as a stormy romance. Of course, there were insinuations from Kathryn herself in certain past interviews that she wouldn’t take enough pain from a man she loves because of womanizing.
But it’s been asked: How could DJ resist temptation if he’s adored by both girls and women? In a gender-equality positioning, is he the culprit in this broken Pinoy romance?
DJ has issued a statement expressing sadness over the sad fate of KathNiel and saying he’s setting Kathryn free.
Interestingly, it’s been said that before Kathryn’s announcement, there was already a cooling off between her and DJ.
There is also the economic issue involved. In this business partnership, shared properties are reportedly now legally divided with the assistance of lawyers hired by the respective camps.
A point to ponder: What makes the KathNiel split different from the shattered AlDub of Alden Richards and Maine Mendoza?
Well, AlDub lived in the shadow of KathNiel. The big difference is the image of the lowly assistant (or nanny role) of an idol of the marginalized and underprivileged named Yaya Dub, who was courted by a rich guy in Alden.
KathNiel represented the nouveau riche, to which the working class and the unemployed aspire.
They were the modern version of Guy and Pip, who also took the nation by storm during the tumultuous era of social unrest in the 1970s, and whose legions of fans were taunted as the bakya crowd (hoi polloi).
Then and now, love teams like KathNiel are escapist fare to numb the masses into complacency, to distract them from taking radical action against oppression in its many forms and from fighting for change for the betterment of each one of us.