THE most pressing issue of the immediate week shook the nation to its core, testing its moral values and revealing the populace for who they are, their true natures. Masks were ripped off their placid bearers and caused outrage, sparking intense debate on the nature of interpersonal connection and societal ties.
This most pressing issue is, of course, KathNiel’s breakup.
Splitting of a celebrity couple is not in any particular way relevant to the conduct of society in 99 percent of cases. A pair of act-people have very little actual impact in tangible terms – their legacy is the intangible feelings roused by whatever it is they’ve done on the screen, all that on-camera romantik, the sweet nothings. And in the case of #KathNiel in specific, they hold a grip on the collective unconscious more for the pairing and less for their contributions to the field – not to knock their acting prowess, but their presence in the public eye is specifically as a Couple, and not as A Pair of Performers.
The response to the event is outstanding, so much so that discussion of it picked up on social media enough that it went trending nationwide, to the confusion of anyone who did not pay any attention to celebrity relations. Every angle, every word, every iota of meaning sucked out of the smallest details of the incident, plucked from each thread and even in the empty spaces where there are none.
Jokes were made, opinions offered and traded around, willingly and unwillingly, people weighed in, shared outrage, started arguments, the public consumed all coverage, and the media picked it up to give the fans what they wanted to eat.
The couple has been a pair in the public eye for over a decade, from their very first appearance as a duo on the silver screen.
It speaks volumes to the character of the Filipino, this incident and the response to it being of this magnitude. #KathNiel spoke to the hearts of millions – showing that even if it was originally a work pairing – a pair brought into existence by a casting decision in its current form, it was every bit as real to the public as it was to the couple themselves, who in their private lives led every bit as saccharine a love story as they portrayed on camera, to the knowledge and imagination of the fans. And real love always leads to real heartbreak, especially one as deeply entrenched in the hearts of this many.
The empathy of the populace is brought to the forefront here, grieving over a loss that they personally will never be affected by in any tangible way other than in the personal, emotional moments. It is commendable to be so vulnerable, and there is real power here on display.
Imagine the power of millions of Filipinos with hearts this open directed elsewhere. History has shown this – the emotional appeal, the Filipino is highly susceptible to it, for better or for worse. Historic moments, the turns of eras have hinged on the stoked emotions of the public, from each revolution at the end of every despot, every colonizer’s rule. Larger-than-life heroes have always dominated the remembered past of the country – and it just so happens that this month, the larger-than-life story, the mythical beings at the end of an era are a pair of long-time lovers beloved by the public, but no longer by each other.
If there are takeaways from this, other than pain and sadness from the vicarious and parasocial, take these two: one is that the empathy of the Filipino must be respected, and tempered with proper tools, focus and morals – led to healthy or at least harmless channels, protected from exploitation of the charismatic dubious. The other is the more personal lesson that every Forever is only until the moment it ends. Happy ever after does not mean forever. It just means time.
Everything ends, and it is always sad. But everything also begins again, and that is always happy.