Commentary: What’s the Big Deal About Liza Soberano?

#NetworkWarCulture. That’s what.

For this special #FilipinoFriday, I’ll be ranting about the most-talked about issue in Philippine showbiz from the last few weeks. By the time this posts, some new detail might emerge. Or maybe even people will have finally moved on. But here goes anyway.

I’m not one to dabble in celebrity tsismis often. But I feel like this whole Liza Soberano drama is very much a symptom of #NetworkWarCulture at its worst.

So first, let me get my Marites straight first. And I’ll preface this by saying I have not followed Liza Soberano’s career. Especially considering my family has not had TFC for more than a decade, I have not watched a single series or movie she has starred in for ABS-CBN. Save maybe for an episode or two of Forevermore which my family in Cagayan and Kalinga were absolutely crazy for back when it was airing. At that time, my family was on vacation in the Philippines and was witness to the popularity of that show.

But even so, I know Liza Soberano was one of the most popular stars in the Philippines. Her loveteam with Enrique Gil was one of the most popular pairings. And after this “drama,” I might actually start becoming a fan.

Though I’d come across headlines about her moving over to James Reid’s Careless to be her new management, I didn’t really care much to actually click and read the articles.

When all anyone could talk about in the last few weeks was her vlog, I decided to watch it as well to see what all the hubbub was about.

And after I watched her vlog, I still had no idea. I watched her gimmicky lie detector test with Bea Alonzo. And then I watched her two-part interview with Boy Abunda.

But in the days and weeks since this “issue” has riled up the internets, I seem to have come to the understanding that she was getting negative comments (and worse) thrown at her merely for leaving the supposedly comforting confines of ABS-CBN and wanting to try her luck in Hollywood.

Now, Liza Soberano is definitely not the first Filipino star to try their luck in Hollywood. So right then, I had no idea why people were so upset. And upset WITH HER, to be clear.

Accusations of being ingrata or walang utang na loob were thrown about. But I certainly didn’t get that impression from her vlog.

She’s apparently tired of that kind of life and career and wants to try her luck elsewhere. The proverbial “spread her wings”-type of situation.

ABS-CBN allowed her to sign with a new management agency and were perfectly fine with continuing their relationship with her. So why then would a simple vlog relating her own experiences rile up the network, its allied reporters in the showbiz press and the always-opinioned fans on the internets?

She mentioned feeling boxed in by the loveteam aspect of her career. And being boxed in by the type of material and projects ABS-CBN had offered her.

I don’t see anything wrong with that. She didn’t say she had been suffering or that she was being tortured by romcom after romcom or something like that. She just wanted something different, but of course TPTB at the network know what the public wants and they will deliver.

Now, that’s fine as well. It’s a business after all. And ABS-CBN especially is known for milking its cash cows until every last peso drips out. When that happens, you’re tossed aside in favor of the next new flavor of the month. Most likely someone who was just evicted from Pinoy Big Brother.

(Sandara Park certainly would have experience with getting tossed aside after no longer being of use to ABS-CBN. Then of course being embraced after she finds even bigger success elsewhere on her own.)

But Liza Soberano certainly has the right to express wanting to try something else. Even if that means walking away from sure pesoses. It’s her life and career, after all. Whether or not she fails in her future endeavors is all on her.

Which then might explain the violent reactions from actual people with any sort of influence or power at ABS-CBN. Not only are they losing one of their cash cows, someone actually had the balls to speak out and say less than flattering things about the network. A network that for a long time has had a fortified shield to protect it from such criticism. And arguably still has that shield even if it doesn’t have its own free TV/over-the-air television channel.

(Read: NOT shutdown. ABS-CBN is still very much alive.)

In Philippine showbiz where palakasan and the newly popular term nepo baby are king, actors and singers and talents are expected to toe the company line. No matter what. Especially with the threat that the next Pinoy Big Brother housemate is right behind you ready to take your spot if you step out of that line.

As a Filipino celebrity, you are expected to keep your mouth shut. Smile for the cameras. Memorize your prepared spiels and talking points. There’s a reason why most of celebrities’ interview answers are called “pa-showbiz.” The talking points are handed down from TPTB because that is what they believe will maintain the cash cow delivering the peso milk.

Again, a business wanting to protect its business assets? That’s perfectly fine. And yes, a human being is a business asset in the showbiz world. So on one hand, you can understand ABS-CBN or any local network wanting to protect the “brand.” Whether “brand” refers to the network itself or to the product being sold to the public. No matter how greedy that might sound.

And to be clear: “Product” = “Perfectly packaged celebrity and/or loveteam.”

On the other hand, however, if someone like a Liza Soberano no longer has a contract with you, then that person should be free to go wherever and do whatever they want.

If she’s tired of the kinds of roles and projects they’ve given her, then she should be perfectly free to leave and try something else. Especially without a contract.

Heck, fans of other celebrities question why their favorite idols accept certain kinds of projects from the network. Even criticizing them for accepting any and every role instead of being choosy with what characters or dramas they accept.

Which brings us to the rabid fan reaction. It is to be expected that network loyalists will always mock, deride and insult any former exclusive talent whenever they decide to leave a network. Even worse if they actually transfer networks. That’s true for GMA-to-ABS-CBN transfers. That was true for ABS-CBN and GMA-to-TV5 transfers. And that’s even more true for ABS-CBN-to-GMA transfers.

The vitriol that is hurled at actors or singers or celebrities who decide to switch networks, regardless of the details of their pre-transfer careers, is just so exhaustingly unnecessary.

It is absolutely #NetworkWarCulture at its worst. And you see not only network loyalists and fans doing it, but at some points even the networks themselves and people in power at those networks or their ally tsismis reporters. Doing whatever they can to diminish the transferee or even worse, sabotage their careers now that they are no longer a prized exclusive talent of theirs.

(And to be clear once again, this is true for both ABS-CBN and GMA. But more common in the ABS-CBN-to-GMA direction considering the number of Kapamilya talents jumping ship in recent years after the loss of their franchise.)

So the online vitriol from both fans, ABS-CBN low-level executives and creatives and the trusty trolls… I mean, tsismis reporters hurled at Liza Soberano is the most high-profile example of such actions. You would hear and read people from various sectors in the Kapamilya universe expressing sheer outrage at the mere fact that Liza Soberano chipped away at the impenetrable shield.

And maybe that is ultimately why people are so offended and upset. That her words aren’t simply all-praise for her now-former home network. That she is somehow expected to always say things that reflect positively on that former employer even if those things weren’t true.

Let’s be clear once again, she isn’t going scorched earth on ABS-CBN. She isn’t naming and shaming people or even accusing anyone of anything nefarious. She’s simply grown unhappy with the direction her career was going and is now ready to try something else.

It is quite curious to see so many people upset and offended by Liza Soberano merely wanting to walk away. Yet, breathlessly defend and roll out the red carpet for celebrities accused by multiple people of rape or assault. Or twist themselves silly trying to explain away a company’s missteps or flat-out wrong decision-making.

This is all blind network loyalty at its worst. And #NetworkWarCulture at its most toxic.

8 thoughts on “Commentary: What’s the Big Deal About Liza Soberano?

  1. Kapamilyucks are just disgusting. They always do this shit to anyone who doesn’t kiss the ass or kneel and worship at the big red blue green katol. Fuck them. Hope Liza Soberano makes it huge and then goes WHO YOU to ABS-CBN and all the fantards. PWE!

  2. To be clear, this whole “they love you only when you are useful and then discard you when you are not” thing doesn’t happen only in ABS. I could name a dozen or so artistas who were GMA7’s apple of the eye one moment, then promptly discarded after their popularity died. You could say that this is very much an inherent danger in the showbiz industry. Yes, even the much coveted Hollywood. I really find it funny that both sides of the “Kapamilyucks vs. Kapusucks” debate try to ignore this reality to try and attack the rival station.

    Also, it’s worth noting that Angel Locsin faced pretty much the same vitriol as Liza from GMA lower execs, trolls, and diehard fans when she decided to transfer to ABS a decade ago. They even harass her to this day for that very reason. This just goes to show how toxic both sides of the network wars can be.

    As for the Liza case, her new management is also at fault here. This really has to do with the problematic PR they are doing. The thing is, they could have worded Liza’s statement better. Bea Alonzo pretty much had the same “wanting to grow” schtick when she announced that she was leaving ABS, but it was better received because her PR team did it right. We have to remember that the “utang na loob” mentality is still a strong one in Pinoys. They could have played into that, instead of sounding so antagonistic. What makes this worse is that they seem to double down on the negative publicity by insinuating that the previous management is “trash”.

    1. I mention above that it’s not exclusive to one network. But it seems more common with ABS-CBN talents.

      If I remember Angel Locsin’s transfer happened when she turned down Marimar, then came to the US and when she returned to the Philippines, she was already a Kapamilya. So it was that feeling of betrayal. Quite different from Liza’s situation where even with new management, she was still very much a Kapamilya and had no intention to transfer to another network. Yes, Hollywood. But so many artists have attempted to go to Hollywood. Sam Milby is one I remember specifically.

      When it comes to discarding artists, I think it’s just more obvious with ABS-CBN because many of their artists experience the highest of highs before suddenly being tossed aside when the latest flavor of the month arrives. Especially because of the PBB celebrity factory. Sandara is the biggest example. But also a unique example.

      With a Bea Alonzo, I’ve seen some low-level Kapamilya officials also throw shade at her, especially with this Liza situation. And of course the fans have continued to mock her and what she has done so far on GMA.
      I have not seen the same kind of vitriolic energy for a Lovi Poe or Janine Gutierrez who are the biggest Kapuso artists to transfer in recent years. And they, along with Sunshine Dizon or Ryza Cenon were actually getting a lot of work in successful series before they decided to transfer.

  3. Just toxic Filipino showbiz culture. Walang bago dyan. Hindi naman masyado magaling si Liza. Maganda lang siya at nakakakilig naman yung LT niya with Quen. Pero sa issue na to, sobrang OA talaga mga nagbabash sa kanya so parang gusto ko kumampi sa kanya. Lalo alam naman ng lahat kung gaano ka-swapang ang ABS-CBN. Yung inaasal ng mga fanneys eh parang gusto mo pa sabihin na “buti na lang nawala yung prangkisa nila, dasurv!”

  4. I just found your post thanks to it being shared on Twitter and I want to say Thank you for this article. This is probably the most fair article I’ve read about the whole situation. You really laid out both sides in a way that should help everyone understand what is really going on. I will share it and hope more can read it so as to stop all this hate toward Liza.

  5. Ito yung pinaka-well written na analysis of what happened to Liza. Maraming salamat dryedmangoes. Sana mabasa ito ng iba dyan para makakaintindi sila

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