How celebrities and influencers’ plea to ‘stay at home’ during Luzon quarantine shows class divide

March 18, 2020 - 5:48 PM
No social distancing in Metro Manila
People wearing protective masks struggle to maintain social distancing as they get on a bus on the first working day in the country's capital since its lockdown to contain coronavirus, in Quezon City, Metro Manila, Philippines March 16, 2020. (Reuters/Eloisa Lopez)

Several personalities earned the public’s ire on local social media for supposedly downplaying the impacts of the quarantine period to ordinary Filipino workers, particularly those with service jobs and daily wage earners, in their posts calling them to “stay at home.”

President Rodrigo Duterte placed the entire Luzon under enhanced community quarantine on Monday which covered stiffer travel restrictions and suspension of mass transportation, in a bid to restrict public movements during COVID-19 pandemic.

Prior to this, Duterte imposed a community quarantine in Metro Manila and implemented social distancing as a measure to curb the highly communicable disease.

The implementation of these measures, without social safety nets to support those who rely on day-to-day wages, did not stop commuters from going out to the streets due to call of duties at work, medical appointments and other errands.

On Tuesday night, Duterte also declared a nationwide state of calamity in the Philippines following the worsening spread of COVID-19 in the country.

They should not have posted them

Bloggers, social media influencers

Some social media influencers, however, threw insults at these workers whom they perceived were causing trouble for violating the quarantine rules.

One Twitter user @Mxlmrd made a thread of these celebrities who were deemed insensitive to the situation and out of touch with the public’s reality.

The youngest of them was Brianna Rubia who shared condescending comments on others speaking up concerns surrounding the umbrella measure through Instagram.

In one of her videos, Rubia told her viewers that staying at home is easy because they are asked to “just sit and do nothing” unlike their grandparents who were called to war.

Even if Rubia’s online accounts have been set private, some users managed to obtain videos of her ramblings, initially posted on TikTok.

Another blogger was Chin Chin Obcena, who defended the government’s initiative to declare a large-scale confinement via her Instagram stories.

Obcena made a confusing comparison between those who aired out complaints over government measures and her being forced to cook at home.

“I don’t eat canned goods cause I’m used to ordering or eating out but I had to because I don’t know how to cook. So, should I blame the government for that? No. It’s my fault,” part of her message read.

“Therefore, don’t get mad at the government for the lockdown because of your own personal issues,” she added.

Cat Arambulo, a long-time blogger and businesswoman, captured her reaction on a news report showing workers stranded and getting arrested at checkpoints. While watching at home, she cursed at the television over the footage.

In her Instagram stories, she said: “God, why don’t you motherf****** just stay at home? Stay at home! Don’t you guys get it? Tigas ng ulo. This is exactly why they need the military because you f****** won’t stay at home. Guys, come on.”


Slater Young, a former housemate of Pinoy Big Brother, was also criticized for a tweet where he likened the home quarantine to his stay at the PBB House. The latter is a reality show were housemates are confined in a house for weeks or months without access to the outside world.


Young, also a model-entrepreneur, has since deleted his tweet. He then tried to appease local Twitterverse.

“We’ve received a lot of msgs from doctors and nurses to spread the word about staying home kasi pagod na pagod na sila. Stay home when you can. The virus is already spreading, no need to spread hate,” Young said.

‘Grandparents are called to war, You are asked to sit and watch Netflix’

Local Twitter also criticized the views of actresses Maritoni Fernandez and Lea Salonga on Instagram.

Like, Rubia, Salonga, Fernandez and automotive blogger James Deakin, shared the same message on the micro-blogging platform:

“To those who are complaining about the quarantine period and curfews, just remember that your grandparents were called to war; you are being called to sit on the couch and watch Netflix. You can do this.”

Meanwhile, actress Iza Calzado’s comment to one of Salonga’s photos also drew flak online. She said:

“I agree with this and have been thinking about how the Covid situation is actually the Universe’s way of making the world a better place moving forward. Praying for the best.”

Screenshot by Interaksyon

Actress Heart Evangelista was also criticized for saying that a bone-cancer patient who was forced to walk amid the quarantine is “inspiring.” Online users found her tweet tone-deaf and insensitive.

 What about the working class?

These remarks from celebrities did not sit well from Filipino users online who then defended the working class who still need to go out to get food on their table.

“Trust me, NOBODY wants to be out and about when there’s a pandemic. NOBODY. But they’re out there why? Because they need to. Because they will then literally have to choose between death by hunger or death by the coronavirus. What choice is that, you say? Exactly,” Rappler reporter Bea Cupin tweeted.

Another reporter also shared the plight of a vendor who was greatly hit by the Luzon quarantine.

Filipino online users dismissed the call to stay at home as “privileged remarks” and inconsiderate of the poor.

“Coronavirus really out here exposing these out-of-touch privileged brats who think that everybody has a home to just Netflix and chill in without a family to feed lol,” vlogger John Kyle tweeted.

Apologies and explanations

In view of these criticisms, some of the personalities called out online released apologies and statements to clear themselves.

Samantha Rubia, who introduced herself as Brianna’s sister, explained on Twitter that the videos were intended for young people in their hometown whom she saw complaining about canceled plans and trips because of the lockdown.

“My sister’s video was intended for young people in our city complaining about cancelled plans and lakads. It was never intended for those who need to work because they can’t afford being quarantined,” Samantha said in a thread.

She apologized on her behalf for the “misunderstanding” her sister caused.

“I know her better than anyone else. Brianna Rubia’s my best friend. I’ve honestly never met anyone else as pure as her 🙂 She was and has always been there for me. This is just me being here for her. Again, we’re sorry,” Samantha said.

Arambulo also shared via an open letter on Twitter and a video on Instagram her reasons for her remarks.

Part of her letter read:

“I would like to apologize for the harsh words I’ve used in my IG story at a very sensitive time like this. It’s just so frustrating to see that some people who have the option to stay home are still not following the government’s efforts.”

Reporter Regine Cabato pointed out that the report featured on Arambulo’s stories tells of the police chief yelling at Filipinos who are only trying to get to work.

“It takes next-level blindness to watch a report like that, and all the other reports we’ve been seeing from local press at checkpoints, and not feel any empathy or even sympathy for humans,” Cabato said.

Taking the cue from the backlash, Arambulo released a series of apologies on her social media accounts.

“In all humility and sincerity, I would like to apologize for being isensitive. I didn’t mean to undermine anyone— hurt and offend everyone. I should have been more considerate of others who are trying to copy with this crisis,” Arambulo’s latest apology read. 

“This was a hard lesson for me and I will use this to educate myself and strive to be better. Hoping for your forgiveness and I will try to do whatever I can to help. I am very sorry,” she added.

Evangelista, meanwhile, tweeted that “being toxic” on social media will not help.

“Ayoko na Twitter. Kayo kayo nalang mag-away. Tumulong na lang tayong lahat. Being toxic will not help. Good bye nalang. ‘Di ko na kaya,” the actress’s deleted tweet read.

She deleted this tweet and later on apologized for her previous remarks.

“I deleted all my previous tweets. I understand the hate. I should have elaborated my sentiments more. I am sorry. So sorry,” the actress tweeted.

“You may not see my heart and that’s ok so I just wanna say I am truly sorry if I offended ‘you,'” she also said.