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In the fame bubble: When celebs and influencers party amid the pandemic, backlash ensues

By PINKY S. ICAMEN Published Jan 26, 2021 8:38 am Updated Jun 27, 2021 10:22 pm

Some celebrities and influencers have used their clout to urge people to do what’s necessary to curb the spread of COVID-19, which has so far infected almost 100 million and claimed the lives of at least two million worldwide.

Some of those in the fame bubble, however, whose actions are laced with perfumed privilege, blatantly disregard rules and guidelines that could possibly derail the efforts and sacrifices of many in the name of views and likes on social media.

One celebrity that’s been getting a lot of flak is eventologist Tim Yap, who held his birthday party at The Manor in Camp John Hay over the weekend. He said that they were following safety protocols "all weekend," but viral photos and videos of the party show that not everyone was wearing facemasks or face shields. 

Yap apologized on CNN Philippines, saying, "I am very, very sorry for those videos that came out where we didn't wear our masks. There's no excuse for not wearing your masks. We have to be at all times vigilant and take care of each other," said Yap in an interview on The Final Word yesterday. "It is not in any of my wishes to endanger anyone."

He said that his guests got "carried away" when the cultural dance happened "suddenly" and they joined in, most of them not wearing facemasks. 

Accredited by the Department of Tourism (DOT) as an accommodation establishment during the pandemic, the hotel has now been issued a Notice to Explain and is currently under investigation. 

Also recently, Raymond Gutierrez, influencer and twin brother of actor Richard Gutierrez, threw a birthday bash at a restaurant in BGC, which has been slammed online after photos of the event made rounds on social media.

In photos collated by the Facebook page De La Salle University-Manila Secret Files, guests at the party were seen not wearing a facemask and face shield, and it appeared that no social distancing was followed by guests, who were mostly models and influencers who are Gutierrez’s friends.

In a screenshot of an Instagram story from the party, a well-wisher included a note in the post saying that “everyone was PCR tested” in the party.

Following the party, Spanish restaurant La Picara at the Bonifacio Global City, Taguig where the event was held, was reportedly shut down for violating COVID-19 protocols.

(Leading to the holidays in December, DILG reminded the public that “mass gatherings” are not allowed under general community quarantine, which Taguig City and the rest of Metro Manila are under. Only a maximum of 10 people are allowed to gather in areas under GCQ.)

Without naming the restaurant or a particular incident, Taguig City Rep. Lani Cayetano said in a statement that she supports the city’s decision to close down an establishment for violating IATF rules.

“A ‘negative’ test result is NOT a ticket to socialize without precautions and disregard minimum health protocols. A test result detects the virus at one point in time. It only means that COVID-19 IS UNDETECTED AT THE TIME AND PLACE YOU WERE SWABBED. You may be infected hours or days after taking the test—in effect becoming carriers of the virus without you even knowing,” said Cayetano.

She also addressed influencers in general to “set the right example” and “do the right thing” for everyone’s safety. “People look up to you and admire you. This responsibility should not be taken lightly. Now is the time to use your platform, do good, and perform your civic duty to society.”

Gutierrez has yet to respond on the issue.

This is not the first time that a public figure was criticized for holding parties and gatherings that do not adhere to the minimum safety protocols brought by the pandemic.

In December, Sen. Manny Pacquaio’s birthday party in General Santos City was criticized after his wife Jinkee posted photos of the event, where most guests were seen not wearing a facemask and a face shield, and were standing close to each other.

In defense, the senator said that they were not careless and all guests were required to be swabbed ahead of the party. He also welcomed possible investigation of the incident to prove that they have not defied health safety protocols.

While the backlash for these parties mostly stem from a health safety standpoint, celebrities and influencers are also slammed for being “tone deaf” and holding these gatherings—most of the time without care for health protocols—as the world continues to grapple with the effects of COVID-19.

For her 40th birthday in October 2020, Kim Kardashian took her family and close friends to a private island in Tahiti to celebrate. She was called out, though, not because she chartered an entire plane for her friends and family, billeted them in villas and had a great time, but because she reportedly “did not care” about the backlash she received and thought people were just “jealous.”

Kardashian’s sister, model Kendall Jenner, was also a subject of criticism (which their mom Kris Jenner had to clean up) after photos of her star-studded 25th birthday party over Halloween was leaked on social media.

Prior to the party, guests were reportedly asked not to post photos on social media, which was defied first by no other than her sister Kylie, who posted some photos on Instagram.

Kris Jenner said in an interview with Andy Cohen that guests were tested days prior to the party and once again upon arrival at the birthday bash.

Kris claimed that they were “really responsible” and did what they can to follow the rules. She also noted that if people are commenting and being critical, “I can’t control that.”

Celebrities and influencers, whose actions received criticisms, often uses social media to apologize, get the help of their publicists or managers to clear up their names or keep silent for a while in their bubble while waiting for the issue to simmer down. Until another opportunity for revelry arrives, the cycle of complete disregard to life and respect for others continues.