Decade of journey, struggles, love: KathNiel look back on their relationship, pay tribute to fans

Karl Cedrick Basco, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Sep 25 2021 10:54 PM

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Kathryn Bernardo and Daniel Padilla, collectively known as KathNiel, finally released the documentary marking their partnership’s 10th anniversary, a fitting tribute to one if not the most sought-after love teams today and to their loyal legion of followers. 

Fans rode a rollercoaster of emotions as Bernardo and Padilla took everyone on a trip down memory lane, recalling how a young girl from Cabanatuan and a shy son of an actress crossed paths and etched their names in Philippine entertainment history. 

In a 90-minute extensive documentary titled "KathNiel: Isang Dekada", the couple said they are still in disbelief over reaching a 10-year milestone being a love team that catapulted them as the most enduring in the Philippines, starring in from blockbuster series and films to millions of fans across the world. 

“I never thought that I will get to experience that, to be part of this love team at umabot ng 10 years. Di ko ’yun in-expect,” Bernardo said. 

Padilla added: “Saan na ba kami nadala ni Kathryn nu’ng pagmamahal na ’yun? Saan na kami nadala ng pamilya? Isipin mo, saan ba kami galing dati at nasaan na kami ngayon? Ako, hanggang ngayon, talagang thank you, Lord. Thank you sa binigay n'yo samin.” 

The clip opened up on the power duo’s parents, Min Bernardo (Kathryn’s mother) and Karla Estrada (Daniel’s mother), discussing what kind of children the two were before they entered showbiz. 

“Sobrang likot ni DJ, feeling Spider-Man. [Pero] siya pinakatahimik na naglalaro na bata. Di siya iyakin. Pagbalik ko galing work, andu’n lang. Hindi siya batang masakit sa ulo . . . Sobrang mahiyain sa schol kaya wala siya picture ng program nila,” Estrada recalled.

Meanwhile, Bernardo already had the makings of a celebrity since she was a young girl but it was her sister who first had the interest of making it to the spotlight. 

Eventually, she was brought to Manila by her older sister, which started her journey in lining up for VTRs and commercial auditions. 

“Since nasa province kami, wala sa isip ko na mag-aartista siya. Basta lang lahat sila naka-enroll sa personality development, ballet, jazz, ’yung mga activities na ordinary lang sa probinsya,” Min said. 

For Daniel, the late Douglas Quijano was one of the reasons why he got into the industry. Estrada revealed Quijano promised her he would introduced Padilla to ABS-CBN once he reached 14.

Quijano fulfilled his promise and brought then-shy and lanky Padilla to ABS-CBN executives. Quijano died 3 days after the meeting. 

“Talagang nakahulma. Talagang naka-destiny. Hinintay ni Tito Dougs si Daniel at dalhin si DJ doon,” Estrada added. 

Bernardo and Padilla alternately shared some of their experiences when they were still starting in showbiz.

The Birth of KathNiel

The two did some projects separately before getting paired in teen drama series “Growing Up” in 2011, the official start of KathNiel loveteam. 

Daniel was supposed to try his luck in another station when he was asked to attend a VTR for the show. 

Luckily for DJ, who was then afraid of speaking in front of camera, there were no lines required to deliver, only a look test with Kathryn. 

“Beautiful times ’yung ‘Growing Up.’ ’Yung edad namin ’yun ’yung awkward stage kasi kami hindi kasi pare-pareho kaming awkward stage,” Padilla said.

Both of them acknowledged they did not see each other as a real-life couple at the start of the series until Padilla made a move at the latter part of the show. 

According to their friend Mark Salamat, Bernardo also started to get confused about her feelings for DJ but nevertheless asked her circle of friends to include the actor to their group chat. 

Padilla’s zealous way of courting paid off as Bernardo agreed to be his girlfriend at the start of their series “Princess and I.”

“Patapos ang ‘Growing Up’, nanliligaw na. ‘Princess and I’, nanliligaw pa rin siya. Pero simulang-simula pa lang ng ‘Princess and I’, naging kami na,” Bernardo admitted. It was in may 25, 2012 when the two became a couple.

Starting off at a young age, KathNiel had their fair shares of struggles as partners especially at the height of the 2012 teleserye, which was shot in Bhutan.

“Hindi naging madali kasi bata ka e. Ang dami n’yong quarrels. Pero ’yung pinakamasarap na feeling du’n, ’pag OK kayo. Lahat ng success and failures ng isa’t isa may kadamay ka,” Bernardo said.

In the story, Bernardo had 3 suitors — Padilla, Enrique Gil, and Khalil Ramos. Padilla took the competition a little personal, delivering the lines and scenes as if he was really courting the actress in real life. 

“Ayoko magpatalo. Bigay todo ako sa eksena,” the actor admitted followed by a laugh. 

Keeping the relationship in limelight

Aside from their closest friends, it was the people behind the cameras who witnessed how the couple matured through time. 

Blockbuster director Cathy Garcia Molina recalled how she scolded the two during the story conference of their series “Got 2 Believe” in 2013. 

But Molina noted how kind the couple were as persons, especially Daniel, who is commonly tagged as boastful due to his demeanor. 

She got to know Bernardo and Padilla more when they worked in “She’s Dating A Gangster.”

For the director, it was the breakthrough project for the two that erased doubts from the public whether they really had acting chops. 

“ ‘She’s Dating A Gangster’ was one of the ways to show that these kids know how to act. These kids deserve the adulation that they get. May ibubuga ang dalawang ito. The versatility of the two were put to a test in ‘She’s Dating A Gangster,’” Molina said. 

Since they spent much of their relationship in the limelight, Bernardo acknowledged they were not a regular couple who can easily go on dates in public. But thanks to the number of projects they worked, they grew together, an investment she said was worth it. 

“Iba ’yung feling ’pag may kasama ka. Mas-secure ’yung feeling ko because DJ was there. Doble ’yung saya ’pag kayong dalawa. Pinili namin na invest-an ang isa’t isa. Best decision ever. It’s really worth it,” the actress explained. 

“Hindi ako magiging ganito if not for DJ. And sana ganu’n din ako sa kanya. Nagtulungan kaming dalawa. Hindi lang siya love team, partnership talaga.”

Padilla, meanwhile, said his relationship with Kathryn is not perfect but he cannot afford to lose her. 

“Hindi siya [puro] masaya. Maraming nangyari. Ako may pagkakamali. Siya may pagkakamali. Inayos namin. Pinili namin ’yung love above all. Partner ko na ’to at di ko kakayaning mawawala tong taong to,” he said. 

“I’m just very lucky to have her as my partner in life. Masaya ako na ibinigay sa’kin ng Diyos ang isang kabuting tao at ang pamilya niya.”

The fandom that turned into a family

“Pwede pala ’yun na ganito kadami ang magmahal sayo.”

These were the words of Bernardo when she started to talk about the loyal KathNiel fans throughout their 10-year journey. 

In the documentary, fans — of all ages and in different parts of the world — shared how the couple changed and touched their lives. 

“They really deserve kung nasaan sila ngayon. Nakaka-proud. Hindi ako nagkamali ng hinangaan,” said Julie Ann Sañez, founder of KathNiel KaDreamers. 

The two actors have fans that are already mothers, who feel that they are also parents to KathNiel. 

They also helped an overseas Filipino worker (OFW) to cope with depression brought about by homesickness. 

Another fan also opened up about how seeing the posts about the two made her feel better despite nursing a disease. 

“Grabe ’yung suporta. Hindi lang sa pagiging artista mo. Lahat ’to gagawin nila for you. Unconditionally,” Padilla said. 

He went on to say how their millions of fans inspired him because of their advocacies that help the community, such as tree planting and adopting animals. 

“Ito ’yung fans na wala ka nang hihilingin pa. Sila na bahala sa’yo. Grabe ’yung pride ko ’pag sinabi ’yung KathNiel. They made history,” Bernardo added. 

If there’s a legacy they want to leave as a love team, Kathyrn said it was the fandom that made the impossible possible. 

“The family that made the impossible possible. ’Yung relationship namin ni DJ. Hindi lang ito sa amin. Relationship ito ng buong fandom. ’Yung mga bagay na di namin inexpect na magagawa namin, sila ’yung gumawa nu’n,” she said.

For Daniel, he does not see them as fans of a love team but people who make a difference in the society. 

“Ang KathNiel is not just a fandom of a love team. A KathNiel is a group of people who want to make a difference, an impact out of the industry,” the actor said.