For many people, the pandemic was nothing more but a time full of devastating implications—event restrictions were imposed on a massive, global scale, businesses were forced to a halt, loved ones were separated from each other, and at its core, human connections were disrupted, if not, totally eradicted. As the pandemic coerced the world in an unprecedented standstill, among the industries swept by these harrowing circumstances was the entertainment industry.
Arenas where people thronged for concerts were closed, filming were made more challenging by the lockdowns and impositions of new protocols, and the barrier between celebrities and fans were built, making it impossible to connect outside the four walls of everyone’s rooms, and the virtual “makeshift” world built by technology for humanity to temporarily reside take refuge in.
In a time as bleak and cloaked with uncertainty and catastrophe as this, it is safe to assume that, much like the rest of the world who took its inevitable pause due to the global crisis, launching fresh, entertaining content and a batch of new faces to go with it is never a wise option—but not for Cornerstone Entertainment.
In Hot Pursuit
Cornerstone Entertainment (CS), a full-service entertainment agency based in Manila, with a long, solid tradition of searching and building topnotch talent, has long been dedicated to bringing entertainment that reach a global audience.
Through the years, Cornerstone has expanded from being a talent agency to a full-fledged entertainment company that houses its own TV and movie outfits, music label, recording studios, concert and events team, among many others. Deeply-embedded in its DNA of excellence, and its ever-evolving sense of artistry, the company’s ethos of constantly finding and harnessing a fresh breed of talents in various fields never wavered.
With this, in a company first, Cornerstone, through its Artist Lab, and with the help of some of the country’s top filmmakers Bb. Joyce Bernal, Dan Villegas, Antonette Jadaone, Rod Marmol, and Irene Villamor at the helm, a roster of young artists are being ushered in to tread on the new world of entertainment.
As experts across the globe saw the emergence of the term Gen C, more commonly known as Generation COVID to define a class of people living through the seismic changes brought about by the global crisis, CS boldly takes a step in reclaiming the term to identify and put a name to its class of newly-discovered talents who are charismatic, creative, and captivating—the cornerstone of a new generation of multimedia stars.
In the roster are Idol Philippines Grand Champion Zephanie Dimaranan, multi-awarded indie actor Noel Comia Jr., Miss Earth Water 2020 Roxie Baeyens, breakthrough actors Ian and Paolo Pangilinan, TikTok mainstays Yukii Takahashi and Queenay Mercado, Onie de Guzman, social media wavemakers Eli Padilla, Angela Balagtas, Pamela Kaye, and Glenn Krishnan, new actors Marc David, Abed Green, and Aaron Gonzalez, and LGBTQIA+ advocate and drag performer Brigiding.
“This is actually a long time in the making. We’re already building them up for the longest time, and we feel that after so much training and preparation, this is the ideal time for them to be introduced as part of the growing CS [CornerStone] family,” Jeff Vadillo, Vice President of CS Entertainment, tells Rank Magazine.
Onie De Guzman
The world of show business is a place that the talents of Gen C are still trying to explore. Amid the pandemic, theirs is a journey toward self discovery that is marked by challenges made even more intimidating by the unforeseen shifts brought by a blip in history. But in the midst of it all, the solid cast of young, fresh talents of Gen C have and will power through, raring to roll up their sleeves to rule mainstream and new forms of media.
For TikTok star Pamela Kaye, her craft has been polished by a series of acting workshops done in the midst of the pandemic. She says, “We are so blessed to be given an opportunity like this amid the pandemic; to make my craft even more better, and to improve myself, I attend workshops. I also grab all the opportunities given to me. Being an artist means I [must] learn continuously.”
Meanwhile, Onie De Guzman, who has been social media’s ‘oppa cutie,’ explains how apps such as TikTok and Instagram aided artists like him amid the on and off pandemic lockdowns.
“I think that one big tool that helped us to hone our talents is social media. It is the one platform that really makes our presence be felt ‘out there.’ There are apps like Tiktok, Instagram, and Facebook that have become our [avenues] to be known.”
For Marc David, the time in the pandemic saw an opportunity to hone his craft, the way a busied, chaotic life pre-pandemic wouldn’t have allowed himself to pore over more closely. “I would say that I had some opportunities and privileges amid the pandemic, even though it was a time when shoots or anything related to our industry are not yet ‘normal.’ I think it was up to me to use this a time for me to prepare for what’s in store for the future. We have been attending a series of acting workshops and using our time there to learn more and be more.”
Aaron Gonzalez also owes the acting workshops provided by Cornerstone. “First wave of the lockdown but the second kind of hit me differently. But I am very grateful for Cornerstone, for giving us the opportunity to learn from workshops.”
Jumping Over Hurdles
As with the rest of the world, the pandemic was not an easy time for Gen C artists. Their collective grief focused on the drastic changes that happened in their own quarters—behind their phones and away from the support of cheering fans.
Idol Philippines grand champion Zephanie Dimaranan, more known now as a recording star, Zephanie, shares how the pandemic upended her supposedly budding career on television. “For me, the pandemic has been very challenging because months after I won Idol Philippines, the quarantine and its restrictions were imposed in Manila. After hopping from one event to another, suddenly, I am at home all the time. It is really a challenging time, but I remain grateful for everyone who gave me all the opportunities that I have been getting.”
Angela Balagtas, on the other hand, thanks the Internet for being her haven when the outside world was in shambles. “Admittedly, during the pandemic, I was allowed to create a career as an artist. First, people are more active on social media, and I took that as an opportunity to show the Internet who I really am.”
Queenay Mercado, who now enjoys more than 300 thousand Instagram followers, found it hard to fit in online at first. “I really find the pandemic to be such a challenging time not only for my career but my studies as well. There were so many temptations at home and sometimes, I could not focus. Career wise, I think that it became hard for me because I didn’t know if I would fit in. Luckily, I adjusted quite well on social media. All the adjustments I have gone through have resulted to something good,”
Drag performer and LGBTQIA+ rights advocate Brigiding explains the struggles of the community amid the pandemic. “For us in the drag community, the pandemic is a very challenging time. Our bread and butter thrived on live events—gigs, bars, clubs—you name it. When we were hit by this devastating circumstance, all of these were suddenly gone; all of us did not know where to channel our platform, we did not know where to express ourselves anymore,” Brigiding opens up.
“Luckily, we are resilient. Even in times when we are left with nothing but ourselves, we still stood our ground. Today, I just feel so blessed to be part of the Gen C.”
The show must go on for the people of Gen C. In the coming days, its members seek to bring out a fresh, new take on their individual career paths—something that the local entertainment industry may not have seen in the past couple of years.
In the future, athlete turned model, and social media star Abed Green sees himself as an actor in a crime series. “My dream role is to be in crime movies, those with gangsters, mafia bosses, and whatnot. I just see myself in serious roles, like the ones in The Godfather, hopefully working with someone like Ina Raymundo,” he jests.
Student-doctor, athlete, and Gaya Sa Pelikula actor Paolo Pangilinan, on the other hand, shares a glimpse of what he has been brewing behind the cameras. “I am in the medical field and entertainment, so regardless of what happens in the future, I know that I should adapt well.”
He adds, “I recently booked a flight to New York to see what artists in the Philippines can do outside. I believe that we have so much to offer as entertainers or artists. I guess my takeaway amid the pandemic is to see where opportunities lie and take action there.”
Gaya Sa Pelikula star Ian Pangilinan, for his part, reveals what he can offer for his audiences in the coming years. “As an actor, the personality of the roles I play always matter; whether it be the character’s attitude, the lines, and more. I always make sure that I can put some twist to the character to make it completely mine,” he says.
“So, that’s what I can personally offer: myself. I always take care of my characters, my roles, and lines. It doesn’t even matter how many times a specific line has been said. To me, what matters more is how I make that character completely mine.”
Yukii Takahashi responds to this same ideology. “For me, what I can offer is the personal touch I can give my characters. I also want to learn more about the preparations being done by veteran actors and actresses before they perform. I want my characters to be ‘raw’ from the beginning to end,” she says.
Taking the leap from her growing social media presence to a full-fledged career in the entertainment scene, Indian-Filipino Glenn Krishnan also joins the roster from her emerging career as a host, model, and brand endorser.
Young actor-in-the-making, Eli Padilla, sees the launch of Gen C as a step needed to take his craft further than the digital realms of his newfound popularity in social media.
For Padilla, who saw success and piqued public interest in social media in the midst of the pandemic, the momentum is something that he seeks to take hold of. He says, “During lockdown, I think the opportunity to be more known, especially with the boom on social media like TikTok and on Instagram. Then came our launch with Cornerstone and I feel really grateful that there’s someone behind us at all times, seeing us grow into more than just social media personalities.”
In the coming years, it is clear that the show industry is bound to open its gates wider. Today, this army of Gen C artists, all brimming with energy, talent, verve, and passion for what they do, are looking to lead the charge for the next generation of would-be industry legends.
With this entry, a world of opportunities awaits.
Produced by Cornerstone Entertainment, Inc. for Rank Magazine
Photographed by: Ahleks Fusilero
Styling: Omar Sali
Grooming & Makeup: Ray Bien Maglonzo
Hair: Keigh Dones
For Yukii Takahashi:
Styling: Myrrh Lao To
Makeup by Marben Talanay
Hair by Mike Feliciano
For Glenn Krishnan:
Hair and Make Up by Lei Ponce
For Paolo Pangilinan:
Fashion by Francis Libiran